Sunburn for 2/11 – 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.***


Richard Black is a Republican state senator from the Northern Virginia suburbs who once sent plastic fetuses to his colleagues with a note attached: “Would you kill this child?” He said a statue of Lincoln had no business going up in Richmond because it would be “sort of like putting the Confederate flag at the Lincoln Memorial.”

And he tried to block unmarried, gay and lesbian couples from receiving state home loans, saying that would “subsidize sodomy and adultery.”

Mr. Black easily won his latest race, and had party leaders on his side. But when he started exploring a run for Congress last month, he felt a distinct chill. Some Republicans were concerned that he could become their worst fear: the second coming of Todd Akin, the Missouri representative whose comments about “legitimate rape” doomed his Senate candidacy in 2012.

The Republican Party establishment, chastened by the realization that a string of unpredictable and unseasoned candidates cost them seats in Congress two elections in a row, is trying to head off potential political hazards wherever it can this year.

A few days after he announced his candidacy, Mr. Black dropped out. “It was pretty evident that she had all the machinery,” he said in an interview.

One of the biggest challenges for Republican leaders in the 2014 midterm elections will be how to hang on to the Tea Party support that has been so instrumental to the party’s growth, while winning back voters alienated by hard-right candidates. These conflicting goals were evident last week as Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio shelved plans to tackle immigration reform in the House, bowing to pressure from conservatives.

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The Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) looked to link former Gov. Charlie Crist — the favorite for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination to challenge Gov. Rick Scott despite spending most of his political life as a Republican — to President Barack Obama on Monday, marking the fifth anniversary of the then-governor appearing with the president in Fort Myers to back the federal stimulus.

“Five years ago today, Charlie Crist, the self-crowned prince of political opportunism, greeted President Obama in Fort Myers with an enthusiastic embrace of his binge-spending policies,” said Lenny Curry, the chairman of the RPOF, on Monday.

“It was the ‘hug heard round the world.’ Five years later, he’s come back to Fort Myers to sell his fiction novel in an attempt to run away from his failed record as governor. Now that Crist has embraced Obamacare — a law that kills jobs, raises the deficit and caused 300,000 Floridians to lose their health insurance plans — it’s becoming more clear to voters that they can’t afford another four years of Charlie.”

The RPOF is gathering signatures for a mock card marking the anniversary.

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The Democratic group House Majority PAC is out with a new ad hitting GOP candidate David Jolly, saying he lobbied for a company that wants to privatize Social Security. Watch it here.


The Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association endorsed Alex Sink in CD 13.

“As a teacher, I want a representative in Congress that will take my voice and the voices of my students and fellow teachers to Washington to fight for us, and that’s why Alex Sink has my vote” said Dale Koning, a classroom teacher and registered Republican in a statement. “Investing in our children should not be a partisan issue, and Alex Sink has built her career on bringing Republicans and Democrats together to tackle the challenges facing our community.”

“With her years of experience as a business leader and as Florida’s Chief Financial Officer – and a proven record of fighting for public education – we are proud to endorse Alex Sink and are confident Alex will take the voices of teachers, students and parents to Washington,” said Kim Black, President of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association.

“As the mother of two children who attended public school here in Florida, I know firsthand the importance of working to strengthen and improve our schools,” Sink responded. “We need to bring Republicans, Democrats and Independents together to focus on issues that matter like improving our schools and supporting our teachers – it’s these bipartisan, results oriented values I’ve practiced my entire life and it’s these values that I’ll bring to Congress.”


House Majority PAC is making an approximately $90,000 ad buy in Miami next week to defend Rep. Joe Garcia.

The group’s move to buy a week of airtime is intended to match conservative outside group Americans for Prosperity’s media campaign against Garcia. The conservative super PAC announced a $400,000 media campaign in three Florida House districts, including Garcia’s 26th.

The new ad that will air was not immediately available. House Majority PAC’s buy will begin on Wednesday and run for a week.

AFP launched ads in support of Republican Rep. Steve Southerland II and against Democratic Reps. Alan Grayson and Garcia.

