Sunburn for 4/15 – 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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As millions of Americans race to meet today’s tax deadline, their chances of getting audited are lower than they have been in years.

Budget cuts and new responsibilities are straining the Internal Revenue Service’s ability to police tax returns. This year, the IRS will have fewer agents auditing returns than at any time since at least the 1980s.

Better technology is helping to offset some budget cuts.

If you report making $40,000 in wages and your employer tells the IRS you made $50,000, the agency’s computers probably will catch that. The same is true for investment income and many common deductions that are reported to the IRS by financial institutions.

But if you operate a business that deals in cash, with income or expenses that are not independently reported to the IRS, your chances of getting caught are lower than they have been in years.

Last year, the IRS audited less than 1 percent of all returns from individuals, the lowest rate since 2005.

The IRS also is implementing large parts of President Barack Obama’s health law, including enforcing the mandate that most people get health insurance. Republicans in Congress abhor the law, putting another bull’s-eye on the agency’s back.


America’s annual tax reckoning is here once again and for many who have yet to file their federal tax return, which means a mad dash to beat Uncle Sam’s deadline.

If it looks like you’re not going to make the deadline, and you owe unpaid taxes, it pays to ask for more time. That’s because if you miss the deadline and fail to ask for an extension, the IRS will hit you with a monthly penalty of 5 percent of your unpaid tax balance. The quickest way to request an extension is to fill out the automatic extension of time to file – Form 4868 on . It’s also available through most tax preparation software.

Extension requests via mail must be postmarked by Tuesday to be considered on time. Forms filed on the IRS website or by using tax software can be sent in as late as 11:59 p.m. EDT on Tuesday.

Getting more time to file your return doesn’t mean you have more time to pay your 2013 tax bill, however.

If you file your tax return on time or get an extension, but fail to pay, the IRS will charge a monthly late payment penalty of 0.5 percent of your unpaid taxes. That translates to a $25 penalty if you owe $5,000. It is charged each month or part of a month the tax goes unpaid, up to 25 percent, or $1,250 on that $5,000.

In addition, the IRS will assess an annual 3 percent interest rate, compounded daily, on what you owe.

You can avoid the 0.5 percent late-payment penalty if you pay either 90 percent of your 2013 tax balance by April 15, or if you pay an amount equal to the full amount you paid on your 2012 tax return. For example, if you estimate that you owe $9,000 in taxes for 2013 and you pay 90 percent of that, or $8,100, you won’t be charged the penalty. Paying what you paid in taxes last year also would spare you the penalty.


Places like Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Spain, Chile, Iceland and Norway all have taxes that are filed to you. Your employer and bank sends a statement to the revenue service, and if everything looks right, you sign your name and send it back.

Your taxes are then filed. That is the end of it.

Why isn’t it like this (in America)? Because Intuit, the people who make Turbotax, have spent about $8 million in the last three years lobbying Congress to keep taxes complicated.

That is the only reason your taxes are still complicated.

Now there is a “grassroots” campaign in the op-ed sections of newspapers nationwide with one message: Let’s keep in place the time-honored tradition of doing our own taxes.

But there are two problems with this: One,Americans would still be able to file their own return if they felt the IRS didn’t take into account a move, a baby, or any other omission. And more importantly, Two, All of these op-eds are being written by a lobbying firm, paid for by TurboTax. All of them. And a lot of them are identical.

So if you hear of a pro-tax filing argument in your local newspaper, just know that this person either loves paperwork or is paid for by the TurboTax people.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Main Street Growth & Opportunity Coalition – Florida (MSGOCF) – will hold a conference call media briefing at 9 a.m. to address the need for federal tax reform and a simplification of the tax code. Attending are Members of the MSGOCF, including Julio Fuentes, President, Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Rep. Holly Raschein. (Call-in # is 1-866-848-2216/Passcode: 2704235408)

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Obamacare benefits will cost about $104 billion less than originally thought over the next 10 years, down to about $1.4 trillion between 2015 and 2024, according to a new report by the Congressional Budget Office.

