Sunburn for 9/3 – 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 firm best known for smart, strong and strategic counsel across the diverse and ever-changing media landscape: On this day in 1783, the American Revolution officially ended and Florida became part of . . . Spain? The same day Great Britain signed the Treaty of Paris ending its war with the new United States of America, it signed a separate agreement with Spain ceding control of the territories of East and West Florida – covering much more territory than the current Sunshine State, all the way to the Mississippi River. If not for the Adams-Onis Treaty 38 years later, we might all be living in “La Florida.”

Now, on to the ‘burn…


The extremist group released a video purportedly showing the beheading of Steven Sotloff, two weeks after his fellow prisoner James Foley was similarly killed. A militant in the video threatened that a British captive would be the next victim. He is survived by the stories he risked his life to tell


Gov. Scott called Islamic State militants “evil” and demanded that President Obama destroy them after a video surfaced purporting to show the beheading of Sotloff who has ties to the state.

“He’s got to start taking this seriously, we have got to destroy this evil,” Scott said.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said in a statement that the United States must go after the militants “right away because the U.S. is the only one that can put together a coalition to stop this group that’s intent on barbaric cruelty.” He also said he is filing legislation to give Obama clear authority to carry out airstrikes against the militants.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio called Sotloff a “man of enormous courage and decency.”

“As Steven was a native of Florida, my office has been in contact with his family throughout their ordeal, and today my heart goes out to all who loved him as they make the painful transition from fear to grief,” Rubio said in a statement.

U.S. Rep. Patrick E. Murphy also released the following statement regarding Sotloff: “My thoughts and prayers are with Steven Sotloff’s loved ones as well as those of James Foley during this most difficult and tragic time. Steven and James both dedicated their lives to the democratic principle of a free press and it is in their legacy that we must ensure that democracy continues to win out over terrorism.

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POLL #1 – RICK SCOTT 41%, CHARLIE CRIST 35% via The Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Scott has opened up a 5-point lead over Crist as a new Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9/UF Bob Graham Center poll finds Florida voters mostly optimistic about the state’s economic direction but decidedly sour on their gubernatorial choices.

… Only 35.4 percent of likely voters described Crist as honest and ethical and 53 percent said the Democratic nominee is not. Thirty-seven percent said Crist can be trusted and 53 percent — said he can’t be, including 29 percent of Democrats.

Scott performed slightly better but still poorly when voters were asked about specific descriptions, with 39 percent calling him honest and ethical and 50.7 percent saying he’s not. Voters were closely divided on the governor’s trustworthiness, with 44.3 percent saying he can be trusted, and 45.5 percent saying otherwise. Even among Republicans, roughly one in four said he can’t be trusted and is not honest.

Scott also outperformed Crist on the question of leadership, with 53.4 percent saying Scott “provides leadership” and only 46.6 percent saying the same for Crist.

… Overall, voters were closely divided on both major candidates’ performance as governor. Nearly 46 percent said they approved of how Crist handled the job and 40.8 percent disapproved. Nearly 47 percent said they approved of Scott’s job performance and 45.8 percent disapproved.

The poll found Crist leading comfortably among independent voters, pulling 35 percent support compared to 27 percent for Scott, and nearly 6 percent for Libertarian Wyllie. But Democrats typically need to win women voters to win a statewide election, and Crist and Scott were effectively tied among likely women voters, 37 percent for Crist and 38.5 percent for Scott.

Still more bad news for Crist: Fewer than 12 percent of Republican voters said they are backing him, while nearly 15 percent of likely Democratic voters said they supported Scott.

TWEET, TWEET: @SaintPetersblog: From the news org which had Romney +6 and Sink +7 comes the sequel, Scott +5. #FlaPol

POLL #2 – VOTERS SPLIT ON GOVERNOR, SUPPORT MEDICAL POT via Scott Powers of the Orlando Sentinel

The race for the governor’s office is dead even and voters now are ready to support Amendment 2 approving medical marijuana use in Florida, a new poll finds.

Gravis Marketing, which has found voters hovering at or just below the 60 percent level needed to approve Amendment 2 in past surveys, found Floridians have passed that level now and 64 percent said they would “vote for the current amendment use of marijuana for certain medical conditions.” Just 26 percent were opposed and 10 percent said they were unsure.

