Sunburn for 5/1 – 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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POLL: MOST AMERICANS AGREE WITH JEB’S MOM via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

A new NBC/WSJ poll has bad news for Jeb Bush. Nearly 70 percent of people say they agree with his mom, former First Lady Barbara Bush, that other families should have a chance at the White House. “I think this is a great American country, and if we can’t find more than two or three families to run for high office, that’s silly.” she said earlier this year on C-SPAN.

A new ABC News/Washington Post poll found Jeb Bush near the front of a crowded presidential field, slightly behind Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee and getting double the support of Marco Rubio.

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TWEET, TWEET: @pnj: #Pensacola received 15.55 inches of rain Tues., which is the city’s rainiest single day on record, according to NWS.


“Our thoughts and prayers remain with everyone who has been and continues to be impacted by the recent storms in the Southeastern United States. I urge everyone to follow news updates closely, and heed all safety warnings issued by local and state authorities.

“As the cleanup process begins in Florida, our Consumer Helpline stands ready and able to assist Floridians as they navigate the post-storm insurance claims process. By calling 1-877-693-5236, our dedicated team of insurance professionals is equipped to answer any and all of your insurance-related questions. During this stressful time, allow us to work on your behalf to ensure you are treated fairly by your insurer and that your claim is handled in a timely manner.

“I also encourage consumers to remain alert for potential scams that can arise following a devastating storm. When hiring a contractor, make sure he or she is appropriately licensed and carries adequate insurance coverage. Keep logs of all telephone conversations and make copies of all documents you sign.

“While the recovery process will take time, we are available to all who are in need, and I’m committed to doing everything necessary to ensure that our residents are aware of their rights and are being taken care of throughout the recovery process.”

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Former Gov. Charlie Crist is leading Republican Gov. Rick Scott by 10 points in a new poll.

The poll released by Quinnipiac University on Wednesday also found that 53 percent do not think Scott deserves a second term as governor and that 42 percent approve of the job he’s doing.

Crist is maintaining his lead over Scott even though the incumbent governor’s campaign has spent millions on television ads.

The gap between Scott and Crist is slightly wider than it was in a poll taken in January 2014.

The margin of error in the poll is plus or minus 2.6 percent.


Crowley Political Report, New Poll Suggests Rick Scott Has Spent A Lot Of Money For Nothing – After spending nearly $7 million over the past two months on campaign ads, Quinnipiac released a poll showing Scott trailing former Gov. Charlie Crist by 10 points… Bay News 9, Quinnipiac Poll: Crist leads Scott, Florida voters back gay marriage – Republican Gov. Rick Scott is trailing former Gov. Charlie Crist by 10 points in a new poll… Business Journal – Poll: Crist keeps large lead over Scott for Florida Governor race –  leads Scott by a margin of 48 percent to 38 percent… Sarasota Herald Tribune, Poll shows little improvement for Scott – a majority of Florida voters, 53-39 percent, say Scott does not deserve to be re-elected… Miami Herald, Q-Poll: Charlie Crist beating Rick Scott 48–38 percent – Republicans are sure to complain that the poll over-surveyed self-identified independents and didn’t include enough Republicans (who account for just 25 percent of the sample but likely will be more than 40 percent of the ballot-casting electorate in November)… Huffington Post, Rick Scott Continues To Lag Behind Challenger In Florida Governor’s Race – poll finds little recent change in views of either candidate, with Crist’s favorability rating holding steady at a net +7, and Scott’s at a net -7… Florida Times Union, Poll: Charlie Crist keeps large lead over Rick Scott in governor’s race – results differ substantially from a poll released last week by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc. That poll showed Crist and Scott in a dead heat.

… BUT SCOTT LEADS CRIST BY ONE IN NEW GRAVIS POLL via Kevin Derby of Sunshine State News

The poll has Scott with 44 percent, Crist right at his heels with 43 percent, 9 percent of voters undecided while Libertarian Adrian Wyllie takes 5 percent. A Gravis poll from February showed Crist leading 47 percent to Scott’s 43 percent.

“The political poll is good news for Gov. Scott,” said Doug Kaplan of Gravis Marketing. “He has spent a fortune recently on television ads and, in numerous polls, you see Scott closing in on Crist.”