OBAMA EFFECT INSPIRING FEW TO SEEK OFFICE via Jason Horowitz of the New York Times

Eric Lesser was shaking hands with diners in a Portuguese restaurant last week when he spotted the owner of Manny’s TV & Appliances. “Oh, I’ve got to get a picture,” Mr. Lesser eagerly said, draping his arm over Manny Rovithis, whose low-budget commercials have run for decades in Western Massachusetts. Mr. Lesser’s giddiness about meeting the local celebrity had not faded when he sat down for lunch.

Although Lesser spent much of the last six years in the company of President Obama and Washington hotshots, now, as an earnest, hug-prone 29-year-old candidate for the Massachusetts State Senate, he is far more interested in people like Mr. Rovithis. Which is a good thing. Mr. Lesser, a former White House staff member, has returned home on the path Mr. Obama hoped to inspire many of his young supporters to follow when he said, “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

But if Lesser, who is on leave from Harvard Law School to run for office, is the face of the promised Obama political generation, he is also one of its few participants. For all the talk about the movement that elected Mr. Obama, the more notable movement of Obama supporters has been away from politics. It appears that few of the young people who voted for him, and even fewer Obama campaign and administration operatives, have decided to run for office. Far more have joined the high-paid consultant ranks.

Unlike John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, who inspired virtual legislatures of politicians and became generational touchstones, Obama has so far had little such influence. That is all the more remarkable considering he came to office tapping into spirit of volunteerism and community service that pollsters say is widespread and intense among young people. Mr. Obama has come to represent that spirit, but he has failed, pollsters say, to transform it into meaningful engagement in the political process.

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Voters in Florida’s District 6, which includes most of Volusia and all of Flagler County, will have the chance in November to reach a judgment on freshman Congressman Ron DeSantis, a Republican and one of the most conservative members in Congress.

But it’s not much of a chance, in the view of political pundits who study such things, especially for a pair of mostly moderate counties that helped put Obama in the White House in 2008. For all the Democrats in Volusia and Flagler — they outnumber Republicans in the two counties — DeSantis is sitting pretty for his first re-election bid, thanks to a cleverly drawn district that includes the conservative hotbed of southern St. Johns County.

Even as DeSantis attends fundraisers to boost his vast campaign war chest, his office declined several requests for an interview with The News-Journal about the upcoming race — a signal, some say, that DeSantis and Republicans don’t see a credible threat on the horizon.

The only other candidate, Democrat David Cox, a Bethune-Cookman University administrator, will try to make the case that DeSantis is out of touch with the region he represents with his conservative voting record and support from the likes of David and Charles Koch, the billionaire industrialists who have poured millions into conservative political groups.

With qualifying for federal candidates starting April 28, Cox, who’s yet to garner support from the state Democratic Party, faces an uphill battle. He’d raised less than $10,000 through the end of 2013; DeSantis had $630,000.

JOE GARCIA RAISES $460K IN 1Q OF 2014 Full blog post here

Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia campaign announced significant fundraising numbers on Monday, raising $460,000 in the first quarter of 2014.

This gives the Miami Beach Democrat $2.2 million in contributions so far in his re-election effort. Cash on hand numbers are still pending.

According to a statement released by his campaign, nearly 70 percent of Garcia’s 1Q donations originated in Florida, with 9 out of 10 coming from individuals and 40 percent less than $100.

MANUEL SYKES CONSIDERS RUNNING IN CD 13 via Curtis Krueger of the Tampa Bay Times

The Rev. Manuel Sykes, of St. Petersburg’s Bethel Community Baptist Church, said he’s considering running for Congress in Pinellas County’s District 13.

Sykes, a Democrat and president of the St. Petersburg NAACP, said many people have urged him to run in the district, which extends from south Pinellas to Dunedin, with portions of southern and downtown St. Petersburg cut out. But the Democratic picture is unclear. Sink has said she also is considering running again for the seat in the fall, and top Democratic Party officials have urged her to do so.

