Sunburn for 10/17 – 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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Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell announced a deal had been reached in the Senate that would fund the government through Jan. 15 and postpone a government default on the debt through Feb. 7. Stronger verification requirements for people who receive Obamacare subsidies are also included. The Senate is expected to vote first and then send the package to the House.

WHITE HOUSE REAX TO INCOME VERIFICATION: Carney: “We’re fine with it,” said Carney, calling it a “modest adjustment.”


U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson had decidedly different takes on the Senate deal that will reopen the fderal government through at least Jan. 15.

While Nelson praised the compromise on the Senate floor, Miami Republican Rubio blasted the deal later in the day.

“I am very grateful that we will avoid a default that would not only hurt the people of this country but that would irreparably damage the financial foundation of this nation,” Nelson said. “But this should have never happened in the first place.”

Nelson complained that “extremists” are directing the affairs of Congress.

But in his speech, Rubio blamed Senate Democrats and President Barack Obama for the shutdown.

“I know of no one in my party who supported shutting down the government,” Rubio said during his floor speech. “On the contrary, we argued that we should fund the entire government except for one thing, ObamaCare.”

Rubio said Democrats took the position that funding ObamaCare was more important than funding the government.

“They were willing to put our country through this government shutdown just to save their pet project,” Rubio said.

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The Houston Chronicle retracted its endorsement of Sen. Cruz in a forlorn editorial titled “Why we miss Kay Bailey Hutchison.”


Conservatives are (finally) coming out of the woodwork to defend their speaker. Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho said he was “really proud” of Boehner’s work during the shutdown. Rep Jim Jordan of Ohio added that “there is absolutely no talk” of a movement to oust Boehner from his leadership role. The sudden public support appears to be giving the embattled Boehner the leverage he may need to violate the so-called “Hastert rule” to call a vote on the Senate deal to end the shutdown. 

MITCH McCONNELL REPRISES ROLE AS THE CLOSER via Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post

He’s been quiet throughout most of the budget negotiations, but Minority Leader McConnell emerged in the eleventh hour to close a deal that will, if passed, avert economic catastrophe. Kyra Sedgwick, start taking notes. 

THE BEST MOMENTS OF THE SHUTDOWN via Philip Bump of The Atlantic Wire

I was  just starting to, like you, like the shutdown. From Ted Cruz reading Dr. Seuss on the Senate floor to sad photos of little kids trying to enter the D.C. zoo, it’s been (anything but) great. Until next time. 

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Don’t count Jessica Ehrlich out of the race for Florida’s Congressional District 13. Despite being down in a new poll to prospective primary challenger Alex Sink, Ehrlich continues to post impressive fundraising numbers.

According to her latest campaign finance report, Ehrlich has nearly doubled her support in her first two fundraising quarters of the 2014 election cycle. 

Ehrlich raised $112,963.89 in contributions during the months of July, August and September of 2013, the last fundraising period before Congressman Bill Young announced his plans to retire. Ehrlich raised nearly $100,000 more in individual money year over year as compared to the same time in 2012 and has more than doubled her cash on hand in the same period to over $160,000.

In the last three months, Ehrlich’s campaign had almost 600 individual donors with over 445 new investors in the campaign. Moreover, in the last week alone, Ehrlich’s new contributors have increased by an additional 20%. 

 “It is an honor to have such early support of our people-powered campaign. It proves again that Pinellas County residents want a Representative who will stand up to the paralyzed partisanship of the Washington establishment and fight for the hardworking men and women here at home,” said congressional candidate Jessica Ehrlich.  “Voters are tired of business as usual and are ready for a new voice focused on access to education and job training, increasing economic opportunities, and protecting our seniors.”


The election to fill U.S. Rep. Bill Young’s seat may not be until next year, but talk of a replacement is already heating up. A few names — such as former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker and former state CFO Alex Sink — rise to the top of the list of contenders for the 13th Congressional District seat.

