Sunburn for 1/15 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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

***Sunburn is sponsored by Tucker/Hall – one of Florida’s leading public affairs and public relations firms.***

TWO YEARS AGO TODAY, Michelle made me the happiest, proudest man in this world by saying, “I do.” Happy anniversary to my wonderful, amazing wife, who, yes, still reads my blog each day.

THE WINTER WHITE WEDDING began under the banyan trees in North Straub Park and was celebrated in the Hazel Hough Wing of the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg (now Martha Stewart’s #3 choice for a wedding reception in the eastern United States.)

AMONG THE POLITICOS IN ATTENDANCE were former Governor Charlie Crist and his wife, Carole; Judge Thomas Minkoff and his wife, Elise; Senator Jack Latvala and then-Representatives Jeff Brandes and Dana Young; County Commissioner Ken Welch; lobbyists Laura Boehmer, Anthony Pedicini, Stephanie Smith, and Alan Suskey; the AP’s Brendan Farrington, and the Tampa Bay Times Adam Smith.

TAMPA BAY TIMES WRITE-UP OF OUR ENGAGEMENT AND WEDDING — “POWER BROKERS WITNESS THE PROPOSAL” by Sabrina Rocco

One night last July, at a “not-so-political happy hour,” a special quorum of power brokers was called at Cassis, the French restaurant on downtown St. Petersburg’s posh Beach Drive. … Rep. Jeff Brandes introduced Peter, who told the crowd how his late father always wished his son would meet and marry a special woman. He had found that woman in Michelle. And he proposed. … When Michelle and Peter booked their wedding, they wanted swank and sentiment. Beach Drive, Vinoy Park, the waterfront were all special places where they spent great chunks of time: “That section of the world is the center of our universe,” Peter said. The Museum of Fine Arts was a perfect pick. Underneath the banyan trees, Peter and Michelle said their vows.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Sunburn is taking a day off on Thursday and will resume Friday.

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CD 13 SPECIAL ELECTION

David Jolly won the Republican primary for Florida 13th Congressional District in a special election that is largely being framed as a referendum on the Affordable Care Act.

Jolly earned nearly 45 percent of the vote, besting state Rep. Kathleen Peters and retired Marine Brig. Gen. Mark Bircher. He now will face Democrat Alex Sink in the general election on March 11.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “Recently, anyone associated with the Florida House Republicans loses,” said Pasco Tax Collector and former lawmaker Mike Fasano. “Gunter and now Peters. Is there a trend and/or a message there from the voters?”

WITH GOP PRIMARY VICTORY, JOLLY VOWS TO REPEAL OBAMACARE via Allison Nielsen of Sunshine State News

In a statement released shortly after he was declared the winner, Jolly said he would remain faithful to his constituents and would also work to repeal Barack Obama’s signature healthcare plan.

“I am humbled and encouraged by our victory tonight, and I thank you very much for your support in this race for the future of Pinellas County,” said Jolly. “The choice in this race is now between a liberal politician from Hillsborough, backed by Washington, and a Pinellas County Republican who is running for you. While my opponent defends Obamacare, despite the mess of broken promises and the threat it poses to every family and every business, I will work to repeal Obamacare, right away, and replace it with an affordable, private sector solution that actually fulfills this promise: ‘if you like your insurance, you can keep it.’ This is a Pinellas County race, and I am in this to win for the people of Pinellas.”

DEMOCRATIC REACTION

Alex Sink: “Our campaign is about one important message: bringing Republicans and Democrats together to focus on challenges that matter most to Pinellas. Congress’s gridlock is standing in the way of tackling challenges that impact our lives — like helping businesses create jobs, protecting our seniors and veterans, and stopping flood insurance rate spikes that hurt homeowners. As Florida’s Chief Financial Officer and a business leader, my life has always been guided by bipartisan, results-oriented values. As our campaign continues, I look forward to continuing our conversation with Pinellas residents about bringing these values to Congress.”

DCCC’s Andy Stone: “While successful businesswoman Alex Sink has spent her career working across the aisle to get things done, Washington lobbyist David Jolly helped stack the deck for special interests and ignore Pinellas families. Whether it was lobbying for offshore drilling or supporting an end to the Medicare guarantee that would raise costs on seniors, David Jolly’s agenda would hurt Pinellas families. … “There’s no doubt that over the next eight weeks, national Republicans and shadowy groups funded by the Koch Brothers will pour millions of dollars into this race to spread the same debunked lies that Rick Scott used against Alex in 2010, but the independent-minded voters in Pinellas will see through their politics-as-usual.”