Sykes said he’s listening to supporters and giving the idea serious thought, but he also said “my biggest interest is in not splitting the party. It’s too important to jump in out of ambition.”

Sykes said that because of redistricting, he is no longer a resident of District 13. He said he would move into the district if he decides to run.

RAND PAUL ENDORSES CURT CLAWSON IN CD 19 SPECIAL ELECTION via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of The Political Fix

In a statement Monday, Paul said Clawson would bring fresh ideas to Washington.

“Washington is desperate for outside leadership. Curt Clawson is an outsider who will bring refreshing ideas to the halls of Congress,” he said in a statement. “Today, I proudly stand with Curt Clawson in his quest to restore fiscal stability and common sense government. Curt Will stand with me defending the Constitution.”

He continued: “I urge the voters of Florida’s 19th congressional district to send Curt to Washington. Our nation needs new leadership and the first step in the right direction would be electing Curt Clawson.”


The Miami Herald‘s Marc Caputo tweeted that Clawson’s latest television ad “might be the cleverest” in the special election in Florida’s 19th Congressional District.

I couldn’t agree more.

That’s because Jack Hebert and I pretty much produced the same ad for state Representative Leslie Waters in 2002 and 2004 (for the record, I only worked on the 2002 spot).

Clawson’s ad is different enough from Waters’ spot that it’s not a direct rip-off, but the two spots are more alike than they are different.

Both Clawson and Waters were running in tough campaigns in which thousands of dollars of negative TV spots were airing. Both spots are set at the beach (Waters’ spot was filmed at Fort De Soto beach, in fact). Both capture the  waves rolling in. Both ads allow the sound of the water crashing, rather than voice-over, to dominate the spot. Both ads even complain about all of the “negative political ads.”

There are, um, differences: Where Waters’ ad called for a “refreshing break,” Clawson’s offers “a few moments of peace.”

There’s no disputing the cleverness of Clawson’s ad. Hopefully Clawson’s campaign consultants can win an Addy award for their work, like The Mallard Group did for its efforts.

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If they hope to unseat Gov. Scott in November and regain a foothold in state government, Florida Democrats will have to overcome a handicap that has plagued them for years — “voter drop-off” in nonpresidential elections.

Florida traditionally sees declines in voter turnout of up to 20 percentage points in nonpresidential years compared to presidential years.

The decline favors Republicans, experts say, because it’s greatest among the most reliably Democratic voting groups — minorities, young voters and unmarried women. Those individuals are less likely to go to the polls when there isn’t a high-profile presidential race.

The effects were clearly visible in the March special election to replace the late U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young in Pinellas County, an election with even less voter-drawing power than a normal off-year election.

In that March 11 vote, Democrat Alex Sink narrowly lost to Republican David Jolly, even though the Pinellas County congressional district has been trending Democratic in recent years. The district voted for President Barack Obama in both the last two presidential election years.

But a new analysis of voting patterns by a liberal research group that studies voting, Washington, D.C.-based Voter Participation Center, includes a sobering estimate for Florida Democrats.

In 2014, blacks, Hispanics, unmarried women and voters under 30 will send 1.5 million fewer voters to Florida polls than in 2012, said the study, done for the organization by the Democratic-oriented polling and research firm Lake Research Partners.

By contrast, the study estimates the drop-off among all others at 618,000 votes.

MEDICAL POT MEASURE COULD BOOST FLA. DEMOCRATS via Michael Mishak of the Associated Press

Tied to an unpopular president and his signature health care law, Democrats in the nation’s largest swing state see medical marijuana as a potential antidote to political malaise in this year’s midterm elections.

Party operatives are pushing a constitutional amendment that would make Florida the first state in the South to legalize some pot use. Polls show the measure has widespread public support, and it’s particularly popular among young voters — a critical part of the Democratic coalition with historically weak turnout in non-presidential election years.