Although Baker is by far the favorite among Republicans and would lead in a general election over other Democrats, in a head-to-head matchup, Sink wins. St. Pete Polls recently announced the latest survey of voters, commissioned by this blog, asking 1741 registered voters whom they prefer to succeed Young in several hypothetical contests.

When the race is between Republican Baker and 2010 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sink, Baker falls short by nearly 16 points. Sink gets 50.8 percent, compared to 34.0 percent for Baker.  In a matchup between Baker and attorney Jessica Ehrlich (who lost against Young in 2012), the former mayor leads by nearly five points. Baker gets 34.6 percent to 30.7 for Ehrlich, with 34.7 undecided. Sink also takes a considerable lead over Neil Brickfield, besting the former Republican Pinellas County Commissioner by more than 32 points. Sink gets a comfortable 56.6 to Brickfield’s 24.0 percent. 

Taking out the 29-year-old Young Jr., the son of the retiring congressman, Baker’s appeal with GOP voters rises to 50.5 percent, and “someone else” jumps to 26.5 percent. Republicans also have a favorable view of Baker by a wide margin, 60.4 percent favorable to 14.7 percent unfavorable, and 24.9 percent of voters unsure.  

In the choice of Democrats, Sink is the overwhelming favorite in a fictitious primary run, by more than 43 points. Sink gets 63.1 percent backing with Democratic voters, compared to only 19.8 percent for Ehrlich. Someone Else gets 10.0 percent, and 7.2 percent are unsure. As popular as Sink is in a hypothetical primary, her approval rating is even higher. More than 73 percent of registered Democratic voters have a favorable opinion of Sink, with only 10.8 who view her unfavorably. Around 16 percent are not sure.


Under fire and under the microscope for his Cuba policies, an investigation nagging former staffers and his use of the word “Taliban”on the House floor, U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia is still pulling in impressive loads of cash for his reelection campaign.

The Democrat raised $411,000 in the third quarter, spent $171,400 and has more than $1 million in the bank, an adviser said. The third quarter haul was smaller than the second and first quarters ($440k and $550k, respectively).

Garcia’s main Republican rival, Miami-Dade School Board Member Carlos Curbelo, reported $450,000 for the third quarter — however the money included rollover funds from his exploratory committee the quarter before. 

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Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has lined up a fundraising chief for what increasingly seems like an inevitable gubernatorial comeback bid in 2014, Democratic sources told POLITICO. While Crist has not yet officially decided to challenge Republican Gov. Rick Scott, Democrats said that he has consulted with former Obama fundraising official Jessica Clark about heading up a finance operation and that she is expected to do so in the likely event that Crist runs.

Fundraising would be one of the most important challenges for Crist in a race against Scott, who has already raised huge sums for his political committee and spent over $70 million of his own fortune in 2010 to win his office in the first place. Clark is a veteran of the 2008 and 2012 Obama campaigns, and was finance director for the president’s reelection bid in Florida last year. She did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.


As they get ready for the 2014 gubernatorial race, both Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist can count on the support of their respective parties. The University of North Florida (UNF) released a poll last week which found Crist taking 44 percent while Scott was running right behind him at 40 percent — within the margin of error. “Other candidates” took 2 percent while 14 percent of those surveyed remained undecided.

Prof. Andrew Hopkins, the assistant director of UNF’s Public Opinion Research Laboratory, released the crosstabs of the poll to Sunshine State News on Tuesday and they show both Crist and Scott have won over their bases despite some challenges.

The poll found 74 percent of Democrats supported Crist while 10 percent of them favored Scott. Crist had been a Republican until 2010 when he was caught by Marco Rubio in the GOP U.S. Senate primary. Crist continued his Senate bid with no party affiliation and lost to Rubio in the general election. After endorsing President Barack Obama in the presidential election, Crist joined the Democrats in December.

