A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
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BARBARA BUSH SAYS JEB “MOST QUALIFIED” FOR WHITE HOUSE, CANCELS NEW YORK TIMES SUBSCRIPTION Full blog post here
Barbara Bush believes former Governor Jeb Bush — is the “most qualified” person in the country to run for the White House in 2016.
The former First Lady and mother of the 43rd U.S. President recently praised her other son during an interview with Steve Doocy of “Fox & Friends.” She also admitted that she is not a fan of the New York Times.
“I don’t know if you’re a reader of The New York Times,” Doocy asked, referring to a recent Maureen Dowd column “Brace Yourself for Hillary and Jeb.”
“Did you read about the man [whose] obituary … said, ‘don’t send flowers, don’t send donations to anything, cancel your New York Times subscription.’ So I did.”
“I say in this country, which is such a great country, there are more than three families,” she added.
Bush recently read The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism, the newest historical narrative by Doris Kearns Goodwin, which examines the Progressive Era of the early 20th Century.
In it, Bush said, Kearns Goodwin points out “in the year 1700, there were only three families.”
So she determined that “maybe it’s OK.”
“But he is the best qualified person in the country, there’s no question about it. Put me down as saying that.”
TWEET, TWEET: @GeorgePBush: Thank you to everyone and especially my wife Amanda for their support yesterday! Today we get back to work in bringing our message to voters
BEHIND THE SPEECH THAT LAUNCHED MARCO RUBIO’S COMEBACK via McKay Coppins of BuzzFeed
On the afternoon of Sunday, Feb. 23, Marco Rubio sent a short email to his staff: “Let’s get floor time tomorrow and let’s get two or three blowup exhibits of the most iconic pictures out of Venezuela.”
The expectation on Rubio’s staff was that he would give a straightforward foreign policy speech on an issue that mattered deeply to a distinct swath of his constituents — and that the rest of the country was prone to ignore.
Largely ignoring his scant notes, Rubio described a world in which failing communist states, from Cuba to Venezuela to North Korea, have linked arms in a corrupt campaign to inflict mayhem on people all over the world — and he called on America to stand firmly against them.
Watching the remarks from their office, Rubio’s team was taken aback. “We were a little surprised because we were expecting a speech on Venezuela, but it ended up being much bigger than that,” said one aide. They scrambled to post the C-SPAN clip to YouTube and transcribe the remarks.
With the help of a well-placed Drudge link, the speech quickly went viral on the right, drawing upwards of 300,000 YouTube views so far, and becoming a talk radio sensation. Right-wing websites like Breitbart, which spent much of 2013 waging a frenzied campaign of misinformation against Rubio’s immigration efforts, are now showering him with happy headlines. The Blaze urged readers who may have missed the “amazing” speech to “fix that right now.” Even Townhall’s Conn Carroll, one of Rubio’s chief antagonizers during the immigration battle, declared him the “2016 frontrunner” on Twitter this week.
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ALAN GRAYSON SAYS VIDEO SHOWS HE DIDN’T PUSH WIFE via The Associated Press
U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson is denying he battered his estranged wife and says a video confirms his account.
Grayson issued a statement Wednesday through his attorneys that says his wife, Lolita, was the aggressor during last weekend’s confrontation.
He says a video recording of their exchange outside the house they once shared backs up his account.
Grayson’s wife filed for divorce in January, and the central Florida Democrat says he was attempting to visit his children when the incident occurred.
Grayson’s wife this week was granted a restraining order against Grayson. She alleges that the congressman pushed her against the front door of the home last Saturday when he stopped by the house.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office is investigating. Grayson hasn’t been arrested or charged with any crime.
LAWYER: GRAYSON’S WIFE HIT CONGRESSMAN WITH ‘UPPERCUT’ via Jeff Wiener of the Orlando Sentinel
Attorneys for Grayson played video of the confrontation between the congressman and his wife, telling reporters that Lolita Grayson was the aggressor.
During a news conference, defense attorney Mark NeJame played cellphone video of the altercation recorded by one of Grayson’s staffers at the couple’s home near Windermere on Saturday.
