Sunburn for 10/23 – 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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The race is on for the Obama administration to fix the Affordable Care Act’s failing website. Optimists say the online enrollment glitches will not seriously damage the law’s prospects for success if they can be fixed in the next weeks, but even supporters admit that a longer delay could force the administration to delay major portions of the law. Elsewhere, a shutdown-delayed federal report showed just 148,000 new jobs were created in September, while Amnesty International released a scathing report on civilian deaths from U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan.

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Another month, another tepid jobs report. The numbers out for September—delayed due to the government shutdown—count 148,000 jobs added, but that was calculated before the shutdown had started. The report’s weakness also means the Fed could continue holding off on a decision to taper its monthly bond-purchasing program. 


Everything you need to know about the disappointing 148,000 tally of jobs added in September—as well as unemployment’s statistically insignificant fall from 7.3 to 7.2 percent—in two charts here.


Just how bleak are the September numbers? They don’t even beat the average of what has been a pretty tepid year for growth. Or as one former CBO director described: “lackluster, tepid, listless, or soft.” 

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It was a milestone:  My two-and-a-half year old wanted ice cream, and my nearly four-year-old told her, “Sorry, it is all gone.”  This was the first recognition from her that Brett and I, as parents, don’t possess magical powers to make things materialize on demand. But my relief was short-lived.  “Mommy, can you go to the store? That’s where the ice cream is,” she said. 

I could have gone… but I didn’t. It wasn’t time for ice cream. But what if I had gone and returned with apples or, God-forbid, broccoli?  That would have been wholly disappointing.  It would have meant something.  You guessed it. I’m talking about the botched rollout of Obamacare. 

In Tuesday’s National Review Online, columnist Rich Lowry mulled on the “glitches, kinks, snags, bugs, and hiccups” in the health law’s implementation.  He wrote: “The Medicare and Medicaid agency running the healthcare.govproject took upon itself the overall tech management of it rather than handing that task off to a contractor. Managing a tech project of this size is not a core competency of government, but then again, neither is taking over the individual insurance market.” 

Obviously, ice cream and health care are the opposite ends of a very wide spectrum in importance.  But the point is, especially if one likes the idea of compulsory health coverage, rolling out with a program that isn’t ready to go live is worse than delaying it. 

“It took a CNN reporter a week to create a login and two weeks to proceed with her application,” Lowry wrote.  Other reporters tried the 800 number and got busy signals, or got through and followed instructions only to be referred back to

These “glitches” are a huge disincentive to enrollment for healthy people who are already on the fence about whether to pay for coverage or incur the lower-cost fine.  But navigating a broken interface may be worth the effort for a person with health conditions in need of care. What all that means is that the implementation of Obamacare has just magnified the already problematic issue of “adverse selection” — when the exchanges become full of sick people and the only hope of program success is for healthy people join, too. 

It is fair to say that many Republicans were elected with the mandate to obstruct the implementation of Obamacare, but Republicans have nothing to do with the rollout. It is wholly up to the administration to get the bones of the program up straight, and that hasn’t happened. 

As late as Sept 26, program administrators had not done any tests to determine whether a person could actually complete the application process.  While postponing the rollout would have made sense even to program supporters, the White House was married to the Oct. 1 date and went for it. But in doing so, they have delivered to the American people a headache instead of a cure. And that’s billions more costly, more eroding of public trust, and more disappointing than coming home with apples for a kid expecting ice cream.


The widespread problems with the ObamaCare website are generating a new backlash in Congress, with Sen. Marco Rubio planning to introduce legislation that would delay the health law’s individual mandate until the technical failures are addressed. The Florida senator discussed the plan Tuesday morning in an interview with Fox News’ “Fox & Friends.” He said it would be “prudent” to delay the requirement on individuals to buy health insurance — set to kick in early next year — until users can consistently access the main website.  

“How are you going to go after people next year … if the thing you’re forcing them to buy isn’t available to buy?” he asked, saying the site is “not working.” Rubio’s plan would delay the mandate until the Government Accountability Office certifies the system is “up and running and effectively working for six months, consecutive.”  

The plan comes as new reports detail the warning signs that may have been missed before the launch, and the massive undertaking that the tech team hired to fix the site is confronting.  

The Post also reported that a group of 10 insurers invited to give advice and test the website urged federal officials not to do a nationwide launch due to the number of issues with the site. At late as a week before the launch date, the paper reported, no one had thought to test whether or not a user could complete the process of signing up for a health insurance plan through the site.  