The poll also showed Scott can count on the support of the GOP. The poll found 77 percent of Florida Republicans favored Scott while 12 percent were behind Crist. Scott burst onto the political scene in 2010 and clashed with then-Attorney General Bill McCollum in a vicious primary fight. After losing to Scott, McCollum sulked in his tent and refused to endorse his fellow Republican.

There appears to be a major racial divide shaping up in the gubernatorial election. Almost half the white voters surveyed — 49 percent — backed Scott while 37 percent supported Crist. Despite Crist’s GOP past, African-American voters heavily broke his way with 74 percent backing the former governor and only 8 percent favoring Scott. Crist got a majority of Hispanic voters surveyed — 52 percent — while 19 percent were for Scott. The governor led Crist with other voters, 40 percent to 29 percent.

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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will make a jobs announcement in Kissimmee. 1925 East Bronson Memorial Highway. 3:30 p.m.

GOV. SCOTT URGES NEW PORT FUNDING, TAMPA INCLUDED via Mark Holan of the Tampa Bay Business Journal

Gov. Scott says he will recommend nearly $35 million in strategic port project allocations during next year’s Legislative session. The proposal includes $10.4 million for container yard improvements at the Port of Tampa.

“We’ll enhance our ports’ ability to move more goods which position Florida to play an even greater role in global trade,” Scott said in a Wednesday statement meant to reflect his comments later in the day to the American Association of Port Authorities’ annual convention in Orlando.

The proposal calls for $9.7 million to Port Canaveral for container yard development and $14.7 million to Port Everglades for a turning basin project. In March 2011, as he was rejecting more than $2 billion in federal money for a high-speed train between Orlando and Tampa, Scott drew praise for directing more state funding to a Miami dredging project. His administration said Wednesday that $642 million has been allocated to port projects.

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On the eve of former Gov. Jeb Bush’s annual education summit, a New Mexico advocacy organization called for federal officials to investigate spending by his Foundation for Excellence in Education.

The foundation’s two-day summit in Boston will include lawmakers and education officials from several states, including Florida’s Senate Education Committee Chairman John Legg, R-Trinity. But Progress Now New Mexico sent a complaint to the IRS asking it to look into the nonprofit foundation’s spending on government officials.

Progress Now maintains that IRS regulations prohibit nonprofits from paying officials or using tax-exempt money to benefit private companies. Summit sponsors have included Charter Schools USA, Pearson, the big testing firm that ran Florida’s FCAT, and other for-profit and conservative education interests.

“This tax-exempt organization is serving as a dating service for corporations selling educational products — including virtual schools — to school chiefs responsible for making policies and cutting the checks,” said Patrick Davis of Progress Now.

The foundation did not immediately respond to the allegations.


Florida has 763,890 people in the “coverage gap” — uninsured residents who are not old enough for Medicare, who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but who make too little money to qualify for subsidized health insurance through the new federal Affordable Care Act, according to a new Kaiser study.

The study, released today by the Kaiser Family Foundation, offers a lower number than previously-used estimates from the Urban Institute, of 995,000 Floridians. Kaiser officials say they used slightly different methodology and updated data.

These are poor people. By definition, they make less than the federal poverty level, which is $11,490 for an individual and $23,550 for a family of four. They have no insurance, and have no government programs to help them afford any.

The Affordable Care Act was written with two parts: one that would provide subsidized care for previously-uninsured people making more than the poverty level, up to four times the poverty level. The other part expected people below the poverty level to move into an expanded Medicaid program, with the federal government providing the states with money to do so, at least in early years. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that every state had the right to decide on its own whether to expand its Medicaid program. Florida was one of 26 states that decided, last spring, not to do so.

Florida turned down $51 billion in federal money over ten years, though the state would have had to chip in $3.5 billion to fully fund the expansion.

