Sunburn for 8/21 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

Today’s Rise and Shine Fact-iversary is brought to you by Sachs Media Group, the state’s dominant public affairs PR firm: Today, Florida marks the birthday of the state’s unofficial patron saint of dreamers: treasure hunter Mel Fisher, who was born 92 years ago. After more than 15 years of searching, on July 20, 1985, Fisher found the mother lode of treasure ships, the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha, which sank in a devastating hurricane in 1622 with 40 tons of gold and silver aboard. At the time of its discovery, the find was worth an estimated $450 million. Fisher then spent years fighting legal battles against the State of Florida to secure ownership of the treasure. Mel fought the law – and Mel won, the ultimate ‘gold medalist.’

Now, on to the ‘burn…


The number of military families who struggle to put food on the table has been growing in the years since the Great Recession, the nation’s largest network of soup kitchens and food pantries.

That increase convinced the Feeding America charity to study servicemembers who use the food assistance network, leading to a landmark report released Monday that found about one in four active-duty and reserve troops or someone in their household sought out charitable meals or groceries over the past year.

The Hunger in America report and an interview with the nationwide charity indicate troops are increasingly falling into a segment of the working poor that makes too little to consistently afford food but too much to qualify for government aid such as food stamps.

About 620,000 households where at least one servicemember lives — including reserve forces — received donated meals or food over the past year through the network, which includes soup kitchens, food banks and pantries in every state, according to the findings released Monday.

Many Americans are still struggling to bounce back from the stock market and housing crash in 2008. Troops — despite the set pay and benefits — may be particularly dependent on charity food pantries for help.

The use of government-funded food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, has doubled in the four years since the economic collapse. But about 27 percent of Americans who sometimes go hungry have incomes above the federal eligibility requirements, according to the charity.


Public support for Common Core, the education standards heavily supported by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, has suffered as more people learn about it, according to a new survey.

While 80 percent of Americans have heard about Common Core, 60 percent oppose requiring teachers to use the standards to guide instruction, the survey by PDK/Gallup finds.

Opposition among Republicans was at 76 percent. Among Democrats, it was 38 percent, and independents 60 percent.

“For the 33% of Americans who favor the Common Core, the most important reason is because it will help more students learn what they need to know regardless of where they go to school,” read a survey memo released Wednesday. “For the 60% of Americans who oppose using the Common Core, their most important reason is that it will limit the flexibility that teachers have to teach what they think is best.”

A separate poll this week, from the journal EducationNext, also shows declining support for the standards used by dozens of states.

Florida adopted the standards but, under fire, made some tweaks and scrubbed the controversial name in favor of “Florida Standards.”

Bush and his education foundation have helped promote Common Core, but the former governor has also come under attack from the right (there’s some opposition on the left, too) and it would be something he has to deal with if he decides to run for president.

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Rep. Steve Southerland called a report suggesting legislation he recently introduced has been influenced by connections to the sugar industry a “political hit piece,” and denied any wrongdoing.

Speaking during a press conference in Tallahassee , Southerland told a reporter with the Tampa Bay Times that he had been on a hunting trip to King Ranch in Texas. Southerland had called the press conference to tout his Regulatory Overreach Protection Act, which would shift authority to regulate wetlands from the federal government to states.

The sugar industry supports the legislation, and U.S. Sugar has contributed to Southerland’s re-election campaign. The Florida Conservation Coalition, which was founded by former Gov. Bob Graham, supports continued federal oversight, according to the Times. Bob Graham’s daughter, Gwen Graham, is running against Southerland in what is expected to be a close election.

“The trip … was at the invitation that we had from King Ranch. It had nothing to do with, as the original report down in Tampa Bay claimed, with U.S. Sugar,” Southerland said in Panama City .

The Times recently has published several reports on secretive trips to a King Ranch hunting lease owned by U.S. Sugar by top Florida Republicans, including Gov. Rick Scott, who have refused to discuss details of the trips. Some officials have described the trips as Republican fundraisers. Southerland said it was a personal trip taken at his own expense.

