Sunburn for 3/4 — 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. You need their team on your side during this Legislative session for media, grassroots and netroots support. Visit to read about their team and how they can help you.


The regular legislative session convenes Tuesday, and shortly after lawmakers gavel in, Governor Rick Scott is expected to deliver the annual state of the state address. 

The guess is Scott will speak heavily about education, trumpeting his proposed increase in education spending and a hoped-for across the board pay raises for classroom teachers. 

Less likely is that the governor will talk much about a difference that’s already emerged between Scott and lawmakers – a call by the governor for lawmakers to dramatically increase the number of people eligible for Medicaid in an effort to boost health care coverage.

The Senate has made it pretty clear that it plans to pass top priority ethics legislation early – likely as the first bill, and likely this week. One ethics measure is already on the calendar, and expected to come up Tuesday, the only day the Senate actually holds a floor session this week. 

The News Service of Florida has a full listing of the week’s events here.

CRITICS RAP ACTIONS OF JEB BUSH FOUNDATION via William March of the Tampa Tribune

Among the activities of Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education that have come in for criticism: It pays for state officials and legislators to go to conferences where they meet with the company’s donors, including officials of corporations who stand to gain from the policymakers’ decisions.

In recent years, several Florida Department of Education officials and legislators have attended the conferences, and in some cases, their flights, hotel stays, meals and incidentals were paid for with money that came partly from the foundation’s corporate donors.

At these events, the state officials attended meetings, panel discussions, meals and receptions also attended by those donors.

The donors include companies that sell testing services, high-tech learning products and charter school services to the state and to Florida school systems, or that would like to.

Normally, it’s illegal for lobbyists or lobbying organizations to provide benefits such as free trips to Florida legislators or top executive branch officials.

But the Foundation for Excellence in Education escapes that prohibition because lobbyists on its staff are registered to another, closely related Bush foundation – even though the two share key staff members and even their Tallahassee address.

TWEET, TWEET: @SaintPetersBlog: Shocked to NOT see @TBOpolitics story knocking @JebBush’s foundation isn’t on @SayfieReview.


Rubio and Christie … will be in Palm Beach next week for separate fundraisers before heading to Coral Gables for a weekend with top Republican National Committee donors.

Christie … will attend a $3,800-a-head cocktail reception on March 7 at the home of Jana and John Scarpa.

Rubio is slated to raise money the following night for his Rubio Victory Committee with a $1,000 cocktail reception at the home of Jim and Dot Patterson and a $10,000-a-person dinner at the home of Pepe Fanjul

On March 9 and 10, Rubio and Christie will be at The Biltmore in Coral Gables for an RNC event that also features Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Texas Sen. and tea party superstar Ted Cruz.


Much like the national House landscape, Florida’s congressional playing field could be the smallest in years this cycle.

“My sense is this year is going to be more ’98-esque,” Florida Democratic strategist Steve Schale said, referring to a midterm election in which every Florida congressional incumbent won. “It doesn’t feel like it’s going to be a wave election.”

… Some Republicans fear Scott could be a motivating factor for more Democrats to turn out to vote. But others doubt Scott will have an effect.

“Long story short, federal races will be decided on federal issues, not on the governor’s race,” said Rick Wilson, a Florida-based GOP strategist.

***From Christina Johnson, On 3 Public Relations:  “I recall my excitement, coming to Tallahassee for my first session, working for a hometown state representative. I worked hard and met some wonderful people in the process who helped me, some of whom I still see today. Three short years later I was in Washington, working for the Republican National Committee.  So to the legislators, who sought this role in leadership and representing Floridians’ interests, we wish you all the best.  To the young men and women working in legislative offices, perhaps in their very first job – please work hard, stay strong, have fun, and dream large. You are a part of an incredible process and the truly greatest show on earth.”***


A new Florida Insider Poll by the Tampa Bay Times finds more than seven in 10 of the state’s most experienced politicos say Scott is unlikely to face a serious primary challenge.