Florida Republicans argue that Democrats do not have a clear-cut advantage on medical pot, with public polls showing an overwhelming majority of GOP voters supporting it. They also say it’s unlikely to excite young voters in the way that legalization campaigns did in Colorado and Washington, where pot was sanctioned for recreational use along the lines of alcohol, or become part of a divisive culture war that could drive turnout.

Nevertheless, the marijuana initiative may be one bright spot for Democrats in an election year that could be grim for the party.

A Republican victory in a special House election last month in Florida underscored the Democrats’ turnout problem. The St. Petersburg-area district has 2.4 percent more registered Republicans than Democrats, but GOP voters outnumbered Democrats by 8 percentage points among those who cast ballots.


Last week reports came out that Bill Clinton will be coming to South Florida in early May to help the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) raise money. Whoever wins the Democratic primary, most likely Charlie Crist, should be able to count on Clinton’s help against Gov. Scott.

Obama remains popular with his Democratic base, something Republicans didn’t quite fully realize in 2012. Obama will continue to hit the fundraising circuit for Democrats in Florida and across the nation. But Clinton is much more popular with independents and even moderate Republicans — something that could help Murphy and other Democrats in Florida. Despite Obama beating Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primaries, the former president proved an excellent asset for the Democratic ticket in 2012, giving a well-regarded speech at the convention and hitting the campaign trail.

Clinton scores points with Americans on a host of fronts. His eight years in office are still seen as the high watermark of the American economy. While there were some conflicts and military actions during his time in office — Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia — essentially the Clinton years were peaceful. Despite his personal failings and the impeachment effort that haunted his last years in office, Clinton towers over George W. Bush and Obama in many Americans’ minds.

As Obama continues to sink in the polls, look for Clinton to be front and center for Democrats. In 2014, and if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee in 2016, Obama will be overshadowed by the former president. Just like he’ll be in Florida this year and just like he’ll be in the history books.

CRIST DELIVERS BLISTERING ATTACK OF SCOTT via Matt Sedensky of the Associated Press

Delivering an opening salvo in his campaign to return to office, Crist heaped blistering criticism Monday on his successor, a preview of the attack Gov. Rick Scott faces from his likely opponent.

Addressing a crowd of hundreds at the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches, Crist gave a relentless indictment of nearly every aspect of Scott’s leadership, portraying him as an opponent to education and the environment and a man out of touch with average Floridians.

“Gov. Scott has led like this: embrace the ideological fringe, take care of his friends, bully his opponents, hide from the public and the press and run from tough issues,” Crist said. “He keeps running because the truth means little to Rick Scott because he doesn’t have a record to run on, because he knows Floridians don’t support him and that his priorities are wrong.”

Scott sent Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera to rebut Crist, who was long a Republican but now is a Democrat. Crist gave a glimpse of his sometimes disarming friendliness, rising from his seat to applaud Lopez-Cantera when he was introduced, praising him in his speech, then interrupting reporters’ interviews with the lieutenant governor to greet him with a handshake and a wide smile.

The former governor’s arrival before a gaggle of reporters came as Lopez-Cantera was in the midst of denouncing Crist’s speech as filled with mistruths and him as a politician who would stake out any position necessary to get elected. Crist declined to respond to a question about Lopez-Cantera’s comments about his speech’s honesty.

“He’s just gonna get to debate the lieutenant governor candidate,” Crist said. “Give me Scott.”

Lopez-Cantera said: “I feel like I’m watching a bad political movie. Charlie has become the unpleasant stereotype of a politician willing to say anything and do anything to further ambitions.”

MUST-SEE VIDEO: Crist’s confronts LG CLC after his speech. Watch here.


A Tallahassee CBS affiliate issued a public apology to Crist and his employer, Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, for mistakenly running an ad that led to a Republican Party complaint because the spot violated campaign rules.

“WCTV wants to apologize to both Mr. Morgan and Mr. Crist for inadvertently airing a commercial that we were not instructed to air,” the station said in an unsigned letter issued by General Manager Heather Peeples.

