Sunburn for 9/26: A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

***Sunburn is sponsored by Tucker/Hall – one of Florida’s leading public affairs and public relations firms. Bring in their team to help you with state and local government issues, ballot initiatives, regulatory issues and grassroots campaigns. Visit to read about their team.***


As the U.S. heads toward a potential government shutdown or default, the public is more alienated from Washington than at any time since the aftermath of the 2011 downgrade of the nation’s credit rating. President Barack Obama’s 47 percent favorability rating and the 34 percent positive reading for Republicans are the worst ever for both in the Bloomberg National Poll, which began in 2009. The 44 percent approval rating of the Democratic Party is at a two-year low. Obama’s 45 percent job-approval rating is the lowest since September 2011, a month after a partisan showdown over lifting the debt ceiling brought the U.S. to the brink of default. 

Americans also are pessimistic about the course of the country, with 68 percent saying it’s headed in the wrong direction, the most in two years, according to the poll of 1,000 adults conducted Sept. 20-23. 

Americans’ negative feelings about Washington contrast with more optimistic views about their own prospects. Thirty-five percent of respondents expect their financial security to improve during the next year, up from 25 percent in December 2012.  More details from the survey here.

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Multiple GOP senators tell National Review‘s Robert Costa that House Republicans will likely pass a short-term continuing resolution to fund the government into early October. ‘It’d be a short-term, clean CR,’ as one describes the legislation. ‘It’d fund the government for one week or so and keep us talking,’ says another senator. … House Republican aides say the leadership is still considering several options and would not confirm the report.”


The Treasury will only have $30 billion of cash on hand by mid-October, putting the United States on the precipice of an unprecedented default… The warning puts additional pressure on a hamstrung Congress, which is already struggling to prevent the federal government from shutting down over a budget impasse on Oct. 1.


The Senate is expected to take the key budget vote Friday or Saturday, where Reid will be looking to score 60 votes to get cloture on the resolution. With cloture, Democrats would have all the votes they need to remove the Obamacare defunding provisions from the budget extension, and send the clean version back to the House.

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It might not be March, but today starts a new mode of Madness.  TrendPo, a political data venture,  has launched their latest project: the “Congressional Bracketology” series. Congressional Bracketology is a competition that pits elected officials against each other in a test of social media prowess, NCAA bracket style.  First, TrendPo ranked to seed the 64 US Senators with the strongest social media presence, and arranged them by region into brackets. And now, over the next six weeks, TrendPo analysts will scour member activity with daily updates on hits, likes, shares, followers, reposts, and other metrics that reflect public engagement with politico messaging.  In these “Senate Sweeps,” anybody can fill out a bracket and submit it for the chance to win.

Beginning today, TrendPo is tracking each Senator’s social media activity. In the first round, spanning October 2nd to 8th, politicians will be measured on the change in their Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube metrics.  The member in each pair with less activity is eliminated. From October 9th to 15th, analysts will focus on Facebook likes, shares and comments.  The Sweet Sixteen will span October 16th to 22nd with a look at Twitter followers, retweets and mentions, followed by the Elite Eight, from October 23rd to 29th, where YouTube channel views, subscribers and likes will be tracked.  By this point, all but four Senators will have been eliminated, and once again between October 30th and November 5th, all social media will again be reviewed.  In the Finals, from November 6th to 12th, the winner will have to dominate on engagement measures, including interactions between politicians and their followers, including shares, comments, mentions and retweets.

“Senate Sweeps is a way to benchmark and compare how engaged Senators are on Social Media, encourage them to ramp up their efforts, and show Americans which Senators make outreach a priority,” the TrendPo website explains.

Florida’s two Senators have both made the cut and will be judged among the starting 64.  Sen. Marco Rubio is seeded at #7 in the South and #18 overall, while Sen. Bill Nelson is seeded #10 in the South and #23 overall.  The two Floridians face each other in Round One, and the winner will move on to the Facebook Round against either Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky or Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee. 

Rubio sets out with a hefty 54,993 Facebook likes and 433,600 Twitter followers.  Nelson begins with 17,508 Facebook likes and 32,467 Twitter followers. Check out the brackets and then get busy strategically engaging your favorites.