Meanwhile, a review of the site’s technical specifications by The Associated Press found a mind-numbingly complex system put together by harried programmers who pushed out a final product that congressional investigators said was tested by the government and not private developers with more expertise. 

Project developers who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity — because they feared they would otherwise be fired — said they raised doubts among themselves whether the website could be ready in time. They complained openly to each other about what they considered tight and unrealistic deadlines. One was nearly brought to tears over the stress of finishing on time, one developer said. Website builders saw red flags for months.

REPORT: FLORIDA BLUE CANCELS 300,000 POLICIES via Matt Dixon of the Jacksonville Times Union 

Jacksonville-based Florida Blue, the state’s largest health insurer, will be canceling 300,000 individual policies, according to Kaiser Health News. The company cites costs associated with the new health care law’s  requirement that things like maternity and newborn care, mental health, substance abuse services, and emergency services be covered by individual and small market plans. 

Those impacted will be notified by mail. “We will provide our members recommendations for new plan options, and encouraged them to contact us so we could help determine their best course of action,” Mark Wright, a Florida Blue Spokesman, said in a statement. 

Figures filed with the Office of Insurance Regulation show that Florida Blue claimed $3.7 billion in gross annual direct premiums in 2012. That accounts for 29 percent of the state’s health care market.

TWEET, TWEET: @albertemartinez: As you read Obamacare horror stories, keep in mind 87% of Americans were happy w/ their health insurance before Ocare

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In a USA TODAY/Princeton Survey Research Poll, just 4% say Congress would be changed for the worse if nearly all members were replaced next year. [47%] say it would be better. About four in 10 say it wouldn’t make much difference. Those findings are similar to the public’s views in 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 the GOP lost control, 42% held that view. …

Even among Republicans and Republican leaners, 52% say Congress would be better off if most … members were replaced. … By nine points, Americans who live in districts they say are represented by a Republican say the deadlock has made them less likely to vote for the incumbent. Those who say they are represented by a Democrat are by one point more likely to support him or her.

CONGRESS AT 12% APPROVAL via ABC News/WashPost poll 

Approval of Congress is at a new low in 40 years of polling, Americans’ approval of their own representative in Washington is underwater for the first time and a record number of registered voters are inclined to look for someone new in 2014 – all signs of a powerful, palpable public antipathy following the budget spat that shut down much of the government for 16 days.


Reid Wilson notes that Democrats hold an edge in the generic congressional ballot by 8 points, 48% to 40%. 

“But given the challenges Democrats face and the heavily gerrymandered districts that work to protect incumbent members of Congress, it would take a political wave to unseat the House Republican majority. And at the moment, the Democratic advantage isn’t large enough to suggest that a wave is building.”

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Outspoken Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson did it again, this time by equating the Tea Party to the Ku Klux Klan in a fundraising e-mail sent to supporters. The contribution pitch follows the Orlando liberal’s MSNBC interview with Al Sharpton just after the end of the 16-day federal shutdown.

“The Tea Party is no more popular than the Klan,” Grayson said.

Grayson posted a transcript of the exchange on Twitter Monday night, as well as a link to his donation page.

“Ask yourself this: Who else in American public life today is as honest and as blunt as this? Congressman Alan Grayson deserves your support, like no one else,” the e-mail says. “He, and only he, is saying the things that you are thinking, and so much need to be said.”

Republicans were quick to criticize Grayson’s fundraising stunt. National Republican Congressional Committee representatives say Grayson used “hateful words and imagery” with the Klan comment. Matt Gorman, spokesperson for the House GOP campaign committee, calls for House Democrats to condemn Grayson.


Former U.S. Rep. Allen West is getting involved in District 18 again, this time to help Juno Beach Republican Ellen Andel fight for U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy’s seat in Congress.

West will headline a Nov. 8 fundraiser in Palm Beach Gardens for Andel, Juno Beach’s vice mayor pro tem. With the Republican primary about nine months away, West is one of a few big names helping candidates vie for Murphy’s job.


Southland faced a restless group of constituents at a town hall-style meeting in Bay County as many in the audience were upset at the way the Congressman handled the federal government shutdown.

According to Addie Hampton of, the raised voices and heated tempers brought concerns that the event in the Bay County Government Center represented the national dissatisfaction with Congress — specifically the Republicans who supported the shutdown.

