Sunburn for 10/22 – 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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CONTRACTORS: LOTS OF FIXING NEEDED ON HEALTHCARE.GOV via Sharon LaFraniere of the New York Times

Administration officials have been working with federal contractors to identify the hiccups of the online health insurance marketplaces. The good news? Problems have been identified. The bad? It could take weeks or longer to fix them, and we could just be scratching the surface. Said one person helping to repair the sites: “The account creation and registration problems are masking the problems that will happen later.” 

OBAMA: ‘NO EXCUSE FOR THESE PROBLEMS’

The president is confident problems will soon be straightened out, and he touted the successes occurring despite the glitches. “There’s no sugarcoating it,” Obama said. “Nobody is more frustrated than I am.  

TWEET, TWEET: @TheOnion: New, Improved Obamacare Program Released On 35 Floppy Disks

DEMS CAUGHT IN OBAMACARE UPROAR via Jonathan Allen and Jennifer Haberkorn of POLITICO 

It’s not the GOP that President Obama has to worry about in defending his botched health care rollout, it’s fellow Democrats. They voted for the law, sang its praises for three-plus years and still believe in the promise of health care reform. But now they face a conundrum: stay in lock step with Obama and risk their credibility as advocates for the law’s benefits or publicly criticize the administration for its recent problems — especially a failure to more quickly acknowledge, and rectify, the major malfunction of its Internet marketplace.

It’s a particularly vexing question for Democrats worried about their party’s chances in the 2014 midterm elections, and, increasingly, they’re opting for the latter strategy. “What has happened is unacceptable in terms of the glitches,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said on ABC’s “This Week.” “They were overwhelmed to begin with. There is much that needs to be done to correct the situation.” It was the second time in a week that Pelosi had gone public with her dismay over the implementation of a law that she carried to enactment by winning tough votes on the House floor in 2009 and ’10.

Several Democrats told Politico they aren’t getting good answers either, even in private. The early signs suggest a rocky path for the White House in holding off Democratic criticism.

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HAS BAGGAGE CRUSHED JEB BUSH’S 2016 HOPES? via Jeff Henderson of Sunshine State News

Jeb Bush is being weighed down with baggage as he considers running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, some of it beyond his control but some of it of his own making. Despite being more conservative than his father or brother, Bush is hampered by his family legacy. Five years after his presidency, George W. Bush remains a political pariah even with his fellow Republicans. The former president didn’t attend the Republican National Convention last year and nobody seemed to miss him. The likes of Ted Cruz and Rand Paul go out of their way to disassociate themselves with George W. Bush’s policies.

Nor are there signs of a revival any time soon. Twenty-five years after Ronald Reagan left the White House, Republicans still claim his legacy. George H.W. Bush launched political dynasties in two states. Even Gerald Ford seemed to bounce back as members of his administration like Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld resurfaced in George W. Bush’s White House. But George W. Bush’s legacy? Republicans continue to see him as an albatross around their necks.

But there’s more than family connections weighing down Jeb Bush’s hopes in 2016. Jeb Bush has been outspoken on two issues that set him at odds with the Republican base. No Republican politician has gone to bat for Common Core as much as the former Florida governor. Conservatives have pushed back against Common Core with a ferocity which surprised establishment Republicans who helped create those education standards. Jeb Bush shows no signs of backing down on his support of the standards. If he enters the presidential race, the tea party and other likely Republicans primary voters will remember where Jeb Bush stands on Common Core.

Jeb Bush has also been an outspoken critic of Arizona’s immigration law and a supporter of immigration reform. Most Republican primary voters, especially in Iowa which has the first caucus, are on the other side here. Looking to counter these weaknesses, Jeb Bush can point to his eight years of running Tallahassee as a conservative. With the exception of Common Core, conservatives will find much to applaud in the former governor’s record on education.