Sen. Marco Rubio left Sen. Ted Cruz’s hours-long Senate speech against Obamacare Tuesday to attend a fundraiser for Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, according to the Democratic super PAC American Bridge 21st Century.

After speaking on the Senate floor, and noting that Cruz “may be here all night,” Rubio abandoned the anti-Obamacare marathon for a fundraising reception at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington.

Rubio was joined by former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour at the fundraiser. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Rand Paul cancelled last-minute.

After Rubio completed his roughly 15-minute Senate speech, Cruz thanked him, saying, “You inspire me.”

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With the Panama Canal expansion expected to be complete in late 2014 and a rival project starting to form in Nicaragua, Gov. Rick Scott and the state Cabinet doubled down on Florida’s commitment to ports on Tuesday.Scott and the Cabinet approved sending $150 million from bond proceeds to finance ports projects across the state.

Much of the funds will be used to prepare Florida’s ports for the Panama Canal expansion. The revisions will allow larger vessels to move through the canal. Ports across the Gulf and the Atlantic seaboard have been scrambling to ready their facilities so these larger ships will be able to dock.

Port Everglades will get $34.5 million to more than double the length of the Southport Turning Notch Extension which will create at least five new berths there. PortMiami is penciled to get $25 million to dredge channels and berths allowing larger ships to dock there.

Other funds will go to various projects. On the First Coast, JaxPort is scheduled to get almost $15 million to improve facilities ranging from terminals to wharves. Port Manatee, the closest American port to the eastern end of the Panama Canal, will get $6.4 million to rehabilitate six berths there. Port Panama City will get $2.2 million as it expands its carrier terminal.

SCOTT, NOT OBAMA, SPURRED STATE’S REBOUND via Sen. John Thrasher in an op-ed for the Orlando Sentinel

“Opponents of Gov. Scott are united in the belief that he is bad for Florida. They can’t articulate why, but they insist he isn’t due any credit for the past three years of economic progress we’ve made. They contend that all economic good news is due to President Obama’s “national recovery. However, looking past Obama’s facade, let’s be clear about what those on the left believe. Their idea to generate more revenue for the government is to impose more taxes. And, in their world, the government always needs more revenue – either to prop up crumbling social-welfare programs or to create programs that are often inefficient. For the left, government can’t ever be too big.

“Scott has invited businesses in Massachusetts, and several other high-tax states, to relocate to the Sunshine State. In the past three years, his administration has laid the groundwork for robust economic growth in Florida. In three legislative sessions, he’s pushed to cut taxes five times for families and job creators, cut more than 2,600 burdensome regulations and streamlined the business-permitting process. I agree with this approach. As a result of his policy initiatives, $3.6 billion of the state’s debt has been paid, nearly 370,000 private-sector jobs have been created and our unemployment rate has dropped 4.1 percentage points since December 2010.

 “The Democrats’ notion that Florida’s success is a result of Obama’s national recovery is not true. If that were the case, every state would be seeing an economic turnaround like Florida’s. Florida’s recovery has exceeded that of the nation because Scott is laser focused on getting the economy on the right track by implementing policies that help job creator.”


In what is becoming a weekly habit, Gov. Rick Scott sent another letter to President Obama on Wednesday; this time, urging him to come visit Lake Okeechobee to accelerate the federal financial and policy response to the threatened region.  From his letter: 

I am writing on behalf of the millions of Florida families who are being impacted by the Corps’ discharges of freshwater from Lake Okeechobee. First and foremost, we invite you and members of your administration to tour impacted areas and see how the federal government’s shortcomings have affected families. After a tour, you will no doubt make Lake Okeechobee enhancements more of a priority than what is currently reflected in your budget reductions….

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APPOINTED: Michael Cadore Sr. to the Brevard County Housing Authority.

APPOINTED: Leslie D. Dougher and Sandra D. Foland to the Florida Small Business Development Center Statewide Advisory Board. 

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The League of Women Voters will hold a news conference in St. Petersburg with key representatives from business, health and civic interests to address Florida’s inaction to date on Medicaid expansion and speak to the business and economic justifications for the state’s acceptance of Medicaid expansion funds. North Straub Park, St. Petersburg. 10:30 a.m. 