“The station receives many commercials from Morgan & Morgan and accidently typed in the wrong commercial code, causing the error,” the letter said. “WCTV accepts full responsibility for this human error. Per the request of Morgan & Morgan, all commercials have been removed from WCTV’s air until further notice.”

Barring any further evidence, then, it appears the RPOF complaint is moot.

TWEET, TWEET: @fasanomike: Does anyone in Tallahassee truly believe the little guy and gal care about these laughable complaints being filed? Time to grow up.

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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will visit and speak with Department of Children and Families Child Protective Investigators in Miami about his proposed additional funding to protect children, according to a release. 100 Opa-Locka Blvd. Opa-Locka. 2:30 p.m.


A measure that would allow Floridians to fire a warning shot in self-defense should be vetoed by Gov. Scott because it also closes key criminal records from public oversight, the First Amendment Foundation said Monday.

The foundation, which is financed by Florida news organizations, wrote Scott urging that he veto the legislation (CS/HB 89) he is expected to act on this week.

The bill would give those who threaten to use a firearm in self-defense or fire a warning shot instead of fleeing a dangerous situation the same legal safeguards that the state’s “stand your ground” law gives to people who use deadly force to defend themselves.

The 2005 stand your ground provision is opposed by minority groups which claim it has been used to justify violence against black youth.

The press organization, however, addresses the provision that allows people cleared by judges because they acted in self-defense to petition courts to have their records expunged.

Barbara Petersen, foundation president, told Scott that could “serve as a tool for obscuring law enforcement and prosecutorial misconduct, while also hindering the development of court precedence essential to understanding how and when the proposed use of force applies.”

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They held protests and press conferences. Several even spent the week living on $7.93 an hour.

But try as they might, Democratic lawmakers could not spark a discussion about increasing the state minimum wage.

The GOP had its reasons for not engaging on the issue, some members said, including a belief that increasing the minimum wage would slow job growth.

Speaker Will Weatherford, said he was not surprised to see Democrats turn to the media.

“This is the magical time in session when people who cannot pass their bills resort to political stunts,” Weatherford said. “It’s a sad but unfortunately predictable pastime for the last three weeks of session.”

HOUSE AND SENATE NOT IN SYNC ON STATE PENSION REFORM via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

As the Florida Legislature approaches the final three weeks of its annual session, Carol Horton, a teacher for 18 years in Palm Beach County, asked lawmakers to back off plans to make major changes to the retirement system, which covers some 622,000 public employees in Florida, with the majority working for local school systems and county governments.

But pension reform bills are moving rapidly in the Legislature, with support from House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz.

Weatherford said the changes, which will not directly impact current public employees, are needed to reduce the state’s long-term costs for the retirement system.

The legislation is designed to entice more workers to sign up for a 401(k)-type investment plan rather than the traditional pension. House analysts say it could save the state a cumulative $28.6 billion by 2040.

The House, which voted last year to move all newly hired workers into an investment plan, is poised again to back the revised measure. But the issue will come down to the Senate, which last year narrowly rejected the House plan.

At this point, the Senate vote is in doubt.


Lawmakers have passed just one measure related to creating or widening loopholes in the state’s “sunshine” laws but they are close to passing more than a dozen others.

The bill approved so far (HB 177) expands an existing exemption for phone card providers’ “confidential business information” when given for state tax purposes.

Several others have been passed by one chamber and are awaiting approval in another.

One would make secret any email addresses used by tax collectors to send paperless tax notices (SB 538). Another would shroud the identities of people applying to be president, provost or dean of a state university or college (HB 135).

In 1985, there were 250 exemptions to the state’s public records and open meetings statutes, also known as sunshine laws. Now there are 1,100.


With the federal government making clear last week that no new Medicaid money is coming Florida’s way, legislators say it’s important they re-evaluate a new funding model that safety net hospitals say will cost them hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

“Tiering” is set to take effect in July unless the law is changed before session ends May 2. It requires counties that use local dollars to draw down more federal money for hospitals to begin sharing that money statewide.