RICK PERRY GOES NATIONAL, PRAISES RICK SCOTT via Kevin Derby of Sunshine State News 

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is going national as he contemplates a second bid for the Republican presidential nomination. Americans for Economic Freedom is running a television ad featuring Perry stressing the economic success of Republican-led states while bashing the policies of the Obama White House.

“Across America, the bad news from Washington overshadows the good news coming from conservative states,” Perry wrote supporters in an email sent out Friday night. “And there is good news from states with conservative leadership. In these states, low taxes, less regulation and cuts in government spending are creating jobs and reducing poverty.”

Attacking Washington as “broken,” Perry pointed toward his record in Texas as well as those of fellow Republicans Gov. Rick Scott of Florida and Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico.

“In states like Florida, Texas and New Mexico, conservative governors embrace the policies of growth,” Perry insisted. “They are cutting taxes and reducing regulation so that small businesses can grow in these states. As a result, the number of jobs are on the rise and have been long enough for Washington to take note. Sadly, leaders in Washington are not leading. They aren’t even watching the failing economic policies in states with liberal leadership. Liberal states like California and Illinois are losing jobs and losing the fight to claim that liberal policies will heal a broken economy. Companies there are either cutting jobs, closing their doors or moving to economically conservative states where they can thrive.”

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AFTER SHUTDOWN, TWO DIFFERENT ROADS FOR NELSON, RUBIO via Jeremy Wallace of the Herald Tribune

 While U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio dug in with Tea Party Republicans, voting against re-opening the government and blaming Democrats for the shutdown, his Democratic counterpart, Sen. Bill Nelson took a decidedly different approach last week by trying to position himself in the political middle.

Instead of aligning with liberal wing of his party and blasting away at shutdown catalyst Sen. Ted Cruz, Nelson “broke bread” with Cruz, having dinner with the younger lawmaker. He also signed up to work on a compromise budget plan with U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan. Nelson said he and his wife Grace took Cruz to dinner to get to know him better on a personal level and find areas of common ground.

“It was a social dinner and it was something senators ought to do,” Nelson told MSNBC during an interview last week.

Nelson said he personally likes Cruz and enjoyed learning about his background. It does not mean he agrees with Cruz politically, but Nelson said it hopefully gives both perspective on why the other lawmaker votes the way he does. Nelson also was a key part of the final negotiations to re-open the government. He agreed to join Ryan and 26 other members on a bipartisan committee charged with crafting a budget plan that can pass both the House and Senate by Dec. 13.

“The way I see this, every member of Congress has a responsibility to put aside partisan political differences in favor of finding common-sense solutions,” said Nelson, who easily won his re-election in 2012 and remains Florida’s only statewide elected Democrat… Nelson, meanwhile, said on MSNBC that despite all of the ugliness of the last two weeks there was reason for optimism.

EMAIL I REGRET OPENING: “Col. West Launches Personal Website”

POLL: NEARLY HALF WANT TO REPLACE EVERY MEMBER OF CONGRESS

A new USA Today/Princeton Survey Research poll finds that just 4% of those surveyed — equal to the margin of error — say Congress would be changed for the worse if nearly every member was replaced next year while 47% say it would work better.

Key takeaway: Those findings are similar to the public’s views in previous years when voter dismay cost one side or the other control of the House. In 1994, when Democrats lost their majority, 40% said Congress would be better off if most members were replaced. In 2006, when Republicans lost control, 42% held that view.

STEVE SOUTHERLAND BECOMES FIRST TARGET OF DEMOCRATS POST-SHUTDOWN via The Huffington Post 

Southerland has the dubious distinction of being Democrats’ first target in the aftermath of the government shutdown.

House Majority PAC, a super PAC that aims to help Democrats win control of the House of Representatives, released a TV ad on Monday hitting Southerland for voting against the bipartisan legislation to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling.

“These guys don’t get it — their games are hurting real people,” says the narrator. “Yet when Congress finally ended the shutdown, Steve Southerland voted no. He voted to let the country default on its obligations.”

The ad also lambastes Southerland for saying his $174,000 salary is “not so much.”