“Florida’s future depends on access to a reliable supply of fresh water. While we’re surrounded by seas and receive abundant rainfall, in some regions during certain times of the year, we are using water faster than Mother Nature can provide it. As our population continues to grow — this year we will surpass New York as the third most populated state in the nation — pressure on our fragile water supplies will increase.

“Florida’s environment, economy and quality of life all depend on water. If we want to continue to attract businesses and draw tourists while protecting our environment, we must ensure we have the water supply to meet our needs, not just today, but for our future.

“Fortunately, there are solutions. We’ve already taken several steps to protect our available water supply and reduce our water use, where possible, through thoughtful conservation measures. As a result of efforts led by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to help agricultural producers implement best practices and use new technologies, Florida agriculture is using less water now than at any time in the past while, at the same time, increasing productivity and efficiency.

“The latest irrigation technologies dramatically reduce water use and, when combined with new computerized tools, make it possible for producers to control their irrigation systems over the Internet or with a smartphone. The agriculture department also deploys mobile irrigation labs to advise farmers on how to improve their irrigation system efficiency and irrigation scheduling. Across the state, more than 9 million acres of farm, ranch and nursery lands are taking advantage of the programs the department offers to protect and conserve water resources.

“Florida’s farmers should be applauded for their efforts. Because of their hard work and investment, they’ve been able to save nearly 11 billion gallons of water each year. Local communities and public water supply utilities have also implemented successful conservation programs and water reuse projects that are making a difference.”

FACEBOOK STATUS OF THE DAY: “Fear and loathing about to begin at a Flood Insurance Seminar kindly hosted by St. Pete College in Seminole.” via Gregory Wilson


A federal judge on Wednesday threw out a law aimed at making it easier for doctors to defend themselves in medical malpractice claims saying in a 17-page ruling that the attempt to allow a lawyer for a doctor talk to other doctors of the patient that is suing violates the federal health care privacy law.

“The Florida statute is an attempt not to comply with the federal requirements but to circumvent them—to allow ex parte interviews without consent and without the court or administrative order (or opportunity to obtain a ruling) that federal law requires,” wrote U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in his order, referring to the federal Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act of 1996, commonly known as HIPAA.

The law, passed by the 2013 legislature with extensive backing by the Florida Medical Association, attempted to change the way “ex parte communications” are handled in medical malpractices cases.

The lawsuit was brought by a patient who wants to sue a doctor for negligence but believed his privacy rights were violated by the new law. The lawsuit was backed by opponents of the measure, the Florida Justice Association, a trial-lawyers group.


A new poll released today by the Stronger Safer Florida coalition concluded that 77 percent of Floridians oppose paying taxes to subsidize out-of-state Citizens Property Insurance Corp. policyholders. A vast majority of the 902 Florida voters surveyed disagree that all private insurance policyholders should pay taxes to help cover the costs of premiums for Citizens Property Insurance policyholders whose primary residences are located outside of Florida or the United States.

Furthermore, a majority – 58 percent – oppose the idea of paying taxes on private insurance policies to subsidize Citizens. In particular, Florida voters stated they do not agree that all private insurance policyholders should pay taxes on private insurance policies, including private property insurance, business, automobile and renters insurance, to lower the cost of Citizens premiums.

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Business and education leaders from throughout Florida are gathering in Orlando today at the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Education Summit to answer one question: Is Florida ready for a 21st century global economy? The summit, available via LIVE STREAM and on @IsFLReady, features the state’s leading business and education thought leaders, and is spearheaded by one of the state’s brightest policy minds – uber wonk Tony Carvajal. 

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart, along with Jane Adams of the University of Florida, Dr. Ed Moore of the Independent College & Universities of Florida, Chris Hart of Workforce Florida, Inc., and more are among the day-long featured speakers and panelists. 

“Our changing global economy means that Florida students are competing for high-wage jobs at an increasing rate,” said Carvajal, Executive Vice President of the Florida Chamber Foundation. “We must ensure that Florida’s education system is working to develop skills that students need in order for them to compete for jobs that will fuel Florida’s future economy.” 

Increasing student achievement matters to Florida’s economic progress and future growth, according to education metrics outlined within the Florida Scorecard Stat. 

