Sunburn for 3/20 – 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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President Barack Obama will highlight the role of women in the U.S. economy — as well as the challenges they still face — in a visit Thursday to Orlando, in which he’ll appear at the West Campus of Valencia College.

The focus of the event dovetails with efforts the administration has made recently to address issues it considers relevant to women, including raising the minimum wage and addressing income inequality, as women make 77 cents for every $1 earned by a man.

“This year, we should do more to secure a women’s right to equal pay for equal work,” noted the president’s Council of Economic Advisers in a report released earlier this month.

This isn’t the first time that Valencia College has been visited by a member of the president’s inner circle. In June 2012, Jill Biden, a former community college teacher and wife of Vice President Joe Biden, dropped by the school’s West Campus to talk about the link between colleges and the companies that hire recent graduates.


On the most recent “America with Jorge Ramos,” U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio insisted that his current high profile priority on U.S. foreign policy in Venezuela is not part of a larger comeback strategy.

“I’ve been engaged forcefully in foreign policy debates since I was first elected here … the Libya debate … Syria. … I’m on the Foreign Relations Committee and … the Intelligence Committee,” Rubio responded. “So perhaps people are noticing more now, but it certainly hasn’t changed from our perspective. … I’ve taken trips to over 12 different countries in my three years here.”

Ramos followed up by asking: “So that has nothing to do with the backlash after you supported immigration reform?”

“No,” Rubio said. “Within weeks of being here, I took a trip to Afghanistan, Kuwait and Pakistan and thereafter follow-up trips to Haiti, and Israel and Jordan and Libya and South Korea and Japan.”


That’s what Josh Kraushaar declares over at National Journal: “FreedomWorks issued an unusual round of endorsements this week. The conservative group, which won publicity for backing intraparty challenges to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Rep. Mike Simpson, decided to play it safe this time. It endorsed three senators and nine congressmen, none of whom face any serious competition-Republican or Democratic. It stayed out of the contested Oklahoma primary for Sen. Tom Coburn’s seat, but endorsed Republican James Inhofe, who doesn’t face any GOP opposition. In South Carolina, FreedomWorks is backing Sen. Tim Scott, who’s a lock for reelection, but it isn’t doing anything against vulnerable Sen. Lindsey Graham, who’s also on the ballot this year.

“All told, it’s a sign that the group has stopped sticking its neck out for long-shot conservative insurgents and is content to put some easy victories on the board. It’s a far cry from the early ambitions of the aggressively antiestablishment group, which entered the cycle boldly challenging sitting senators, including the chamber’s most powerful Republican. Now they’re content to focus on their support for members of Congress who are as close to reelection locks as they come. Indeed, FreedomWorks’ latest slam-dunk endorsements are emblematic of scaled-back ambitions from leading outside conservative groups.”


To hear Republican strategists involved with David Jolly’s campaign tell it, the newest Republican in Congress owes his victory to a “Honeybadger.” That’s what officials at National Republican Congressional Committee call the voter database they’ve spent a year tirelessly building from scratch, a system they argue was essential to Jolly’s surprising win in last week’s special election in Florida.

Led by Honeybadger, a continually updating system that integrates real-time data with existing voter files, they say they were able to track voters they had to target, discover what messages would motivate them to go to the polls, and project exactly how much ground Jolly had to recover when early absentee voting didn’t swing his way.

Even in December, when the race was in its infancy, GOP officials using Honeybadger determined there were two key groups of voters it identified as essential to Jolly’s victory: Republican seniors and independent and center-right women. The NRCC, along with assistance from the Republican National Committee and Florida state GOP, targeted those voters for persuasion — a process strategists say was accomplished in part by combining their own information with what was available at the RNC’s revamped Data Trust, a central hub of voter information for GOP campaigns.

In late February, NRCC strategists estimated that, among those who had returned absentee ballots, Honeybadger showed Jolly trailing Democrat Alex Sink by six points. Among those who hadn’t yet voted, the system indicated that he led by 12 to 14 points.

