Sunburn for 9/17 – 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 the health care exchanges at the heart of the law open for enrollment in two weeks, the public’s views of it are as negative as they have ever been, and disapproval of the president’s handling of health care has hit a new high. Confusion and misinformation about the law haven’t significantly abated, especially among the law’s main targets.

Among the 19% polled who are uninsured, nearly four in 10 don’t realize the law requires them to get health insurance next year. Among young people, whose participation is seen as crucial for the exchanges to work, just 56% realize there’s a mandate to be insured or face a fine.

And in the states that have refused to participate in the insurance marketplaces — defaulting instead to the federal exchange — knowledge about the Affordable Care Act and support for it are notably lower than in states that are setting up their own exchanges.

53% disapprove of the health care law, the highest level since it was signed; 42% approve. By an even wider margin, intensity favors the opposition; 41% of those surveyed strongly disapprove while just 26% strongly approve.

Fifty-three percent disapprove of Obama’s handling of health care policy, an historic high. And Democrats have lost their traditional advantage on the issue. For the first time in polling that stretches back more than two decades, Americans narrowly prefer Republicans in dealing with health care policy, 40%-39%.

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MARCO RUBIO SLIPS IN NATIONAL POLL via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

CNN has a new poll showing Hillary Clinton as the clear 2016 favorite among Democrats but what’s more interesting is the Republican side and Sen. Marco Rubio’s standing.

Seventeen percent of Republicans and Independents who lean toward the GOP say they are likely to support New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, with 16% backing Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the House Budget Committee chairman and 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is at 13%; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 10%; Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida at 9%; Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas at 7%, and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a 2012 Republican presidential candidate who battled eventual nominee Mitt Romney deep into the primary season, at 5%.

Rubio’s number stands out. The first-term senator, considered a rock star among many Republicans, registered in the upper teens in polls of the possible GOP 2016 horserace conducted by other organizations earlier this year. But Rubio’s support of immigration reform — he was a high profile member of a bipartisan group of senators who pushed immigration reform passage through the Senate this spring — may have hurt his standing with many conservative voters opposed to such efforts.”

TWEET, TWEET: @MacStipanovich It’s how we teach our pols risk avoidance so we can complain about their timidity.

WHY EVERYONE IS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT via Shane Goldmacher of National Journal

Less than 24 hours after Rep. Peter King suggested he was interested in running for president in 2016, the outspoken New York Republican was mic’d up and staring into a morning television live shot. The King media boomlet is the latest proof that having your name in the presidential hopper is one of the most valuable currencies in American politics. It creates an influx of media attention and a potential national base for campaign cash. It’s why so many politicians are testing the presidential waters these days—with visits to the key early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. They get a national megaphone for the price of a plane ticket and a press release.

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A Republican proposal in the House would slash spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by about $40 billion over a decade, but the figure is larger than what most Democrats are willing to support. Figuring out how much to cut food-stamp costs, which doubled to about $80 billion last fiscal year from its 2008 level in large part because of the recession, has been an ongoing source of frustration for both parties, but this new measure would further distance the House GOP from Senate Democrats, who want cuts closer to $4 billion.


When it comes to political fundraising, Congress doesn’t travel very far; 76 percent of all political fundraisers in D.C. take place within three city blocks of the U.S. Capitol, a new study by the Sunlight Foundation shows. Additionally, these fundraisers are concentrated in and around congressional working hours and on days when the House and Senate are in session.

SILLY EMAIL OF THE DAY via congressional candidate Jessica Ehrlich: “Did you go to work today?  Or did you sleep in, watch Judge Judy and play hookie?  If you didn’t show up for work would you keep your job?   Of course not.  But Bill Young thinks he should keep his even though he has had more than 100 days off so far this year.  But he wasn’t listening to his constituents or holding even a single town hall.  Instead, Bill Young’s been on vacation.  Instead, Bill Young chose to ignore the very people he is supposed to represent.”