Other polls have shown much greater support for medical marijuana in Florida — notably the Quinnipiac University poll, which found support as high as 88 percent. But the Quinnipiac Florida Poll did not ask specifically about Florida’s Amendment 2, but rather generically about medical marijuana.

The Gravis poll’s finding of a solid approval level strikes at Amendment 2 opponents argument that voters could overwhelmingly favor medical marijuana in principal without agreeing to the specific proposal on the Nov. 4 ballot.

The poll also put Gov. Scott and Crist in a dead heat with 37 percent each, with 26 percent undecided.

It found Floridians unhappy with President Barack Obama, giving him an approval rating of just 38 percent, and a disapproval rating of 53 percent.

For the 2016 presidential campaign, Gravis found former secretary of state Hillary Clinton ahead of Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida 44 percent to 36 percent, and ahead of former governor Jeb Bush 39 percent to 37 percent.


While Crist keeps criticizing Gov. Scott over changes to the popular merit-based scholarship program in the years since Scott took office, some of the key changes were put in place while Crist was in the governor’s mansion.

Since fiscal 2010-11, the number of students receiving a Bright Futures scholarship has declined from 179,076 students in 2010-11 to 154,160 in fiscal 2013-14. That number is expected to continue to drop. The state estimates about 83,571 students will receive a Bright Futures scholarship in fiscal 2017-18.

Among those changes were efforts to increase the SAT and ACT requirements to qualify and a legislative decision to pay a flat rate instead of 100 percent or 75 percent of tuition costs.

Established in 1997, Bright Futures expanded an existing program for high-achieving high school students. The goal of the program was to help students who “would likely be successful in higher education,” Miller said.

When it was established, the scholarship paid for either 100 percent or 75 percent of a student’s tuition at state colleges or universities, depending on a student’s grade point average and college entrance exam score.

In 2009, the state Legislature tossed out the 100 percent and 75 percent coverage in favor of flat rates. In fiscal 2014-15, a Florida Academic Scholar would be awarded $103 per credit hour at a state university for a four-year program; a Florida Medallion Scholar would receive $77 per credit hour.

During the 2010 legislative session, credit hour award amounts were reduced in the state budget. That same year, lawmakers began increasing SAT/ACT test scores needed to qualify for the two college-bound scholarships — the Florida Academic Scholar and the Medallion Scholar programs.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORSCrist will be in downtown Miami to tour Pipeline Brickell, a business that hosts entrepreneurs, small companies, and start-ups. Crist will then hold a 2:00 p.m. press conference at Pipeline Brickell, 1101 Brickell Avenue in Miami.


More than 2,600 child welfare workers from around the state are gathering in Orlando this week for the annual Child Protection Summit.

Department of Children and Families Secretary Mike Carroll will kick off the summit Wednesday, speaking about his vision for Florida’s vulnerable children.

The three-day summit will give child welfare professionals the opportunity to learn from leading experts from around the country and fellow professionals, to improve their skills in the protection of children and strengthening families.

The agency has come under fire after hundreds of child abuse-related deaths in the past five years. This year, the Legislature passed a sweeping bill aimed at overhauling Florida’s child-welfare system.


They’re calling it “John Morgan unplugged and uncensored:” a video clip of the pro-medical marijuana campaign chairman’s after-midnight, inebriated bar speech, which has opponents charging that he was offensive and that he encouraged illegal pot use.

In the video of Morgan gives a rambling, impromptu, six-minute speech in a Lakeland bar crowded with young drinkers, Morgan jokes about smoking grass, jokes about Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, tells the crowd how medical marijuana has helped his brother, and then urges them to vote yes on Amendment 2 on Nov. 4.

He didn’t say anything wrong, insisted Ben Pollara, campaign manager for United For Care, the group Morgan chairs that is behind the medical marijuana amendment.

But it’s the way he said it that has the Vote No on 2 campaign calling for Morgan to apologize. The Vote No campaign distributed an edited video, showing Morgan dropping expletives into nearly every sentence, calling his opponents “whores,” sounding as if he was egging on a rowdy crowd that cheered pot use and insulted Judd, and then offering to buy a round of drinks.