EMAILS GALORE: “$100 million vs $1,” “Place a buck on the table,” “Drinks on me” — Charlie Crist campaign; “It has to get done today” — Buddy McKay for Nan Rich Campaign; “Before we close the books” — Scott Arceneaux


Among the supporters hopeful that the Florida Legislature will pass a law before the session ends this week that will allow undocumented Florida high school students to attend Florida colleges or universities by paying a reduced in-state tuition rate is Gov. Scott – a move that cynics have sighted as purely political as he attempts to win some Hispanic votes as his re-election approaches this fall.

Among those cynics would be the liberal Super PAC called American Bridge 21st Century, who has produced a web ad Wednesday that reminds Florida voters that the governor hasn’t exactly done a whole lot to win such Latino love in the first three years of his administration.


A pretty good argument can be made that the winner of November’s gubernatorial election will have won a decent share of the Hispanic vote. It’s about 15 percent of the electorate and growing faster than any other voting demographic.

So, it makes sense that Gov. Rick Scott’s deep-pocketed campaign would already be airing Spanish language commercials — titled “Oportunidad” — on television and online.

To many Hispanics, this is what they’re hearing: “Look, I’m about as Hispanic as Jan Brewer, but I can pander like any other politician, even though I’m no expert in politics. And I know the value of a con job.”

Scott’s approach to Hispanics, heretofore, has reinforced the reality that he’s more than an awkward, charisma-challenged politician. He has given the impression that he still doesn’t get the fact that it’s about more than Little Havana Republicans. That it’s about more than Cubans who enjoy special immigrant status.

What non-Cuban Hispanics — the Latino majority — recall is that before he was governor, Scott showed his stripes with his enthusiastic backing of an Arizona-esque, anti-illegal immigration bill.

And Hispanics, to be sure, were prominent among minorities obviously targeted by the Scott administration’s high-profile efforts at voter suppression in 2012.

And they surely have seen through the blatantly transparent role of Lt. Gov. Carlos López-Canterra.

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Mel Sembler, a St. Petersburg developer, anti-drug activist and high-level Republican donor and fundraiser, is backing a campaign committee set up to oppose the medical marijuana initiative set for the Florida ballot in November.

Sembler kicked off the Drug Free Florida committee with a $100,000 donation, and said he’s willing to provide further financial help. “If they do good work,” he said, “I’ll want to be supportive of their efforts.”

The chair is Carlton Turner of St. Petersburg, former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan for drug abuse policy — a position that made him precursor to the federal “drug czars.”

Adding more potential fundraising clout, the committee’s treasurer and deputy treasurer are Robert and Nancy Watkins of Tampa, accountants and high-level GOP fundraisers.

The formation of the committee sets the stage for a potentially high-profile electioneering battle over the amendment, which would legalize use of marijuana for registered users who have a recommendation from a physician.

Polling has shown large majorities of 70 percent or more in favor of the amendment. It will require a 60 percent vote to pass, and proponents forecast a tightening race.

Opponents, including Turner, portray the amendment as an attempt to legalize marijuana for all uses.


Advocates of the constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana for medical use are criticizing the head of a new committee formed to oppose the amendment, citing statements he reportedly made in 1986, as head of drug policy in the Reagan White House, that marijuana use can cause homosexuality and therefore AIDS.

But Turner denies he ever said that, and contends widespread reporting of the quote is actually a distortion of statements he made on how parents should deal with drug abuse by their children.

“The newly formed Drug Free Florida committee has somehow managed to choose as its chairman a messenger with even less credibility than its message,” said a news release from the United For Care Organization backing the amendment.

Turner “once stated that marijuana ‘leads to homosexuality…and therefore to AIDS.’ This statement is as offensive as it is inaccurate and should call into question any claim made by Mr. Turner in the course of this campaign.”

Turner responded, “I never said it,” calling the accusation “so outrageous it probably doesn’t deserve a response.”

The quote has been widely reported to have come from an October, 1986 issue of Newsweek.

But Turner said its origin was an interview he did with a Washington Post reporter, in which he said parents of children with drug abuse problems “have to be aware of things in their kids lives they won’t approve of, including homosexuality, when dealing with drug abuse.