“Steve Southerland’s reckless Tea Party government shutdown cost our economy $24 billion, yet rather than back a bipartisan plan to end this manmade debacle, Southerland actually voted to drive our nation off an economic cliff,” Andy Stone, communications director for House Majority PAC, said in a statement. “The jobs, retirement accounts and wellbeing of families, seniors and veterans in north and northwest Florida apparently didn’t merit Steve Southerland’s concern — even though Southerland was still getting his taxpayer-funded salary.”

Southerland voted against the compromise that was ultimately passed last week, saying he didn’t feel it was a long-term solution.

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GOV. SCOTT’S PEACEFUL CAMPAIGN DAYS ARE NUMBERED via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

The Florida governor is on political cruise control as he jets to his next jobs announcement, cherry-picks the questions he wants to answer and stockpiles millions for his re-election campaign. But he’s in for a November to remember.

Charlie Crist will be all the rage at this weekend’s Florida Democratic Party conference at Disney World, and he’s expected to enter the race for governor next month on the heels of a law effective Nov. 1 that raises campaign donation limits from $500 to $3,000.

… Scott is the rarest of political creatures, an incumbent estranged from his own constituents, and a governor in his third year of office who has the deer-in-headlights look of a neophyte. He has a connectivity problem with voters that no amount of new jobs can completely cure.

With his weak poll numbers, Scott looks beatable in a way that Crist and Jeb Bush never did.

… Scott has compounded his problems by zigzagging on issues. He endorsed Medicaid expansion but didn’t fight for it, and his signature issue of 2013, a teacher pay raise, has fallen short of his iron-clad $2,500 promise. His Republican brand is tarnished by the mess in Washington, and now Crist is stalking him.

… Crist’s early circle of advisers, including Dan Gelber, Steve Schale, Kevin Cate, Michelle Todd and former state Democratic Party leaders Mike Hamby and Bob Poe, are starved for a victory and spoiling for a fight with Scott.

The moment Crist declares his candidacy, it’s game on.

WATCH OUT for that Michelle Todd woman. When she’s not taking care of her baby, she is as fierce an operative as there is in Florida politics. I hear her husband is a bear, too.

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GEORGE SHELDON ANNOUNCES FOR AG via Matt Dixon of the Florida Times-Union

After months of rumor, Democrat George Sheldon Monday announced his bid for attorney general.

The longtime Florida politico Friday resigned his post as Assistant Secretary for the United States Department of Health and Human Services in order to run.

In a Facebook post announcing his candidacy, Sheldon took a swipe at Attorney General Pam Bondi.

“Taking on predatory lenders, human traffickers, and those who engage in deceptive practices is the job of the Attorney General…not working full time trying to deny health insurance to children and anyone with preexisting conditions,” he wrote.

Along with his federal post, Sheldon served as a top deputy for former Attorney General Bob Butterworth. 

A key plank of his campaign will be ObamaCare, a law that Bondi has very publicly fought against. She has already raised more than $400,000. 

SHELDON’S UNIMPRESSIVE ROLLOUT

Sheldon laid an egg with his announcement after he decided on Sunday to accelerate the rollout of his candidacy. Sheldon simply distributed a press release to two dozen reporters, most of whom are based in Tallahassee, and that’s it.

No email. No Facebook page. No Twitter account. No video. Just that press release. 

It’s like Sheldon’s campaign thinks its 1994.

According to a source close to Sheldon’s fledgling campaign, the original plan was for Sheldon to announce closer to the end of the week when Florida Democrats will be meeting in Orlando. However, Sheldon changed course and yesterday decided to put the rollout in the hands of the Florida Democratic Party. 

“I had all along for weeks been planning for an Oct 24th or 25th announcement and suddenly yesterday it became Monday after (Sheldon talked) to the party”, my source says.

This source also says Sheldon’s website won’t be live until Friday, at best. Meaning Sheldon has no way to capture emails or raise money online for his campaign. 