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Julie Delegal posts the third installment in her series on Common Core State Standards, with a focus on Gov. Rick Scott’s “middle step” between the standards and the PARCC test. Steve Robinson calls Congressman Ted Yoho out for making “the #1 Stupidest Comment on the Debt Ceiling”; and Karen Cyphers makes a pitch for how the federal research slump is Florida’s opportunity to boost jobs and discoveries in-state. Finally, Pierre Tristam posits that Malala Yousafzai should have won the Nobel Peace Prize this year.  Yousafzai is a 16-year-old Pakistani girl who he writes “is that child, holding that pen, and there’s some wonder in the notion that she’s barely begun.” Visit Context Florida to dig in.


Legislative leaders and business interests have a large agenda in mind for 2014: keeping high educational standards, moving future state employees to a defined contribution pension system, more tort reform, large tax cuts and more. They’re also confident they can get most of it through the Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott despite a historical reluctance of elected officials to shy away from controversial issues ahead of an election year.

Gaetz told the Chamber crowd Tuesday to “expect more” tax cuts and the elimination of regulations from the Senate. House Speaker Will Weatherford boasted that his agenda and the Chamber’s legislative agenda were mostly one and the same. But Weatherford also challenged the crowd — and the Republican Party — to address the problem of “generational poverty,” a term that doesn’t often make it into GOP speeches. Weatherford didn’t have specifics, but said the business sector must develop private enterprise solutions to fix cyclical poverty that makes it tougher for low-income people to become top wage-earners.


If the number of public policy summits held in a state is any indication of its energy and drive, Florida is looking good. Between the Associated Industries of Florida’s Healthcare Affordability Summit, and its Water Forum; the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Future of Florida Forum, Education Summit, and International Days; the Sayfie Summit with its “Disturb Florida” theme; and a number of other issue-centered conferences, 2013 has seen a boom in what appears to be the organized momentum of “thought leadership”.  While these conferences attract a number of the same leaders and players, there’s something to be said for constructive repetition. Few things get done by one group saying one idea once.


Eric Silagy, President of Florida Power & Light Company (FPL), was elected 2013-2014 Chair of the Florida Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors during its annual meeting held earlier today.

“Eric Silagy is a highly experienced business leader that understands the importance of making Florida more competitive and the important role Florida businesses play in achieving a strong economy,” said Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber. “As Chair of the Board of Directors, Eric will volunteer his time and talent in support of the Florida Chamber’s efforts to champion free enterprise principles and solutions toward leading Florida to a new and sustainable economy.”

Silagy replaces outgoing Florida Chamber Board of Director Chair Lars Houmann, President and CEO of Florida Hospital and President and CEO of the Florida Division Adventist Health System, whose term expires October 31, 2013. Silagy will serve a one-year term as Chair beginning November 1, 2013. 

HURRICANE FUND STILL STRONG AT END OF SEASON via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press

Florida is ending this year’s storm season with some good news. The state-created fund that backs up private insurers in Florida remains in the best financial shape it has been since it was created 20 years ago. New estimates drawn by financial consultants and Wall Street firms suggest the fund can borrow enough money to cover its obligations for the hurricane season that ends next month. Insurers are required to purchase coverage from the fund.

Jack Nicholson, executive director of the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, said the fund remains strong since it has nearly $10 billion available in cash after years of no storms hitting the Sunshine State.

“We’re in as strong as a position as we have ever been in,” Nicholson said. The situation isn’t perfect since a big storm could wipe out the fund and leave it short of money the next year. That could prompt insurers to stop writing policies and damage the state’s economy. But the fund’s financial status is much better than it was during the height of the Great Recession, when convulsions in the financial industry created fears that the fund would not be able to pay off its claims.

JEB BUSH TO KICK OFF SUMMIT ON EDUCATION REFORM via Allison Nielsen of Sunshine State News

Former Florida governor and chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, Jeb Bush, will kick off the 2013 National Summit on Education Reform on Thursday in Boston.

Now in its sixth year, the foundation’s flagship initiative annually convenes the best and brightest from across America and around the world to share strategies to improve the quality of education for all children. According to a press release, the two-day event includes keynote and general sessions with national and international leaders, and strategy sessions “covering some of the hottest topics and latest innovations in education.”