STEVE SOUTHERLAND’S CAMPAIGN PAID FOR UPKEEP AND RENT ON CONGRESSMAN’S HOME via Steve Miller with the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

Rep. Steve Southerland used campaign funds to improve and maintain a Panama City home he inherited in 2005. Southerland used the home for his headquarters during two campaigns before selling it for $550,000 in June, records show. 

Although the payments and money Southerland made off the sale of the home may seem questionable to a layman, they are in line with campaign finance rules, experts in election laws tell the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.

The home had been dormant since 2005. Southerland secured a $414,000 home equity loan on the property in 2007. In 2010, as he made his first bid for Congress, the 4,300-square foot home was the primary headquarters for his 12-person campaign staff. In 2012, Southerland used the home, which was up for sale, as one of two campaign headquarters.

Using campaign money to fund and fix a headquarters, even if it is owned by the candidate, is permissible under campaign finance law, provided the expenditures are in line with local rental rates, said Paul Ryan, senior counsel at the D.C.-based Campaign Legal Center, a campaign finance and analysis group.

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The Florida Democratic Party released a web video, telling Florida voters “the real story about Rick Scott’s tax tour. During his widely panned tax tour last week, the Governor offered no details, but met with campaign donors to solicit proposals for how to benefit special interests. Over and over again last week Rick Scott brushed aside mentions of investment in the middle class in favor of tax giveaways to the wealthy special interests.”
The web ad, titled “Listening,” is backed by social media and online advertising buys. Watch here.


Even though my last guess — I won’t call it a prediction — about when Charlie Crist would announce his plans for 2014 turned out to be very wrong, I’m ready to make another bold prediction, err, I mean guess:  Charlie Crist will announce he is running for Governor … later, rather than sooner.

I can just hear the booing and hissing. You wanted a firm date when Crist will make his declaration.

I really don’t know. All I can say is, I don’t think it’s happening in October as everyone else is speculating.

First of all, Charlie is not going to announce before Alex Sink publicly declares her intentions. Although she had previously committed to making a decision by September, Sink now says she will make up her mind by the time of the Democratic confab in October.

Sink’s announcement won’t be a particularly festive occasion because she’s going to say she’s not running and then she’s going to bemoan the fact that there aren’t more “real” Democrats in the race and why won’t Bill Nelson run, etc., etc. The whole episode will come off very bitter, as Sink has during much of this process. 

Secondly, Crist is incredibly loyal and connected to his hometown of St. Petersburg. He’s never before launched a campaign from anywhere else other than the ‘burg and he’s not going to break that tradition now. When Crist announces, he will want all of the friends and people he has been collecting for five decades to be there for the show….

Why would Crist file in October and spend a month asking potential donors for $500 when he can wait a month and ask them for $3,000? He shouldn’t. In fact, this change in the campaign finance laws could be the most important factor in Crist’s thinking.

This pushes “The Announcement” into 2014, perhaps during the second week of January. Like I said, later rather than sooner.


Susan Hepworth: “Last week Super Duper Dan Gelber attacked Governor Scott for trying to “dupe” voters with his record – a record of positive annual job growth for 36 consecutive monthsunemployment rate below the national average, and nearly 370,000 private-sector jobs created. The real duper here is Super Duper Dan Gelber, a liberal who is shepherding Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist through Democratic circles, trying his hardest to dupe fellow liberals into believing that Charlie Crist is a true liberal.”

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Gov. Rick Scott plans to lead a trade delegation to the Dominican Republic in late February, according to Enterprise Florida, the state’s public-private business recruitment organization. Enterprise Florida sent an email Monday announcing that it was looking for business to join the mission to Santo Domingo.

“The mission will be an excellent opportunity for small and medium-sized businesses in Florida to expand their reach into the Caribbean region,” said Commerce Secretary Gray Swoope, who also serves as president and CEO of Enterprise Florida, in a press release.

Scott has also traveled to Panama, Canada, Brazil, Israel, Spain, Britain, Colombia, Chile and France on trade missions since taking office in 2011.