Miami Dade School Board Member Carlos Curbelo is Garcia’s most organized Republican challenger. He had $554,000 in cash on hand at the end of the year, while Garcia ended December with $1.3 million in the bank.

The 26th district is one of the most competitive in the country. It’s rated Tossup/Tilts-Democratic by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

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Scotts Miracle-Gro Co., the world’s largest dealer of lawn fertilizer, is funding a two-year, $500,000 project by the Fort Pierce-based Ocean Research & Conservation Association to find and assess sources of pollution in the lagoon.

Environmentalists and researchers, including members of the ORCA team, claim chemicals in fertilizer runoff are a major cause of algae blooms and seagrass loss in the lagoon. ORCA has advocated for tough ordinances in municipalities along the lagoon to ban the use of residential fertilizer during the summer rainy season, when runoff into ditches, creeks and canals along the lagoon is most likely to occur.

Scotts has opposed those ordinances, claiming fertilizer use in the summer stimulates grass growth when it’s needed most to absorb runoff and keep it out of the lagoon.

In the study to be funded by Scotts, ORCA will select two canals that discharge pollutants into the lagoon and search for the sources of the pollution, including phosphorus, nitrogen, heavy metals and toxins.

Edith “Edie” Widder, ORCA president, CEO and senior scientist, said the organization she helped start is “all about finding creative solutions to problems. We’ll work with whoever wants to find the source of those problems and work out solutions.”

Expecting a pollution study paid for by a fertilizer company would be seen as “the fox guarding the henhouse,” Widder said, an independent oversight committee of local scientists, environmentalists and government representatives will be established “to be a buffer between us and (Scotts).”


Citizens Property Insurance, the Florida state-run property insurer, has now dipped below 1 million policies for the first time in eight years.

As of this week, Citizens had 942,321 effective policies, the lowest since August 2006.

In an announcement, Citizens officials reported a significant reason for the decline was efforts to bring in private companies to move clusters of policies from the state insurer. Also helping to reduce the number was a Legislature-backed clearinghouse established last month for consumers to acquire new policies and select carriers.

After two hurricane-intensive seasons (2004 and 2005) where seven named storms made landfall in Florida, Citizens jumped above the 1 million mark. By August 2012, Citizens’ policies swelled to just under 1.5 million. Citizens President and CEO Barry Gilway told Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet in December to expect the state-backed insurer to be down to 925,000 policies by the beginning of the 2014 hurricane season, and down to 725,000 policies by December 2015.


Two fundraising committees affiliated with Attorney General Pam Bondi raised more than $188,000 during January, bringing the two committees total amount raised to $1,426,832.

“And Justice for All,” Bondi’s political communications fund, raised $10,000 in December for a total of more than $1,032,500.

“Justice for All,” a similarly-named but separate political committee, reported raising $178,000, bringing its total raised to more than $394,250.

“The total raised collectively by the two committees since being established in July 2013 totals $1,426,832,” reads a press release.

Those numbers don’t include Bondi’s traditional campaign finance account, which lists more than $1,062,665 in cash and in-kind contributions through November 30, according to the state Division of Elections’ website.

Democratic AG candidate Perry Thurston raised $4,679 during January for a total of $38,494.


Ag. Commissioner Adam Putnam collected $101,630 in donations during January, bringing the Republican’s overall campaign total to nearly $1.3 million.

One other Ag Commissioner candidate opened a campaign account. Democrat Thad Hamilton, collected $3,967 during January and for an overall total of $10,485.

MARIJUANA DEBATE SCHEDULED via Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald Tribune

Just weeks after the Florida Supreme Court approved a medical marijuana initiative for the November ballot, the face of the group pushing for the initiative is coming to Sarasota to promote it.

Orlando attorney John Morgan is scheduled to go one on one with Sheriff Tom Knight during a Sarasota Tiger Bay meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

Morgan, of the law firm Morgan and Morgan, largely bankrolled a last minute push to collect enough signatures to get the issue on the ballot.

If approved at the polls by at least 60 percent of voters, the amendment would legalize marijuana for those with a doctor’s approval.

The meeting is at noon Wednesday at Michael’s on East, 1212 S. East Avenue, Sarasota.