It is difficult in the video to see who initiated the physical contact, but Lolita Grayson is seen yelling and pushing him.
The video does not show Alan Grayson pushing his wife against a door or causing her to fall to the ground, which she has claimed happened.
During the presentation, the lawyers paused the video on a frame showing Lolita Grayson hitting Alan Grayson.
NeJame called it an “uppercut.”
A judge this week granted a temporary protective injunction against Alan Grayson after his wife filed a petition stating that he battered her at their home near Windermere on Saturday, leaving her bruised.
CORRECTION OF THE DAY: In Wednesday’s edition of Sunburn, a blurb about the U.S. House passing legislation reforming flood insurance referenced Pat Rooney. The story should have read U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney.
EMAIL I DIDN’T OPEN: “12 leading contributors of sexual exploitation … 1. Attorney General Eric Holder”
HANDICAPPING FLORIDA’S CONGRESSIONAL RACES via Louis Jacobson of the Tampa Bay Times
The following list ranks incumbent House members from Florida by how vulnerable their party is to losing the seat. The seats are listed in descending order, based on the likelihood that they will switch party control.
1. District 13: Seat left vacant on the death of Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R). Previous ranking: 6
Democrats are cautiously hoping that the patterns of mail-in ballot returns so far suggest a slight boost for Sink. But the race will likely to go down to the wire.
2. District 2: Rep. Steve Southerland (R). Previous ranking: 3
The contest between two-term Republican Southerland, a tea party-aligned funeral director, and Democrat Gwen Graham, the daughter of popular former Sen. Bob Graham, rises one notch on our list, thanks to increasing attention and strong fundraising by the challenger.
3. District 26: Rep. Joe Garcia (D). Previous ranking: 2
Garcia remains vulnerable due to the resignation of top aides amid allegations of absentee-ballot fraud in the 2012 Democratic primary. In a close call, we’re dropping this race by one slot, partly because the heat on Garcia has eased somewhat, and partly because the GOP still has a primary to sort out.
4. District 18: Rep. Patrick Murphy (D). Previous ranking: 1
Murphy’s seat is competitive — the Treasure Coast district backed Romney in 2012 by a 52-48 margin, and Murphy won it in 2012 by fewer than 2,000 votes. But it’s dropping three notches on our list because Murphy has dodged a bullet in the field of GOP challengers.
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RICK SCOTT STATE OF THE STATE WORD CLOUD — FLORIDA, WORKING, JOBS Full blog post here
Gov. Scott’s State of the state speech touched on many familiar themes — jobs, education and tax cuts — with several of them expected to become re-election campaign talking points leading up to November’s ballot.
The team at public-affairs communications firm Sachs Media Group broke down yesterday’s address, and created a word cloud with the relative frequency of communication used in the speech.
In Scott’s speech, the top six words are — PEOPLE, WANT, KEEP, FLORIDA, WORKING, JOB.
“Gov. Scott was very disciplined in embracing a simple, major theme that was woven throughout his State of the State speech,” said Sachs Media Group CEO Ron Sachs.
“As this word cloud translation of the speech clearly depicts, the governor’s overarching message is that ‘People want to keep Florida working.’ That’s a great theme for the speech — and an easily understood reelection message, too.”
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED IN 2014
The 2014 session got off to a start with firm statements and legislative action by lawmakers on their intent to make Florida the least hospitable state in the nation for sex offenders. That’s fantastic. A number of bills related to domestic violence are worth top attention, too. First, filed by Sen. David Simmons, SB 1196 would make the whereabouts of domestic violence victims confidential and exempt from public records. These protections are already in place for victims of sexual offenses and child abuse. For victims of domestic violence, these protections are equally important.
Then, HB 659, filed by Rep. Debbie Mayfield, attempts to protect victims of domestic violence in a few important ways. The measure states that if a person is the subject of a temporary or final injunction, and directs a third party to stalk or disturb the victim, they have violated the injunction the same as if they had personally committed to offense. The bill further makes clear that the subject of a final injunction cannot possess or control a firearm; and permits law enforcement to arrest a person without a warrant if there is probably cause to believe that the person has committed an act of repeat violence, sexual violence, stalking or cyberstalking, or child abuse. Kudos to Sen. Simmons and Rep. Mayfield for raising these issues.
