Sunburn for 2/18 – 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.***

FOUR LOBBYING FIRMS TOP $1 MILLION IN QUARTERLY REVENUE via The News Service of Florida

Representing dozens of clients with interests in Tallahassee, at least four firms topped $1 million in legislative lobbying fees during the final three months of 2013, according to newly filed disclosure reports. Those firms were Ballard Partners, Capital City Consulting, Ronald L. Book PA and Southern Strategy Group.

Another eight firms collected between $500,000 and $999,999 in legislative fees during the quarter, while 18 firms collected between $250,000 and $499,999. Lobbying firms are required to disclose financial information every quarter. In most cases, they disclose fee amounts in ranges — for example, reporting that a client paid between $10,000 and $19,999 — so the exact amounts the firms receive are unknown.

LOBBYING HAUL FOR 2013? $226 MILLION via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

Florida’s lobbyists were paid roughly $132.3 million to ply the Legislature, up from $123 million in 2012.

They also reported being compensated to the tune of $93.8 million to lobby Gov. Rick Scott’soffice and executive branch agencies, also up from $88.5 million last year.

The biggest spenders to lobby lawmakers were: AT&T ($1.53 million); U.S. Sugar Corp.($983,000); Honeywell International Inc. ($777,000); Florida Crystals ($740,000); DosalTobacco Corp. ($720,000); the Florida Hospital Association ($630,000); the Florida Justice Association ($625,000); the Seminole Tribe of Florida ($615,000); Associated Industries of Florida ($590,000) and Florida Power & Light Co. ($545,000).

On the executive-branch side of the ledger, the list shakes out a bit differently: United States Sugar Corp. (695,000); AT&T ($660,000); Honeywell ($597,000); Florida Crystals ($520,000); Automated Healthcare Solutions ($505,000); Harris Corporation ($452,000); Florida Power & Light ($430,000); FJA ($355,000);  the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office ($340,000); and the Florida Hospital Association ($320,000).

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HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW JEB?: Step right up, Florida political junkies. With speculation continuing to focus on whether Jeb Bush will run for president in 2016, POLITICO offers h/t to the News Service of Florida up a quiz about the former Florida governor. Take the quiz here.

THE NEW DIMENSIONS OF POLITICAL TARGETING 

We’re all familiar with political mailers hitting only the mailboxes of specially targeted households. And with Facebook ads scrolling past only the eyes of certain demographically selected users. Well now, the same capabilities are being touted by DISH Network and DirecTV for television advertising. Like… WHOAH. Targeted TV ads are limited only by the fact that fewer than half of all households have a receiver that allows broadcasters to air some ads to some households and not others. 

There are some similar shenanigans stirring up over at Pandora, the music application that also airs advertisements — at least for the listeners who don’t pay to go ad free. According to Pandora’s director of product management, station selection communicates a lot about each listener. Through analysis of subscriber ZIP code and music preferences, Pandora will begin offering a new service that allows candidates to target listeners based on their predicted partisanship. 

The moral of this story? To many Americans, it may just be, “Thank God for fast-forward on DVR.” 

U.S. REP. CASTOR: MAKE IT QUICKER FOR FELONS TO REGAIN VOTING RIGHTS via Dan Sullivan of the Tampa Bay Times

Castor wants Gov. Scott to make it easier for felons to have their voting rights restored after they have paid their to debt to society.

The Democratic congresswoman spoke Monday about the issue, which promises to be a focal point of the 2014 governor’s race that’s pitting Scott, a Republican, against former Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican-turned-Democrat.

In 2007, Crist as governor made it possible for felons who were convicted of less serious crimes to regain their rights without having to go through a hearing. The process remained more stringent for those convicted of murder and other serious offenses, with a hearing and investigation still required.

Crist’s changes enabled 150,000 restorations, though a backlog of 100,000 remained when he left office.

In 2011, state Attorney General Pam Bondi argued that the restoration process was too easy. Scott and the Cabinet scrapped the process, requiring a minimum five-year waiting period, significantly reducing the number of restorations.

Some other states, Castor said, restore rights to felons automatically once their debts to society — prison time and restitution — have been paid.

An estimated 6 million felons nationwide are eligible to have their voting rights restored, with about a quarter of those in Florida, according to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.

CD 13 SPECIAL ELECTION

ABOUT THAT SENIOR COUPLE ATTACKING DAVID JOLLY via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

The senior couple featured in a Super PAC ad attacking David Jolly are not just an ordinary couple from the district. They are also active in Democratic politics.