Andy Stone of House Majority PAC: “The choice for voters in Pinellas County couldn’t be more clear: Alex Sink, a business leader and common sense problem solver, and David Jolly, a Washington, D.C., lobbyist who worked as a shill for the highest-bidding special interest. … This is a district that Republicans have held for decades and they will undoubtedly go to the mat to keep it. House Majority PAC is prepared to do whatever is necessary to make sure the distorted attacks on Alex Sink we know are coming don’t go unanswered.”

INK SHOULDN’T UNDERESTIMATE DAVID JOLLY IN PINELLAS CONGRESSIONAL RACE via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

As one of Florida’s most accomplished businesswomen and most prominent Democrats running against little-known Republican attorney and lobbyist David Jolly, the special election to succeed the late C.W. Bill Young in Congress should be sink’s to lose.

As in 2010 when she barely lost the gubernatorial race to Rick Scott, Sink faces a national political climate in this race sure to be dominated by national issues — especially an unpopular Affordable Care Act — and millions of dollars in national money. On top of that Sink, 65, seems to find campaigning as enjoyable as root canal.

Democrats have an uphill climb winning back the U.S. House, needing to gain a net 17 seats. If they can’t win a special election in a Pinellas Congressional district that Obama won twice and where they have a top-tier Democratic nominee running against an obscure Republican nominee, nobody will see them having a shot at regaining the House.

Jolly, 41, handily won the GOP nomination after not only raising more money to advertise more than Kathleen Peters and Mark Bircher but consistently showing at political forums he was better informed. No question he was the strongest candidate in terms of substance and political savvy.

The primary proved to be a good thing for Jolly, a rookie who faced two weak and underfunded candidates while gearing up for the real battle that begins today. Sink would be wise not to underestimate him.

MEANWHILE … LATE REP. BILL YOUNG’S WIDOW GETS $174,000 IN OMNIBUS BILL via William Douglas of McClatchy DC

Tuesday congressional appropriators designated $174,000 to Bill Young’s widow as part of the 1,600-page omnibus spending bill to keep the federal government running through September 2014.

The money to his wife, Beverly, is a death gratuity that’s an unofficial practice provided to the spouses of deceased members of Congress. The Senate Handbook indicates that ‘[i]n the next Appropriation Bill, an item will be inserted for a gratuity to be paid to the widow(er) in the amount of one year’s compensation.’

The handbook states that the gratuity is considered a gift. Young, 82, served in the House for 43 years and was the longest-serving Republican in Congress.

***The 2014 Florida Health Care Affordability Summit, taking place in Orlando, Fla., on January 29-31, 2014, will once again bring some of the most knowledgeable stakeholders in health care to the table – from experts on health plans, hospitals and providers, to our elected officials and some of Florida’s best employers – to participate in an open forum and continue the conversation on how we can make Florida healthier based on the guiding principle that quality health care should be affordable and accessible to all.***

FLA’S NEW LEADERSHIP PAIRING – SAME MESSAGE, MORE CAFFEINE – CUBAN STYLE via John Lantigua of the Palm Beach Post 

Gov. Rick Scott named Miami Cuban-American Carlos Lopez-Cantera his lieutenant governor Tuesday after a long search, but in time for what is expected to be rough 2014 re-election campaign.

Lopez-Cantera is the Miami-Dade county property appraiser, a position he won last year after serving eight years in the state House, the last two as GOP majority leader. Lopez-Cantera could help Scott with the state’s Hispanic voters, and especially in Miami-Dade, which is both heavily Hispanic and Democratic. Scott is facing bruising challenge from former Florida GOP governor Charlie Crist, the front runner for the Democratic nomination.

The announcement was made at the Miami headquarters of the Department of Children and Families, where Scott also announced he will seek $31 million dollars more in DCF funding in the coming legislative session. The two men spoke to a room crowded with DCF employees and the media. Lopez-Cantera, the first Hispanic lieutenant governor of Florida, was flanked by his wife, Renee, and his two daughters, Sabrina, 6, and Sofia, 10 months.