“We believe this video, in all of its offensive glory, shows John Morgan’s real reasons behind his campaign to legalize marijuana. Their campaign has tried to be the moral authority on compassion, but clearly their chairman fell off the wagon,” said Sarah Bascom, spokesperson for the Vote No on 2 campaign. “This is not about sick Floridians; this is about pot for everyone.”

Pollara said there was no pot smoking, saying “I was with him the entire evening. He definitely had a few drinks.”


Democratic Attorney General Candidate George Sheldon announced the formation of a political committee, Floridians Seeking Common Ground, co-chaired by former Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth and Quincy Police Chief Walt McNeil, who previously served as secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections and as president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

“Our mission is to make government work again and to focus more attention on issues and solutions to problems where there is broad agreement among Democrats, Republicans and independents,” Sheldon said.

Examples of that broad agreement, Sheldon said, are early childhood education and programs that divert people from a path toward criminal behavior instead of just locking people up. “We know that we can make a huge positive difference in people’s lives through early intervention in the lives of young people who are at risk because of poverty or troubled family lives,” said Sheldon. “Bob Butterworth knows that from being a sheriff, a judge, an attorney general, and secretary of Children and Families. Walt McNeil knows that from being head of our Department of Juvenile Justice and head of our prison system.”

SPOTTED: U.S. Rep Steve Southerland in this POLITICO story listing the 5 most endangered House members.


>>> The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) Action Fund is endorsing Gwen Graham for Congress for Florida’s 2nd Congressional District. “Gwen Graham will work to create bipartisan solutions that invest in clean energy jobs and protect our planet for future generations,” said LCV Action Fund President Gene Karpinski. “She will support efforts to safeguard the open spaces and precious waterways that are vital to Florida’s economy, including the Apalachicola River and Bay system as well as miles of coastline.” 

>>> Florida Medical Association PAC (FMA PAC) is endorsing Republican State Rep. Keith Perry for re-election to House District 21. “We know Keith will work diligently to implement pro-medicine legislation that will ensure the safety of all Florida’s citizens,” said Ralph Nobo, FMA PAC president.

>>> FMA PAC is endorsing Republican incumbent State Rep. Ray Rodrigues in re-election effort for Lee County’s House District 76. “The working relationship the FMA has developed with Rep. Rodrigues during his two years in office has been tremendous,” Nobo said.

>>> Also getting the nod from FMA PAC is incumbent Republican state Rep. Clay Ingraham in his bid for another term in House District 1, which covers part of Escambia County. “He will be an effective ally in our fight against measures that would decrease access to quality health care or harm the citizens of Florida,” Nobo added.

>>>Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis endorses Blaise Ignoglia for HD 38. 

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More than 90 members of Florida’s lobbying corps will gather this week in Tampa. TheFlorida Association of Professional Lobbyistswill hold a three-day conference at the Grand Hyatt beginning Wednesday.

More than 30 speakers have been scheduled including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Rep. Dan Raulerson, and the Florida Chamber’s Director of Political Affairs Mike Grissom.

The conference’s opening-day focus is on ethics.

“We have two faculty members from the USF-St. Petersburg’s Bishop Center for Ethical Leadership teaching, ‘Calibrating your Moral Compass,’ followed by a lecture by Chris Anderson General Counsel of the Florida Commission on Ethics,” said Mark Landreth, FAPL’s executive director.

Anderson will discuss new ethics legislation.

The FAPL’s mission statement calls for a commitment to high standards and ethical conduct. Landreth said the conference’s roundtable discussions and lectures are an opportunity for attendees to earn a Designated Professional Lobbyist appellation. A DPL recognizes an in-depth knowledge of the legislative and political processes, their rules, regulations and ethics.

“The DPL is a voluntary opportunity to strengthen skills and effectiveness of government relations personnel who are self-employed or employed by lobbying firms,” said Landreth. “FAPL is leading the way as the only state lobbyist organization offering such a program.”

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn leads off the conference’s second day, scheduled to speak at Thursday’s breakfast. The breakfast will be followed by breakout sessions on compensation audits and social media. Also on the agenda is Florida State University professor Jerry Osteryoung.  A business mentor and coach, Osteryoung is director of an entrepreneurs institute and will speak on “How to manage your lobbying practice and find your niche.”