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State Rep. Richard Stark issued a statement on Monday concerning Ryan Uhre, a former FSU student serving as an intern in his office. Uhre has been missing since last Sunday and was last seen at Andrew’s in downtown Tallahassee during the Super Bowl. There are signs Uhre could be in South Florida.

“I share the concerns of family and friends over the disappearance of legislative intern Ryan Uhre, who was recently assigned to work in my Tallahassee legislative office,” said Stark. “A 2013 graduate of Florida State University interested in becoming a lawyer, Ryan resided in Weston and his father is a client of my insurance business. In the few days that Ryan has worked with us, he demonstrated exemplary knowledge and performance in all of his tasks.

“According to news reports, Ryan was last seen at about 9 p.m. on Feb. 2 in downtown Tallahassee,” Stark added. “Anyone with information about his whereabouts is urged to contact the Florida State University Police Department at 850-644-1234 or the Broward Crime Stoppers at 954-493-8477. My thoughts and prayers are with Ryan and his family, and I sincerely hope that his disappearance will have a positive outcome.”


State Sen. John Legg filed a bill this week to overhaul the way Florida Public Service Commission members are appointed, as well as limiting them to two terms.

Bill SB 964, filed by the Lutz Republican, would have the five PSC members appointed from different districts statewide. The districts would correspond with the five Florida district courts of appeal.

If approved, the commissioners, appointed by the governor, cannot serve more than two consecutive four-year terms.

Legg and Tampa Bay area lawmakers have criticized the Public Service Commission, partly because of nuclear-project costs passed along to Duke Energy Florida customers.


On Monday, a Florida Senate bill seeking increased governmental oversight of charitable organizations passed the Senate Committee on Commerce and Tourism with “overwhelming bi-partisan support.”

Sponsored by State Sen. Jeff Brandes, with the cooperation of Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam, the wide-ranging reform package could significantly enhance oversight on charitable groups operating in Florida.

The push for charity reform stems from “America’s Worst Charities” a Tampa Bay Times inquiry, as well as the publication of a series of articles detailing a system of waste and fraud by various charities operating in Florida. Reporters for the Times learned that 11 of the 50 worst charities are based in Florida.

Some of what SB 638 would realize: the Department of Revenue can revoke or deny a sales tax exemption to charitable organizations or sponsors disqualified by the department, create a limited appeal of the denial or revocation of the sales tax exemption, as well as redefine the term “religious institution.” The bill would impose regulations on staff members of charitable organizations that perform telephone solicitations, and tighten up the rules for the type of operations allowed in Florida.


State Sen. Jeff Brandes held a joint press conference with Rep. Frank Artiles on the results in a new report released by the non-partisan Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability (OPPAGA).

“I have consistently argued that red light cameras are not being used for safety but are about generating revenue,” Brandes said. “Revenue from red light cameras have risen 200 percent, and 76 percent of local governments that have red light camera programs use that money to pad their budget – only 14 percent spend that money on public safety.”

Brandes called for the report after WTSP/10 News began investigating shortened yellow lights in RLC intersections in May.

  • As of June 2013, 922 monitored intersections in Florida generated $119M in revenue last year.
  • The study found that 58 percent of jurisdictions in the study used yellow light times at the state minimum.
  • More than 70 Florida municipalities have RLC, but only 15 account for nearly half the all of the state’s RLC revenue. Tampa was No.3, St. Pete came in at No. 7, Hillsborough County was No. 11 and Brooksville was at No. 15.
  • Fatalities are down 49 percent; sideswipe accidents are down 84 percent
  • Total crashes at RLC intersections are up 12 percent
  • Side-angle crashes the “most commonly associated with red light running” are up 22 percent
  • At RLC intersections, rear-end collisions have jumped—35 percent statewide

***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.***


Taxation of online hotel room bookings is only one of the weighty issues facing Tallahassee on Tuesday. The First District Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments on Broward County v. Orbitz, to determine if the online travel agency must pay tax on what they pay hotels for rooms, or the amount customers ultimately pay.