Lopez-Cantera praised Scott for turning around the Florida economy and told that crowd that if voters could have the kind of conversations he has had with Scott  “there would be no question about the landslide we are going to have in November.”

Scott was asked more than once about the importance to the GOP ticket of a Hispanic running mate, but refused to frame the appointment that way. Scott instead praised Lopez-Cantera’s work in the legislature and also his experience as a small business owner.

“I chose him because he’s good,” Scott said.

HOW THE CLC PICK PLAYED

Bradenton Herald, Gov. Rick Scott announces Carlos Lopez-Cantera as new lieutenant governor – ended a 10-month guessing game”… News 13 Orlando, “New Lt. Governor: Miami-Dade’s Carlos Lopez-Cantera – a former state legislator and an ally of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio” … Huffington Post, Rick Scott Finally Selects Carlos Lopez-Cantera As Florida’s Next Lieutenant Governor – Ten months and a lawsuit after Florida’s previous lieutenant governor resigned amid scandal”… Miami Herald, Miami-Dade property appraiser Carlos Lopez-Cantera to be named Florida lieutenant governor – the first Hispanic to hold the job of lieutenant governor”… Naples Daily News, “Gov. Rick Scott picks Carlos Lopez-Cantera as lieutenant governor – gives his re-election campaign for 2014 an up-and-coming young Hispanic politician as a running mate who can potentially help the governor in Miami-Dade County”…

Bay News 9, Rick Scott names new Lt. Governor: Miami-Dade’s Carlos Lopez-Cantera – Born in Madrid, Spain and raised in Miami, Carlos Lopez-Cantera graduated from Miami-Dade College and continued his studies at the University of Miami, where he graduated with a degree in Business Administration”… CNN, Governor to appoint Florida’s first Hispanic lieutenant governor – Lopez-Cantera has a sizeable resume in southern Florida politics. Before coming property appraiser in 2012, he served eight years in the Florida legislature, including majority leader from 2010 to 2012″… Jacksonville Times Union, “Gov. Scott to name Miami-Dade appraiser Carlos Lopez-Cantera as lieutenant governor – He can help in Miami-Dade County, an area Scott lost by nearly 70,000 votes in 2010.”

REACTIONS GALORE here

BLOG POST OF THE DAY – IS BEING FLORIDA’S LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR A JINX? via Brian Crowley of the Crowley Political Report

Did no one pull Carlos Lopez-Cantera aside and warn him? Being Florida’s lieutenant governor is a jinx on political careers.

Since the adoption of the 1968 state Constitution reinstating the office of lieutenant governor, not one of Florida’s 10 previous lieutenant governors have been able to win higher office. Not one. Some have tried, all have failed.

Two did become governor. Wayne Mixson was governor for three days – January 3-6, 1987. Mixson took office because Gov. Bob Graham needed to resign to be sworn in as Florida’s new United States Senator.

One of the problems with the job of lieutenant governor is that there is nothing to do.

Nothing.

There is no doubt that most end up having happy lives. But while they may dream of higher office (and begin to think they can do the job better than the governor who picked them), history suggests that LG is the end of the road.

No doubt LGCLC believes he can end the LG jinx.

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APPOINTEDEdward Fleming and Joe York (reappointed) to the Jacksonville Port Authority.

AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER ADAM PUTNAM PROPOSING ‘COMPLETE REWRITE OF FLORIDA’S CHARITY LAWS’ via Tia Mitchell of the Tampa Bay Times

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam on Wednesday will propose “a complete rewrite of Florida’s charity laws,” aiming to increase state oversight and transparency in direct response to investigative reports published last year in the Tampa Bay Times.

Current law requires charities to register with the state but not much else, Putnam said. The proposed legislation is sweeping; a draft version is 52 pages long. Among the proposals:

• All charities must continue to register with the state but will have to provide additional information, like the names of those in leadership positions, contact information and financial reports.

• Nonprofits that receive more than $1 million but spend less than 25 percent on programming will have even more requirements: disclosures about employee salaries, fundraising expenses and details of family relationships with any business partners.

• Charities that emerge as a direct result of a natural disaster or tragedy and raise more than $100,000 will have to submit quarterly financial statements that outline how money is spent.