MEDICAL POT AT 60 PERCENT via Scott Powers of the Orlando Sentinel

A new poll by Winter Springs-based Gravis Marketing shows the medical marijuana initiative, Amendment 2 on November’s ballot, has reached the critical 60 percent approval thresh hold needed to be adopted.

The poll shows Amendment 2 favored by 60-32, with 8 percent undecided.

A similar Gravis poll in February gave medical marijuana a 57 percent approval, just short of passage.

“Medical Marijuana is at it’s magic number of 60%” Gravis president Doug Kaplan stated in a press release. “I believe getting 60% is difficult but without opposition, medical marijuana passes with 65-66%, the question is does it translate to votes for Crist.”


Attorney General Pam Bondi has the lead over her two Democratic rivals according to a poll from Gravis Marketing.

The poll has Bondi with 45 percent while Florida House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Ft. Lauderdale, takes 38 percent as the Democratic candidate. Libertarian attorney Bill Wohlsifer takes 7 percent while 11 percent remain undecided.

When Thurston is replaced by primary rival former DCF Secretary George Sheldon, Bondi’s lead narrowly increases. In that scenario, Bondi takes 45 percent, Sheldon garners 36 percent, 12 percent are undecided while Wohlsifer remains at 7 percent.

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JENNIFER CARROLL WRITING TELL-ALL BOOK via Jim Schoettler of the Florida Times-Union

When Gov. Scott appears in Orange Park on Monday to kickoff his re-election campaign, his former sidekick from nearby Fleming Island will be somewhere waiting for an apology she expects will never come.

Former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll told The Florida Times-Union on Wednesday she felt cheated by Scott and his top staff for abandoning her 13 months ago when she was abruptly asked to resign the state’s second highest office. It was her first interview with the Times-Union since she left office in March 2013.

Carroll, 54, said Scott’s chief of staff Adam Hollingsworth and Scott’s general counsel sought her resignation immediately after Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents questioned her about work her public relations firm did with Allied Veterans of the World. The visits came the same day as police arrested 57 people in a gambling ring tied to Allied and its Internet cafes.

Carroll said Hollingsworth told her that her continued work under Scott would undermine his legislative efforts, without giving her any details or due process. Carroll said recently released documents from the FDLE investigation prove she did nothing criminal and that $24,000 in income she failed to report on financial disclosure forms and her federal taxes was a bookkeeper’s oversight she fixed during the investigation.

The FDLE referred the case to the state ethics commission to review the financial disclosure form issue.

“I felt so betrayed,” Carroll said. “I felt that the loyalty that I gave I didn’t receive in return.”

Carroll, a retired Navy lieutenant commander, said she did nothing wrong but felt obliged to sign the one-sentence resignation letter to honor her chain of command.

“Who wants to work with a senior that doesn’t want you there?” she said.

The Clay County Republican believes she was set up for an unknown reason and regrets leaving the job she held since being elected with Scott in 2010. Carroll said Scott didn’t talk with her about his resignation request and hasn’t reached out to her since. She said she also hasn’t tried to contact him.

Scott did not return a message left through his press office and Hollingsworth didn’t return a call and a text from The Times-Union. Scott’s press secretary, John Tupps, said in an e-mail that Carroll’s public service — she also was elected five times to the House — was appreciated.

“Jennifer Carroll made the right decision for her family by resigning,” Tupps said in the two-sentence e-mail.

During the wide-ranging interview at the Fleming Island Golf Club clubhouse, Carroll said she was excited about her upcoming tell-all biography, to be released Aug. 27 on her birthday, and her new found appreciation for spending time with her husband and three children. She also said she’d like to run for office again, possibly elsewhere, and would be better prepared next time.

“I was a bit naive … in how treacherous and backstabbing the political game could be,” she said. “I would now have my eyes wide open to know that the jabs may be coming from your own people.”

A good chunk of the hour, however, involved talking about the damage she believes Scott and his top staff caused to her reputation and her ongoing efforts to clear her name.

She said she felt shunned from the beginning of Scott’s first term and believes he used her to get votes from blacks and former supporters of Bill McCollum, whom Carroll backed before Scott defeated him in the 2010 Republican primary.

