Sunburn for 10/10 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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

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President Obama formalized his nomination of Janet Yellen to head the Fed. Congress remains deadlocked over the shutdown, but the House unanimously passed a measure that would restore financial payments the Pentagon makes to families that have endured the loss of a military family member. Harry Reid made his opening offer on the debt ceiling, introducing legislation that would lift the limit through the end of 2014 and do nothing else. And Wall Street sent Washington a sharp reminder of how dangerous it is to dance with default: The nation’s largest manager of money-market mutual funds said it is no longer willing to hold certain types of U.S. debt.

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FIDELITY INVESTMENTS SELLS OFF U.S. DEBT via Ken Sweet of the Associated Press

The nation’s largest manager of money-market mutual funds said Wednesday that it no longer holds any U.S. government debt that comes due around the time the nation could hit its borrowing limit.” A spokeswoman didn’t mince words: “We expect Congress will take the steps necessary to avoid default, but in our position as money market managers we have to take precautionary measures.” (Ken Sweet,AP)

Why this matters: About the best thing the federal government has going for it right now is the world’s absolute faith that it will pay back its debts. That’s why the country can continue to borrow money at outrageously low rates even though it’s $17 trillion in debt. If lenders were to lose faith and demand higher rates, it could set off the type of sovereign-debt crisis that brought Greece to its knees: Higher borrowing costs increase debts, increased debts shake investor faith, shaken investor faith produces higher borrowing costs, and the cycle repeats. Fidelity’s move is only a tiny step in that direction, but it’s a step, and a reminder of how dangerous it is to even hint at default.


A new AP-GfK poll finds that 62% of Americans mainly blamed Republicans for the government shutdown while 49% said Obama or the Democrats in Congress bear much responsibility.

Perhaps more interesting is this nugget: The poll found that the Tea Party is more than a gang of malcontents in the political landscape, as its supporters in Congress have been portrayed by Democrats. Rather, it’s a sizable — and divisive — force among Republicans. More than 4 in 10 Republicans identified with the tea party and were more apt than other Republicans to insist that their leaders hold firm in the standoff over reopening government and avoiding a default of the nation’s debt in coming weeks.


The House unanimously passed a measure to restore financial payments the Pentagon makes to families that have endured the loss of a family member who was in the military. The payments had been frozen due to the shutdown.


Florida’s seniors, students and homebuyers are at significant risk of being hurt by a prolonged partial shutdown of the federal government, according to an analysis released Wednesday.  The study by financial website said Florida is second only to Hawaii in the role real estate plays in its economy. The two states “stand to suffer the most” because Federal Housing Administration staffing furloughs could lead to a delay in home loans. Mortgage applications may be delayed if lenders can’t verify potential homebuyers’ income via federal tax records, the study said.

Florida ranked No. 6 of the 50 states in federal college aid applications per capita in the third quarter. Pell Grants and federal direct student loans this school year won’t be affected by the shutdown, but a “drastically reduced staff” may delay the processing of future aid applications, the website said. Student aid may also be cut to balance the budget, said senior analyst John Kiernan. The Sunshine State’s economy ranks No. 7 in its reliance on Social Security payments per capita. President Obama said Social Security payments would be disrupted if Congress doesn’t agree to raise the debt ceiling.

VETERANS BEING HIT BY FEDERAL SHUTDOWN via Michael Pollick of the Herald Tribune

Offices of the Department of Veterans Affairs closed their doors on Wednesday morning, part of a rolling wave of shutdowns gripping the federal government. For now, it is an inconvenience that has prompted Disabled American Veterans officials and county workers in Southwest Florida and elsewhere to pick up the slack on behalf of veterans with ongoing claims. But Tuesday’s action could foreshadow future trouble for veterans. At the end of this month, money will run out for all veterans’ benefits except health care — from disability payment benefits to GI bill educational benefits.

“If they cut off the disability for even one month, it is basically going to rock my world,” said Scott Dasher, who graduated from the University of South Florida’s Sarasota campus in June and now lives in Lakeland. While Dasher has a marketing job, his income is not high enough to pay his bills. He counts on his $1,700 per month in disability compensation. He got an 80 percent disability rating after three tours in Afghanistan, where he served with Army Special Forces. He also received GI bill funds.

Nationally, there are 3.6 million people, like Dasher, on the Veterans Administration disability compensation rolls.

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U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young told the Tampa Bay Times on Wednesday he won’t seek re-election next year.