The measures boost fines for violations of state regulations from $1,000 to $5,000 or even $10,000 in some cases. The state would allocate $175,000 to Putnam’s office to help implement the new rules, which would take effect July 1 if approved by the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: PUTNAM TO OUTLINE CHARITY REFORM LEGISLATION 

Putnam will be the featured guest at the Florida Nonprofit Alliance Symposium, a conference to define what measures the Legislature can take to protect consumers from falling victim to fraudulent and deceptive charities.

The event is from noon-1:15 p.m. at the Capitol Center of the Tallahassee Community College, 300 West Pensacola Street in Tallahassee.

The Florida Nonprofit Alliance is a statewide association of nonprofits, to promote research, collaboration, and advocacy to benefit charitable organizations and improve communities statewide.

ANTI-CITRUS GREENING EFFORTS GET BOOST IN CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET DEAL

 Additional funding sought by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and members of Florida’s congressional delegation to fight a citrus-killing disease that’s threatening Florida’s $9 billion citrus industry is included in the bipartisan congressional budget deal unveiled last night.

About $20 million to bolster the fight against citrus greening is tucked into the broad budget bill agreed to by leaders in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle.

“This isn’t everything we’ve been pushing for in the farm bill, but $20 million is a good step and will allow us to accelerate the research we’ve started,” Nelson said in a statement.

This $20 million is in addition to the $11 million Nelson helped secure two years ago to fund the research into combating and eradicating the citrus disease that’s infected crops in Florida, California, Louisiana, Georgia and South Carolina.

Meantime, Nelson continues to push for a provision in the Senate farm bill that would create a trust fund to pay for the war on citrus greening.  It would provide up to $30 million a year for the next five years.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you in part by the Florida Medical Association: Affordable, safe, patient-centered health care in Florida starts with a physician-led team, with all health care professionals playing valuable and appropriate roles. Learn more here.***

NO CASINOS TO PREMIERE TONIGHT ANTI-GAMBLING DOCUMENTARY “PUSHING LUCK” Full blog post here

The anti-gambling group NoCasinos.org is promoting a film to be released January 15 that takes a “clear-eyed look” at the evils of gaming.

No Casinos presented a 90-second trailer for Pushing Luck, a short documentary that shines a critical light on plans to expand gambling casinos throughout the state. The trailer can also be found on YouTube.

Gambling grew into a hot legislative issue as the state faces the impending end of an agreement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which protects the Tribe’s exclusive rights to bring gambling beyond Broward and Miami-Dade Counties.

The Seminole Compact guarantees the Tribe pays the state up to $1 billion over five years, but unless the governor and Legislature renew  the covenant, annual payments will reduce by half when it sunsets in 2015.

FLORIDA NO. 2 IN THE NATION ON STUDENTSFIRST EDUCATION REPORT CARD via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News

Florida is far from perfect, but for the second year running a national group advocating education reforms has ranked the Sunshine State No. 2 in the nation for instituting new school policies it hopes will improve student achievement.

Just after midnight Tuesday, StudentsFirst — founded by former Washington, D.C., Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee — released its second annual report card evaluating education policies in 50 states and the capital.

In its 2014 State Policy Report Card, Florida again received a B-. The national average is a D+.

“Aside from the ranking, we’re really using this to highlight the policy we’ll be pursuing this upcoming session,” said Lane Wright, Florida press secretary for StudentsFirst.

Florida’s lowest-scoring area was fiscal transparency, an area Wright and others in the state believe is fixable and the key to moving into the No. 1 report card spot next year.

Wright says, currently in Florida we can’t answer simple questions about how our education tax dollars impact student learning. There is no easy way, for example, to tell how an ‘A’ school in a particular district allocated its funds compared to a school that scored a ‘D’ or ‘F.’

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CAN STATE LOWER FLOOD INSURANCE RATES? NO ONE KNOWS via James Rosica of the Tampa Tribune

Not everyone will see significant cost savings from private flood insurance, but a measure already moving in the Legislature should help those facing the most “egregious” rate increases, the bill’s sponsor says.

Sen. Jeff Brandes is pushing a bill (SB 542) that would enable more private insurers to write flood insurance policies in Florida.

It cleared its first committee hearing last week with a unanimous vote. Lawmakers already are meeting in committees in preparation for the state’s annual 60-day legislative session, which starts March 4.

But no one is promising that private insurance will be a solution.

Private insurers don’t have the historical risk information that the feds do, so they can’t yet gauge prices.

Locke Burt, president of Security First Insurance and a former state senator from Ormond Beach, said the private sector won’t step in unless they figure out a way to make money.