GARY FINEOUT’S 5 BIGGEST QUESTIONS FOR THE 2014 SESSION Full blog post at The Fine Print here
1. Is this year’s gambling legislation the real deal, or is it all for show? 2. Will the Republican-controlled Legislature really approve in-state tuition rates for the children of illegal 3. Testing vs. vouchers 4. Could Rick Scott still have a tough session? 5. Will there be a libertarian wave during this year’s session?
HEADLINE OF THE DAY via Outdoor Life: “Florida again offers ‘legislative laboratory’ for gun-friendly bills”
TODAY IS 12th annual Suicide Prevention Day at the Capitol.
***SUNBURN is sponsored in part by Floridian Partners, LLC, a statewide Public and Government Affairs firm with offices in Tallahassee, Tampa, Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. Ther firm’s success is measured by its clients’ success. Outreach and Public Advocacy; Strategic Issue and Campaign Development; Grassroots and Grasstops Coalition Building – Floridian Partners is a one-stop firm for clients needing assistance at all levels of government in Florida.***
ACTUAL HEADLINE: “AG BILL ELIMINATES AUSTRALIAN PINE MONITORING PROGRAM” via The Palm Beach Post
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APPOINTED: Dr. Jorge J. Lopez and Brigitte R. Goersch (reappointed) to the Board of Medicine.
A YEAR LATER, FLORIDA MEDICAID EXPANSION SEEMS A DISTANT MEMORY via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel
The cadre of volunteers held signs outside the Florida House chamber Wednesday reading “Say Yes for Business! Say Yes for $51 billion!”
But the Florida Legislature plowing through an election-year agenda of conservative to-do’s and feel-good initiatives has never been farther from embracing federal plans to expand eligibility for Medicaid populations. The part of President Barack Obama’s health-care law deemed optional by the U.S. Supreme Court took effect last fall.
Last session, it was touted by a handful of powerful Senate Republicans, but never had a chance in the House. And this year, even with groups like the League of Women Voters of Florida pushing for expansion, it appears even more unlikely.
Florida is punting on some $51 billion over a decade by not adding nearly 1 million Floridians to the Medicaid rolls. Those are the portion of the state’s 3.5 million uninsured who earn just above the poverty cutoff to qualify for the traditional state-federal health care program. The expansion would have allowed a single individual making up to $16,100 to qualify, or a family of four earning up to $32,900.
Sen. Rene Garcia, a Hialeah Republican carrying a Medicaid expansion bill (SB 710) in the Senate, said he expected his bill to get a hearing by the third week of the 60-day session. But in the House, the bill is being sponsored by a freshman New Port Richey Democrat, Amanda Murphy, who hasn’t yet started lobbying to get her bill heard.
FLORIDA WILDLIFE FEDERATION’S NEW REPORT DEMONSTRATES IMPORTANCE OF PROTECTING STATE’S VULNERABLE COAST
The Florida Wildlife Federation released a report to inform Florida lawmakers and the public about the value coastal habitats provide in protecting Florida communities and wildlife from storms and sea level rise.Nature’s First Line of Defense: Key Reasons to Protect and Restore Coastal Habitats demonstrates the importance of implementing wise public policy and effective strategies that will help protect our vulnerable state from inevitable major storms and rising seas.
Florida’s coastal habitats provide natural buffers for some of the most economically valuable and extensive shorelines in the nation. These coastal habitats provide varying levels of storm protection through storm and flood reduction for the greatest number of people and property.
Additionally, Florida derives immense value from our coastal regions as a source of tourism, recreation and from the wildlife that lives on and relies upon our near-shore environments for food and shelter. Because of these high value recreational opportunities and for storm protection services, it is imperative for communities to protect and restore these areas as valuable and naturally occurring first lines of defense.
The Florida Wildlife Federation is a statewide citizens conservation and education organization working for the protection, enjoyment and wise use of Florida’s fish, wildlife and other natural resources. The Florida Wildlife Federation encourages the public’s appreciation of Florida’s environment through sustainable, resource-based outdoor recreation.