“Stupid, white, fool-headed people,” one woman called out from the audience.

As Southerland listened to resident complaints, he defended his vote on the country’s debt, saying he had a compelling reason to vote against the Affordable Care Act.

“I think it fulfilled my promise that I would do everything I could to protect constituents from a bad law,” Southerland said.

“I’m optimistic that our budget committees in the house and the senate are going to work together to find the proper framework to address our biggest underlying issue and that is our spending,” he added.


“A guy who should be a minor annoyance at zoning board meetings in Florida is suddenly capable of helping to bring down the financial stability of the world. A guy who should be railing at his local drive-time talk-jock is giving quotes to The New York Times about the essential dismantling of the institutions of self-government.”

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DETAILS ON TONIGHT’S PUBLIC VIEWING via Curtis Krueger of the Tampa Bay Times

A public visitation will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. (and possibly 9 p.m.) today at the Congressman C.W. Bill Young Armed Forces Reserve Center, 2801 Grand Ave., Pinellas Park. A family visitation will be 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Sheriff’s officials said motorists would be wise to avoid the Gateway area just north of Gandy Boulevard between U.S. 19 and 28th Street from about 2:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Traffic is expected to be heavy because of the visitation.

There also will be significant delays along Park Boulevard from 113th Street east to 28th Street because of a motorcade from about 2 p.m. until 3:30 p.m. Officers will be securing the intersections along the route.


The U.S. House today will vote to rename the VA Medical Center at Bay Pines in honor of Young.

The new name would be the “C.W. Bill Young Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.” The measure is sponsored by Rep. Jeff Miller.

The Senate version is being filed by Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio.

Bay Pines is the beneficiary of — you guessed it — Young’s budget earmark prowess. “Florida has done very well because of the Congress recognizing needs,” Young said in a 2010 interview with the Tampa Bay Times. “You want to talk about earmarks? The first big appropriation that I did years ago was to build a hospital for veterans at Bay Pines.

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Ross announced on Tuesday that Kyle Glenn has been promoted to Legislative Director and that Christa Johnson has joined the staff team at his Washington, D.C. office.  

“I am thrilled that Kyle has accepted the position of Legislative Director and that Christa has joined the team as Legislative Analyst. Kyle has worked tirelessly on behalf of Florida’s 15th Congressional District,” said Ross. “Christa’s previous experience on the Financial Services Committee will be an invaluable resource as I serve on this committee and continue to ensure that central Floridians are represented in Congress.” 

Glenn previously served as Legislative Analyst in Ross’s Washington, D.C. office. Johnson served as a staff assistant for the Committee on Financial Services.


In a Gallup poll released in the middle of the government shutdown, the American people gave Congress a historically low approval rating of 11 percent. Surprised? The last few weeks have been a microcosm of the last several years, where both parties have failed to work together and address the big issues — namely, our debt crisis and unsustainable entitlements. These failures boiled over in the form of a two-week shutdown and near-default on our debt that showed our constituents just how broken Washington is. 

I often point to the tax reform of the 1980s and the welfare reform and balanced budgets of the 1990s as evidence that a divided government is the chance to accomplish big things. I have held out hope that President Barack Obama and leaders in Congress would work out an agreement to address our skyrocketing national debt. I have joined with members of both parties to push for a grand bargain that would fix our broken tax code and save our entitlement programs — Social Security and Medicare — for future generations. 

Unfortunately, neither this president nor this Congress has shown that leadership. My party was not without fault. A handful of misguided senators and representatives insisted that no government funding bill include funds for Obamacare. Let me clear: I oppose Obamacare as strongly as any member of Congress. I have voted repeatedly to repeal it. However, the strategy of tying Obamacare spending to the continuing resolution (CR) needed to fund the government was doomed to fail for several reasons:

First, most Obamacare spending is mandatory and not subject to the CR. Even if the Senate passed and the president signed a CR defunding Obamacare, guess what? Most Obamacare spending would have continued. In fact, all Obamacare spending continued throughout the shutdown.

Second, Obama and the Democratic Senate will not approve a bill that defunds Obamacare. I’m not giving up; I’m accepting reality. Our best chance to repeal Obamacare was in November 2012. Our next best chance is November 2016.