Insurance is a heavily regulated industry, with caps on charges, which means the state will need to rewrite its insurance rulebook before companies can even think about how to write those policies.

DANA YOUNG NAMED TO GOPAC BOARD via Kevin Derby of Sunshine State News

Rep. Dana Young currently serving as deputy majority leader and majority whip in the Florida House, was named to GOPAC’s 2014 Legislative Leaders Advisory Board on Tuesday.

“Each member of our 2014 Legislative Leaders Advisory Board has a distinguished record of success at promoting conservative ideas and assisting Republican candidates with getting elected,” said Frank Donatelli, the chairman of GOPAC. “Their involvement will strengthen our efforts as the Republican Party’s premier center for educating and electing a new generation of Republican leaders.”

JEFF BRANDES FILES BILL PROTECTING FLORIDIANS IN GUARDIANSHIP

Brandes filed SB 634, Guardianships, which is aimed at preventing the abuse of vulnerable Floridians by unscrupulous guardians. The legislation provides expanded auditing authority for Clerks of Court to review the practices of court appointed guardians.

“It is critically important that our elderly and vulnerable citizens are protected,” said Senator Brandes. “Families place a special confidence in the guardians who care for their loved ones. Unfortunately, some of these guardians have violated that trust. This legislation will give Florida’s Clerks of Court the tools necessary to protect our most vulnerable from abuse by those who are responsible for their health, safety, and security.”

The bill allows Clerks of Court to conduct detailed audits of the finances and criminal history of professional court-appointed guardians and establishes mechanisms by which guardians can be removed from cases in which mismanagement is observed.

LIZBETH BENACQUISTO HOSTS FLORIDA FOOD BANK EDUCATION EVENTS Read full blog post here

State Senator Benacquisto is on a mission — to educate her colleagues on ways they can help end hunger in Florida.

The Fort Myers Republican will join the Florida Association of Food Banks and Second Harvest of the Big Bend to present a series of events informing legislators on the roles food banks and nutrition programs play in the health and future of Florida families, children and seniors.

Benacquisto will host several educational activities in the Capitol Courtyard and Rotunda today.

One of the customized programs offered through the Florida Association of Food Banks to be highlighted “backpack stuffing.” Backpacks are filled with food to help children get healthy and easy-to-prepare meals, usually for over the course of a weekend. The finished backpacks will be distributed to Tallahassee-area children.

State of Florida Chef Justin Timineri will be on hand to offer demonstrations and food samplings prepared using Fresh from Florida produce exclusively, the same foods distributed to needy citizens through the Association of Food Banks’ Farmers Feeding Florida program.

Specialty displays will also be in the Capitol Rotunda illustrating how food banks and their partners serve constituents. Each display will feature programs and solutions to ensure Florida’s most vulnerable citizens – children, the elderly, disabled, and the working poor – not only have both a full plate, and a full future.

Benacquisto will also call on lawmakers to wear orange in support of a Hunger Free Florida.

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$20,000 FROM DISNEY HELPS ERIC EISNAUGLE’S BID FOR SPEAKER via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

Eric Eisnaugle, the Orlando Republican who is widely believed to be running for Speaker of the House even before he is elected to office, is getting a helping hand from Mickey Mouse.

New election records show that Walt Disney World last month wrote a $20,000 check to the “Committee for Justice and Economic Freedom,” a political committee controlled by Eisnaugle that can accept unlimited contributions — and which can also be used to finance a largely hidden-from-the-public campaign for a leadership in the Florida Legislature.

JUDITHANNE MCLAUCHLAN CRAMS FOR A RUN FOR OFFICE via Mitch Perry of Creative Loafing’s Political Animal

Judithanne Scourfield McLauchlan has accomplished a lot in her 45 years on the planet, working at the highest levels of public service and national Democratic Party politics — interning at the White House, managing statewide presidential campaigns, getting considerable face time as a political pundit, even serving as a Fulbright Scholar in Moldova. But one thing she’s never done is run for political office.

In November McLauchlan, an associate professor of political science at USFSP for the past 10 and a half years, confirmed that she would run for the Democratic nomination for the Senate District 22 seat currently held by Republican Jeff Brandes. The fundraising has begun, though she concedes that she will be thoroughly outspent by her opponent, a multimillionaire who benefited from the sale of his family’s lumber company in 2006.