As for the day of her resignation, Carroll said she was surprised to see Hollingsworth and the general counsel standing outside her door as the FDLE agents walked out. She said she greeted them with no idea what would come next.

“He [Hollingsworth] goes, ‘We had this talk with the governor a couple of days ago and he’s asking for your resignation,’” she said. “I go, ‘I didn’t do anything wrong.’ He goes, ‘It’s just going to distract the governor from his legislative session.’”

Carroll said after signing the previously prepared one-line resignation letter, Hollingsworth told her to cancel her appointments and stay in her office. She said she was told that afternoon Scott was holding a press conference about the matter the next day.


Lenny Curry, currently exploring a bid to become Jacksonville mayor, is announcing on Thursday he will step down as chair of the Florida Republican Party, reports the Florida Times-Union.

Curry will send a letter of resignation to the Republican Party leadership on Thursday and remain as chair through the end of May.

The move comes shortly after an endorsement from Peter Rummell, the powerful Northeast Florida GOP fundraiser, who could be a significant supporter for Curry.

Rummell told the Times-Union in a recent interview with the Times-Union that he will back the GOP chair against embattled Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown in the 2015 mayor’s race.

Rummell had supported Brown in his 2011 run against opponent Mike Hogan — a Republican who Rummell considered too conservative for the needs of Jacksonville.

With a personal $150,000 donation to Brown, opening the door for other downtown business and civic leaders, Rummell’s influence played a key role in Brown’s narrow victory.

Rummell, scorching in his criticism of Brown’s performance in office, is now throwing his considerable sway behind Curry.

“Peter is a man who has made an unparalleled commitment to seeing Jacksonville achieve great things. His support and confidence in my abilities as a leader are humbling,” Curry told the Times-Union last week. “I look forward to soon sharing my vision for how I can serve our community.”

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Critics of the craft beer bill passed in the Florida Senate are expressing some relief that its prospects in the House appear dubious with days left in the regular session.

Speaker Weatherford said it would take a two-thirds vote of the House (which means roughly 80 members) to bring the bill to the floor. “I think that bill has an uphill battle in the Florida House,” the Pasco County Republican told members of the media .

Around that same time in Tampa’s Seminole Heights, Joey Redner reiterated his criticisms of the bill, which he admits is not nearly as big of a “poison pill” as Lakeland Senator Kelli Stargel’s original bill that angered craft brewers and their supporters last week. That proposal would have required craft brewers like himself and others, once they reach a certain size, to sell their bottled products to distributors before buying them back to serve at their own establishments.

“It’s not the poison pill that it was, and honestly, it’s workable,” Redner told CL while attending a campaign event for Hillsborough County Democrat Pat Kemp at Ella’s restaurant in Seminole Heights. But that’s not to say he doesn’t have issues with her new bill, which would require craft breweries that sell more than 1,000 barrels of beer annually to sell only up to 20 percent of their product that goes out the door to customers at their tasting rooms without going through the distributors.

“It actually reduces the amount of growlers that we can fill,” he says. By that he means that currently craft breweries can sell growlers 32 ounces and smaller, but the new proposal says that the only growler sizes that will be legal are 32, 64 and 128-ounces.

“Let’s say you’re doing a limited release growler beer of a barleywine that’s 13 percent alcohol. Well, now you have to it into a 32-ounce (container). You might have wanted to put that in a 12-ounce or a 16-ounce, because that’s too much. So it literally just says you can only fill those three sizes.”

Being lost in all of the controversy is the fact that Senator Jack Latvala’s original bill for the past two years has been just a few sentences – legalizing the 64-ounce growler in Florida, so it can compete with the 47 other states that offer that container size of beer. “Why do we need this bill?” asked Senator Aaron Bean. “Why not just do the growlers and be done with it?”


On Tuesday, the Florida Senate approved a bill that would create regulations for the state’s booming craft brewing industry despite arguments that it would stifle job growth.

After the bill passed, a new voice in the debate between ‘Big Beer’ and craft brewers weighed-in — and it was a familiar voice to those active in Tampa Bay politics: Tom Pepin, CEO of Pepin Distributing Company.