Elizabeth and Rod Snedeker are featured in a House Majority PAC ad that implies Jolly is in favor of private Social Security accounts. The ad doesn’t say it but the couple are active members of the Largo/Mid-Pinellas Democratic Club. They have also led Largo Citizens for Sensible Gun Laws.

But the Snedekers say they have no qualms about how they were portrayed. “We’re not concerned with Social Security because were Democrats,” Mr. Snedeker, 86 and a former minister, said in a telephone interview this afternoon. “We’re concerned with Social Security because we depend on it.”

Snedeker said House Majority PAC called the local Democratic club looking for someone to be in the ad. A crew spent about seven hours with them to produce the 30-second spot, which has aired constantly on local TV.

Mrs. Snedeker said: “We didn’t object to the idea at all. We would have objected had they put pressure on us.”

House Majority PAC spokesman Andy Stone defended using partisans in the ad. “A former minister and piano teacher. Sounds pretty regular to me, no?” he wrote in email.

The Super PAC caused a stir with another ad that used the AARP logo in attacking Jolly over Social Security. AARP issued a statement disavowing the ad, saying it does not get involved in political campaigns.

BLOG POST OF THE DAY – OF COURSE ALEX SINK DOESN’T WANT TO DEBATE ON NAT’L TV via Nancy Smith of Sunshine State News

You just can’t blame the 2014 Alex Sink, Democratic candidate in the CD 13 special election, for wanting to bolt like the Looney Tunes road runner when NBC asked to put her Feb. 25 debate with Jolly on MSNBC. There’s a ton of pressure on her. She carries the hopes and dreams of the national Democratic Party to pick up a precious House seat. And don’t think they forget to remind her every time they write her campaign a check.

Bottom line: Sink will not agree to a debate on national TV. 

… You know what David Jolly is going to do as soon as cameras start rolling, he’s going to attack Obamacare. If Sink is on national television, she is honor-bound to defend it. And Chuck Todd will come after her like she’s Butch Cassidy and he’s the Texas Ranger.  But Obamacare is not popular in CD 13. She can’t afford to go overboard defending an unpopular law among would-be constituents, providing incentive for Republican voters to come out to defeat her — and risking Chuck Todd tearing her apart while the president’s team watches.

If she’s not on national television, she can waffle on the Affordable Care Act, downplay it or even fudge on her approval of it if Jolly lets his guard down.

JOLLY RECEIVES BIPARTISAN ENDORSEMENTS FROM 15 PINELLAS COUNTY MAYORS Full blog post here

Jolly announced “bipartisan support” from a “long list” of Pinellas County mayors in the lead up to the special election for Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

In a statement released Monday, Jolly noted 15 mayors coming out in favor of the former General Counsel to the late U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young: Bertram Adams of Redington Shores; Chris Arbutine of Belleair Bluffs; Robin Baldwin of Belleair Beach; Dan Calabria of South Pasadena; George Cretekos of Clearwater; Dave Eggers of Dunedin; Jim Lawrence of Indian Shores;  Steve McFarlin of St. Pete Beach; Robert Minning of Treasure Island; Travis Palladeno of Madeira Beach; Bill Queen of North Redington Beach; John Robertson of Belleair Shore; Nick Simons of Redington Beach; Sandra Bradbury of Pinellas Park and Leslie Waters of Seminole.

ALEX SINK DONATES TO CHARLIE CRISTvia Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

Remember back in the dog days of Summer 2013, when Sink was still flirting with the idea of running for governor and described a potential Charlie Crist candidacy as a “disaster” for Florida Democrats? Well, she seems to have gotten over it – or at least decided it does her no good to bash the likely Democratic nominee.

Campaign finance reports show that on Jan. 31, Sink wrote a $1,000 check to Crist. Not sure if that amounts to a formal announcement, but Sink has not given a dime to Crist’s longshot primary opponent, former state Sen. Nan Rich.

HOW CAN RICK SCOTT WIN THE GOVERNOR’S RACE RIGHT NOW?!

… by having the Board of Trustees at Florida State University appoint Charlie Crist its next President now that Eric Barron is off to Penn State.

Crist is an alum. He can certainly raise money. He loves football. 

Being president of Florida State is a much better gig than being governor. Even the pay is better!

One trustee at FSU — off-the-record and tongue-in-cheek — has already suggested this to me.