Florida’s longest-serving member of Congress, Young, 82, was first elected to the U.S. House in 1970 and was well known for directing defense contracts and other earmarks to the Tampa Bay region when he served as chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Young, a Pinellas County Republican, told the Times there were a variety of reasons for his decision, from his health — Young has been at the Walter Reed Medical Center since Friday because of a back injury — to growing congressional gridlock.

Before going to Washington, Young served in the Florida Senate from 1961 to 1970, including as minority leader the final four years. While Young has been able to fend off many challengers, his decision is sure to set up a quick scramble for the district that has been steadily becoming more Democratic. The district voted for President Barack Obama in both the 2008 and 2012 contests.


Tampa Bay Times, US Rep. CW Bill Young to retire, won’t seek re-election in 2014 – said there are several factors in why he won’t run for re-election including his health and his desire to spend more time with his family” … POLITICO,Young, longest-serving House GOPer, to retire – the longest-serving House Republican, will not seek reelection in 2014″ … Washington Post, Rep. Bill Young won’t seek reelection – who has served more than four decades in the House”… NBC, ” GOP congressman to retire, giving Democrats a potential pick-up opportunity – had previously waved off speculation each cycle he was retiring”… Roll Call, Bill Young announces retirement from Congress – a 22-term Republican from Florida’s 13th District opens up an opportunity for a Democratic pickup”… New York Times, Bill Young, Florida’s Master Appropriator, to Retire – his name adorns roads, bridges and other projects, and he is known for bringing millions of dollars back to his district, especially in military contracts” … Los Angeles Times, Longest-serving US House Republican to retire – he also said tea party conservatives were driving the direction of the Republican Party… Young is one of just 17 House Republicans who represent a district that President Obama carried in the 2012 election” … Tampa Tribune, “On the Republican side, the most-talked about candidate is former Mayor Rick Baker, but other big names also may be interested… Sen. Jack Latvala, long a dominant force in Pinellas County Republican politics, is considered another likely possibility, but didn’t want to discuss the question Wednesday.”


One of the last adults in the U.S. Congress is saying farewell.

… I got choked up while I was interviewing him because I’m sorry to see him step down. At this moment in our political history, we need adults like Young to get Congress functioning again.

… Congress used to be dominated by leaders like Bill Young, pragmatic politicians who were held in high esteem because they could compromise. Young often told me that passing appropriations bills was the one thing that Congress must do every year and he had to approach it with a bipartisan strategy to get the necessary 218 votes.

But today, Congress can’t even pass those bills.

They showed leadership by working with colleagues on the other side of the aisle and forging compromises that addressed the problems of our time, traits not valued in our modern political food fight.

Bill Young was an adult in a place that is becoming increasingly childish. We will miss him.


House Speaker John Boehner:

“Bill Young is the dean of the Florida congressional delegation, a tireless voice for our men and women in uniform and America’s national security, and a dear friend. Since 1970, he has served with distinction in the People’s House — and both the House and the people are better for it. I thank him for his service, and I will miss him.”

State Senator Jack Latvala:

“He’s been my idol ever since he’s been in office. He’s the kind of public official who epitomizes what public service should be. … Look at his net worth. Bill Young never used his position for personal gain.”

State Senator Jeff Brandes via Twitter:

“Congressman Bill Young is a great public servant and I am honored to call him a friend and mentor.”

Former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker:

“Today is a day to celebrate the incredible career of a man who has left his mark on St. Petersburg, Tampa Bay, Florida, and the nation. He influenced entire sectors of our local economy, including the universities and the marine sciences. He also spent a great deal of time working to improve Midtown St. Petersburg — a story which doesn’t often get told. The Johnnie Ruth Clarke Health Center would not have been built if it wasn’t for Bill Young. It’s an understatement to say he will be missed.”

RIDICULOUS EMAIL OF THE DAY via The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee: “If we want to get rid of more Republicans like Bill Young and Michele Bachmann, we’ve got to keep this up.” 


On the Democrat side, barring Charlie Crist entering the race — something I think is very unlikely — the leading contender is County Commissioner Ken Welch. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has previously attempted to recruit Welch to run for the seat and is probably already on the phone with him now. The Democrat currently running for the seat, Jessica Ehrlich, remains a factor, but will likely not be the nominee. She just doesn’t have the star power to beat Welch or any of the other Democrats who might run. Other Dems who may throw their hat in the ring are County Commissioners Charlie Justice, who ran before for the seat, and Janet Long.  A darkhorse candidate is businessman Scott Wagman. 

On the Republican side, the leading contender is state Senator Jeff Brandes. Among the major contenders, his ideology fits best with the current Republican leadership. He has the personal wealth to self-finance. He is an Army veteran. He’s telegenic. And he’s fearless, having taken on a Democratic icon in his first race for the State House. Brandes is also young enough that he has the time to ascend the seniority system in Congress.