Third, and most important, the losing battle over defunding Obamacare distracted us from the biggest crisis our country faces — the national debt. Unlike trying to defund Obamacare in the CR, a fight to tie spending reforms to a debt ceiling increase was a fight we could have won. We could have insisted on long-term tax and entitlement reform. We could have worked for a bipartisan deal that closed tax loopholes in exchange for the kinds of reforms to Medicare and Social Security proposed in the nonpartisan Simpson-Bowles plan, like means-testing. Unfortunately, we fought the wrong one of two battles and lost both — badly.

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ASSIGNMENT EDITOR: Gov. Scott will be in Gainesville today for economic development events. 13200 Nano Ct. Alachua. 9:00 a.m.


Gov. Scott led an event on Tuesday marking the beginning of a $3.6 million bike and pedestrian trail in Titusville that the governor originally vetoed.

The project is one that will extend the Coast-to-coast Connector, which will continue 275 miles from St. Petersburg to Titusville writes Scott Gunnerson for

Scott vetoed the $50 million needed to complete the 72-mile section of the Connector in June, Gunnerson reports, insisting that the Florida Department of Transportation use money already budgeted. The governor said the existing budget had sufficient funds for projects that will attract tourists to the state.

“We are a state people want to come to, they want to come here to get outdoors,” Scott told attendees of the event Tuesday morning. “As we add more bike trails, more connectors, it means we are going to have more tourists.”


Democrat George Sheldon announced Monday his candidacy to be Florida’s attorney general in 2014. If this had happened three months ago, that news that would have been taken with a shrug, followed by a quick turn to the sports page. Sheldon is a competent administrator who served as deputy attorney general under Bob Butterworth. Still, not long ago the likelihood incumbent Pam Bondi would receive a serious challenge to her re-election next year seemed as remote as Greg Schiano winning NFL Coach of the Year. She took the lead in the state’s fight against the Affordable Care Act (see Care, Obama), which rocketed her into the national spotlight. However you feel about that, it did get her high-profile face time at the Republican National Convention. She was raising oodles of cash to squash any would-be challenger. Yep, the hometown girl from Tampa was on her way. 

But that was before her ethically challenged move of asking for an execution to be postponed so she could attend a fund-raiser. She apologized, but the evening did net close to $140,000 in Bondi bucks.

The Tampa Bay Times then reported there are also questions about her campaign’s relationship with Donald Trump. The Donald is under fire from the New York state attorney general for his association with “get-rich-quick” seminars and “sham” for-profit colleges. Some of the allegations have connections in Florida, and Bondi said she was reviewing the case. 

While the execution move twas a gaffe of the highest order, and I think you’ll be seeing it about 10,000 times in campaign ads before November 2014, any challenger to Bondi faces long odds. That may be especially true for Sheldon, who resigned his post with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to run for this job. 

To be fair, Bondi has been aggressive against some of the banks that helped create the housing crisis. She has tried to raise awareness of human trafficking as an issue. She also left the door open to a challenge. To find the reason why a race that should be a breeze might turn into a battle, she doesn’t have to ask a lot of questions. A glance in the mirror will do.

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Ed Moore calls out that some folks missed the lessons of kindergarten, applying Robert Fulghum’s “all I need really need to know…” to Congressional leaders. Following with similar disdain for the “extreme element” of the right, Steve Robinson writes that we are in a new era of Know-Nothings, repeating the 19th century history of a loud political faction.  Then, Darryl Paulson asks whether Alex Sink will be the successor to Bill Young; and Bob Sparks offers that the campaign for St. Pete mayor is one worth watching.  Why? Visit Context Florida to find out.


Pete Miller monitored the Kelly Mathis verdict earlier this month with a mixture of curiosity and concern. And when Mathis was convicted of 103 counts of racketeering, helping run a lottery and possession of an illegal slot machine or device Miller, the co-owner of Pete’s Retreat Cyber Cafe, wondered what would happen next. 

“We weren’t sure if we’d have police at our door the next morning,” Miller said. “But so far, nothing.” 

Mathis is one of 57 people — including Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police leaders Nelson Cuba and Robbie Freitas — to be arrested in the Allied Veterans of the World case but the first to go to trial. His trial was expected to clarify how strong the state’s case was, but for many, it has only confused the issue. Pete’s Retreat, which has six Jacksonville franchises and one in Lake City, sells customers Internet or phone time that allows them to get online and play online sweepstakes for money. Under Florida law, sweepstakes are seen as different from gambling if they bring customers into a business that sells another legitimate product. 