So Republicans targeted voters whom the database identified as essential to victory and the most likely to turn out. And to encourage them, they didn’t just deploy a stale message. Strategists at the NRCC and within its legally separate independent expenditure team had measured which messages were most effectively persuading voters to turn in their ballots.

In this case, they turned to a message—delivered across a variety of digital platforms and email—that focused on urging them to vote now or watch Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi move one step closer to reclaiming the speaker’s gavel.


Is former Gov. Charlie Crist edging away from his support of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, in the wake of Alex Sink’s unexpected loss in the Pinellas County congressional race?

Crist’s campaign says no, and Crist adds that he’ll be with Obama at fundraisers in South Florida Thursday.

But a comparison of a couple of his recent statements on the issue – one immediately before the election and one after it — raise the question of whether there’s been a change.

Sink, a Democrat backed by Crist, lost — unexpectedly, at least to some — in the special election March 11 to replace the late U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young.

The race focused heavily on the ACA, with Jolly basing much of his campaign on allegations that Sink would be a rubber stamp for President Barack Obama and a supporter of the ACA. He contended the health care reform plan would harm Medicare, particularly the Medicare Advantage program that’s highly popular among Florida elderly.


The total cost the state expects to pay for special elections has increased from $500,000 to $2.1 million, according to state budget staff.

When a special election is needed, local election officials pick up the initial cost. After a verification process, the state is required to reimburse local supervisors of elections for the cost.

When the Department of State made its initial budget request in January, it thought $500,000 would be enough to cover the tab. It’s the same number requested in Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed budget.

The House’s proposed budget has requested $2.1 million in already needed reimbursements, while the Senate wants $2.6 million for any potential future special elections.

SHOT: Headline in yesterday’s Tallahassee Democrat: “Southerland: Transportation bill vital for Florida”   

CHASER: Rep. Southerland voted against 2013 Transportation Bill – HR 5972, 6/29/12

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ASKEW MOURNED BY HUNDREDS IN TALLAHASSEE via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

In a large church that was nearly filled to capacity, Florida fondly remembered former Gov. Reubin Askew Wednesday as a man of strong convictions and deep faith who brought his state into the modern era and had the courage and resolve to tell people what they needed to hear.

Faith Presbyterian Church in Tallahassee was crowded with nearly 800 people, including Gov. Rick Scott and five former governors: Bob Graham, Wayne Mixson, Bob Martinez, Buddy MacKay and Charlie Crist. Former Gov. Jeb Bush was unable to attend due to long-standing commitments to meet with Tennessee state officials. Dozens of legislators also attended, along with the Cabinet, Supreme Court justices and people who worked for Askew, served in the Legislature when he did, or were touched by his life.

The most moving eulogy was delivered by Jim Bacchus, who left his job as a young Orlando Sentinel reporter to take a job as a 24-year-old speechwriter for Askew in the governor’s office.

Excerpts from the four eulogies at former Gov. Askew’s memorial service:

Former U.S. Rep. Jim Bacchus, who was a speech writer and aide to Askew … “Reubin Askew didn’t need to put his finger in the wind to find out what he believed. You knew what he believed, because he told you. And he didn’t care if he lost the election because he told you because he only wanted to be in office if he could get there in the right way so that he could serve in the right way, because it was all about service. Yes, limit government. This is America. We want limited government. But also use government. It belongs to the people. Use it to help the people where it can and where it should, and help those especially who can’t help themselves.”

Former FSU President Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte, who served in the Legislature with Askew … “He was called ‘Reubin the Good.’ Isn’t that remarkable? … When you think about Reubin Askew, you think about a person with good character, good judgment and charm. … In Florida, we’ve had a number of great public servants, people that we liked and admired. But I believe that we’ve had two people who we loved, and those people were LeRoy Collins and Reubin Askew, and in fact, LeRoy Collins inspired Reubin Askew. My thesis is, that the two of them shared a very uncommon trait. They both had this uncommon political courage. You do not see this in many people.”

Son Kevin Askew of Tallahassee … “When I was at my father’s bedside the last few days, he asked me, ‘Son, I want you to speak. But keep it short.’ This was coming from my father, who had a hard time keeping it short. The father my sister and I know is a kind, gentle man. He was fair to both of us. … If I continue my life as half the man he was, I’ll be doing pretty good.”