Another strong contender is former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker. First of all, if he runs, Brandes doesn’t — Brandes has that much respect for Baker. Baker has the intellectual firepower to beat any opponent. He also has cross-party appeal; when he ran for re-election in 2005, he won every precinct in the city, including those in Midtown. 

The third major contender is State Senator Jack Latvala. There’s no better political mind in Tampa Bay than Latvala. He would garner endorsements from the beaches to the Bay. His name rings out throughout Young’s district. But does Latvala really want to be in D.C.?

Other Republicans who are in the mix are former Clearwater mayor Frank Hibbard and County Commissioner Karen Seel. Former Young aide David Jolly previously thought of running. I don’t think County Commissioner John Morroni will run, considering his health issues. There’s also the likelihood of one or two  Tea Party candidates entering the race.

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SCOTT’S TEACHER RAISES A WORK IN PROGRESS via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

Teachers in most counties are still awaiting pay raises approved earlier this year.

Teachers across most Florida counties, including Palm Beach, are still awaiting pay raises pushed through Legislature last spring by Gov. Rick Scott, a House budget committee was told Wednesday.

Deputy Education Commissioner Linda Champion said that only 13 of the state’s 67 counties had approved pay raises that lawmakers said were to range from $2,500 each for teachers rated “effective” and as much as $3,500 for those who earned “highly effective” grades.

In 53 counties, negotiations between school boards and teachers unions are still ongoing, while Orange County has been declared at a collective bargaining impasse.

Lawmakers acknowledged that the pay hikes were taking longer to appear than they anticipated. But Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, also said she was “disappointed” that four of the counties had issued across-the-board boosts, apparently disregarding the Legislature’s demand that they awards be based on merit.

“I’m troubled that we have superintendents and school boards that ignored that directive,” Adkins said.


Gov. Scott refused to answer whether he supports or rejects the government shutdown that has crippled Washington, deflecting the question by blaming President Barack Obama.

“What I agree with is the fact that the buck stops with the president,” Scott told reporters at a media availability this moring. “It’s disappointing he doesn’t know how to compromise and negotiate. I’ve done it for three sessions.”

Won’t the shutdown have an impact on the state? 

 “We’re looking at all of our agencies to see what impat it’s going tohave on our state,” he said.

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APPOINTED: Ellen Anderson to the Children and Youth Cabinet.


On Context Florida, editor Peter Schorsch urged the Legislature to rescind lobbyist compensation reporting requirements, particularly in light of legislative hesitation to conduct audits. Steven Kurlander offered a sobering look at recent acts of violence that together suggest to him the “collective madness of an angry and depressed America.” Kurlander began with the recent story of Miriam Carey and ends by posing what many fear: that these acts cannot just be “written off as the unhinged acts of a mentally ill person.” Then, Karen Cyphers shared some thoughts and data on how end-of-life planning spares heartache and money, an advocated the use of advance directives and POLST forms to give people more control. Finally, in the third of his four-part series, Gary Mormino  shared how Florida’s political pundits got it wrong in the gubernatorial election of 1944 — observations that are surprisingly relevant to pundits today. Visit Context Florida to dig in.


The Florida Association of Health Plans today announced Audrey Brown will lead the association as its new president and chief executive officer.  

“After diligently searching for a candidate that possessed the unique skillset that the association requires, we are pleased to announce that Audrey Brown will take on the role of president and CEO of the Florida Association of Health Plans,” said Christopher Ciano, FAHP chairman.  “We have full confidence that Audrey will effectively lead the FAHP team in our mission of bettering the health of Florida’s citizens.  Her experience and policy knowledge will make her a valuable asset to our team.” 

“I am thrilled to have been selected to serve as the president and CEO of the Florida Association of Health Plans,” said Audrey Brown.  “FAHP is a thought leader in health care policy, and I look forward to working with our member plans, professional staff and the association’s leadership during this unprecedented time of transformation in the health care industry.” 

Brown most recently served as chief of staff to Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty, serving as the chief policy advisor to the commissioner, chief lobbyist on agency fiscal matters and managed the operations of the Office of Insurance Regulation.  Prior to that, Brown served as deputy chief of staff to Commissioner McCarty from June 2007 to November 2007. 


Florida’s Business Alliance for Competitive Healthcare Solutions (Healthcare Alliance) will make its debut on Monday, October 14 at the Florida Chamber Foundation’s annual Future of Florida Forum in Orlando.                