Southerland didn’t provide details either, saying he believed he had a right to privacy in his personal activities, but he denied being influenced by the sugar industry, which stands to benefit financially from the passage the Regulatory Overreach Protection Act, according to the Times.


SPOTTED: RT @kahwacoffee: Thanks to @FLGovScott for stopping by Kahwa South in #StPete this morning!


At the start of his re-election year, Gov. Scott got up in front of Republican stalwarts gathered in Orlando and told them he had heard their concerns about Common Core.

Months later it appears that it still remains an issue that could impact Scott’s re-election chances.

The Common Core State Standards set benchmarks for reading, writing and math but they have come under fire from conservative activists who see them as a federal intrusion into education. The standards are also opposed to by those who believe states already rely too much on high-stakes testing to measure learning and teacher performance. Florida initially adopted the standards four years ago, but phased in their implementation.

Scott at that meeting in January said he understood there was a “little bit of passion” about the school standards and vowed that Florida was striking out on its own path.

“These are Florida standards, they are not some national standards,” Scott said. “This is our state. We’re not going to have the federal government telling us how to do our education system.”

Scott’s remarks had come a few months after he had essentially ordered the state to pull out of the national consortium developing a test based on Common Core and after he had required the Florida Department of Education to hold public hearings on the state’s standards. (DOE essentially did what Scott asked even though it can argued that Scott has limited legal authority over them.)

Shortly after Scott made his speech state education officials tweaked the existing standards (and which were drawn from Common Core) and made nearly 100 changes including maintaining an emphasis on cursive writing.


After meeting with climate scientists in his office in Tallahassee, Scott was mum with the press immediately afterwards on what the half-hour encounter actually meant to him regarding his thoughts about climate change. The Governor has dismissed the idea that human beings have anything to do with the earth’s rising temperatures, so the meeting was considered a breakthrough of sorts.

But since he didn’t speak about it on Tuesday, Scott undoubtedly was aware that the issue would be the focus of a brief media availability at the Brandon Chamber of Commerce, following a news conference where he touted the $10.4 billion he intends to invest in operations, maintenance and existing roadway resurfacing and bridge maintenance projects.

“I had a very good meeting yesterday,” Scott replied when asked by Fox 13’s Craig Patrick if he now believes that climate change is caused by human activity. “I listened to their presentation. What I want to talk to you about is not causation so much, but solutions. I’m a solutions person. We’ve made big investments – we’ve increased our investments on beach nourishment by 45 percent over Charlie Crist. We’ve spent $350 million in flood mitigation. We’ve spent $100 million to protect our reefs. Charlie Crist didn’t invest a dime. We have record funding for springs. I’ve also come out with my environmental policy that’s talking about $500 million for new springs. We already have a record amount invested in springs. $500 million to focus on alternative water sources. We’ve got to continue to solve these problems.”

Patrick immediately returned the volley: “What about carbon emissions? What more will you do if anything to reduce carbon emissions?”

“So, what I’ve actually been ready to come forward with is any solutions,” Scott responded a bit awkwardly. “We’ve got to continue to make sure that we have the most pristine environment in the world. We all want to live here. We love our state. And so we’re going to continue to look at ways…ways that we can improve that. I know the federal govt. is looking at some ways also.”


Gov. Scott, who spoke to about 1,000 Haitian-Americans this month in Greenacres at an evangelical crusade, has launched a Creole radio ad.

The 60-second spot features a female narrator touting Scott’s record on jobs, taxes and education.

Here’s the English translation, as supplied by the Republican Party of Florida:

“We should expect from our elected officials that if they make a promise, they keep it. In 2010, Governor Rick Scott promised to fix Florida’s economy and get the state to start creating jobs.  Today, Florida has created over 600,000 private sector jobs. “By cutting taxes 40 times, Governor Scott has provided a climate for economic growth and opportunity. “On education, Governor Scott has increased funding for pre-school, lowered the cost of tuition by 15 percent for state universities and made in-state tuition available for all Florida students. Governor Scott is working to make sure that the American dream is available for every Floridian. “There is more work to be done. That’s why going back is not an option, so let’s keep working together.