Granddaughter Rachel Bullock of Lakeland … “We didn’t always get the approval we were looking for, but he was always there for us.”

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The education foundation founded by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has launched a new web site and advertising campaign to support the Common Core math and language arts standards facing criticism in many states.

The campaign by the Foundation For Excellence in Education is called “Learn More. Go Further.”

The web site features videos of teachers (they volunteered) answering common questions and explaining the standards, and interactive maps showing where the standards have been challenged. An ad began airing yesterday on television and cable and will run for 10 weeks, said Allison Aubuchon, a spokesman with the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which is sponsoring the campaign.

The advertising campaign in the Tampa Bay region targets local news and cable networks such as Animal Planet, HGTV and The Family Channel.

The teachers, there are four of them, are also spreading the campaign on social media.


A gubernatorial appointee to the Florida A&M University Board of Trustees withdrew his nomination on Wednesday, days after the Herald/Times raised questions about his lobbying activities.

Glen Gilzean is the vice president of advocacy and outreach at Step Up for Students, the nonprofit organization that manages Florida’s school voucher program. Step Up is supporting a bill that would expand the program.

In November, the state opined that both Gilzean and Step Up for Students President Doug Tuthill would need to register as lobbyists.

That presented a problem for Gilzean. State law prohibits university trustees from working as registered lobbyists.

In a letter to Gov. Rick Scott, Gilzean said he had “foreseen no conflict between participation on FAMU’s board and my work as vice president of advocacy and outreach for the nonprofit Step Up For Students.”

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Nearly 90 medical and health care organizations support HB 1001 by Rep. Jason Brodeur and SB 1354 by Senator Denise Grimsley that aim to reduce insurance red tape and protect patient access to care. Learn more about this pro-consumer legislation here.


As a Florida House committee voted to create new state agency to regulate gambling, Gov. Scott asked the Senate to put the brakes on its proposal to bring two resort casinos to South Florida so that the legislation would not interfere with his gambling negotiations with the Seminole Tribe.

As a result, Senate Gaming Committee Chairman Garrett Richter abruptly cancelled a meeting scheduled to take up the Senate’s gambling bills.

“The governor’s office called me and asked if we would slow down the process until we know what the terms of a potential deal with the tribe is,’’ Richter told the Herald/Times. He said he expects the vote to be delayed for at least another week and he is optimistic the governor will resolve the gaming compact before session ends in May.

The compact, a legal agreement between the state and the tribe, guarantees that the tribe give the state about $234 million a year in revenue in exchange for the exclusive right to operate slot machines at four casinos outside of Miami-Dade and Broward. It also allows the tribe to operate banked card games — blackjack, chemin de fer and baccarat — at the Hard Rock casinos in Tampa and near Hollywood, plus three other casinos.

The portion of the agreement that relates to table games expires Aug. 1, 2015, and Scott has decided to start negotiating terms of the deal now. If he resolves the agreement, legislators must ratify it and it is uncertain whether that could be completed before session is scheduled to adjourn May 2.


The immigrant tuition bill narrowly won the support of the Senate Education Committee but significant challenges remain ahead.

The proposal, which would allow some undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates at Florida colleges and universities, received a favorable vote after Education Committee Chairman John Legg and bill sponsor state Sen. Jack Latvala made a number of revisions.

Among the changes: the removal of language allowing undocumented students to be considered “residents for tuition purposes.” The bill now seeks to grant partial tuition waivers to undocumented students.

Supporting the proposal: Democratic state Sens. Dwight Bullard, Bill Montford and Maria Lorts Sachs. Republican state Sens. John Legg  and David Simmons also voted favorably.

State Sen. Jeff Brandes , Lizbeth Benacquisto, Bill Galvano and Kelli Stargel voted against the measure.

Galvano’s vote presents a problem for the bill’s supporters.

Galvano chairs the Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee, where the bill is supposed to head next. Galvano said he has not decided whether he would hear the bill in his committee.


Education funding proposals unveiled by the Senate Wednesday are closer to what Gov. Rick Scott’s budget had in mind than plans put forward by the House.

The Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee’s per-student funding would grow by $175.02, or 2.58 percent. Scott’s offer was slightly smaller, at an increase of $168.59 per-student, or 2.49 percent.

The first draft of House education spending plans bumps up spending by $207.98 per student, or 3.07 percent.

Both House and Senate expect to deliver full budget bills by Friday, March 21.

(RE)APPOINTED: Krista K. Joseph and Debbie H. Ressler to the Citrus County Hospital Board.

***Florida should stand up for innovation and consumer choice as the State considers a future that fosters highly-efficient, technology-enabled transportation solutions for consumers and drivers. Uber is a technology platform that operates in over 80 cities in 31 countries. Through a smartphone app, Uber allows riders to seamlessly connect with drivers, making cities more accessible and creating more business opportunities for drivers. Hundreds of thousands of Florida residents and visitors have opened the Uber app in search of efficient, reliable transportation options, but anti-competitive regulations are leaving cities like Miami, Orlando and Tampa behind, at Floridians’ expense. #MoveFLForward***


Both chambers of the Legislature are in session Thursday afternoon; the Senate expects final considerations on making private flood insurance policies available in Florida, prohibit employers from discriminating against pregnant women and a bill allowing people to fire “warning shots” when they feel threatened.

Among the measures the House committees will examine include revising the number of Pharmacy Technicians a pharmacist can monitor, allows the DHSMV to share information with other agencies for Background Screening, permitting Florida tax collectors to accept applications for licenses to carry concealed weapons or firearms and exempting some of the information collected in those applications from public records laws.

A bill to be heard in House committee , called by opponents the “the anti-vacation rental bill,” allows local governments to pass laws, ordinances, or regulations regulating the use of vacation rentals based solely on category, use, or occupancy. Some see it as ending the practice of renting vacation homes for a week or two.

House committees will also consider measures calling on the federal government to provide a balanced budget, and another calling for limits on federal power.


Representatives for consumers, local businesses and pharmacists will head to the Florida Capitol on Thursday to speak out on pending legislation setting a “bill of rights” for pharmacy audits.

Pharmacy Choice and Access Now (PCAN) will join lawmakers and pharmacy advocates for a press conference at 11 a.m. on the fourth floor of the Capitol.

The event will feature two bills — SB 702 and HB 745 — making progress through committees, which provide pharmacists “clear standards” in regards to the audit process.

The legislation, sponsored by State Sen. Aaron Bean and Rep. Travis Cummings, calls for streamlining how Pharmacy Benefit Managers routinely evaluate pharmacies to ensure claims are submitted and handled properly.

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Negron is the top fundraiser among all state Senate candidates running in this fall’s election, having raised more than $553,000 since January 2013.

Negron, a Stuart Republican first elected to the Senate in 2009, received $66,880 in February; campaign finance reports released this month show.

TWEET, TWEET: @SaintPetersBlog: @ChrisLatvala just drew a semi-serious opponent in HD 67, Shawna Vercher. Pinellas is definitely in play in 2014.


Danny Burgess was voted the winner of a debate this week with Minerva Diaz, both of whom plan to seek the Republican nomination for Florida House District 38.

The debate was sponsored by the Conservative Club of East Pasco and held at Zephyrhills Woman’s Club on Monday. Club members voted on the debate’s “winner” at the conclusion of the exchange.

Burgess, mayor of Zephyrhills, and Diaz have launched their campaigns, though neither officially can seek the office until the qualifying period in mid-June.

The early part of Monday’s debate allowed candidates to discuss their qualifications. Burgess spoke of his service as mayor and a city council member in Zephyrhills. Diaz focused on her status as a veteran, serving in the Air Force and attaining the rank of second lieutenant, and her work with mentally ill people.

Burgess and Diaz are the only Republicans who have announced their candidacies, Pasco election officials said. Beverly Ledbetter, a Democrat, had declared her intention to run. Republican primary elections take place Aug. 26 and the general election is Nov. 4.


A group of prominent GOP leaders will turn out next week in support of Bill Young II as he seeks the State House District 68 seat.