We asked who would make the strongest primary challenger to Scott, Putnam, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Senate President Don Gaetz, or House Speaker Will Weatherford. Putnam was the clear favorite, with 53 percent picking him, Bondi and Atwater each earning 15 percent of the vote, and Weatherford 14 percent. Still, 55 percent said Scott would still win even against the strongest challenger.

Sorry, Mr. Senate President, but not a soul named you the strongest primary candidate.

Nearly all of those surveyed were confident Scott will in fact run for a second term, but Democrats and Republicans split on the likelihood of him winning a second term. Strikingly, neither the Republican nor Democratic insiders were overwhelmingly confident about the 2014 governor’s race. Three out of four Democrats predicted Scott would lose re-election, while just 59 percent of Republicans predicted he would win a second term.

TWEET OF THE DAY: @ananavarro: Scott vs @willweatherford in ’14? Column is hypothetical. I admit, struck me as neither implausible nor unappealing 


As a member of Congress from 2001-2011, Putnam voted for budget-busting legislation — including the massive Medicare prescription-drug entitlement program estimated to cost nearly $1 trillion over a decade. Putnam also stuffed the federal budget with hometown-spending and helped override vetoes by President Bush on what the White House called a “fiscally irresponsible” Medicare bill and a $300 billion farm bill.


Whatever the reason there is no question that Putnam and his staff have been put on the defensive in back-to-back legislative sessions because each year the governor’s office has hinted at the possibility of a veto of Putnam’s top legislative priority. 

… But that wasn’t the end of the tug-of-war between the Scott administration and Putnam’s office. … Another warning shot from Scott to Putnam came right after the governor signed his first budget into law. In his veto message Scott openly questioned the “value” of two divisions under Putnam including the Division of Consumer Services. He wrote that Putnam’s office had not done a good enough job to justify the money spent on the two divisions and suggested he might eliminate it in the future.

The tension between Scott and Putnam has also been on display during meetings between the governor and the Cabinet. If you watch closely there have been numerous times that Putnam has gingerly waded into some issue, only to cut himself off and not press the item any further. It almost seems as if he wants to say something, but then decides it’s not worth the fight.

… The biggest question moving ahead is whether Putnam, Bondi or Atwater take time to keep up their opposition to Medicaid expansion and actively lobby against it in the Legislature. 

… But with 2014 right around the corner it will be interesting to see whether or not Putnam – as well as Bondi and Atwater – decide to ratchet up their profiles and battles with the governor. 


As chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, he has a problem: His boss, Gov. Scott, is attempting to save his political skin by embracing the very policy he entered national politics attempting to defeat: Obamacare.

So this week, Curry used a strategy memo by an obscure North Carolina group to launch a call for “civility” in politics — and to try and turn attention away from the upheaval in his own house.

… Here’s the real story: Republicans are worried they have a second Charlie Crist on their hands. With Scott flip-flopping on his signature health-care issue, how else might he abandon conservatives over the next two sessions?


During a 26-minute speech to a Hollywood Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Crist hopscotched through an expansive range of topics: immigration (good), climate change (bad), solar energy (good), wind power (good), public schools (good), efforts to restrict voting (bad), law enforcement officers (good), cooperation and working together (good).

Crist said it was wrong to devalue teachers one year and pretend to be their friend the next. During his first two years in office, Scott effectively reduced pay by requiring new pension contributions from teachers and signed legislation to link their pay to student performance. This year he wants to give each teacher a raise.

Crist was also sharply critical of changes implemented under Scott that made it more difficult for Floridians to vote in last year’s election, something widely blamed for contributing to long lines, and the current governor’s refusal to extend early voting hours the way Crist did in 2008 in response to lengthy waits.

“It would seem if the lines are that long in early voting or otherwise the chief executive might take it upon him or herself to sign an executive order to expand the hours,” Crist said. “Where’s your heart?”

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The draft language, which few lawmakers have seen yet, includes a grandfather clause, definition of a “small business insurance carrier” and outlines enrollment periods for health exchanges.