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CHARLIE CRIST PICKS UP $300K CHECK FROM THE JOHN MORGAN OF TEXAS
Charlie Crist is still not raising the same amount of money that Rick Scott is for his gubernatorial campaign, but the former Republican turned Democrat is starting to pick up a couple of the outsized, six-figure checks that Scott has for his political committee.
In February, Crist’s political committee received a $300,000 contribution from the Steve Mostyn’s law firm. According to a profile of Mostyn, no lawyer profited more from hurricanes Ike and Rita than the Houston-based plaintif’s attorney.
In the five years since Ike pummeled Southeast Texas, Mostyn has engineered settlements with the Texas Windstorm Insurance Agency — the lone provider of windstorm insurance for Gulf Coast residents – arming him with $150 million in attorneys fees.
With that money, Mostyn has become a force in Texas politics. He is “so involved in Texas politics that he keeps an office in Austin for the legislative session – his own perch overlooking the state capitol where he can ensure the millions of dollars he invests every election cycle yield interest,” writes David Yates.
Mostyn’s law firm recently donated $1 million to Texas state Senator Wendy Davis, the Democratic nominee for governor and was ranked by the Sunlight Foundation as 2013’s biggest corporate donor.
In addition to Mostyn’s check, Crist’s committee reeled in a $100,000 check from Levin, Papntonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty, & Proctor on the way to at least a $620,000 fundraising haul in February.
***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.***
BAD DAY FOR DAVID JOLLY …
… CLIENTS WON EARMARKS FROM HIS OLD BOSSES, BILL YOUNG via Lee Fang of The Nation
Records reviewed by Republic Report show that Jolly’s clients won millions of dollars in taxpayer earmarks from his old boss, the late Representative C.W. “Bill” Young (R-FL), an appropriator known for his lavish use of the earmarking process.
These earmarks contrast sharply with the claims made by Jolly that he did not build his business career through political connections to his former employer.
Two of the firms that hired Jolly as a lobbyist—BayCare Health Systems and Alakai Defense Systems—won lucrative earmarks from Young while paying Jolly to influence the committee where Young was a senior member.
In 2009, BayCare Health Systems retained Jolly and another former Young staffer named Douglas Gregory. Later that year, Young secured a $1 million earmark for BayCare Health Systems for “facilities and equipment.”
From 2008 through the beginning of 2010, Alakai Defense Systems, a sensor technology company for the military, retained Jolly as a lobbyist. Records indicate that during this period, Young awarded Alakai with over $2 million worth of earmarks.
… HIS PINELLAS CONDO IS MOSTLY FOR PART-TIME RESIDENTS via Susan Taylor Martin of the Tampa Bay Times
Jolly could be excused for not knowing many of the neighbors in his Indian Shores condo complex.
Jolly is one of just three owners in the 162-unit Barefoot Beach Resort who claim homestead exemptions. All of the others are part-time residents, many of whom lease out their units to vacationers.
Unlike opponent Alex Sink, who is renting a Feather Sound condo, Jolly cites his 2005 purchase of the 950-square-foot unit as evidence he’s a full-time Pinellas resident. But the rider to a mortgage he and then-wife Carrie took out that year shows that initially at least they were part-timers, too.
“Borrower shall occupy and shall only use the property as Borrower’s second home,” the rider says. At the time, the couple were living in Arlington, Va., while Jolly worked for Rep. C.W. Bill Young.
According to Barefoot Beach’s website, “our vacation condos are luxurious waterfront rentals’’ on the Intracoastal Waterway.
Pinellas property appraiser records show that most of the owners live in other states or in Canada. Apart from Jolly, the only owners who claim homestead exemptions are a nurse and two brothers.
SECRET TO GOP BALLOT-RETURNED SURGE? JEB BUSH
More than ten thousand ballots have been returned in the last two days in the special election in Florida’s 13th Congressional District. This kind of returned-ballot surge has not been seen before in Pinellas elections, leading observers to wonder why so many ballots have been returned at this specific point in the campaign.
Jeb Bush. Him and free postage — that’s what’s driving so much of the early-ballot turnout in CD 13.