The St. Augustine-based Allied Veterans of the World also offered online sweepstakes but prosecutors said that was gambling because selling Internet time was not a legitimate product. 

“I’m very confident based on my conversations with our lawyers that we’re following the law,” Miller said. “But we don’t know what the people in Tallahassee are thinking.” 

No one from law enforcement has spoken to him directly, but his staff has been pretty sure they’ve seen undercover police using the computers, Miller said. Minutes after Mathis was convicted, statewide prosecutor Nick Cox sent out a warning to other online establishments. 

“I’ve been hearing talk that more of these activities are occurring,” Cox said. “I hope this verdict sends a message that this behavior will not be tolerated.” Mathis was the attorney for Allied. Prosecutors said the nonprofit was breaking the law and Mathis was the “mastermind” helping them get away with it. Mathis and his defense team said the gaming centers were online sweepstakes, not gambling, and his legal advice was sound. 

The Office of Statewide Prosecution, which is part of the Florida Attorney General’s Office, had cut deals with 29 of the 57 people arrested. Those defendants are all expected to avoid jail time and most will likely end up without any criminal records or probation. There are 27 people still awaiting trial. 

The people who got deals included former Allied commanders Jerry Bass and Johnny Duncan and the man who designed the computer software for the games, Chase Burns. Attorney Mitch Stone, who represents Mathis, predicted that his client would be the only one who would ever go to trial, and the state would seek deals with no prison time for all the other defendants.

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

The Assisted Living Facility Sub Workgroup: Meets at 9 a.m. in room 259 of the Diagnostic Treatment Center at the Jackson Behavioral Health Hospital, 1080 NW 19th St., Miami. The workgroup intends to open a dialogue among managed care plans, behavioral health providers and advocates for ALF residents to enhance behavioral health services to Medicaid patients. A copy of the agenda and more information may be obtained by contacting Kimberly Houstonat 850-412-4315 or [email protected] 

Good Jobs First and Enterprise Florida: During a conference call at 1 p.m., Good Jobs First, a national policy resource center, releases findings of its new study on shortfalls of privatized state economic development agencies, including Enterprise Florida. The study is called Creating Scandals Instead of Jobs: The Failures of Privatized State Economic Development Agencies. Integrity Florida, a government watchdog group, will be a guest speaker. For registration, contact Kasia Tarczynska at [email protected] The call is open only to journalists because of space limitations. 

Florida Medical Malpractice Joint Underwriting Association:  Board of governors meets at 4:30 p.m. consider reports from the association’s Claims and Underwriting Committee, Audit Committee, and Grant Committee. Those committees meet Tuesday, all at the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota. Agenda may be obtained by contacting: FMMJUA, 1836 Hermitage Blvd., Suite 201, Tallahassee, FL 32308. It’s the state-sanctioned insurance plan for medical malpractice coverage. The FMMJUA provides professional liability insurance coverage in Florida for health care providers who cannot find coverage in the open market. 

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: Holds a meeting to take input about manatee-related issues at 9 a.m., Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, 100 Eighth Ave. S.E., third-floor conference room, St. Petersburg.

Economic development privatization foes:  A national group called “Good Jobs First,” holds a conference call on a report to be released Wednesday titled “Creating Scandals Instead of Jobs: The Failures of Privatized State Economic Development Agencies.” The study includes criticism of Enterprise Florida. at 1 p.m., Contact [email protected] for participation information.

STATE CASHING IN ON SEMINOLE GAMBLING MONEY via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida

With the expiration of a gambling deal with the Seminole Indians on the horizon, the tribe for the first time has raked in so much money that it sent an extra $4.3 million to the state.

The 2010 deal, known as a compact, guarantees the tribe will make minimum annual payments, totaling $1 billion over five years, to the state. Revenues were high enough during the fiscal year that ended June 30 to trigger the additional payments. 

But the annual payments will be cut nearly in half when the compact sunsets in less than two years unless lawmakers and the governor reauthorize it, according to projections by state economists who met on Tuesday.

The latest revenue estimates come a day before the Senate Gaming Committee holds its first on-the-road meeting in Coconut Creek, part of the Legislature’s scrutiny of potential changes to the state’s gambling scene ranging from casino resorts to the addition of slot machines at pari-mutuels outside of Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

Under the current deal with the Seminoles, the tribe makes the payments to the state in exchange for having the exclusive right to offer banked table games, such as blackjack, along with a monopoly on all slot locations outside of Broward and Miami-Dade counties. The Seminoles agreed to pay a minimum of $150 million in each of the first two years, $233 million in the third and fourth years and $234 million in 2015.