The bill draft also relaxes state rules in a way that would allow new federal standards to take hold, such as limiting the ability of insurance carriers to vary health premiums based on age and sex. This is a provision of the health care law aimed at standardizing how health insurers price products, but  industry watchdogs says it may cause healthy adults to pay higher premiums.

… Ryan Duffy, spokesman for House Speaker Will Weatherforddefended the uses of a single consultant to draft language for both chambers, even though they are supposed to act as a check and balance against each other.

“He was hired because he’s worked in both the House and Senate. He has a very, very specific skill set that no one our our staff has,” Duffy said. “Once the language is drafted, members have the ability to change it. We don’t have to take anything. There is no agreement.”


House and Senate committees studying the health care law could make their recommendations Monday.

Rep. Richard Corcoran said earlier this week he remains “skeptical” about adding roughly 1 million Floridians to Medicaid.

If the Democratic caucus holds strong in the House, they would still need 17 Republicans to support Medicaid expansion to get a bill passed. So far only one, Rep. Mike Fasano of New Port Richey, has pledged to cross party lines.

Senate President Gaetz said that if the House opposes an expansion, senators would insist on an alternative that expanded access to health insurance.

“I think the Legislature can’t say, ‘No, no, hell no,’ ” he told theMiami Herald‘s editorial board this week. “If the answer of either the House or the Senate is not Medicaid expansion, then there has to be some policy alternative. Otherwise we’re being naive.”


Amy Baker, coordinator of the Legislature’s Office of Economic & Demographic Research, said she will make a presentation Monday to lawmakers about potential Medicaid costs and broader impacts of the Affordable Care Act. She said her presentation will use data that has been updated since analysts met last August to try to pinpoint the Medicaid expansion costs. She is scheduled to address a joint meeting of House and Senate select committees that have been studying the federal health law better known as Obamacare. That joint meeting will start at 8:30 a.m. The House select committee is then scheduled to meet at 11 a.m., followed by a meeting of the Senate select committee at 1 p.m.


When state legislators get together Monday in Tallahassee to discuss Medicaid expansion in Florida, let’s hope they don’t talk in vague generalities and meaningless buzzwords.

That nonsense may play well on talk radio, but it’s beneath the office of elected officials. It is the language of those with an abundance of fury and a lack of facts.

… If the Legislature fails to approve Medicaid expansion, hospitals will no longer be reimbursed for billions of dollars in uncompensated emergency care.

Frankly, this should be an easy call for Republican lawmakers. Gov. Rick Scott has already done the hard work for them. The governor is as aligned with conservative ideals as anyone, and even he has capitulated.

By supporting Medicaid expansion, Scott has provided cover to the rest of the party. Even diehard conservatives can say they were following the governor on this one.

***Come celebrate with Florida’s premier think tank, The James Madison Institute, on Wed., March 13, 2013 at JMI’s 25th Anniversary Gala to be held at The University Center Club at Florida State University. Watch the video invitation from event guest speaker, Speaker of the Florida House Will Weatherford. Follow updates on Twitter: #JMI25***

ADVICE FOR WILL WEATHERFORD via Lucy Morgan of the Tampa Bay Times

You are the first speaker to come from Pasco in 120 years. Hopefully you won’t be the last.

You have plenty of promise. But you need to be careful. There are a lot of pitfalls along the way for a nice guy in this town. Some speakers fail because they are not mean enough. Others grow too comfortable with the power, and a precious few turn out to be a bit crazy.

ou can make a difference. At 33 years old, you are one of the youngest speakers ever and likely to have a lot of senior members and lobbyists trying to tell you what to do. Watch out. Not all of them will have your best interests at heart.

Take the lobbyists seriously but keep them at arm’s length. There are nice ones, some smart ones and some downright cutthroats who wouldn’t mind sacrificing you on the altar of making more money for a well-heeled client.

When you see herds of lobbyists on either side of an issue, think twice. You might be better off pleasing neither side.