Meanwhile, other subjects appearing before Florida Capitol:

9 a.m. — Mental health-training programs for teachers

10 a.m. — Companies engaging in hydraulic fracturing to disclose the chemicals they use, amendments to Stand Your Ground for exempt warning shots from prosecution and requirements for proof of court orders releasing inmates.

1 p.m. – Graduate Medical Education to alleviate the physician shortage, alcohol bills to change many rules for craft brewers and to limit penalties for companies that lapse in workers’ compensation. coverage.

1:30 p.m. — Tobacco taxes and the Tobacco Settlement Trust Fund.

2 p.m. — A broad committee proposal on telemedicine.

3:30 p.m. — Proposal to repeal a state provision that denies access to coverage under KidCare, the state insurance program, for children in the U.S. for fewer than five years and a bill establishing a sinkhole-stabilization repair program at the state-run Citizens Property Insurance.

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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Florida Defense Contractors Association will hold a press conference during Florida Defense Day starting at 11:30 a.m. in the 4th Floor Rotunda of the Florida Capitol.

Topics will include legislation filed for the 2014 Legislative Session to support defense businesses, and high-wage, high-tech jobs. Small businesses will also be the focus of a new economic incentive proposal, as well as unemployment compensation insurance rates stay steady for businesses that lost federal contracts through no fault of their own.

On hand will be State Sens. Greg Evers and Jack Latvala; Reps. Jimmie Smith and Jamie Grant (Grant will be available by phone afterwards); and Florida Defense Contractors Association President Joe Marino and Chair Jenny Humbert.

From more information, contact Joe Marino at (850) 320-8780.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: We Save Lives – a new Florida-based national highway-safety advocacy group — is holding a reception demonstrating latest technology to remove “drugged drivers” from the road beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Doubletree by Hilton, 101 South Adams Street, Tallahassee.

Speakers will include MADD founder Candace Lightner, Drug Recognition Expert Kyle Clark and Christine Moore, Vice President of Toxicology, Research and Development for Immunalysis Corporation. Moore is Board Certified in Toxicological Chemistry by the American Board of Clinical Chemistry, a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Chemistry and the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.


The Florida Chamber’s annual Board of Governors Capitol Days is in full swing today. Senate President Don Gaetz, House Speaker Will Weatherford and Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera are among the morning’s featured speakers. At 11 a.m. the Florida Chamber will unveil its 2014 agenda for jobs. Travis Brown, author of How Money Walks, is on tap as the keynote lunch speaker followed by an afternoon lineup including panels on water, education and cutting the red tape. See the full agenda here.

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The newest member of the Florida House is already gearing up for re-election though 2014 should be a lot easier for her than 2013 was.

Amanda Murphy scored a pickup for Democrats when she beat Republican Bill Gunter in a special election last fall for the open seat, which had been vacated by Mike Fasano. Despite being a Republican, Fasano supported Murphy over Gunter and helped her cross the finish line as a winner. Murphy won by the skin of her teeth, beating Gunter 51 percent to 49 percent.

Despite the narrow win, Murphy should have a little more breathing room this year. She started fundraising for 2014 back in December and, in January; Fasano hosted a fundraiser for her. Despite remaining in the GOP ranks, Fasano is still in Murphy’s corner.

Two Republicans are already running against Murphy. Chris Gregg filed his papers to enter the race this week. Gregg is a conservative who worked as a Coast Guard investigator. A supporter of the tea party, Gregg ran for Pasco County Commission in 2012 but ended up losing the race. While there was talk of him entering the special election last year, Gregg held off from jumping in.

James Mathieu should be familiar to Pasco County voters by now since this marks his third bid for the House seat. Mathieu certainly has ties to the area as he was Port Richey’s city attorney and did a stint as city manager there. He also has led the Pasco County GOP.

This is a swing district, as Murphy’s narrow win over Gunter shows. But Murphy has an ace in the hole as Fasano remains one of her biggest boosters. Fasano has been winning elections here for decades and not even the support of Richard Corcoran, who will be speaker of the Florida House in 2016, could help his pastor Gunter to victory.


Environmental Consultant Mo Pearson announced a full round of endorsement from state lawmakers this afternoon in his bid to be the next Representative from District 47 in the Florida House.