Flying blind like this is no way to run a modern campaign, especially against a capable candidate like Pam Bondi. Sheldon needs to retool his efforts on the fly before he misses the opportunity to best introduce himself.

Meanwhile, this is another piss-poor candidate rollout from the Florida Democratic Party. It’s not Allie Braswell bad, but it’s not acceptable either.

Hopefully Steve Schale is noticing this and planning to keep Charlie Crist as far away as possible from the incompetence of the FDP.

UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE DAY via Pam Bondi’s Campaign

“Pam Bondi and George Sheldon have very different credentials and points of view, and we welcome the opportunity to show the voters in Florida that they will have a clear choice between two distinctly different candidates.”

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SOME DATA NUGGETS ON PREDICTED IMPACT OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA INITIATIVE via contributor Karen Cyphers 

The Financial Impact Estimating Conference (FIEC) concluded a public conference on the petition initiative entitled “Use of Marijuana for Certain Medical Conditions” in Florida. The FIEC is required by Florida law to review, analyze and estimate the financial impact of amendments to the State Constitution proposed by initiative, and to prepare financial impact statements to accompany all measures proposed on the ballot.

For background, the medical marijuana initiative lists a number of debilitating conditions for which medical marijuana could be legally prescribed in Florida. Among them are cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. But that list is not truly limiting. The amendment language continues: “…or other conditions for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.”

The FIEC has generated various estimates of how many Floridians would toke up… err, take up the opportunity to use medical marijuana. These estimates range from less than 50,000 to 1.6 million, depending on the criteria used.   Looking only at the prevalence of specific diseases in Florida, about 1.3 million would be eligible users.  However, considering that physicians could prescribe medical marijuana for people with “other conditions” for which use would outweigh potential risks, this estimate is a conservative one. Looking at rates of medical marijuana use in other states that permit it already, estimators suggest that only about 173,000 would utilize the opportunity in Florida. Then, looking at a national survey on recreational marijuana use, the FIEC estimates that about 1.6 million would be interested in such a prescription in Florida.

The panel noted that there is nothing in the amendment language requiring patients to be Florida residents, only that they must see a Florida physician.  Therefore, they suggest that some level of “medical tourism” may pick up if this amendment is rolled out.

Next Monday, the FIEC will meet again to hear input from various principles. Today’s panel listed several state agencies that will be invited to provide input, including the Department of Health, FDLE and the Attorney General , Department of Agriculture, Department of Children and Families, and the Department of Revenue. 

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CONTEXT FLORIDA

Julie Delegal sums up her six part series on Common Core State Standards, talking about the politics surrounding implementation and what’s to come for the program in Florida. Then, Darryl Paulson writes about the “Cruzifiction of the Republican Party” and a few hard learned lessons in ideological politics; and Daniel Tilson argues that Florida’s Republican congressional delegation should be held accountable for shutdown damage.  Finally, Martin Dyckman shares the story of a meeting with Congressman Bill Young with his editorial board — an encounter that has since been “a poignant example — and wistful memory — of how politics once was and ought still to be.”  

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

DEPRESSING TWEET OF THE DAY: @MyFLFamilies: NOTICE: On 11/1, #SNAP recipients will see a decrease in benefits due to expiration of 2009 ARRA

POLICY NOTES h/t to the Florida Current and News Service of Florida 

The Agency for Healthcare Administration on ALFs: Holds a workshop 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on best practices regarding admission and discharge processes for assisted living facility residents. The workshop’s intent is to open dialogue among behavioral health providers, patient advocates and managed care plans. The meeting will be held in room 259 of the Jackson Behavioral Health Hospital Diagnostic Treatment Center, 1080 NW 19th St., Miami. 

Agency for Health Care Administration on Behavioral health:  Holds a workshop that will include Medicaid managed-care plans and behavioral health providers. The workshop will address issues such as admissions and the discharge planning process for assisted-living facilities. Meeting starts at 9 a.m., Jackson Behavioral Health Hospital, Diagnostic Treatment Center, 1080 N.W. 19th Street, DTC/259 on the 2nd Floor, Miami.