Observer Media Group CEO Matt Walsh will not participate in an Oct. 15 statewide gubernatorial debate hosted by Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association. He will be replaced by Frank Denton, editor of the Florida Times-Union.

Walsh withdrew his participation after Crist’s campaign expressed concern about his involvement because Walsh had given $250 to Republican Mitt Romney’s failed bid for president.

Kevin Cate, a Crist consultant, would not comment on whether or not the campaign formally reached out to debate sponsors to ask that Walsh not be involved. Dean Riding, president and CEO of the Florida Press Association, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Details of the debate were first made public Monday. At that time, the Crist campaign said it had agreed to the mid-October debate, but not yet on specific details.

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U.S. Rep. Bilirakis is scheduled to speak to the North Pinellas Republican Club. Conservative Action Center, 3150 Tampa Road, Oldsmar. 6:30 p.m.

REDISTRICTING REDUX IN THE COURTROOM via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

The authors and critics of Florida’s re-drawn congressional map were back in a courtroom haggling over the same seat that sparked their two-year legal fight: the African-American-leaning district of Rep. Corrine Brown.

Lawyers for the Legislature told Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis they had followed the letter of his order last month when he ruled two seats held by Brown and Republican Rep. Daniel Webster of Winter Garden were unconstitutionally gerrymandered.

In response, the Legislature last week passed a new map that sheds finger-like “appendages” from both seats, while also making minor tweaks to five other congressional districts in 25 counties.

“We conformed to every word of this court’s order,” House lawyer George Meros said.

The changes, while rendering the districts slightly more compact, would not make much difference in terms of partisan performance. Brown’s seat would give up Sanford. Webster’s would lose a swath of central Orlando.

Brown’s new District 5 seat would also drop the black voting-age population from 50 percent to 47.1 percent. The seat would shift from voting 70.9 percent for President Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012 to 68.7 percent.

But the plaintiffs, including the League of Women Voters and Common Cause, argued that lawmakers had failed to remedy the inherent racial gerrymandering embedded within the old maps.


Of the two dozen states that rejected the Medicaid expansion, Florida will lose out on the most federal health care money for the poor, according to two nonprofit policy research groups that support the Affordable Care Act.

A joint report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute projects that, over the next 10 years, the state will leave $66.1 billion in Medicaid funding on the table by not approving the expansion included in the Affordable Care Act to cover individuals with income up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

That will mean more than 1 million uninsured state residents will not qualify for health care coverage, the report said.

Over the next decade, Florida’s hospitals will miss out on $22.6 billion in federal reimbursements, the report projected. During that 10-year time span, a combined $423.6 billion in federal monies will not flow to the two dozen states that declined the expansion.

For individual states, Texas was second to Florida at $65.6 billion.

The federal government is covering 100 percent of the costs of the Medicaid expansion for the first three years, with that percentage gradually declining until the states begin covering 10 percent in 2020 and beyond.

In response to a question, state Sen. Rob Bradley said concerns about the cost to the state and uncertainty about whether the federal government would stick to its funding pledge in the future and whether its cost projections would hold true were some reasons he opposed the expansion.


Florida’s Department of Corrections, embarrassed by reports of a mentally ill inmate killed by guards — allegedly when they locked him in a brutally hot shower and left him — says it is instituting a series of system-wide reforms.

“Stories report we have fallen short in specific instances with regard to facility leadership, safety, security, training and services for mentally ill inmates,” said Mike Crews, secretary of the department. “We’re fixing the problems that have been identified and as we identify new issues, we will fix those too. Our department should be held to the highest standards, and I have zero tolerance for anything less.”

Two years ago in June, 50-year-old Darren Rainey was marched into a locked, closet-like shower and left there for as long as two hours, until he collapsed and died. The shower was used on several occasions as a form of punishment for mentally ill inmates, fellow inmates have told the Herald.

Rainey, a Tampa man serving two years for cocaine possession, had angered guards by defecating in his cell and refusing to clean it up, according to inmates, who said he cried out in vain for help. The death was disclosed by the Miami Herald earlier this year, along with efforts by fellow inmates and staffers to call attention to it, all of which had been disregarded by the department.