Charlie Crist for FSU president … why not? 

***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.***

APPOINTED: Alan C. Dimmitt, Cherron Newby, and Pam Olsen to the Florida Faith-Based and Community-Based Advisory Council.

APPOINTED: Frank White, Stephania Wilson, Carol Carlan, and Herbert Woll to the Pensacola State College District Board of Trustees.

GOV. SCOTT’S TWIN TRANSPO ANNOUNCEMENTS …

… THE GATEWAY EXPRESS IN PINELLAS via Chris O’Donnell of the Tampa Tribune

Gov. Scott announced that the state will accelerate construction of a $330 million project to link I-275 to U.S. 19, providing a first express link between the south and north of the county.

Design of the five-year project, which would also include an expressway linking I-275 to St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, is expected to begin in 2017. It was not expected to be funded for another 15 years.

The link to U.S. 19 would be along 118th Avenue North and to the airport along Roosevelt Boulevard. It would include elevated toll sections.

Speaking at the Pinellas Realtor’s Association on Ulmerton Road, Scott said the project would ease congestion for residents and businesses. Florida Department of Transportation officials estimate it will save drivers nine to 13 minutes during rush-hour commutes.

“Advancing the Gateway Express Project right here in Pinellas County is going to mean more jobs; it will mean more people to move here; it’s going to continue to improve our environment,” Scott said. “This will allow the express lanes to be available for use 10 to 20 years earlier.”

… TRANSIT HUB IN ORLANDO via The Associated Press

Gov. Scott has proposed spending more than $213 million for a transportation hub including a rail line at Orlando International Airport.

The governor said at a news conference today that the project would create 1,900 construction jobs and 380 permanent jobs at the new facility. The $213.5 million would be spent over two years, provided the state Legislature also approves the spending plan.

A key part of the project would use the new hub to link the Orlando airport with the private All Aboard Florida rail line that will run from South Florida to central Florida. It is expected to begin service as early as late 2015.

The transportation hub will also provide links to air and ground transportation.

WHAT THE GOV’S OFFICE IS READING – ECONOMISTS OFFER UPBEAT PREDICTIONS FOR FLORIDA via Jeff Harrington of the Tampa Bay Times

Last year was pivotal for Florida’s economy as the pace of job creation picked up and the unemployment rate actually fell below the national average.

Will the momentum last?

It’s a good bet, based on a reports and interviews with some leading bank, corporate and university economists who track the state.

This is prime forecasting season for economists, many of whom travel around Florida offering clients their insights. Here are some Florida-centered predictions:

Richard Moody Chief economist, Regions Bank : “Florida may lag a year or so,” Moody says, as it continues to wean itself off a foreclosure overhang. “In Florida, I don’t think (construction) of single-family homes will take off until later this year or next year.”

Jeff Korzenik Chief Investment Strategist, Fifth Third Bank: Florida will become “far more visible” as a destination for U.S. companies and multinationals looking to expand operations, particularly back-office operations that were so popular in Florida during the last big economic expansion.

Scott Brown Chief economist and senior vice president, Raymond James Financial: Higher home prices have lifted many homeowners back above water on their mortgages. It’s unlikely that we’ll see a lot of home equity extraction, which helped fuel of lot of consumer spending growth before the recession, “but individuals are likely to feel wealthier and spend a bit more,” Brown says.

WOULD GOV. SCOTT SIGN A MEDICAL MARIJUANA BILL via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

“We’re not there yet,” Scott said. “We’ll cross that bridge when it’s time.”

(Don) Gaetz is backing the bill pushed by his son, Rep. Matt Gaetz, and made it clear that the governor would be making a mistake to stand in its way.

“If he doesn’t [sign the bill] I think he’ll make a huge mistake, a mistake I hope he doesn’t have to explain to some of my constituents who hold their children to their chests when they have these terrible convulsions,” Sen. Gaetz said in an interview.

Scott’s office last week issued a veiled, non-committal statement on the bill, which could start moving through the House in the session’s first week in March.

“The Governor feels for families struggling with terrible illness,” Scott communications director Frank Collins said in a statement. “The FDA is currently evaluating the safety and effectiveness of the medication. The Governor is hopeful that families will get relief from the impacts of these serious illnesses in the safest possible way.”

But Republican political strategists and legislative advocates say the question here should be common sense – particularly since Democrats and gubernatorial candidate Charlie Cristare using public support for the issue and the fall medical marijuana ballot question to drive a stake into Scott.