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The Foundation for Florida’s Future will host a media roundtable and media conference call at 11:00 a.m.. Media is invited to participate and learn about how education reforms are working and the implementation of Common Core State Standards. During the briefing, reporters will receive a media packet that includes information about public school student successes and information about how Florida ranks nationally as well as information about CCSS. A question and answer session will follow.

Joe Pickens, President of the St. Johns River State College and chair of the Florida College system, and Cari Miller, policy advisor for the Foundation, will present alongside executive director Patricia Levesque.  To attend in person, join them at 215 S. Monroe Street, Suite 420, or call in to (800) 791-2345 #62415.


Across the state, libertarians rage against red-light traffic cameras.

The claims are many: there is conflicting evidence about whether they make intersections safer; the only purpose is to make money for cash-strapped local governments; they’re unconstitutionally.

I understand the arguments. What I don’t understand is why they choose this issue, as opposed to a much more egregious moving violation that has little, if any effect, on the safety of our road system – speeding tickets on interstate highways.

Speeding tickets on roads specifically designed for high-speed travel do what, exactly?

There is evidence that red-light traffic cameras result in fewer violations and fewer serious crashes. And I will admit there is conflicting evidence that states this is not true. But at least there is data and a debate.

I have yet to find data that says driving 70 mph is any safer than driving 80 mph.

And yet, state and local governments pull in hundreds of millions of dollars in speeding tickets every year, far more than red-light camera tickets generate.


State Board of Education: Meets 9:00 a.m. to discuss how to proceed with its search for another state Commissioner of Education. The meeting will be held at Forest Hill Community High School, 6901 Parker Ave., West Palm Beach.  

Federal Judicial Nominating Commission: Will interview candidates for a U.S. District judge position in the Southern District of Florida at 9:00 a.m. at the US Courthouse in Miami. The candidates are Beatrice A. Butchko, Jack B. Tuter, Jr., John W. Thornton, Jr., David A. Haimes, Thomas J. Rebull, Mary Barzee Flores, Martin J. Bidwill, Daryl E. Trawick, Jeffrey J. Colbath, Darrin P. Gayles, Robin L. Rosenberg, Migna Sanchez-Llorens, Meenu T. Sasser, Veronica Harrell-James, Beth Bloom, Barry S. Seltzer and Peter R. Lopez. 9 a.m., Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. 

Florida Supreme Court: Will hear oral arguments in a case involving what to do about some juveniles who were given particularly long prison sentences when they were kids. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that life sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional in cases other than murders. The case of  Shimeeka Daquiel Gridine, who was sentenced to 70 years in prison for attempted murder when he was 14, involves when a long sentence is effectively a life sentence. The First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee asked the state’s highest court to determine whether the sentence essentially amounts to life in prison, and therefore should be barred. The Gridine case is one of several involving juveniles that have come up in Florida courts since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Arguments start at 9:00 a.m.

Medical care Advisory Committee: Will meet and review Medicaid-related issues. 1:00 p.m., Agency for Health Care Administration.

Agency for Persons with Disabilities: APD director Barbara Palmer will resume a series of town-hall meetings to discuss the 2013 legislative session and to answer questions. 3:00 p.m., Goodwill, 1101 N.W. 21st St., Stuart.

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There is a wonderful scene in “The Late Shift”, the surprisingly interesting account of the power struggle between Jay Leno and David Letterman to succeed Johnny Carson as the “King of Late Night”, where Letterman is on the verge of accepting an offer from CBS to walk from NBC, but not before NBC comes in with an eleventh hour counter-offer.  Letterman is excited that he’s finally going to be named host of The Tonight Show, until he starts hearing the details, at which point red flags start popping up all over. Even so, he’s still torn over passing up a second shot at a lifelong dream.

Enter Peter Lassally, his executive producer, who forces Letterman to confront the harsh reality of what’s going on around him. ”David, you don’t understand … I’m the guy who moved heaven and earth to get you that second chance, and I’m telling you … it’s not right. It’s leftovers. It’s shoddy.” As the entertainment world quickly found out, Letterman walked away from NBC, pride (mostly) intact.