From property insurance and foreclosure reform, to implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and shoring up the state’s embattled education system, the issues are complicated and challenging.

Much of the debate in recent years has been driven by ideology, but this year the Republican-led Legislature faces no election. After Florida voted to re-elect Democrat Barack Obama, the political rhetoric of GOP leaders has inched closer to the middle. The Legislature is undergoing an image makeover.

… In other areas, decadeslong fights over whether to tax Internet sales in Florida could be resolved with a bill getting unprecedented attention this year. For the first time in six years, legislators are prepared to take on the utility giants and rewrite a law that has given power companies the power to charge customers for nuclear power plants before they are built. A bill to ban texting while driving is also getting new traction.

And to improve the Legislature’s low rankings in the polls, lawmakers are on track to pass two bills early in the session with broad bipartisan support: a rewrite of the state’s ethics laws and another to restore early voting days back to 14 from eight after the Election Day embarrassment.


Intent on wiping their chambers clean of the toxic atmosphere that has permeated politics in the state Capitol and beyond for more than two years, Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford have made ethics, elections and campaign finance reform their top priorities for the 2013 legislative session that begins on Tuesday. 

… While Gaetz said he is an enthusiastic supporter of Weatherford, he doesn’t expect his House counterpart to be his best buddy.

“My 30-year-old son does not play with his 3-year-old daughter. We’re in different generations. I don’t have the expectation that Mike had that Will Weatherford and I are going to hold hands in the warm spring rain,” Gaetz said, referring somewhat sardonically to the relationship of his predecessor, Mike Haridopolos with former House Speaker Dean Cannon.

***SUNBURN is brought to you in part by Bascom Communications & Consulting, LLC, a top-notch public affairs, political communications and public relations firm.  Visit to read about their growing team, success stories and case studies.***

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: House Majority Leader Steve Precourt announced that the House Republican Conference will meet at 2:00 p.m. today to conduct the ceremony to nominate Representative Steve Crisafulli to serve as Speaker of the Florida House for the 2014-2016 legislative term. 


The Legislature kicks off its two-month lawmaking marathon Tuesday, but there’s still no official push to let the state crack down harder on elections supervisors who bungle their duties. The top lawmaker delving into elections reform, Sen. Jack Latvala, has stressed the idea does warrant discussion.

“I do think this is an issue that we’re going to want to debate in this committee as we put this bill together,” Latvala told the Ethics and Elections Committee he chairs on Feb. 5.

But Sen. President Don Gaetz stressed that it’s not a top concern.

“I don’t know that giving the governor or the state more authority to remove someone takes the place of having someone who can actually do the job,” Gaetz said.


State employees who choose a 401(k)-style retirement plan instead of one with a guaranteed benefit would get a discount on how much the state deducts from their paychecks under a bill filed Friday. Under the measure (SB 1392), filed by Sen. Wilton Simpson, employees who join the investment plan would contribute just 2 percent of their income to their retirement, while those in the more traditional pension plan would still contribute 3 percent.

“By creating incentives for employees to opt into the investment plan, the choice to have more control over individual retirement savings remains in the hands of the employee,” said Simpson in a statement issued by his office. “This will ultimately help us to increase the pension fund’s long-term sustainability and give more of our state employees the option of having control of their own financial future just as their peers do in the private sector.”

The plan would also automatically put new employees into the investment plan unless they choose the traditional pension plan in a certain time period, and increase the vesting period for new employees by two years, to 10. It is less sweeping than a House plan to close the traditional pension program to new members and put them in the investment plan, a key priority for Speaker Weatherford.

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Representatives Lori Berman of Delray Beach, Reggie Fullwood of Jacksonville, José Rodríguez of Miami, Hazelle Rogers of Lauderdale Lakes and Joe Saunders of Orlando have been appointed Democratic Deputy Whips.