Economic Estimating Conference:  By the Office of Economic and Demographic Research is to discuss slot machines and Indian gaming at 10 a.m. in room 117 of the Knott Building in Tallahassee. 

The Department of Health Research Review and Advisory Committee:  Meets at 1:30 p.m. to discuss current, proposed and potential onsite sewage research projects and DOH’s Nitrogen Reduction Strategies study. Part of the meeting is accessible via web conference, click here. The meeting will be held in Room 130, 4025 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee. 

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PRESS RELEASE OF THE DAY: “Live Thoroughbred To Serve as Horsemen’s Ambassador at Florida Senate Gaming Hearings This Wednesday”

WHAT WOULD NO-FAULT REPEAL MEAN FOR YOU? via Kathleen Haughney of the Sun Sentinel

In 2012, the Legislature passed a bill reforming Personal Injury Protection, the fraud-plagued auto insurance coverage that pays the first $10,000 of your medical bills in an accident, no matter who is at fault. In 2014, lawmakers may repeal it altogether.

“The whole point is that the system is exceedingly dysfunctional and the best way to deal with that is to do like 45 other states and that’s go back to mandatory [bodily injury liability coverage],” said Sen. David Simmons, an Altamonte Springs Republican, who is chair of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.

Simmons has been working on a repeal bill since last spring, when a Tallahassee circuit judge declared the 2012 reforms unconstitutional. Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ruled that provisions banning PIP payments to massage therapists and acupuncturists, and limiting payments to chiropractors, were an impermissible denial of benefits.

The bill was a last-ditch effort by lawmakers and the insurance industry to combat what they called brazen provider fraud that has pushed PIP premiums in urban areas to as much as $1,000. It also required accident victims to seek treatment – preferably from an emergency room – within 14 days of the accident – to be eligible for the full $10,000 in benefits.

In return for the limits on providers, the bill required that insurers cut rates by 10 percent in 2012, and 25 percent in 2013, or explain why they did not. Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, who pushed for the reforms, has said that he wants to wait for the 1st District Court of Appeals to rule on the appeal of Lewis’ ruling before the Legislature takes any more action. But Simmons wants to start working on the problem now.

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SHAWN HARRISON TO HOST A FUNDRAISING “HUDDLE”

Shawn Harrison, candidate for House District 63, invites you to join him on Thursday for the Bucs vs. Panthers game in a suite at Raymond James Stadium. Kickoff is at 8:25 p.m. and 20 spots are available. To RSVP, call Anne at 813-337-6683.

TWEET, TWEET: @FasanoMike: Got polled by the GOP Tarrance Group on Pasco election results. Help the little guy and gal and you won’t need a post election poll

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BECKER & POLIAKOFF HIRES AMANDA WOOD via POLITICO Influence

Amanda Wood has joined Becker & Poliakoff, the firm announced Monday. Wood will serve as senior government relations consultant in the firm’s D.C. office. She joins the firm from the Ferguson Group, where she worked on federal funding, authorizations, policy, and regulatory changes for clients. She’s also a veteran of Capitol Hill, where she served as legislative director to former Gov. Bob Graham.

In her new role, Wood will focus on assisting clients with federal funding needs.

DESPITE RECESSION-ERA CUTS AT FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITIES, THEIR LOBBYIST SALARIES DON’T SUFFER via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post 

Florida’s state universities have endured layoffs of instructors, the elimination of some majors, rising tuition and skyrocketing enrollment during the recession years. But as lawmakers conduct committee meetings in advance of the 2014 legislative session, they’re hearing that the budget picture is improving for Florida’s 12 universities. That message is being delivered by the schools’ roster of well-paid lobbyists, whose ranks seem little affected by years of belt-tightening. 