But as part of a complicated revenue sharing agreement, the tribe has to pay additional money if revenues exceed certain thresholds. The tribe’s nearly $1.98 million net win in the year ending on June 30 prompted the additional $4.3 million payment, a portion of which goes to local governments.

Next year, the extra money is expected to more than triple, bringing the Seminole’s total payment to nearly $248 million, with another $20 million on top of that in the following year.

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Despite Sen. Joe Negron’s call for $100 million in state Everglades restoration money next year, Gov. Scott’s environmental agency is asking for $25 million less than Negron in 2014-15.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection requested $75 million in Everglades money for the upcoming budget year. Negron, a Stuart Republican and Senate budget chief, has pushed for $100 million since a June forum on the Indian River Lagoon at The Press Journal.

Either way, cash for the Everglades would increase. This year’s budget sets aside $70 million for various River of Grass projects, including $20 million for a stormwater treatment area and reservoir on the C-44 Canal to clean and store rainfall runoff before it hits the St. Lucie River estuary.

It’s a big change in the administration’s priorities and in the economic climate from 2011, when Scott suggested a mere $17 million for Everglades projects. The money still misses the mark set by former GOP Gov. Jeb Bush, who worked with lawmakers to secure up to $200 million a year for the Everglades. His tenure also predated the economic downturn.

Negron, who is chairman of a Senate committee on the Indian River Lagoon’s pollution problems, pointed out that the Legislature exceeded Scott’s Everglades request by $10 million in the current budget.


The annual Feeding Hope Award presented by the Florida Association of Food Banks honored Representative Ben Albritton on Monday at the annual Hardee County Farm Bureau meeting in Wauchula, Fla. Representative Albritton has demonstrated unwavering support for FAFB’s program to recover surplus produce to increase the nutritional value of food offered through the association’s statewide network. 

As Chairman of the Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee and a member of the Appropriations Committee, Representative Albrittion has advocated for funding increases for FAFB’s produce recovery program, Farmers Feeding Florida. His advocacy in the Florida House, in cooperation with the Senate, was influential in securing a 75% increase over the previous years’ funding. 

This years’ additional recipients include: The Mosaic Company Foundation, Long & Scott Farms, Society of St. Andrew, Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto and Keith & Linda Monda. Recipients were selected based on their significant commitments to  FAFB’s statewide efforts to create a Hunger Free Florida.


Sen. Jeff Brandes on Tuesday joined Rep. Matt Gaetz in filing legislation that would lift a fireworks ban in Florida.

Brandes filed the proposal (SB 314) nearly two months after Gaetz filed the House version (HB 4005). Gaetz has argued that Floridians are already buying fireworks online or bringing fireworks back from other states. State law limits sales to relatively innocuous devices such as sparklers, while banning sales of such things as bottle rockets. But a loophole also has allowed the sale of fireworks to people who sign statements saying they have exemptions from the law.


Speaker Will Weatherford, one of the state’s top conservatives, talked so much about minority unemployment and the large share of income enjoyed by the wealthy that he felt compelled to add a disclaimer: “I’m not one of those Occupy Wall Streeters.” True, Weatherford was in Broward, the state’s most liberal Democratic bastion, and he acknowledged the county’s reputation. “I know it’s dangerous terrain for Republicans.” 

The Republican from Wesley Chapel spoke for about 12 minutes after spending an hour mingling with a group of more than 250 Democrats and Republicans from Broward’s business, political and legal communities. The appearance at Nova Southeastern University was sponsored by Broward Days, a bipartisan group at which people generally check their party leanings at the door and unite to push all things Broward with the people who run state government in Tallahassee. 

During his remarks, Weatherford touched on his biggest political fight with Thurston’s side: the state’s decision not to expand the Medicaid program for the poor as part of the Obamacare health program.

But he didn’t signal any policy change. “Our health care system and the fact that one out of four Floridians don’t have insurance is a real problem, and I know that we don’t have a unified way of solving that problem yet, but we’re working on it.” 