“Deputy whips are an important position, which includes the careful review of all legislation that comes before the Florida House of Representatives,” Democratic Whip Alan Williams said. “Their task also involves counting votes and communicating the Democratic Caucus position to other caucus members. I am confident that we have assembled an effective and great team.”


Danish senses a better mood in Tallahassee: Danish, who will take a leave of absence from school during the session and have a substitute take over his class, views his election and that of two other teachers last fall as a message from voters. “When three teachers get elected to the legislature, people are making a statement that they want average people to represent them,” he said.

Raburn, house’s youngest member, readies for role: The freshman legislator seems to be finding his way with relative ease. He’s sponsoring bills dealing with insurance, education and the Department of Citrus. He has toured state facilities and met with constituents. He’s even scheduled to do a ribbon cutting.

 Humble Raulerson looks to reduce government, earn respect: “I don’t see myself as being a part of the government, okay? I’m there to make sure the government is doing what it’s supposed to be doing, and to make laws that make sense,” Raulerson said as he leaned back in his desk chair at his Plant City district office, hands locked behind his head, leg braced against the desk. “I’m not there to be part of the culture. I’m not there to advocate for the government. I’m there as a watchdog. So, I’m a normal Joe, just like anybody else.”


Off: Legislative aide Rashida Bartley has left the office of Sen. Dwight Bullard.

Off: Legislative aide Karen Skyers has left the office of Sen. Arthenia Joyner.

***Today’s SUNBURN is also sponsored by Corcoran & Johnston Government Relations. With more than 45 years of combined legislative and regulatory knowledge and experience, Corcoran & Johnston’s ability to navigate through the processes and politics of government and deliver for their clients is unmatched.***

LEGISLATIVE CMTE. PREVIEWS via the News Service of Florida

House and Senate select committees that have been studying the federal Affordable Care Act will hold a joint meeting to hear an economic analysis of the law and the potential expansion of Medicaid. 

After holding a joint  meeting, House and Senate select committees will hold separate, back-to-back meetings to discuss how to carry out the federal Affordable Care Act. That could include signaling whether they think the state should expand eligibility for Medicaid, a highly controversial idea that was backed last month by Gov. Rick Scott. 

In the House

House Select Committee on Gaming meets: While little action is expected in the coming session on gambling, other than a potential moratorium on the Internet Cafes that have become the mainstay of many strip malls across Florida, staff of the House Select Committee on Gaming and representatives from the Seminole Tribe of Florida are scheduled on Monday to discuss the state’s compact that gives the tribe exclusive gaming rights.  

In the Senate

The Senate Agriculture Committee takes up a measure (SB 752) that would allow tax credits for certain indoor agricultural operations, a measure that would let nutrition groups and contractors that run systems for accepting electronic state benefits cards to operate at farmers markets and other open air markets that sell fresh produce (SB 778). The panel also takes up legislation dealing with agricultural storage and shipping containers (SB 654), and disabled accessibility at self-service gas stations (SB 902). 

Want to look at my cell phone? Get a warrant: Police would need a warrant to seize information off any portable electronic device, such as a cell phone, under a bill (SB 846) that’s before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Monday. The Senate’s staff analysis of the measure notes that the bill would create new law in the area of search and seizure, which has changed slowly despite rapid changes in personal communications technology. 

The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee takes up a bill (SB 600) that makes some changes to the law dealing with absentee ballots and the length of ballot questions that voters would see. That proposed change comes in the wake of complaints about long voting lines this past Election Day. The measure, by Sen. Jack Latvaladoesn’t deal with early voting or otherwise with voting times. The committee also holds confirmation hearings on a number of appointees for various boards.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you 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.***


“I love it when they come into town!” Tallahassee Mayor, John Marks is talking about Florida lawmakers. The night before the 2013 legislative session begins, they all gather at the annual Associated Industries of Florida kick-off event.

Tom Feeney is the CEO of AIF, and says, “It’s a great way to celebrate the session that begins Tuesday, and then the work starts, it will be down to serious work, creating jobs and the prosperity of Florida.”