The Healthcare Alliance, which includes technology and healthcare leaders, will target competitive marketplace solutions that can improve healthcare costs in Florida. The unveiling will take place during the Future of Florida Forum’s Healthcare Summit.

Also during the Healthcare Summit portion of the Future of Florida Forum, the following discussions will take place: Legislative Panel – The Policy Vision of the Future; Healthcare Innovation – Bending the Cost Curve; Securing the Future; Healthcare Scorecard; Preparing the Healthcare Workforce of the Future.

POLICY NOTES h/t to the Florida Current

Florida Cabinet: Meets 9 a.m. to noon to vote on several issues, including a request to increase the size of The Villages retirement community in Central Florida by 100 acres, to hear proposed changes to Citizens Property Insurance Corp.’s operations plans, and to consider a request to increase the size of the Sea Hag Marina in Steinhatchee. The meeting will take place in the Cabinet Meeting Room, lower level of the Capitol. The agenda can be found here.

The Florida Surplus Lines Service Office Board of Governors: Meets at 9 a.m. at 1441 Maclay Commerce Drive Suite 200 in Tallahassee. Copies of agendas may be requested by contacting Georgie Barrett at

Citizens for Strong Schools v. Florida State Board of Education discussed: Jon Mills, former Speaker of the Florida House and former dean of the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law, and Neil Chonin, litigation director of the Southern Legal Counsel, will discuss the upcoming landmark trial Citizens for Strong Schools v. Florida State Board of Education at 6 p.m. at UF’s Levin College of Law, Room 180. The event and parking are free and open to the public and will be streamed live at

Florida Department of Environmental Protection: Concludes a series of meetings across the state to receive public comment on its list of possible state lands that could be sold. An initial list in August of 5,331 acres had been trimmed to 3,463 acres on Sept. 25. A meeting will be held in Orlando from 6 to 8 p.m. at the DEP Central District Office, 3319 Maguire Blvd., Suite 232. More information about the meetings can be found here. To see a list of the possible surplus lands, go to the DEP state lands website.

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Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam joined Sen. Nancy Detert and Rep. Heather Dawes Fitzenhagen, along with several law enforcement partners and children’s advocates, to announce the filing of the Keeping I.D. Safe (KIDS) Act.

Currently, there is no way to protect children from identity theft. Adults are able to call one of the three credit monitoring agencies and monitor or freeze their credit reports. This law, similar to one passed last year in Maryland, would allow parents and guardians to set up a credit record for their child and freeze it, protecting that child’s Social Security number and other personal information until the child is ready to use credit. The law would also apply to vulnerable adults who have a legal guardian.

Senate Bill 242, sponsored by Sen. Detert, and House Bill 151, sponsored by Rep. Fitzenhagen, would prevent an estimated 10,000 children from falling victim to identity theft each year and save Floridians more than $21 million annually. The estimates are findings from an economic impact study conducted by department economist Sergio Alvarez.


After failing to pass during the 2013 legislative session, a license plate to honor fallen law-enforcement officers cleared its first Senate hurdle Wednesday. The Senate Transportation Committee unanimously backed the proposal (SB 132) by Sen. Jack Latvalato create the Fallen Law Enforcement Officers license plate. To reach the Senate floor during the 2014 legislative session, the proposal must go before the Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee and the Appropriations Committee.

No timeline has been set for the House companion (HB 65) to appear before any of its three assigned committees.

The tag would include the words “A Hero Remembered Never Dies” across the bottom. Money from the plate would assist the Police and Kids Foundation, Inc. 

VEHICLE REGISTRATION FEE CUT CRUISES IN SENATE via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida

The Senate Transportation Committee wasted little time in unanimously backing the proposal (SB 156) by Sen. Joe Negron to provide an average $12 in savings for each vehicle registration. 

“This bill is very simple,” Negron said. 

The simplest part is that the bill doesn’t carry the baggage a similar measure had last session that led to its demise. 

Rather than the Senate’s earlier plan to pay for the reduction by eliminating a tax break that has been enjoyed by the politically influential insurance industry since the 1980s, the revised proposal now takes the money from general revenue. 

Florida Chamber of Commerce President Mark Wilson said that by not seeking to eliminate the insurance tax credit, which covered about 15 percent of salaries paid to Florida-based employees of insurers, the proposal is a lot more palatable to business. 

“Forget that it was insurance, when you tell an entire industry that after you move your jobs here, you can’t use it after they’re all here, we didn’t think it was good policy to change the policy midstream,” Wilson said. 

The tax credit has been estimated as providing the insurance industry with $3.34 billion is tax breaks since 1987.