Newly-elected U.S. Rep. David Jolly, successor of Young’s father, the late C.W. Bill Young, will be the special guest at the fundraising event on Friday, March 28. The reception will be at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club Waterfront Room, and begins at 5:30 p.m.

Young is running as a Republican for the Pinellas County House seat currently held by first-term Democratic Rep. Dwight Dudley.

More than three dozen Republican supporters will attend the event, including Young’s mother Beverly, brother Patrick, and fellow GOP State candidates Chris Sprowls and Chris Latvala.

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4TH FLOOR FILES features Jim Magill of Fowler White Boggs PA. His clients include Florida Recyclers Association, Time Warner, Inc., and United States Sugar Corporation. Here’s the file on Jim.


Christopher Bailey: National Council on Compensation Insurance

Patrick Bell, Capitol Solutions: Suncoast Caring Community, Inc.

Doug Bruce, Colodny Fass Talenfeld Karlinsky Abate & Webb PA: White Rock Quarries

Michael Corcoran, Michael Cantens, Jeffrey Johnston Amanda Stewart, Corcoran & Johnston: Estate of Lazaro Rodriguez

Jorge Chamizo, Robert Reyes, Floridian Partners: Novitex

Patrick Givens, Cynthia Stevens: Deloitte LLP

Mike Haridopolos, Sarah Sanders, Frank Tasmoutales, Tsamoutales Strategies: Emharu Management Corporation; Rubin Associates, LLC

Richard Hickok: City of Jacksonville, Construction Trades Qualifying Board

Lori Killinger, Terry Lewis, Lewis, Longman & Walker, P.A: Western Communities Council, Inc.

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On Context Florida: The Florida Legislature is once again taking up state pension overhaul of the Florida Retirement System, says political consultant Bob Sparks. The problem is: Will House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz attempt to change a system that is not broken, with more than 86 percent of state pension liabilities fully funded. In the South, writes Gary Stein, a new war is brewing between the states and the federal government. The frenzy over credit card fraud can affect just about anyone, even Maritza Martinez, who had her cards closed and new ones issued even though there was no illegal charges. Sunshine Week begins in Tallahassee, and attorney Florence Snyder reminds readers that the “wheat” of a story can be found in public records, not the “chaff” of press releases peddled by government agencies.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

DUDE, WHERE’S MY UBER? via Megan McArdle of BloombergView

Seattle has joined a long line of cities fighting a dire threat: services like Lyft and UberX that will, if left unchecked … um, give lots of people convenient and affordable rides to their destinations.

The city has capped the number of drivers for its three major services at 450, less than a quarter of the number currently estimated to be operating in the city.

I have not heard regulators evince one creditable reason for their long twilight crusade against Uber and services like it. Most of the time they don’t even try. Nor will they come out and state the real reason: that taxi drivers don’t like competition.

I do feel for taxi drivers. They don’t make very much money, because it’s hard to make a lot of it when your basic equipment is something 90 percent of Americans also possess: a car, as well as the ability to drive it. I don’t blame them for trying to make “the right to drive a taxi” scarce enough to give them some monopoly profits.

But that doesn’t mean I’m obliged to go along at the expense of consumers who are often equally cash-strapped. And while I don’t blame the drivers, I do blame taxi commissioners, who are supposed to be working for the citizens of their cities, not the tiny fraction of those citizens who happen to be professional taxi drivers or the owners of taxi medallions.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to no-holds-barred blogger Jacob Engels, man-about-town Aakash Patel, the legendary Bill Helmich, and Rep. Larry Metz.


Tallahassee rocks out “old-school” next week, with a charity event featuring a State Senator-fronted cover band and a crowd of Florida’s star power brokers, all there for a good cause.

Rock the Moon is a show put on by Rock by the Sea.

Monday’s event is for the Florida chapter of the ALS Association, which seeks a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly called Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The rock-n-roll event is Monday, March 24 at Tallahassee’s Moon club on East Lafayette. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

The Moon is at 1105 East Lafayette Street. Tickets are $10 at the door. For more information, or sponsorship availability, contact Beth Gosnell or visit

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.