According to a consultant familiar with the direct mail strategy of David Jolly campaign, Republican “super voters” — those Republicans who have voted in three- and four-of-the-last-four elections — who have yet to vote are receiving a letter from former Governor Jeb Bush urging them to return their ballot. Enclosed in Bush’s letter is a stamp for voters to use when mailing their ballot to the Supervisor of Elections.
“I’m writing to you today to help make the choice even easier – by providing postage to return your mail ballot,” Bush writes in the letter.
The letter from Bush — and the free stamps — appears to be working. The gap between the number of returned ballots by Republicans and those by Democrats has increased by more than 1,000 in just the last two days.
MEANWHILE … GARY AUBUCHON ENDORSES LIZBETH BENACQUISTO IN CD 19 Full blog post here
Former State Rep. Gary Aubuchon announced his support of Lizbeth Benacquisto in her bid for Florida’s 19th Congressional District.
Aubuchon was also a GOP hopeful for the CD 19 seat, only to lose to then-candidate Trey Radel in the 2012 Republican primary. After 6 years in the Florida House, he currently serves as CEO of the Aubuchon Team of Companies, a homebuilding and real estate firm in Cape Coral.
Aubuchon admires the Fort Myers Republican’s conservative principles, demonstrated in Benacquisto’s 3 years in Tallahassee, as well as her support of local control of education and keeping the state’s promises to seniors and veterans.
Benacquisto faces former automobile-wheel manufacturer CEO Curt Clawson and former State Rep. Paige Kreegel in the April 22 GOP primary. The general election is June 24.
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SEAN SHAW FIRST TO GATHER ENOUGH PETITIONS TO QUALIFY FOR FL HD 61
Continuing a record of being the first out of the gate in the race for East Tampa’s Florida House District 61, Democrat, attorney and newlywed Sean Shaw announced that the Shaw campaign had officially received word that they have reached the verified signature requirement to qualify by petition. Shaw received 919 valid signatures from area voters for his Aug. 26 primary election.
Shaw was the first to officially announce for the race last year, and he has come in first place in each subsequent quarter’s fundraising reports.
SHAWN HARRISON MEETS BALLOT PETITION GOAL TO QUALIFY FOR HD 63 RACE Full blog post here
Former state Representative Shawn Harrison became the first candidate in the House District 63 race to qualify to be on the ballot through signed petitions.
Harrison’s goal was to assemble enough community voter signatures for eligibility by the start of the 2014 session, which began yesterday.
In an email to supporters, Harrison — who will once again face Democrat Rep. Mark Danish — thanked supporters and volunteers for “picking up the last petition cards needed.” First elected to the House in 2010, Harrison served only one term, losing to Danish in 2012.
ST. CLOUD ATTORNEY TO CHALLENGE REP. MIKE LA ROSA IN HD 42 Full blog post here
Pete Placencia announced that he would challenge first-term GOP incumbent State Rep. Mike La Rosa in House District 42.
Placencia will be running in a competitive seat where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 5,200 voters. The district covers parts of both Osceola and Polk Counties in Central Florida. he will face Chad Carnell in the August primary.
A St. Cloud resident since 2002, Placencia currently operates a law practice in Kissimmee two blocks from the Osceola County Courthouse. He served as a volunteer on the St. Cloud Historic Preservation Board, as well as chair on the St. Cloud Zoning Board of Adjustments.
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4TH FLOOR FILES: Today’s edition features Nicole Fried of Colodny Fass Talenfeld Karlinsky Abate & Webb PA. Her clients include Dosal, HCA Healthcare, and No Casinos, Inc. Here’s the file on Nicole.
FOYT RALSTON JOINS BRYANT MILLER OLIVE
Bryant Miller Olive announced the addition of Foyt Ralston to its governmental consulting practice. With more than twenty years of experience in governmental affairs in the public and private sectors, Ralston brings a wealth of knowledge to the firm’s public advocacy group.
“Our firm prides itself on the caliber of our professionals,” said Bryant Miller Olive managing shareholder Grace Dunlap. “We welcome Foyt to our team and look forward to collaborating with him on strategies to implement the priorities of our clients.”