“Society is changing. Republicans can let some steam out of this and take the issue away from Charlie Crist and John Morgan by proving they have a heart and are responsive to people,” GOP consultant Rick Wilson said.

STATE EDUCATION BOARD TO TAKE UP COMMON CORE AGAIN TUESDAY via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel

Common Core will get a second vote in Florida on Tuesday, with the State Board of Education deciding whether to approve minor revisions to the academic standards it adopted nearly four years ago.

The board likely will be greeted by Common Core critics when it arrives at the Orange County school district’s headquarters, at 445 W. Amelia St. in Orlando, for the meeting. They plan to protest before the 8:30 a.m. start and to speak against Common Core when the board allows public comment before its vote.

The board is expected to give Common Core another stamp of approval, as its members have been strong supporters of the new academic standards.

Common Core sets benchmarks for what students should learn in language arts and math. Florida adopted them in 2010, one of 45 states to do so, with little fanfare and no public outcry.

The standards are generally dry reading, detailing, for example, that third graders should learn the function of nouns, verbs and adjectives.

But in the past year, Common Core has become a hot-button political issue, with Tea Party activists and left-leaning groups alike arguing the standards are detrimental to public education. Some critics call them a “federal intrusion” into public education and fear they will lead to even more high-stakes standardized testing of students, among other problems.

UNEMPLOYMENT WITHOUT BENEFITS via Matt Dixon of the Florida Times-Union

When lawmakers passed a $63 million “modernization” of the state’s unemployment compensation system in 2011, proponents promised it would “improve the claims, benefits and appeals process.”

So far, the opposite has been true.

The modernization project, dubbed “Project CONNECT,” was passed along partisan lines, with Democrats and some legal groups in opposition. So far, many of their fears have been realized, according to a Times-Union investigation:

  • Over the program’s first 25 months, controversial assessments known as “Initial Skills Reviews” delayed benefits for more than 120,000 job applicants.
  • Of those, nearly 15,000 were deemed ineligible for benefits only because they did not complete the reviews, which were not required prior to the 2011 changes.
  • Work overseeing the reviews — a contract worth nearly $5 million so far — was not competitively bid and was lumped into an existing state contract held by a Republican Party donor.

The flawed website has captured all the headlines as applicants flood Scott’s office with complaints, and Democrats try to use the issue as a political battering-ram. The 2011 reforms signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott required claims be filed online. Prior to that, only 55 percent of those seeking claims did so online.

Unnoticed, though, 120,006 people seeking unemployment compensation through September faced delays in receiving benefits for not completing the Initial Skills Review. That’s about one out of every eight applicants.

Of the 120,000, some 14,755 applicants were deemed ineligible for unemployment compensation benefits for failure to complete the Initial Skills Review, state records show.

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DON GAETZ WILL ALSO SUPPORT REPEAL OF RED-LIGHT CAMERA LAW

Senate President Gaetz joins Speaker Will Weatherford in welcoming a bill to repeal Florida’s controversial Red Light Camera program.

In a statement closely mirroring the Speaker’s earlier comments, Gaetz told reporters last week in a televised interview that he would support a bill revoking the state’s red-light camera law.

Last week, Weatherford told The News Service of Florida that he would support repeal, but also acknowledged that it probably would not happen in 2014.

Both Gaetz and Weatherford appeared in the interview; the Republican Speaker declared that instead of repeal, it is more likely that the Legislature will increase regulations on the use of  cameras by municipalities.

RLCs have been a contentious issue, more so since opponents now can point to a newly released study by the Florida Legislature Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability, saying cameras are primarily for local governments to bring in revenues, and haven’t significantly reduced accidents.

TUESDAY, TALLAHASSEE COMMITTEES ARE IN FULL SWING Full blog post here

On Tuesday, the Florida Capitol fills with action, with committees examining a number of legislative issues:

9 a.m. — Florida Lottery, a pilot program to separate boys and girls into different classrooms, a proposal to restrict the collection of biometric information.

10 a.m. — Professionalize staff at DCF in an effort to improve the child welfare system, universities’ right to raise tuition based on inflation.

11:30 a.m. — “We Want Clean Water” rally.