The afternoon schedule includes a roundtable discussion with reporters, the Associated Press’ Gary Fineout, the Orlando Sentinel’s Aaron Deslatte and Scripps’s Matt Dixon on the topic of “Press or Play Ball: a Topic of Electoral Importance.”

The conference concludes Friday with Republican consultant Adam Goodman and Democratic consultant Steve Schale leading a discussion of “Partisan View of the Coming Election.”

The conference runs today through Friday at Tampa’s Grand Hyatt.


After nearly 34 years, Mike Hightower has retired as Florida Blue’s vice president of government and legislative relations — the company’s top lobbyist.

But at 69, Hightower said he does not plan on receding from public life, where in Jacksonville and in Florida, he’s left large impressions.

The list detailing his community, philanthropic and political involvement is almost comically long:

He’s chair of the JEA board, one of the most powerful and influential agencies in Jacksonville, where he’s leading the utility through the municipal politics of pension reform and a period of massive uncertainty over the future of potentially costly federal regulations.

He is chair of JaxBiz, the JAX Chamber’s nonpartisan political committee that makes endorsements in local races. He is chair of the Associated Industries of Florida, one of the state’s biggest business advocacy groups. He was chair of George Bush’s presidential campaign in Northeast Florida in 2000, and he was the campaign finance chair for former mayors John Delaney and John Peyton.

He’s currently the state finance chairman for the governor and Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Even now, he can tick off a list of upcoming fundraisers he’s hosting at his house in the Riverside-Avondale Historic District — he conservatively estimates at least 35,000 people have been in his home over the years for civic and political fundraisers.

Ever self-effacing, Hightower reflected on his career:

“I was supposed to be a civics teacher,” he said.

ONION HEADLINE — “Elderly Lobbyist Always Droning On About How Little Legislation Cost In His Day” 


Florida TaxWatch announced that Florida State University graduate student Kyle Baltuch would be this year’s recipient of the prestigious Dr. Neil S. Crispo Fellowship award.

“I am honored to present the Dr. Neil S. Crispo Fellowship to Kyle,” said Dominic M. Calabro, president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch. “Dr. Crispo was an integral part of the success of Florida TaxWatch research and continued to serve the Sunshine State through his research at FSU until his death in 2011.”

The Dr. Neil S. Crispo Fellowship is an annual honor available to one outstanding Florida State graduate student. The award was established in honor of former Florida TaxWatch Vice President of Research and distinguished professor in the Askew School of Public Policy at FSU, the late Dr. Neil S. Crispo.

ACTUAL PRESS RELEASE: “It’s like ‘reddit meets Bitcoin.’ “


On Context Florida: Floridians are not surprised when they see seasonal spikes on their utility bills. However, J. Robert McClure, president/CEO of The James Madison Institute, notes that regulations proposed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concerning carbon emissions unfairly single out Florida, threatening to make those seasonal spikes the new normal and send the spiked months’ bills soaring to astronomical levels. Stephen Goldstein calls post-primary punditry about low voter turnout in Florida is as predictable and prolific as it is paltry. A routine prostitution sting in Pensacola leads Mark O’Brien to consider the challenges of legalizing, licensing and taxing prostitutes. Legalization would be a simplistic solution for a complex problem, and governing it would lead to a host of unforeseen problems. Michael Brown, the high school graduate shot by a Ferguson, Mo. police officer has become a symbol for racism and what is wrong with law enforcement. Andrew Skerritt says the best way to honor to Brown is to call for a national walk-in, for young black men to step forward to claim his seat in college, sit in the front row and fulfill those dreams that died on that Ferguson street a month ago.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


The University of Florida says it was given a record $215.3 million from donors in the last fiscal year.

University officials say it’s the second year in a row that Florida was given cash and cash-equivalent donations in excess of $210 million. The fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.

Last year Florida launched a major fundraising push to raise $800 million over a three-year period to push up the university’s ranking among the nation’s best public research universities. It is the only Florida school that is a member of prestigious Association of American Universities.

Florida has been designated as one of the state’s pre-eminent universities. The move brought increased state funding that is being used to hire additional faculty

HAPPY BIRTHDAY a day early to one of THE smartest guys in Florida politics, Ryan Tyson.

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.