Pearson has gotten the nod from State Senator Alan Hays, as well as local State Representatives Jason Brodeur, David Santiago, and Ritch Workman from Brevard County.

In a statement Pearson had this to say about his latest endorsements “I am honored to be endorsed by these dedicated members of the Florida Legislature.” he adds “These individuals are committed to making a difference in Florida though tireless public service and know what it takes to get the job done. I too, am committed to working hard to ensure a brighter future for both Florida and Orange County.”

This is the second round of endorsements for Pearson this month. Earlier in February, he announced an endorsement from three Orange County Commissioners.

District 47 currently has three Republicans running for the opportunity to take on incumbent Democrat Linda Stewart. In addition to Pearson, Law clerk and Student Erik Arroyo and Frank Caprio who jumped into the race at the beginning of this month.


Former state Rep. Shawn Harrison announced strong January fundraising numbers as further proof he has the momentum in his attempt to regain House District 63.

After taking a break from fundraising for the end of 2013, the Tampa Republican said he “roared back in January” with $11,475 in donations for the month, for a total of $62,285.

Harrison once again faces Democrat Rep. Mark Danish for the seat covering parts of north Hillsborough County. First elected to the House in 2010, Harrison served only one term, losing to Danish in 2012.

In an email to supporters, Harrison says he outperformed the incumbent by 50 percent, even though Danish had his “best fundraising month ever.” Danish collected $8,700 in January, for a total of $48,347.

Harrison also tripled the amount raised by Bret Wedding, his Republican opponent, who raised only $3,625.

Harrison also says he is more than halfway to his petition drive plan to qualify for the ballot. His objective was to get the 960 district voter signatures for eligibility by the start of the 2014 session, which begins the first week of March. Harrison says he is right on track.


4:30 – 6:00 p.m. – Rep. Ray Pilon at Governors Club – Board Room

4:30 – 6:00 p.m. – Rep. James Grant, Rep. Neil Combee, Rep. Jimmie T. Smith at Governors Club – Capital Room

5:30 – 6:30 p.m. – Ed Narian for HD  61 at Florida Retail Federation

5:30 – 7:00 p.m. – Sen. Jack Latvala, Sen. John Thrasher at Governor Club – Library Room

5:30 – 7:00 p.m. – Rep. Ed Hooper for Pinellas County Commission at Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association

5:30 – 7:00 p.m. – Sen. Geraldine F. Thompson at Mint Lounge

5:30 – 7:00 p.m. – Rep. Bryan Nelson for Orange County Commission at Florida Insurance Council, 150 S. Monroe St.

TWEET, TWEET: @Mdixon55: Is there anything cornier in politics than the “friend-rasier?”

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On Context Florida: College kids are the new target for Gov. Rick Scott’s “enduring, unethical” efforts to make it difficult to vote in Florida, writes Daniel Tilson, by denying the University of Florida student union to be designated an early voter site. Martin Dyckman believes that a residency requirement for elected officials is a “fetish” in the United States, as opposed to Britain, where residents from other Commonwealth nations can be hold office. Florida is not a “castle,” writes Julie Delegal about the Michael Dunn murder trial. Alex Sink is a consensus builder, which is why John Grant supported her as Chief Financial Officer. But running for Congress, she will have no choice but to be “joined at the hip” with President Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


The film and television industries have been highly profitable for Florida’s economy, according to a study commissioned by the Motion Picture Association of America.

For every $1 in state tax credits issued to film and entertainment production, between $5.6 and $20.5 in sales taxes come back — in film-induced tourism by people who first watched movies or a TV series filmed in the Sunshine State.

What the MPAA found that as much as 22.7 percent of “leisure visitors” to Florida, or about 19.5 percent of all visitors, said that seeing a movie or television series filmed in Florida was “extremely important” or “very important” in their decision to travel to the state.

At the low end, the original premise of 5 percent of visitors influenced by film and television would result in $5.6 dollars for every dollar.

On the other hand, adjusting for the number of people who actually said TV and film swayed their decision to come to Florida, returns skyrocket — to $20.5 for every dollar spent in tax credits.

That’s what they call a good return on investment.

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.