1 p.m. — banning sale of e-cigarettes to minors, a pilot program for children with mental illnesses, bills regulating the agreements between charters and the school districts, state regulations on charities, an electronic cigarette bill, a proposal to allow county tax collectors to handle concealed weapon permit applications, and a measure to toughen penalties for fatal hit-and-run accidents.

2 p.m. — changing the state’s pension plan and a regulatory framework for telemedicine.

3:30 p.m. — giving nurse practitioners more control in treatment without the supervision of doctors.

TONIGHT’S JAM-PACKED FUNDRAISING LINE-UP

5:00 – 6:00 p.m. – Rep. Michael Bileca, Rep. Jose F. Diaz, Rep. Carlos Trujillo at Beer Industry of Florida

5:00 – 7:00 p.m. – Chris Latvala for HD 67 & Chris Sprowls for HD 65 at Florida Retail Federation

5:00 – 7:00 p.m. – Rep. Erik Fresen at Governors Club – North Balcony

5:30 – 7:00 p.m. – Sen. Maria Sachs at Clyde’s & Costello’s

5:30 – 7:00 p.m. – Rep. Charles McBurney at Governors Club – Private Dining Room

5:30 – 7:00 p.m. – Rep. Jason Brodeur at FL Health Care Association, 307 W Park Avenue

5:30 – 7:00 p.m. – Rep. Richard Stark at Governors Club – South Balcony

5:30 – 7:00 p.m. – Rep. Ben Albritton & Rep. Jake Reburn at Governors Club – Board Room

5:30 – 7:00 p.m. – Brad Drake for HD 5 at Governors Club – BC Room

5:30 – 7:00 p.m. – Scott Sturgill for HD 30 at Governors Club – BC

5:30 – 7:00 p.m. – Sen. Joe Negron at Florida Retailors Association

6:30 – 8:00 p.m. – Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. & Rep. Jeanette Nunez at 228 Andrews

JEB BUSH ENDORSES FRED COSTELLO’S BID TO RETURN TO FLORIDA HOUSE Full blog post here 

Costello is seeking the District 25 seat currently held by Rep. Dave Hood, who’s now running for a judgeship. The Volusia County dentists filed to run for the House earlier this month and, according to Sunshine State News, is already brandishing some big names as supporters.

In addition to Bush, Costello has also been endorsed by local leaders he worked with including former Congresswoman Sandy Adams, former state senator Locke Burt, former Daytona Beach mayor Glenn Ritchey, as well as numerous current local elected officials and legislators from across Florida. 

Costello first entered politics when he was elected to the Ormond Beach City Commission in 1999. He then served as the city’s mayor from 2002 through 2010. 

***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.***

LOBBYISTS FOR SPECIAL DISTRICTS GETTING SPECIAL ATTENTION via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

A Florida Senate panel took steps Monday toward requiring lobbyists working the state’s almost 1,000 independent special districts to register and publicly disclose how much they get paid.

Palm Beach County, alone, has more than 60 such districts, ranging from the huge South Florida Water Management District to municipal airport, port, drainage and community development districts.

“There’s no reporting, no accountability and nobody knows who their lobbyists are,” said committee Chairman Jack Latvala. “Without this bill, there is nothing.”

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Charles Dudley, Gary Guzzo, Teye Reeves, Robert Reyes, Scott Ross  Floridian Partners: League of Southeastern Credit Unions & Affiliates

SPOTTED at this past weekend’s ForEverglades Benefit: Senator and Mrs. Joe Negron, Sen. Wilton Simpson, Rep. James Grant, Erick and Tanya Eickenberg, Nick and Debbie Iarossi, Candace Ericks, Chris and Susanne Dudley, Rick and Merritt Lindstrom, Mike and Sarah Bascom, Anna and CB Upton, Chris and Ally Schoonover, Jennifer Lux, Walker and Krisen Bridges, John Sebree.

STEVE PRECOURT TO LEAD GHYABI & ASSOCIATES via Fatima Hussein of the Daytona Beach News-Journal

Former state Representative Steve Precourt has joined Ghyabi & Associates as its new chief executive officer.

Precourt, who also has become a partner in the locally based engineering firm, served in the Florida State legislature for seven years, and is a former House Republican Majority Leader. He also served as chairman of the House finance and tax committee. He resigned from the state legislature in January.

He takes over the CEO reins at Ghyabi & Associates from Maryam Ghyabi, who founded the firm in Ormond Beach. Ghyabi will remain principal owner and board chairwoman.