Lawmakers in charge of crafting the budget say changes to the new funding model, or at least a delay, will be at the top of their health care agenda when negotiations begin next week.

“I do believe that there’s probably enough uncertainty that we could leave it alone the way it is this year,” said Rep. Matt Hudson, the House’s health care budget chief.

The state had hoped that more Medicaid funding from the federal government might mute the impact of tiering. In its November application to renew the Medicaid managed care program, Florida also requested an expansion of its $1 billion “Low Income Pool” (LIP) program.

Under that proposal, the money that helps provide health services to poor and uninsured Floridians would be combined with other Medicaid funding programs and increased to $4.5 billion annually.

That is off the table, for now.

Instead, the federal government told Florida on Friday the status quo would remain in place for another year. The letter from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services outlined a one-year extension of the LIP fund and two other supplemental programs that together total about $2.2 billion.


With the legislative session more than half over, lawmakers in the House and Senate remain at odds over what to do — if anything — to fix Florida’s ailing springs.

In the Senate, SB 1576, sponsored by five veteran legislators, has passed two of its three committee hearings by a unanimous vote. It calls for designating protection zones around 38 of the state’s most prominent springs, cutting the flow of pollution from runoff and septic tanks, and safeguarding their continued flow with limits on pumping.

But its House companion, HB 1313, sponsored by Rep. Jason Brodeur, has been about as unlucky as its number suggests. After Brodeur filed it March 3, it was referred to three committees and has yet to get a hearing in any.

Sen. Charlie Dean predicted quick approval by the full Senate as soon as lawmakers return from a week-long break for Passover and Easter. What’s unknown at this point is what the House will do with it, he said, “but that’s not going to stop us. We’re energized.”

However, Speaker Weatherford questioned whether anything would pass either chamber.

Even though Gov. Scott has requested $55 million for springs restoration, Weatherford wasn’t certain the Legislature would come up with a dime.

The senators are willing to compromise with the House to get the springs bill passed, Dean said. But springs advocates fear the House just wants to quash the effective parts of the bill, said Estus Whitfield of the Florida Conservation Coalition. If the senators give up too much just to get a bill approved, he said, then leaders of both the House and Senate can declare victory but the springs will continue their decline.

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A good investment is measured by its return, and, a 5.6-to-1 return on investment (ROI) is, undeniably, a winning proposition for Florida’s workforce, businesses and families. This ROI is exactly what Florida’s entertainment industry is offering — for every one dollar the state invests in the entertainment industry, $5.60 comes back into our state’s economy. And, $5.60 is a modest estimate. Some believe that the return could be as high as $20.50.

A proposal in the Florida Legislature, Senate Bill 1734 sponsored by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Sarasota, would extend the life of the overwhelmingly successful Entertainment Industry Financial Incentive Program and allow the state to continue to see its investment grow as the entertainment industry develops and flourishes in our state.

Film Florida fully supports this proposal and urges Detert’s fellow lawmakers to support it as well. SB 1734, if adopted, will ensure the entertainment industry will continue to make Florida a destination for TV, film and digital media production. For instance, Burn Notice, Dolphin Tale and Madden Football 2013 all were produced in the state.

The bill will result not only in the employment of tens of thousands of Floridians in highly skilled, high-wage jobs, but will have a positive impact on businesses across the state — from dry cleaners and gas stations to restaurants and hotels. The economic benefit of the entertainment industry to the state of Florida cannot be overstated.

If the proposal does not pass, Florida might see an exodus of the members of entertainment industry, losing valuable capital that it infuses into the state’s economy to neighboring states, such as Georgia — with whom we already compete with for jobs and business each day — because they offer more attractive incentives and opportunities for growth.


Rep. Doug Broxson hosts a public workshop on a disease that affects citrus. Mary Derrick, from the University of Florida, will provide information about citrus canker and advice on control options. The meeting takes place at 6 p.m. Tuesday in at the Tiger Point Community Center in Gulf Breeze.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Dr. Bob McClure, president and CEO of The James Madison Institute (JMI) will moderate a discussion today featuring a variety of topics on industry regulations and licensing. Media RSVPs to Valerie Wickboldt at or (850) 386-3131.