“The results of the past five years have been devastating,” said Tom Auxter, a University of Florida philosophy professor and president of the 7,000-member United Faculty of Florida, the union for higher-education instructors and staff. “Maybe not everyone in the universities has been hit as hard as others,” he added. “But I don’t feel bad about university lobbyists. We need everybody involved in helping us bounce back.” 

Still, the resilience of university lobbyists may spark questions about whether the brunt of university reductions has been borne chiefly by students – and not those at the highest levels of administration.

Until only a modest cost-of-living increase took effect last summer, tuition at Florida universities had climbed 72 percent the previous five years. Florida’s average $6,069 tuition rate last year was 41st highest among the nation’s public universities. 

Statistics compiled by the State University System’s Board of Governors show that between 2007 and 2011, enrollment at Florida universities grew almost 10 percent, to 329,737 students. Faculty-to-student ratios climbed slightly, but administrative positions experienced double-digit growth. University officials say the influx of administrators is largely prompted by a reclassification of positions – with some existing jobs turned into executive and administrative staff, at times to meet federal requirements. 

Some universities also say that despite salary levels, the lobbyist corps has not been immune to recession-era reductions. 

“Between 2007 and 2012, government relations reduced its overall budget nearly 24 percent – the same as units across the university,” said Janine Sikes, an assistant vice-president at the University of Florida.

“Those reductions mostly came from operations and the shifting of responsibilities,” she added. “Like everywhere else on campus, we were forced to do more with less.” 

But a Palm Beach Post review of salaries paid those registered to lobby the Legislature for state universities shows that their numbers have changed little in recent years. The lineup endures even as Gov. Rick Scott in 2011, his first year in office, raised questions about administrator salaries that seemed better suited to corporate boardrooms than college campuses.

JOINT COMMITTEE RELEASES DRAFT GUIDELINES ON LOBBYIST COMPENSATION AUDITS via contributor Karen Cyphers 

The Joint Legislative Auditing Committee has released draft guidelines to provide direction to accountants and lobbyists on statutorily mandated random quarterly audits of compensation reports.  While these laws have been on the books since 2005, no audits have been conducted to date due to the logistic challenges of finding willing (and conflict-free) auditors, and questions on whether the costs of audits are worth the information attained. 

The draft guidelines were released with the purpose of gaining input from the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists, individual practitioners, the Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and other interested parties. The guidelines outline which records should be maintained by lobbying firms to document compensation from principals. These include marketing agreements or lobbying contracts, subcontractor agreements, compensation schedules, payment records, reimbursement records and receipts, and allocation records.  

For their part, contracted auditors are instructed to compare lobbyist registration records with lobbyist firm records, including a review of all agreements or contracts obtained. Auditors are to discuss any differences or discrepancies with the lobbying firm, and are to document explanations. 

Importantly, the guidelines make clear that compensation reports are to exclude fees for non-lobbying services and that there must be no double reporting of compensation on legislative and executive branch quarterly reports. If the firm has not utilized and documented a reasonable allocation method between compensation for legislative versus executive services, the assumption will be that the compensation is equally split between the two. 

The Committee’s draft guidelines do not make clear any specific method that will be used to ensure the randomness of audits, however, in his letter accompanying the draft guidelines, Chairman Joseph Abruzzo acknowledges that this and other concerns will likely be addressed during the 2014 session. He also acknowledges that more far reaching changes may go down during that time. 

“If individual Senators or Representatives wish to file bills to change the law that is certainly their prerogative, but as a Committee we are obligated to carry out our statutory duty to implement the law as it currently exists,” Abruzzo writes. 

The Committee has a three-hour meeting block in November and Abruzzo intends to use this time to discuss the draft guidelines, accept public testimony, amend the recommendations, and adopt a set of guidelines.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Slater Bayliss, Sarah Busk, Al Cardenas, Stephen Shiver, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: Cypress State Advocacy, LLC

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to one of the smartest people in Florida politics, Tony Carvajal.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, 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.