“We strongly urge the Florida House to consider taking up and supporting this good public policy that eliminates the tourism exemption and creates a brewer/vendor license, so that craft breweries can be in compliance with Florida law,” said Pepin.

Of note, Pepin’s press release was distributed by Bascom Consulting and Communications, perhaps the leading Republican-leaning public relations firm in Tallahassee. Pepin is already well-represented in the capital by Ron Pierce, Natalie King and the rest of the team at RSA Consulting.

Pepin is a familiar face to many politicos in the Tampa Bay region. During the height of campaign season, a week does not often go by without an event hosted at the TPepin’s Hospitality Centre.

However, despite Pepin’s urging, SB 1714 is likely dead upon arrival in the House.

Rep. Dana Young said procedural hurdles will almost certainly keep the measure off the House floor between now and the end of the yearly legislative session on Friday.

The bill (SB 1714) doesn’t have a House companion, Young noted, “and I don’t see a way around that.”


Beer and politics can be a dangerous mix, but politics – specifically, recent legislation affecting Florida’s craft breweries – will be the topic of a public meeting at Intuition Ale Works on Saturday.

Intuition owner Ben Davis will provide an overview of the measures that moved through the Florida Legislature this session, including Senate Bill 1714.

Davis will discuss what beer lovers can do to support craft breweries and lobby against legislation damaging to the industry.

Intuition will be tapping some special one-off beers for the event, including a barrel-aged Jesse’s Girl Belgian quadrupel and Dark Star milk stout, as well as two beers brewed for Cinco de Mayo. A dollar from every beer sold at the event will go to the Brewers Guild of Florida Political Committee.

The meeting starts at 2 p.m. at the 720 King St. taproom.

If you drop by Intuition earlier Saturday, you can hang out with members of the CASK homebrew club, who will gather in Intuition’s courtyard for a group brew celebrating National Homebrew Day. CASK brewers will be firing up their kettles around 10 a.m., brewing a variety of beers.

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The Senate voted 21-15 against considering a House bill that is one of Speaker Weatherford’s top priorities.

HB 7181 overhauls the state’s pension system andFlorida’s 500 municipal pension plans. The Senate has those two issues, state pension reform vs. municipal pension reform, divided into two separate bills.

In the Senate, local pension reform is popular, and passed unanimously. The state pension reform, in SB 1114 sponsored by Sen. Wilton Simpson is controversial. The state’s $135 billion pension system is considered to be one of the most fiscally sound in the nation, so many senators say an overhaul isn’t necessary. But Weatherford has made an overhaul of the state’s pension system a chief priority.

The two bills were briefly merged in the Senate on Wednesday when President Gaetz asked quickly for an amendment that would substitute the Senate bill for the House merged version. After it passed on a voice vote, Sen. Jack Latvala rushed to his microphone to ask for a reconsideration of the vote.

After some back-and-forth on Senate procedures, Gaetz and Rules Chairman John Thrasher agreed to Latvala’s reconsideration of the vote. It passed 21-15, meaning the House bill was no longer accepted.

“We have to respect the process,” Latvala said of the attempt to merge the two bills with little discussion. “We have rules, we need to respect them, you need to match up the bills before you can take up the House bill. That’s just the way it is.”

After the Senate broke for lunch, Simpson said he will try to amend the local pension bill onto his state pension bill later this afternoon. His bill probably dies if the two aren’t merged, he said.

IMMIGRATION-TUITION BILL ADVANCES via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

A senator’s controversial, presumed-dead quest to secure in-state college tuition for students whose parents immigrated to the country illegally rose from the ashes Wednesday.

Under the measure, undocumented students would be eligible to compete for fee waivers granting them in-state tuition if they had attended a Florida high school for at least three years prior to graduation. They would not be eligible for financial aid.

The bills sponsor, Sen. Latvala encouraged his fellow lawmakers to help remedy an “inequitable situation” that now penalizes children brought to the United States through no choice of their own.

Sen. Kelli Stargel feared Florida would be throwing out the welcome mat for illegal immigrants.

Would the proposed legislation not send the message that “we’re trying encourage illegal immigrants to come to Florida, to move here, and live here and go to our [schools]?”

Latvala said the bill laid out enough criteria to dissuade that.