“The event offers education leaders – including lawmakers, policymakers and advocates – the opportunity to learn about successful education reforms happening throughout world, and together build consensus and form solutions to shared challenges,” read the release. 

POLICY NOTES h/t to the Florida Current

Foundation for Excellence in Education: A group led by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, will start a two-day “National Summit on Education Reform.” Sheraton Boston Hotel, 39 Dalton St., Boston.

Supreme Court opinions: The Florida Supreme Court is expected to release its weekly opinions. 11 a.m.

Department of Education takes up math and language arts standards: The Florida Department of Education will finish a series of three meetings to take public comments about math and language-arts standards for the public-school system. 5 p.m., Tallahassee Community College, Ghazvini Center for Healthcare Education Auditorium, 1528 Surgeons Dr., Tallahassee.

Department of Children and Family Safety and Preservation Program: Scheduled a 1 p.m. meeting as part of the creation of a new chapter in Florida Administrative Rules governing young adults wishing to remain in foster care until the age of 21. The meeting will be held at the Hotel Orlando, 6001 Destination Parkway, Orlando. For more information contact Carrie Toy at 850-717-4491 or email

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Reviving an issue that led to an industry fight during the 2013 legislative session, Sen. Denise Grimsley filed a bill this week that would allow pharmacists to supervise as many as six pharmacy technicians. The proposal was approved by the House during the 2013 session but died in the Senate amid heavy debate within the pharmacy industry.

State law currently allows pharmacists to supervise one pharmacy technician, though the Board of Pharmacy can give permission to increase that number to three. While parts of the pharmacy industry support increasing the number to six, the 2013 proposal drew heavy opposition from hospital pharmacists, who argued the increase could lead to patient-safety problems.

Grimsley’s bill (SB 278), which was filed Tuesday, will be considered during the 2014 session.

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Fowler White Boggs invites you to their Fort Myers office for a reception to benefit the reelection campaign of Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen.  Join them on Wednesday, Oct. 30, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.


Amanda Murphy’s win in Pasco County last night was significant.  But just how significant?  As can be expected, everyone has an opinion on what it means.  From my view, its less about what it means and more what are the lessons that can be learned.  Here’s my take:

1.  Candidates Matter.  Candidates Really Matter.

2.  Mike Fasano is ridiculously popular in Pasco County.  Like crazy ridiculously popular.

3.  The GOP brand has seen better days.

4.  This isn’t a predicator, but it is a canary.

5  Voters are still trying to say something.

6. My party has gotten its act together.

Read about why in full here.

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Although the firm got its start only 10 years ago, Capital City Consulting has risen to prominence in Florida as one of the top lobbying firms in the state, putting them at No. 2 on Sunshine State News’ list of Top Lobbyists in Florida.


H. French Brown, Hopping Green & Sams: Walt Disney World Resort

Jon Bussey, Bryant Miller Olive: Pitney Bowes

Kim Cramer: Executive Office of the Governor

Chris Hansen, GrayRobinson: National Notary Association

Gary Hunter, Frank Matthews, Hopping Green & Sams: Foley Timber and Land Co.

Dawn Shirreffs: Everglades Foundation


Car-hailing app company Uber has hired Franklin Square Group to lobby on “innovation in the transportation marketplace.” Though the 3-year-old startup has a number of well-connected lobbyists working at the state and local level, this is the company’s first federal registration, according to public records. Matthew Tanielian, Joshua Ackil, Kara Campbell, Brian Peters and Ryan Triplette will lobby for Franklin Square on the Uber account. On the state level, Uber’s hires have included lobbyists and public relations firms with big-name ties, including a former campaign manager for Michael Bloomberg in New York and a former aide to Rahm Emanuel in Chicago. The company has faced major regulatory scrutiny from local regulators in many markets – including a big battle locally with the D.C. Council and taxicab commission.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Josh Cooper, Mark Hollis, Mitch Kates, Scott Randolph, and Progress Florida’s Ray Seaman.

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.