He said the state must improve economic opportunity. In the 1970s, he said, the top 1 percent made 9 percent of U.S. income today the top 1 percent earns 24 percent. “It’s getting harder and harder to realize the American dream…that you can be born poor, you can work your way up to be wealthy or whatever it is that you deem success is,” he said.

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Richard DeNapoli’s bid for Sarasota House District 74 received a significant boost today with the backing of leading state conservative Rep. Neil Combee.

The Polk City Republican announced his support of DeNapoli to replace term-limited Rep. Doug Holder for the area that covers Osprey, Nokomis, Venice and parts of North Port and Englewood.

“From expanding access to health care to energy to small business development, the Florida Legislature needs people like Richard DeNapoli, who know the rigors of running a business, the impact of government on jobs, and the need to plan ahead,” Combee said in the statement announcing his endorsement.

DeNapoli served as Broward Republican Party as Treasurer in 2010 and served as party chair through December 2012. During his time on the Broward GOP Executive Committee, DeNapoli, a Florida native, developed a reputation as a “textbook case” for organizational success.

“His service as party chairman puts Richard on the pulse of the grassroots in Florida,” Combee said. “His insights into growing our State and growing our party will be invaluable.”

“To have the support of such a principled and honorable conservative like Representative Neil Combee is truly an honor,” DeNapoli said. “Neil knows what it is like to run a business and face the burden of nonsensical or outdated government regulations. I will look to him and his experience and leadership and thank him for his endorsement and support.”

Combee has joined other high-profile Republicans endorsing DeNapoli, such as State Reps. Ray Pilon, Dane Eagle and George Moraitis; former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, former State Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, and Charter Review Board Member John J. Fellin. 

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City commissioners voted unanimously this week to start negotiations with a Tallahassee lobbying firm whose lead partner, former Speaker of the House Dean Cannon, isn’t eligible to lobby the Legislature in 2014.

… There was some confusion last week when commissioners interviewed, then voted on, four finalists at a workshop. On the first round of voting, Capitol Alliance Group Inc. and Capitol Insight finished in a tie, so commissioners dropped the other two candidates and voted again.

Denny erroneously announced the winner as Capitol Alliance, a fact that was corrected the following day by Lee Lopez, a city spokesman.


Slater Bayliss, Sarah Busk, Al Cardenas, Stephen Shiver, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partner: Hilton Worldwide, Inc.

Reginald Bouthillier, Leslie Dughi, Kenneth Metcalf: Greenberg Traurig: TransMontaigne Inc.

Matt Bryan, David Daniel, Jim Naff, Smith Bryan & Myers: Duke Energy Corporation

Christian Caballero, Foley & Lardner: Direct Meds Inc.

PERSONNEL NOTE: Peter Murray named Deputy Legislative Affairs Director at the Dept. of Corrections.

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Are economists jerks? According to Robert Frank, a Cornell economist, his profession squashes cooperation and generosity, and he thinks he has data to prove it.  In a Tuesday column for Huffington Post, Wharton professor Adam Grant explores research on economists and social behavior, and I’ll summarize. One study found that economics professors give less money to charity than professors in other fields such as history, physics, chemistry, biology or philosophy. It also found that economics professors were more than twice as likely to give zero dollars to charity than professors in other fields.  

Another study found that economics majors were far more likely than their peers to rate greed as “generally good”, “correct,” and “moral”; and a bevy of other studies found economics majors to be less cooperative and more inclined to keep rather than share rewards. 

Here’s the big question: do people with these traits choose to study economics, or does the study of economics change people?  There’s some evidence to suggest both are at play.  An Israeli study compared freshman to juniors and found a big increase of these tendencies over time.  At the very start of their freshman year, students planning to study economics rated traits such as helpfulness, honesty, loyalty and responsibility as highly as students in other fields. But by their third-year, economics students regarded these values as significantly less important than freshman econ students. 

To Frank, this suggests a pernicious effect of the self-interest theory.  “By encouraging us to expect the worst in others it brings out the worst in us: dreading the role of the chump, we are often loath to heed our nobler instincts,” he wrote in Passions Within Reason.  And these dynamics may be fairly insidious.  One study found that even among non-economists, exposure to economic words led to a dampening of compassion. 

With business now the most popular undergraduate major, and economics being a major component of such curriculum, Grant worries about inadvertently discouraging “prosocial behavior.”   He suggests that economics courses should do a better job of “defining the principle of self-interest around utility, which involves anything a person values — including helping others.”

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Brian Rimes.

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.