With a new look and an updated website, the Florida Ports Council takes a monumental step in advancing the goal of supporting the state’s fifteen public seaports.

The Ports Council is a non-profit association advocating for seaports and their management, created to educate legislators and the public about how ocean-based commercial navigation is an essential part of the Florida’s economy. Seaports provide 13 percent of Florida’s Gross Domestic Product, with more than 680,000 direct and indirect jobs and $96 billion in economic value through cargo and cruise activities.

The cruise industry alone affects nearly every industry in the country, with 130,000 jobs and $5.8 billion in wages for Florida workers.

Through its newly rebranded website, uses can access Ports Council data by type of material, separated into appropriate subject tabs. A restructured search option can quickly find any information or materials on the site, full profiles of members including accomplishments and contact information, as well as a Google map function of all Florida port locations.

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Time was, all politicians up for election, whether it be to the Mosquito Control Board or U.S. Congress, had to submit a campaign treasurer’s report no later than ten days after the quarterly period ended.

This made the tenth of January, April, July, and October as eagerly anticipated by political aficionados as Christmas morning is to children. Politicos would unwrap the presents of these reports to see how much this candidate raised or how much this can’t-miss candidate did not; we’d learn how a campaign’s money was being spent and assess which consultants were the pigs and which were the hogs.

Journalists relied on the clarity of these reports as much as candidates and consultants did. They were worth a week’s worth of stories to a reporter in a bind. Not only were there stories of who was leading and who was trailing, but, inevitably there were tales of spending gone awry.

Candidate John Smith spent how much on suits for himself? Candidate Richard Jones is paying his wife how much to work on the campaign?

In the horse race of campaigning — and the political journalism of handicapping the horseraces — these treasurers’ reports were, besides gut instincts and internal polling, all many of us had to go on when determining who was winning and who was losing. The horse leading at the first and second quarter posts was most often the one  standing in the winner’s circle.

Then came along transparency.

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On Context Florida: In the struggle for meaningful civil rights fifty years ago, Martin Dyckman writes that Lyndon Johnson chose LeRoy Collins, Florida’s former leader, to help him implement his landmark legislation. It would signify the end of Collins’ political career. Peter Schorsch points out this era of transparency and regular financial reporting has resulted in a torrent of information so overwhelming — especially in the Florida governor’s race — that it is indeed difficult for political observers to “know how the horses are running anymore.” Unionizing student-athletes will destroy college sports, according to Jamie Miller, who believes schools will abandon smaller sports, and deny thousands of athletes the ability to go to college because they are in non-revenue generating activities. Hank Aaron will always be admired as one of baseball’s greats, says Bob Sparks, but he spent more time in the news than expected with comments on April 8 about race relations in America. “Back then they had hoods,” Aaron said to USA Today. “Now they have neckties and starched shirts.”

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


The 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Local Reporting was awarded to Will Hobson and Michael LaForgia for their exposure of the unsafe housing conditions provided to the homeless by the Hillsborough County’s Homeless Recovery program. Their work, which also exposed the problems in the management of the program, led to significant reform of the county’s program.

This is the 10th Pulitzer Prize for the Times and the first in local reporting category.

“We have won a Pulitzer for investigative reporting in Pasco County and last year for an editorial campaign that had a huge political impact in Pinellas County. This year’s Pulitzer shows the breadth and depth of the Times’ commitment to journalistic excellence in all of Tampa Bay,” said Times Editor Neil Brown.

This is the fourth Pulitzer Prize since 2009 and the second under the new banner, Tampa Bay Times. In 2012, the Times changed the name of the paper from the St. Petersburg Times to better reflect the community it already had been serving.

The Times is the only Florida newspaper to win a 2014 Pulitzer Prize.

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.