Miami-Dade police, charged with investigating Rainey’s death, did not interview witnesses until the Herald began asking questions. The Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s Office still has not released a cause of death.

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The House District 15 Republican primary between Paul Renner and Jay Fant has been a bruising one with no shortage of negative tactics.

That’s been unfortunate because both Renner and Fant, vying to fill the District 15 seat vacated by Daniel Davis, are worthy, articulate candidates.

The tactics may obscure the fact that the candidates agree on most of the big issues.

It’s a tight call, but Renner — a local lawyer, military veteran and former assistant state attorney in Broward County — deserves the support of District 15 voters in the Aug. 26 GOP primary.

During a candidate interview with the Times-Union editorial board, Renner offered thoughtful, well-reasoned positions on numerous issues.

Renner, who has been endorsed by Davis, also struck an impressive tone by acknowledging the need for lawmakers to be willing to work across the aisle in bipartisan fashion.

Renner’s sole clear shortcoming is his rigid, inflexible view on Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law.


An appeals court has decided to speed up its consideration of the case filed by the disqualified write-in candidate in the House District 64 race.

The First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee granted Daniel John Matthews’ motions to expedite and consolidate cases in his attempt to regain eligibility.

Briefs in the appeal now are due next month, court dockets show.

A Tallahassee judge last month disqualified Matthews as a write-in candidate for the Tampa-area district, finding he didn’t live there when he qualified.


@Paul_Renner: Early Voting is underway in #Duval County! Find your polling location: #HD15

@WesDavis24: Up bright and early out sign waving for Lakeland’s next state representative, @ColleenLBurton!

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On Context Florida: Our country is rooted in the American Dream, which tells us that the opportunity for a better life exists for each of us. Alex Sanchez, CEO of the Florida Bankers Association, is proud to be part of an industry that helps people turn their dreams into reality. Over the past 30 years, no state has played championship football better than Florida, says Bob Sparks. However, the Florida State Seminoles are about to become the first champion to be unwillingly denied the chance to go to Washington. What happened? The official reason is “scheduling conflicts.” Gary Stein supports Amendment 2, and now it is time to get serious on medical marijuana. Until the Florida law passes Amendment 2 and it is fully implemented or until a new federal law trumps the crazy-quilt patchwork of state laws, forced choices will be made. When we invest wisely in our children, we invest in a brighter tomorrow, writes Dominic Calabro and David Lawrence Jr. If we want a booming economy, we need to put our money where it counts. That means Florida needs to invest more – significantly more — in early learning.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


This TBT brings us some more Back-to-School insights, first in the form of a patent granted 126 years ago today.

On August 21, 1888, William Seward Burroughs was issued a patent for the first successful calculating machine — designed with the hopes of alleviating hours of tedious math work in his other life as a bank clerk. While adding machines were available at the time, they were unreliable.

Also an engineer, Burroughs did his drawings on metal plates under a microscope for absolute accuracy. In 1886, he founded the American Arithomomether Company, which became the Burroughs Adding Machine Company in 1904 — 110 ten years ago.  His company evolved and eventually merged with Sperry Corporation in 1986 to form Unisys.

Then, on August 22, 1955, the first computer user’s group, SHARE, was born. The goal was to share information and programs between computer installations. The project was a success and resulted in substantial software innovation by IBM.

Today also marks the 41st birthday of Sergey Brin, born August 21, 1973, the father of Google. Which goes without saying has revolutionized how students gather information, for better or worse.

Two long-ago scientists also had birthdays today: Charles Gerhardt and Jean Servais Stas, born three years apart — Stas, on August 21, 1813, and Gerhardt on August 21, 1816. Both men contributed greatly to what students have come to know and love (well, some…) as the Periodic Table of Elements. Gerhardt developed a classification of organic compounds, while Stas became known for his accurate determination of atomic weights.

CONGRATULATIONS to Kara and Jordan Raynor on the healthy birth of @BabyRaynor, Ellison Joy.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.