“I don’t think we’re opening the door to an influx of new people,” Latvala said. “I just don’t think that that’s the message we’re sending.”

Wearing handmade, bright-orange felt mortarboards, students who could benefit from the proposed legislation have rallied in the state Capitol throughout the week. About two dozen of them sat overlooking the Senate chamber during the nearly one-hour debate.

Such students now pay up to three or four times the in-state tuition rates to attend Florida state colleges and universitiies.

Senators took up House bill 851, sponsored by Rep. Jeanette Nuñez which passed in the lower chamber on an 81-33 vote March 20. Because it was amended, it now must return to the House for another approval.

The Senate version of the bill (SB 1400) had seemingly died earlier this month when Sen. Joe Negron chair of the Appropriations Committee, refused to bring the bill before his committee.

TWEET, TWEET: @JackLatvala: We are one step closer to more affordable tuition for everyone in Florida! HB 851 is now on Third Reading in the Florida Senate!


Florida’s school grading system would be paused for a year under a bill now headed to the desk of Gov. Scott.

The House on Wednesday voted 76-42 for the bill (SB 1642) that overhauls the state’s A-to-F school grading system. The legislation is backed by Education Commissioner Pam Stewart.

The move is being made as the state transitions to a new test replacing the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

But a key portion of the bill would ensure that schools wouldn’t receive any sanctions or penalties as a result of school grades issued in 2015. That’s because the state plans to use the first year of the new test as a baseline to measure schools.

School superintendents had suggested a three-year pause on the grading system.


Voters will have a chance to decide whether an outgoing governor should appoint vacancies on the Florida Supreme Court that open at the same time a new governor is sworn in.

The House voted 73-45 to place a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot to give outgoing governors power to appoint justices during the transition to a new governor.

If it passes and Gov. Scott is re-elected, it would mean he will fill three vacancies expected to occur as he leaves office in 2019 because of a mandatory retirement age for justices.

Democrats opposed the bill, arguing that if people elect a governor in November, that governor should be the one to appoint the Supreme Court justices for vacancies that begin on inauguration day two months later.


Without any debate, the House passed a plan to blow up Orlando’s scandal-plagued tollway authority and replace it with a larger, regional expressway.

The 115-0 vote sends SB 230 back to the Senate, where it is expected to pass ahead of Friday’s adjournment. The legislation creates a new Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX), which would absorb the existing authorities in Orange, Lake and Seminole counties.

Osceola would join in 2018, although the bill was amended to allow the county to keep revenue generated from its own toll roads.

The bill creates a nine-member board, with Gov. Rick Scott appointing three members, a reduction in his appointment authority that local leaders like Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said would increase “local control” of the powerful agency that will oversee hundreds of millions of dollars in tolls annually.

One of Scott’s appointees to the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority, Scott Batterson, was indicted by a grand jury last week on bribery charges.

Although Osceola would have a voting member on the board, it wouldn’t have to join until after it had secured road-building plans, including for a project that could link Orlando’s airport to what could be the largest planned-development in the country at Deseret Ranches.


On Wednesday, the Senate added an amendment to HB 7105 addressing trauma-care, a bill dealing with health-care rulemaking.

Senators had already added on Monday a trauma amendment to SB 1354, another health care bill. The House also tacked on trauma changes to HB 7113, a comprehensive health bill.

Although both chambers appear to support the continued operation of trauma centers at Blake Medical Center in Manatee County, Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Pasco County and Ocala Regional Medical Center in Marion County, neither have agreed on broader health bills, leaving it uncertain how the trauma issue will proceed.

At issue are the continuing legal and political battles over decisions by the Florida Department of Health in 2011 and 2012 to allow the three HCA Health Care-operated trauma centers to open.

Hospitals in the Tampa Bay and Gainesville areas, each with longstanding trauma facilities, have raised legal challenges, and courts found the rule the DOH used in granting the approvals was invalid.


With the end of the legislative session approaching on Friday, the Florida Senate is using another approach to ensure the continued operation of disputed trauma centers in Pasco, Manatee and Marion counties.

On Wednesday, the Senate added an amendment to HB 7105 addressing trauma-care, a bill dealing with health-care rulemaking.