Claiming he’s outside the mainstream, she says Brandes was the sole vote in the 40-member Senate to oppose the alternative to Medicaid expansion that Joe Negron crafted last year. Negron’s bill would have accepted federal funds to help approximately a million Floridians buy health insurance.

She’s also critical of Brandes’ resistance to Greenlight Pinellas, the sales tax increase slated for the ballot in Pinellas this fall that would begin funding for a light-rail system. “Instead of having a program that would help move people around Tampa Bay, he’s worked on fantasy ideas like driverless cars,” McLauchlan says of his sponsorship of the state’s autonomous-vehicle bill.

STATE OF THE DAY: $149,655,785.33 has been raised by state candidates, political committees and parties for the 2014 election cycle through December 31, says ContributionLink.

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FORMER LEGISLATOR RICK DANTZLER TAKES THE LEAD AT USDA AGENCY via John Ceballos of the Lakeland Ledger

Rick Dantzler, a former state senator and a one-time Lieutenant governor candidate, is the new state executive director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Florida Farm Service Agency.

The longtime Winter Haven resident admitted to not being overly familiar with the job when it first came onto his professional radar.

“When I received the inquiry about this position, I honestly didn’t know much about it,” said Dantzler, whose first day on the job was Monday in his new office in Gainesville. “I decided to look into it, and the more I learned about the profound impact the Farm Agency has, the more interested I became.”

The agency’s responsibilities include administering the USDA’s environmental, minority farmer outreach, and agriculture emergency response programs in the state.

Most recently, Dantzler served as head of the Tampa/Winter Haven branch of the Business Trial Group of the Morgan & Morgan law group.

***Representatives from Florida’s aerospace industry will visit Tallahassee on March 12, 2014, to participate in Florida Space Day and share with legislators the opportunities the industry brings to Florida and the nation’s space program. During Space Day, industry leaders and other aerospace supporters will meet with House and Senate members and Governor Scott, to discuss  growing areas of the state’s $8 billion dollar space industry, and determine the best strategies for leveraging these markets for Florida’s benefit in the years ahead.***

CONTEXT FLORIDA: TIM O’MEILIA, OBAMA AND AFGHANISTAN, NURSE PRACTITIONERS AND KEY WEST RENTAL SCAMS

On Context FloridaFlorence Snyder writes of the passing of Tim O’Meilia, a gifted journalist and storyteller at the Palm Beach Post. O’Meilia died of cancer Saturday at the age of 65. In “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” former Defense Secretary Robert Gates says President Obama was wary of the 2009 troop surge in Afghanistan, and was clearly interested in “getting out.” Hallelujah, says Tom O’HaraTamara Demko calls for easing restrictions for the state’s 15,000 advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs), who are qualified to provide primary care. Allowing them to practice in certain areas can alleviate Florida’s doctor shortage and open care to many citizens. If a home rental deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is, especially when it comes to scammers in Key West, Linda Cunningham warns. She outlines a few steps for vacationers can take to avoid falling victim to scams such as non-existent addresses or leasing homes that are not for rent.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

“DON’T TASE ME, BRO” DUDE HAS A NEW JOURNALISM JOB via Adam Weinstein on Gawker

Andrew Meyer caught viral fame in 2007 when, as a University of Florida student journalist, he tried to question then-Sen. John Kerry at an event and ended up tased by campus cops, despite his dudely entreaties for them not to do it. Guess what? Now he’s on the press freedom beat!

Meyer has been hired as a staff writer for Photography Is Not a Crime, a First Amendment blog based near his home in Miami. PINAC founder Carlos Miller, himself a photojournalist, started the blog after police tried to block him from shooting their conduct of a rough arrest. He’s covered the police shooting of Oscar Grant in Oakland and sketchy wiretapping practices against photographers… and he points out that Meyer’s “Don’t Tase Me Bro” moment “was one of the first pieces I wrote for this blog.”

“Meyer’s education, coupled with his passion for free speech, will give PINAC a solid journalistic boost as well as a fresh (maybe not so jaded) perspective,” Miller wrote on the blog.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY early, since there will be no Sunburn on Thursday, to the AARP’s Jeff Johnson, Caitlin Murray, and Emily Rimes.

REST IN PEACE wife, mother, lawyer and lobbyist Wendy Hansen.

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.