Surveying what’s going on both behind-the-scenes and in public concerning Representative Darryl Rouson’s leadership of the House Democratic Caucus, it’s time for Rouson to pull a Letterman and step down as incoming House Democratic Leader. And he should do so before next week’s caucus meeting where, after a private filleting of Rouson, he will be publicly shamed by his colleagues.

Now, I am not the guy who moved heaven and earth for Darryl Rouson to get a second chance at public life — that would be Barry Edwards — but I was one of the “producers” of that show, whether it be directly working for Rouson’s campaigns or helping to manage his wife’s bid for the St. Petersburg City Council. And I’m telling you, Darryl … it’s not right. Being in charge of the House Democratic Caucus is leftovers. It’s shoddy.

Face it, at this point, Allison Tant and Co. are not going to let you have control of the checkbook, no matter how much money you raise for the party. Tant is not going to let you hire your own people, including and especially Edwards.  Even if you remain leader, you’re the leader of what? The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight?  


The elected officials and lobbyists gathered at the fashionable Oxford Exchange restaurant in downtown Tampa were among the highest-profile characters in Florida politics. The political fundraiser for state Sen. Wilton Simpson had attracted top names from Florida’s Republican Party and also lobbyists that represent politically active companies like Walt Disney, Florida Power & Light, AT&T, U.S. Sugar and Las Vegas Sands, among many others. The contact person for the occasion was one person without the name recognition of House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz, who were both in attendance. That was Kris Money, who draws a six-figure taxpayer-funded salary as Weatherford’s deputy chief of staff but has earned more conducting political work.

Though scheduled to boost Simpson’s war chest, the June 26 event helps underscore the cozy political relationships state employees can develop with lobbyists before returning to positions within the government those lobbyists later try to influence.

Firms employing the dozen lobbyists in attendance collectively paid an estimated $2.3 million between April and June to lobby state staffers such as Money, records show.

Money represents a high-level example, but it’s not uncommon for state employees at all levels to do political work. Since 2008, people who work in the Legislature or governor’s office have been paid or reimbursed $5.7 million for political work.

Some of that money represents reimbursements for things someone originally paid for out of pocket, but much of it is for salary, contract work or consulting. Expenditure reports list $240,881 in “reimbursements,” or 4 percent of the total. Other expenses could be related to reimbursements, but are not clearly labeled as such.

Roughly $1.6 million of that money was paid to current, low-level legislative aides — state employees who often work on their members’ re-election campaigns.

EDITORIAL: LIFT THE FIREWORKS BAN via The Pensacola News Journal

Matt Gaetz has filed a bill to repeal the state’s fireworks ban. It would allow for the sale of fireworks, ending the smuggling from other states.

“We’re pushing economic activity out of our state with a regulation that’s relatively meaningless because people get fireworks elsewhere and just bring them down and shoot them off here,” Gaetz told the News Herald. “We’d rather keep those dollars in Florida.”

He is right. No one knows better than counties that border Alabama how lucrative the fireworks business is around New Year’s and the Fourth of July. A quick trip to Robertsdale, Ala., from Pensacola shows that fireworks are popular. Most days there are just as many Florida license plates as those from Alabama. Why allow those thousands of dollars to be spent in other states?

… The bill could be considered during the 2014 legislative session. If it’s approved, like many things, added freedom comes with responsibility. Fireworks are inherently dangerous. Those who want to host a backyard display have the responsibility to fire them off safely. That includes following any advisories from state forest officials during dry weather with low humidity which increases the risk of wildfires.

Attend any Independence Day event and the main attraction typically is the fireworks display. They are as important to the holiday as hot dogs. The state should lift the ban and make fireworks easier to purchase.

SIDES DIGGING IN FOR NEW RED-LIGHT CAMERA DEBATE via Lloyd Dunkelburger of the Herald Tribune

A move to repeal Florida’s three-year-old red-light camera law next year faces formidable obstacles, including a well-financed red-light camera company lobbying corps paid up to a half-million dollars in the 2013 legislative session to protect the lucrative industry. There will also be a strong pushback from the 77 cities and counties — many still trying to recover from the Great Recession and its aftermath — that received more than $62 million in fines from the cameras in the most recent budget year.