Ghyabi & Associates is a transportation engineering, civil engineering, and planning firm with offices in Jacksonville, Orlando as well as Ormond Beach.

The firm opened its Orlando office at 315 East Robinson St. in late January, coinciding with the closing of its office in Lake Mary.

WENCE TRONCOSO JOINS FLORIDA ASSOCIATION OF HEALTH PLANS

The Florida Association of Health Plans, Inc. (FAHP) on Monday announced that Wences Troncoso has joined the association to serve as vice president and general counsel.   

Troncoso most recently served as the Deputy Insurance Commissioner for Life and Health at the OIR.  In his role at the OIR, Troncoso oversaw the daily activities of the Life and Health Product Review, and Life and Health Financial Oversight Unit.  Prior to joining OIR, he served as a Public Defender with the 2nd Judicial Circuit for two years.  Troncoso received his Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Florida State University and his Juris Doctor from Barry University.  

“Wences brings an abundance of knowledge and experience to the Florida Association of Health Plans with a background in providing oversight and services to insurers operating in Florida,” said Audrey Brown, president and CEO of FAHP.  “The addition of Wences is vital for the association, as his knowledge base will allow us to better serve our members and continue to be a valued resource to Florida’s policymakers during this critical time in deciding the future landscape of health care in Florida.  We welcome Wences and look forward to him joining our outstanding team of professionals.”

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Rep. Marlene O’Toole.

CONTEXT FLORIDA: PAM BONDI & THE EPA, CRIST & CUBA, 21ST CENTURY POLITICS AND THE BOSTON MARATHON

On Context Florida: Federal overreach is the reason Attorney General Pam Bondi joined 21 other states in the lawsuit against the EPA over the Chesapeake Bay Blueprint. Signing the friend-of-the-court brief led by Kansas was to defend individual states’ authority in setting environmental regulation, Bondi writes. Contrary to reports, the effort cost no taxpayer money. What happens in Cuba is extremely important to Florida, says former state Sen. John Grant. Charlie Crist, who changed his position on Cuba so he “can always say he agreed with everyone’s position at one time or another,” is currently right on this issue, Grant adds. Protesting Democratic candidate Charlie Crist at a book signing in Jacksonville, Julie Delegal spotted several high-profile state and county GOP leaders. Is this what 21st Century politics will look like? You’d think they had better things to do. Catherine Durkin Robinson talks of motivations and training for the upcoming Boston Marathon, as well as thoughts on the terror of last year’s event, and how Marathon Strides Against MS gave her one more reason to “conquer something important.”

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

UF REPORTS FEWER SHARK ATTACKS IN 2013, ABOVE-AVERAGE FATALITIES WORLDWIDE via Stephanie Livingston of the University of Florida

The world experienced the lowest number of shark attacks since 2009, although fatalities in 2013 were above average, according to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File report released today.

 The U.S. saw a decrease in attacks with 47, lower than the 2012 total of 54, which was the highest yearly total of the current century. There were 10 fatalities worldwide, which is higher than the 10-year average from 2003-2012. Two localities, Western Australia (six deaths in past four years) and Reunion Island (five deaths in three years) in the southwest Indian Ocean, remained shark-attack hot spots, while places where shark activity is typically rare or nonexistent also experienced attacks, said George Burgess, curator of the file housed at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus.

Seventy-two unprovoked attacks occurred worldwide, which was lower than 2012 and represents the lowest global total since 2009 when there were 67 attacks. In recent years, Burgess said, globalization, tourism and population growth worldwide have led to shark attacks in historically low-contact areas like Reunion Island, Papua New Guinea, Madagascar, Solomon Island and the small island Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, which in 2013 saw its first recorded shark attack. As more people enter the water in these areas, they become equal opportunity locations for shark-human interaction, he said.

Traditionally leading the world in shark attacks, North American waters saw 34 attacks in 2013 compared with 43 in 2012. Yearly fluctuations in attacks are normal because changes in ocean systems and economics, and human conditions affect the opportunities for humans to encounter sharks, Burgess said.

Florida led the country with 23, followed by Hawaii (13), South Carolina (6) and one each in Alabama, California, North Carolina, Oregon and Texas. The single U.S. fatality occurred in Hawaii.

Most incidents in Florida occurred in Volusia County (8), a historical hot spot that has experienced more than one-third of Florida’s shark attacks, which is attributable to the heavy draw of surfers and tourists to its attractive beaches, Burgess said.

 

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.