Senators had already added on Monday a trauma amendment to SB 1354, another health care bill. The House also tacked on trauma changes to HB 7113, a comprehensive health bill.

Although both chambers appear to support the continued operation of trauma centers at Blake Medical Center in Manatee County, Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Pasco County and Ocala Regional Medical Center in Marion County, neither have agreed on broader health bills, leaving it uncertain how the trauma issue will proceed.

At issue are the continuing legal and political battles over decisions by the Florida Department of Health in 2011 and 2012 to allow the three HCA Health Care-operated trauma centers to open.

Hospitals in the Tampa Bay and Gainesville areas, each with longstanding trauma facilities, have raised legal challenges, and courts found the rule the DOH used in granting the approvals was invalid.

A YEAR LATER, LAWMAKERS GIVE DISNEY ITS TICKET LAW via Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel

Without a word of debate, the House unanimously approved a Walt Disney World-backed bill that would increase penalties for theme-park ticket fraud and extend those protections to the giant resort’s new microchip-embedded “MagicBands.”

The legislation, which unanimously passed the Senate, now heads to Gov. Scott, who is expected to sign it.

Rep. Jason Brodeur, the Sanford Republican who shepherded Disney’s legislation through the House, described the measure as a “consumer protection bill.” Among other changes, the legislation would make it a first-degree, rather than second-degree, misdemeanor to resell a multiday or multi-park theme park ticket after the first day or park has been used. A second violation would become a felony.

The legislation would expand the legal definition of tickets to include a “wristband,” a provision meant to ensure the laws accommodate Disney’s MagicBands, the rubber bracelets embedded with RFID-chips that are at the center of Disney’s $1 billion “MyMagic+” project.

Disney lobbied for a nearly identical bill last year, but it failed to pass amid objections from Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, who was angry at the company for financially supporting his opponent in a nasty primary election. But Lee agreed to be the Senate sponsor of the measure this year, not long after Disney wrote a $10,000 check to a fundraising committee associated with Lee. Lee said the contribution and his support were unrelated.

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On Wednesday, a group of House members, leaders, family and friends gathered in the House chamber for the traditional portrait unveiling to honor Speaker Will Weatherford.

As a parting gift, House members gave a watch to Weatherford, who is finishing his two-year term as speaker

“The Florida House is a very, very special place,” Weatherford said after the unveiling.

The portrait now hangs on the chamber wall, alongside portraits of other speakers who served in the past century.

Gathering to honor Weatherford and his new portrait were Senate President Don Gaetz, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Attorney General Pam Bondi and state CFO Jeff Atwater. Also attending was Allan Bense, Weatherford’s father-in-law, the Panama City Republican who was also a former House Speaker.

Weatherford added he would make additional parting remarks Friday.


State Rep. Mark Pafford has had to fend off rumors in recent days that House Democrats have been orchestrating a coup to oust him as incoming leader.

“I have heard those rumors,” he said. “These types of things happen. I think it’s fairly common.”

He’s right.

Pafford will serve as the top House Democrat for a two-year term starting next year after the caucus ousted state Rep. Darryl Rouson as its incoming leader in September.

There had been bad blood between Rouson and other party leaders, but that boiled over when he opened a fundraising committee that allowed him to raise money independent of the Florida Democratic Party.

Pafford says he’s not sure why rumors started circulating this year, but said “I’ve never been concerned.”

“I would ask you to ask those pushing them [rumors],” he said. “It is just one of those types of issues, you don’t know where it comes from.”


Thursday is the penultimate day of the 2014 legislative session, where both chambers are frantically trying to get bills through to beat the Friday, May 2 Sine Die deadline.

Among the dwindling House agenda, there are bills to ban discrimination against pregnant women, requiring report cards to show the school’s return on investment and restricting special districts from banning on-demand limousine technology, which could allow Uber to operate in Tampa Bay.

In the Senate, there are proposals to keep open three disputed trauma centers, a bill changing the process for tax breaks for sports stadiums projects, one to allow concealed weapons during mandatory evacuations and another establishing the Agency for State Technology.

TWEET, TWEET: @JimmyPatronis: This is a reminder to please join Rep Santiago for the final Bowtie Thursday of the 2014 Session.