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Young reported impressive third-quarter fundraising numbers as she adds more than $102,000 to her House District 60 re-election effort, according to the Florida Division of Elections. The two-term Republican is currently running unopposed for the seat that covers much of South Tampa and the downtown region.

Donations to Young’s campaign between July 1 and Sept. 30 totaled $102,561 for a net of $173,711 in the past year.


Raburn added $30,395 for his effort to defend his Central Florida House seat, according to the Division of Elections. The Republican from Lithia has now brought his total to $51,145.

Raburn could face a challenge in House District 57 from Riverview Republican Joseph Leo Sykes. The most recent campaign filings show Sykes raised $50 during reporting period for a total of $850.

Republican Rep. Travis Cummings of Orange Park also added $25,100, bringing his total to $41,100 for re-election to the House District 18 seat.

Cummings has drawn opposition in 2014 from Libertarian Kenneth Alvin Willey, who added $50 during the third quarter reporting for an overall total of $330.


Rep. Halsey Beshears reported raising $46,335 during the third quarter of the year. Beshears, who also does not have announced opposition, reported an overall total of $58,835. Beshears represents House District 7, which includes 10 largely rural counties stretching from Gulf to Madison counties.

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… to report having raised $37K during the last quarter, bringing his overall total to $111,216.


DeNapoli filed fundraising numbers of $33,000 collected since August in his bid for the Sarasota House District 74 seat.

DeNapoli is running for the seat that covers most of South Sarasota County, including Osprey, Nokomis, Venice and parts of North Port and Englewood. Currently, term-limited Republican Rep. Doug Holder holds the seat.

Adding the $150,000 DeNapoli personally gave his campaign, the Republican from Nokomis will have a two-month fundraising total of over $183,000. His GOP rival, Julio Gonzales, collected $36,191 during the third quarter reporting period for a total of $76,200 

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With a team of 20 lobbyists and 11 offices all the way from Tallahassee to Key West, GrayRobinson ranks at No. 7 of Sunshine State News’ Top Lobbyists in the Sunshine State. More from SSN here.


In an ongoing series on the Top Lobbying Firms in Florida, Sunshine State News has some pretty apt observations about the successes and strengths of firms, large and small.   Unlike rankings made by other news outlets using raw compensation data, SSN attempts to even the playing field by dividing total firm compensation by the number of lobbyists on staff.  On one hand, this helps portray firm activity in a novel way; but on another, it unfairly distorts rankings toward leaner groups or those with only highly tenured partners.

Using SSN’s metrics, Southern Strategy Group ranked in at No. 8.  This well-known, adroit team is a big one:  SSN counted 18 lobbyists on their roster. With $3.9 million in 2012 legislative compensation, Southern Strategy Group was calculated by SSN to bring in $216,000 per lobbyist. Other firms that bring in considerably less, but with fewer lobbyists, have stats that look more favorable.  But are they really?

Another way to even the playing field and standardize results would be to look at the top five billers from each firm.  Using the example of Southern Strategy Group again, their top five billers likely do better than the top five lobbyists in any other firm in Florida.  And this isn’t to say that the rest of the Southern team are dead weight hanging on.  Quite the contrary.  Even their lower-end billers are profitable and add value to the team. Many of them are young and still learning the trade. So while intended to recognize firms that pack a large punch per person, in effect, this new analysis penalizes firms for building a farm team and spreading the wealth.

To clients considering which firm to sign, the only real measure that matters is whether the team will get the job done.   Toward that, what better indicator is there than total robust earnings demonstrating client trust and investment over time?


Alan Harmony: Florida Medical Association

Pam Pfeifer: University of South Florida

Keri Rayborn Silver: Council of Property Claim Professionals, Inc.


Pennington P.A. has added Jim DeBeaugrine to its state government affairs practice.  A long time veteran of the legislative and executive branches of Florida, DeBeaugrine specializes in appropriations, disability and aging issues, health and long term care, Medicaid, and criminal and civil justice. 

DeBeaugrine served as House staff for 19 years including 10 as the Staff Director of the House Justice Appropriations Committee. He also served for 8 years as an analyst with the House Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee. During his tenure with the Legislature, he was responsible for fiscal and policy analysis support for Florida’s Medicaid program, the state’s aging and disability programs, the Departments of Elderly Affairs and Health and all the entities associated with the criminal and civil justice system, including the judicial branch.  Most recently, as Director of the Agency for People with Disabilities, DeBeaugrine enacted major improvements in agency management. The firm also recently added Mike Harrell and Marnie George who have nearly 50 years of combined experience in state government affairs.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to David Mica, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council.

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.