“I’m proud to be part of this essential discussion and I look forward to exploring meaningful solutions to Florida’s greatest education challenges,” said Dr. Ed Moore, President of the Independent Colleges & Universities of Florida. “The policy decisions that our state is making will influence generations to come. We must make the best decisions possible, investing in our talent pipeline to secure a bright future for Florida.”

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A widely-anticipated hearing on Florida’s Stand Your Ground law may have hit a bit of a snag.Shalimar Republican Representative Matt Gaetz outlined plans Tuesday for the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee. It’s a committee he chairs and he says its main goal is holding a hearing on Stand Your Ground.  “Item number one is listed as number one because it’s the only project that Speaker Weatherford has given us and that is the application of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law,” said Gaetz.

But following the meeting, Gaetz said the hearing wouldn’t happen as soon as he’d planned because a Tallahassee House member who’s been critical of the law couldn’t participate. “Well, I was planning on having the Stand Your Ground hearing next month and Representative Alan Williams is apparently the only person who sponsored a bill so far on the Stand Your Ground issue, and apparently, he’s not going to be in town. So, we have to work around the schedule of Representative Williams,” he added.

Gaetz says he’s currently working with Williams to hold the hearing before the end of December. Among those expected to attend are the so-called Dream Defenders, the group that protested at the Capitol for a month because Gov. Scott would not call a special session to overhaul the law.


House members on Wednesday dove into the thicket of how to tax sales over the Internet, but it wasn’t clear they will do anything about it this session, either. 

“I think we got a pretty good pulse of where the executive branch sits on this,” said Rep. Ritch Workman, chairman of the Finance and Tax subcommittee. “We may bring something back … It’s difficult to answer.”

Workman, a Melbourne Republican, said any bill would be “revenue neutral,” meaning it would offset new tax revenue with a sales tax holiday on school supplies and clothes, for example. He pushed a similar measure last year but the bill died in the Appropriations committee. 

“Because Florida has had a rebound in the economy and our (state) revenues are up, there’s not an appetite to raise taxes or be seen as grabbing for additional revenue,” Workman said. “So it’s not about whether we’re raising taxes; it’s about whether the perception (that) we’re raising taxes is out there.”

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Representative Mark S. Pafford was elected tonight by his legislative colleagues to serve as the next leader of the Florida House Democratic Caucus.

In an election held in The Florida Capitol, the 44-member House Democratic Caucus selected Pafford to hold the post of Democratic Speaker-designate. In effect, Pafford is now poised to succeed Rep. Perry Thurston as House Democratic Leader after the November 2014 general elections.

Pafford, 47, is a third-term lawmaker who was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2008. He presently serves as the House Democratic Policy Chair and previously held the post of Deputy Minority Whip. He serves Florida House District 86 in Palm Beach County.


Florida Democratic Party’s Allison Tant: “I congratulate Representative Mark Pafford for winning the support of his colleagues. I look forward to working with Rep. Pafford and all House Democrats in building a unified and and strong Caucus. I am excited for the great work ahead, and I am confident Representative Pafford will have great success.”

Florida GOP: “With Mark Pafford anointed as the incoming leader for the House Democrats, this means that the House Democratic Caucus is lurching further to the left and tacitly rejecting Charlie Crist as their standard bearer. By electing one of the most liberal legislators as their leader, it’s not a matter of if, but when, Democratic legislators line up behind their former colleague and fellow liberal Nan Rich.”

Progress Florida: “Mark Pafford has been a tireless, outspoken and fearless champion for middle class Floridians in a legislature where the needs of everyday Floridians too often get a cold shoulder. Mr. Pafford will be a critical and much needed leader in the fight for great public schools, access to quality health care, good jobs and clean air and water for all Florida families.”

Speaker Designate Steve Crisafulli: “I congratulate my colleague Mark Pafford on his election as Democratic Leader Designate. He is passionate in his beliefs and has always been a strong advocate for his constituents. I look forward to working with him to advance good public policy for our state.”

Senator Jeff Clemens (via Facebook): “Congratulations to Rep. Mark Pafford, the new Leader Designate for the Florida House Democrats. I’m very proud of my friend.”