The state, which splits the $158 fines with local government, received nearly $53 million from the cameras. Opponents will also have to overcome arguments from safety advocates who say the cameras save lives and make Florida’s roadways safer. The law is named after Mark Wandall, a Manatee County man whose wife fought for years to pass the legislation after her husband was killed when a motorist ran a traffic light. Casey Cook, a lobbyist for the Florida League of Cities, said safety, not revenue, will be the primary argument from local governments that want to keep the existing law. 

As for the opposition from local governments as well as the big-money lobbying corps, State Sen. Jeff Brandes said he is prepared to counter them with his arguments. “It’s a tough climb,” he said. “But it’s not insurmountable.”


Whether or not lawmakers and their staff can face depositions as part of a lawsuit challenging Florida’s new political lines is now up to Florida’s top court.

At issue is the legal principle known as “legislative privilege.” It protects lawmakers from having to be taken to court or face deposition for actions taken conducting state business.

It’s “so a legislator does not get hauled into a court every time a bill is passed,” said Justice Barbara Pariente during Monday’s oral arguments.

A coalition led by the League of Women Voters of Florida says that in this case privilege does not apply. A Tallahassee appeals court disagreed, and the Florida Supreme Court agreed to take up the case in June.

Attorneys for the state argued that intent is clearly in play as it pertains to drawing the maps.

It’s one piece of the larger redistricting case, which has sparked political intrigueage.

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Three Republicans will compete in a special primary election in House District 36. The seat opened last month when former Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, was appointed Pasco County tax collector. The three Republican candidates are Bill Gunter and Jeromy Harding, both of New Port Richey, and James Mathieu of Port Richey. The winner will take on Democrat Amanda Murphy in the Oct. 15 general election.


Blaise Ingoglia, candidate for House District 35, has two fundraisers scheduled for the coming week. The first, in Brandon on Sept. 18th, will be held at the Sumatra Bistro from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.  Join honorary hosts Sen. Tom Lee and Reps. Ross Spano, Jake Raburn, and Dan Raulerson, along with event hosts Deborah Cox-Roush and Sam Rashid.  Then, on Sept. 24, Ingoglia will be honored at the Governors Club in Tallahassee from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., joined by 21 current House and Senate members.


Rep. Dana Young’s re-election campaign for House District 60 will be kicked off on tonight with a reception hosted by Attorney General Pam Bondi, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, CFO Jeff Atwater, Speaker Will Weatherford, and Speaker-Designate Crisafulli.  Young’s hosts also include a spate of 17 state and local leaders, and 43 others from her district.  

Join Young and her team from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at the Tampa Yacht and Country Club. 

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Last week, I wrote a post about some curious staff abilities and responsibilities in Broward County, which caught my attention after the Broward Bulldog did a story on staff making decisions and awarding contracts. Since my blog hit, I have heard from several readers, via emails and private messages on Facebook, that not only is the process more tangled a web than first thought, but the outcome could cost taxpayers 22 MILLION DOLLARS.  Evidently, that is the difference between the original highest bidder and the lowest, which is now the lowest bidder because of cost normalization and the lowest is now the highest … well, you get the point. I also came across some interesting information on where the highly unusual cost normalization idea came from.

The originally-highest bidder who is now the lowest bidder thanks to the cost normalization concept – a concept that evidently they recommended this staff -run selection committee – is tied to the consulting firm which did the normalization. According to lobbyist registrations, the same South Florida lobbyist, Bernie Friedman of Becker Poliakoff, represents Ciber and the firm (Plante Moran) which was chosen to do the cost normalization.

Following along? The consulting firm which did the cost normalization is represented by the same lobbyists who represents the bidder (Ciber) which benefited most from the process. 

Really?  Nobody else saw this?  And nobody else sees this as a problem?  

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to St. Petersburg City Councilman Charlie Gerdes.

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.