Lawmakers are now in Tallahassee for the next 60 days, and their economic impact is huge. Mayor Marks says they usually generate about $2 million a week.

He says, “Commercial businesses, restaurants, hotels all of these things, they’re a huge benefit to us.”


Get your checkbooks ready, PAC chairs and Tallahassee uber-lobbyists, there are nearly a dozen fundraisers for legislative candidates planned for Monday, the last day lawmakers can raise money before session.

The day kicks-off with a reception at 11:30 a.m. for Charles Van Zant hosted by the Florida Retail Federation (227 South Adams Street). There is also a luncheon reception for Marlene O’Toole beginning at noon in the Governors Board Room of the Governors Club. A fundraising luncheon for John Thrasher is planned for 11:30 a.m. at the Governors Club. Also, Anitere Flores has a high noon fundraiser set for the Board Room of the Governors Club, while Greg Evers will be raising money in the Library Room. 

The evening’s festivities begin with a reception for Representative Manny Diaz, Jr., starting at 4:30 p.m. The function is hosted by Floridian Partners (108 South Monroe Street). 

Next up is a reception for Jim Boyd, Larry Ahern and Ray Pilon at 5:00 p.m., in the Governors Board Room of the GC. At the same time, in the B.C. Room, there is a reception for Representatives Heather Fitzenhagen, Neil Combee, Jake Raburn and Dan Raulerson

Also at 5:00 p.m. is a reception for Dennis Baxley and Dennix Broxson at the Florida Retail Federation and an event for Jamie Grant at the Board Room of the Governors Inn (209 South Adams Street).

Three former State Represenatives looking to make their way back — Scott Plakon, Eric Eisnaugle and Brad Drake — have a reception at 5:00 p.m. in the Capital Room of the Governors Club. 

And if you are on your way to Associated Industries pre-session soiree, stop by the reception for Frank Artiles, Matt Caldwell, Manny Diaz, Jr., Travis Cummings, Jose Oliva and Ray Rodrigues at 7:00 p.m., at 510 North Adams Street, which right next to AIF.

***Representatives from Florida’s aerospace industry will visit Tallahassee on March 6, 2013, 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, as well as the lieutenant governor, to discuss  growing areas of the state’s $8 billion space industry, and determine the best strategies for leveraging these markets for Florida’s benefit in the years ahead.***

4TH FLOOR FILES features Ron Pierce. on’s clients include Florida Association of Community Health Centers, Pepin Distributing, and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Here’s the file on Ron.

APPOINTED: Brian Leslie to the Gainesville-Alachua County Regional Airport Authority.


Molly Koon Kellogg has joined the Florida Department of Health as press secretary. She’ll start the job as department spokeswoman on March 15. Most recently she was  communications director for the Capital Region YMCA, and had held the same position with the Florida Department of Elder Affairs. She also has been a PR representative with Visit Florida.

“The Department of Health has a fundamental responsibility to communicate accurate and timely information,” said John Armstrong, secretary of DOH. “I am pleased to have someone with Ms. Kellogg’s depth of experience join the team in our department which provides excellent communication to the people of Florida and visitors to our state.”


Tiffany Vause has been hired as director of communications for the Florida Office of Financial Regulation.

She most recently was manager of Comprehensive Breast Center at Capital Regional Medical Center, and was marketing director at Capital Regional Medical Center. She has been in the public sector as press secretary for the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration from 2009 to 2010, and a project coordinator at Florida Ready to Work from 2002 to 2009. Katie Norris, who has been acting OFR spokeswoman, will continue as a public information specialist.

***The PA Team of Jack and Keyna Cory and Erin Daly are looking forward to the 2013 Regular Legislative Session.  They “Cover Florida Like the Sun” and will be representing Fortune 500 companies, national and state associations,  Florida businesses and non-profits before the Florida Legislature again this year.  The PA Team will also continue their strategic marketing work for their clients with state and local governments.***

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Ana Cruz and Rep. Manny Diaz Jr.

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.