***Uber, the ground-breaking on-demand transportation app, is ready to expand in the Sunshine State. But politics is getting in the way of progress. To date, more than 100,000 Florida residents and visitors have opened the Uber app, only to find their transportation needs can’t be met. Moreover, Uber serves as a job generator and economic stimulator wherever it operates; its 2013 economic impact in Chicago was $46 million. In Florida, Uber could create tens of thousands of jobs. The time is now for modern transportation options. Let’s not leave Florida standing at the curb. Sign the petition here.***


Towson Fraser, Southern Strategy Group: Servpro Industries, Inc

TWEET, TWEET: @tjstaple: The future of medicine is in good hands with @hanselt and @MyronRolle. Great pic at the FL Capitol! @FloridaMedical


Today on Context Florida: Extended media interviews are rare for Florida First Lady Ann Scott, writes Peter Schorsch, but she will make an exception for issues close to her heart. Scott sits down with Sachs Media Group’s Michelle Ubben to discuss her gradual transition into the public spotlight. Florida Statutes provides vital protection against discrimination for individuals based on several categories, including sex, color, and religion, notes Mario Valle, chair of the Florida Commission on Human Relations. However, one category of individuals noticeably missing from such beneficial protection is pregnant women. Martin Dyckman talks about the “national insanity” coming from a “phony” right to bear arms, saying that there has been nothing so irrational since the witchcraft craze in colonial New England. According to Kate Wallace, community engagement director for the Foundation for Florida’s Future, a growing number of Floridians see charter schools and private schools that serve voucher students, as they should see them, not as adversaries, but as partners in fulfilling the mission of providing a quality public education to all children.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


Jameis Winston, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback from Florida State University, was busted for allegedly leaving a Tallahassee Publix with $32.73 worth of crab legs and crawfish he didn’t pay for — an otherwise minor shoplifting case that became nationwide news when it broke on the Tomahawk Nation fan blog.

Winston is one of the most-celebrated and most-scrutinized figures in college sports after leading the Seminoles this year to a national football title while also facing accusations of raping an FSU student.

State Attorney Willie Meggs concluded in December that he had too little evidence to prosecute the case successfully and pressed no charges.

Nicknamed “Famous Jameis,” Winston is one of the most-recognizable figures in town and an employee spotted him leaving with the unpaid-for goods just before 9 p.m., Publix reported it to the Leon County Sheriff’s Office, who found Winston at his home about three hours later.

“Jameis was very cooperative,” Maj. Mike Wood said at a press conference. “He did, in fact, acknowledge he had left Publix without paying for the items. He indicated to the deputies he had forgotten. And when he got home he realized that he had not paid. But he in fact had made no effort to contact Publix or return to pay prior to the deputies’ arrival.”

Wood, who stressed that Winston technically wasn’t arrested, said Winston would enter a pre-trial program, pay a $20 fine, perform community service and make restitution to Publix.

Wood said Winston’s time in Publix was captured on in-house video cameras, which showed him ordering the seafood from a counter and then milling around the store. Winston at one point picked up butter, but ultimately put the package down before departing without paying.

The employee who saw Winston, Wood said, thought the player was leaving temporarily to get a cart. But when Winston didn’t return, he reported the theft.

“While we are unable to share our loss prevention tactics/techniques for obvious reasons, we can say that our processes and thresholds were fair and consistent,” Publix spokeswoman Maria Brous said in a written statement.

Shortly before the sheriff’s office 2 p.m. news conference on Thursday, Florida State baseball coach Mike Miller announced he had suspended Winston indefinitely until he completes the pre-trial program. Winston is a relief pitcher for the Seminoles.

FSU football coach Jimbo Fisher said in a statement that he supports Miller’s decision.

IMPORTANT CORRECTION: In yesterday’s Sunburn, I wrote that that pic du jour was that of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam standing next to Smokey The Bear. An astute reader points out that the article “the” does not belong in front of Bear, hence it’s Smokey Bear. My apologies.

PRESS RELEASE OF THE DAY: “Italian Consul General Adolfo Barattolo, Italian Economic Council Members Meet with Legislative Leaders on Thursday, May 1, 2014 in Tallahassee” via Christina Johnson of On 3 Public Relations

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.