Ralston’s past professional experiences include serving as Florida’s chief information officer and as chief of staff of the State Technology Office. Prior to working within the executive branch, Ralston was staff director for the Florida Senate Majority Office and served as campaign manager to Congressman Ander Crenshaw.
In the private sector, Ralston has represented a variety of clients with diverse issues including tort reform, energy, health care, and transportation. He has additional competencies with matters relating to public finance from his prior employment with a leading investment bank where he focused on municipal bond issues. He founded and successfully grew two private lobbying firms before joining Bryant Miller Olive.
NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS
Lester Abberger, Florida Lobby Associates, Inc.: Florida Philanthropic Network
Jose Boscan: Hispanic Business Initiative Fund
Alisa Coe, David Guest, Monica Reimer: Earthjustice
Marc Dunbar, Jones Walker: The Stronach Group
Ken Grimes, Connie Vanassche, CAS Governmental Services: Craig A. Smith & Associates
Mike Haridopolos, Tsamoutales Strategies: The Banyan Network
William Harrison, Adrien Rivard, Harrison Rivard Duncan & Buzzett: Bay County Board of County Commissioners
Bill Helmich, Helmich Consulting: Florida Benevolent Group; GDKN; Greenbasics
Jerry Paul, Capitol Energy: City of Punta Gorda; Concerned Citizens in Boca Grande; Home Buyers Warranty Corporation; Vogler Ashton, PLLC
Cameron Yarborough, Yarbrough Consulting: Florida Retail Federation; Independent Colleges & Universities of Florida, Inc.; Sanofi pasteur; SAP Public Services
SPOTTED: Pat Roberts at The Governors Club h/t Richard Reeves and Alan Suskey.
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CONTEXT FLORIDA: SELECTIVE MEMORY, SOBER HOMES, THE 27TH STATE AND CONSERVATIVE CONVERSATIONALISTS
On Context Florida: Martin Dyckman praises Charlie Crist’s new memoir, despite some of its glaring omissions. For example, there are no footnotes or index and the memories of the former governor and current Democratic candidate are selective, at best. Poorly managed “sober homes” — transitional facilities for recovering drug addicts — threaten many formerly safe and quiet Florida neighborhoods, says State Rep. Bill Hager.Ed Moore celebrates the anniversary of Florida joining the Union as the 27th state. Conservatives often are the most ardent conversationalists, writes Henry Kelly.
MIAMI HERALD OUTSHINES OTHER TOP FLORIDA PAPERS ON MEDICAID EXPANSION COVERAGE via Daniel Angster of MediaMatters.org
The Miami Herald‘s coverage of the Florida Medicaid debate was significantly more comprehensive than the other four top circulating Florida newspapers, including multiple mentions of the benefits of expansion and the negative impacts the lack of expansion would have on the state and Floridians. However, similar to other top Florida papers, the Herald also largely missed out on discussing the coverage gap, which if not closed could leave hundreds of thousands of Floridians without affordable health coverage.
Medicaid expansion in Florida, which is part of the Affordable Care Act, would extend the low income health care program to 763,890 people and create an estimated 70,000 new jobs, but the state’s failure to expand Medicaid will have major negative economic and health related impacts on the state
According to a Media Matters analysis of Medicaid expansion mentions from January 1, 2014 through March 4, 2014, the Herald discussed key benefits of expansion or the negative effects associated with not expanding Medicaid 11 times, including 5 mentions of the impact lack of expansion would have on Florida health systems. The next closest paper, the Tampa Bay Times, only had 4 mentions of the benefits of expanding or the negative effects of the failure to expand.
This updated analysis mimics the findings of a previous Media Matters analysis of the top four highest circulating papers’ coverage of Medicaid issues.
The paper’s willingness to include information beyond a mere mention of expansion puts the Herald ahead of Florida’s other papers. However, all the Florida papers analyzed by Media Matters shared one similar flaw: the lack of comprehensive reporting on the “coverage gap.”
SPOTTED: Sarasota GOP chairman Joe Gruters and state committeeman Christian Ziegler on TV game show, “The Price Is Right” Video here.
TWEET, TWEET: @adeslatte: Pre-session exercise regiment has me hungry for blood. #NotTheOnlyOne