The Florida House will be led by two unexpected faces after next year’s elections but both of them should be ready to assume their leadership roles. Steve Crisafulli wasn’t supposed to be House speaker. As early as 2009, Chris Dorworth had sewn up the votes to become speaker after the 2014 elections. But Dorworth went down to defeat in 2012 and Crisafulli quickly picked up the pieces to become the next speaker. Now, with Democrats stripping Darryl Rouson of his position as leader in waiting, Crisafulli will be joined by another new face. Either Mark Pafford or Alan Williams will be chosen on Wednesday by his fellow Democrats to replace Rouson. When Democrats voted back in February to name a leader in waiting, Rouson beat out Mia Jones. Pafford wasn’t even a contender and neither was Williams.

While they might be new to their new assignments, Crisafulli, Pafford and Williams have done time in the leadership. Crisafulli will test his wings as majority leader in 2014 and he should be able to solidify Republicans behind him. Pafford stepped into the leadership when he was first elected in 2008, serving as a deputy whip and now serving as the Democrats’ point man on policy. Williams has also served in whip capacities since being elected in 2008 alongside Pafford. 

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House candidate Bill Gunter says he’s never hidden from his past, but four years ago he failed to disclose past drug use when he sought a chaplain’s position at the Pasco Sheriff’s Office.

The Presbyterian minister and Republican candidate for House District 36 in Pasco County has talked openly about using marijuana, cocaine and other controlled substances in statements to reporters and others, chalking it up to youthful mistakes.

But he was less than candid in March 2009 when filling out a volunteer application for the chaplain’s corps to counsel deputies.

Asked whether he had used or tried any narcotic or controlled substance, Gunter wrote he had smoked marijuana. Asked to describe the circumstance, he wrote “high school party.”

On a question about his criminal background, on whether he had ever been “detained by any law enforcement officer for any investigative purposes,” he checked the “no” box.  

Gunter, 43, has made no secret that he used drugs in high school and as a student at the University of Florida, including cocaine.


It is official: Shawn Harrison’s campaign to reclaim his seat in House District 63 will kick off with a reception at the Hunters Green Country Club tonight from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. 

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For various K Street professionals, calling them “lobbyists” is not a compliment. Because of that negative image, the American League of Lobbyists is poised to do something about it. They are considering dropping the word “lobbyists” from its name. The change is part of an effort to re-brand members as consultants and public relations professionals. This identity crisis has again has become part of a larger debate over whether political insiders should embrace — or escape — the label that is becoming an obstacle to their work. 

Registered lobbyists in Washington are at a 14-year low, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In 2013, the group estimated 10,290 registered lobbyists, in 2007, there were 14,842.

On one hand, lobbyists need to be effective advocates for their clients, by following the rules and making the best case they can for their position. Shedding the negative connotations that go with the term, say supporters of the change, members are allowed to do just that — the best advocacy they can. 

“It sucks to have your grandmother look down on what you do,” one anonymous Fortune 500 company lobbyist told The Hill.


Albert Balido, Frank Bernardino, Lee Killinger, Anfield Consulting: Florida Smoke Shop Association; Parsons Brinckerhoff; Q.B.

Thomas Barlow: ISEEYOU.MD

Doug Bell, Pennington PA: Habitat for Humanity of Florida; medtel24; Palm Beach County Tax Collector; Westcor Land Title Insurance Company

Allison Carvajal, Ramba Consulting: Florida Concrete & Products Association

Daniel DeLisi: South Florida Water Management District

John Finch: Arc of Florida

Marnie George, Michael Harrell, Pennington PA: Avis Budget Group; City of Palm Coast; City of South Daytona; McDonald’s Corporation

Blake Guillory: South Florida Water Management District

Robert Hawken, Leath Consulting: Heritage Property & Casualty Insurance Company

Deno Hicks, Kevin Holzendorf, Southern Strategy Group: Biscottis Expresso Cafe, Casbah Cafe, Inc., KBJ Architects, Inc.

Bruce Lucas: Heritage Property & Casualty Insurance Company

Edgar Castro, Fatima Perez, Nelson Diaz, Southern Strategy Group: Cape Coral Charter School Authority

David Ramba, Ramba Consulting: Consulate Health Care

Jeff Sharkey, Capitol Alliance Group: Big Bend Advocacy Association; Coral Sky Development; Reef Relief

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Cynthia Henderson and Lori Weems. 


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.