Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 5.23.16 — The donkeys get together

in Peter/Top Headlines by

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry, Ryan Ray and Jim Rosica.


There’s nothing like a common enemy to help Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders supporters come together in harmony, as was the case Saturday as the Florida Democratic Party rallied against Donald Trump.

Democrats backing each of the party’s presidential candidates sat side-by-side with no drama, pleasantly chatting about issues and the election while the party chose its final delegates to the national convention in Philadelphia. While the nomination process has been increasingly caustic as many Sanders supporters elsewhere have railed against the Democratic Party establishment and complained the system is rigged, all was calm at the state party event.

Trump was the target at a dinner Saturday attended by about 450 activists, where Sen. Bill Nelson, Congresswoman and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro took turns criticizing the real estate mogul and reality TV star.

Wasserman Schultz said Trump is a misogynist who’s misguided on policy issues, including a statement that the United States won’t default on its debt because it prints the money.

“You just cannot make this stuff up. Every day there is a new example of his knee-jerk recklessness, lack of judgment and unstable temperament,” she said. “Keep Donald Trump out of the White House.”

Nelson urged the activists to unite once the party chooses a nominee.

“The reward for unity is unbelievable for Florida Democrats,” Nelson said. “Never in history in a campaign have we heard what kind of things Donald Trump is saying. Let me tell you, it is unsettling, it is seductive, and the consequences are disastrous.”

The event was sort of a warm up for the party’s largest annual fundraiser, which is scheduled next month in Hollywood and is expected to draw more than twice as many people.

“I was hoping for more enthusiasm,” said Mitch Ceasar, the former Broward County Democratic Party chair. “There is excitement, but I would hope at this point it builds.”

— “Debbie Wassermann Schultz denies party discord as Florida Democrats pick at-large delegates” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

JULIAN CASTRO RALLIES DEMS via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – “Donald Trump wants to make America hate again,” Castro said to a crowd of roughly 450 packed into a ballroom at the Rosen Center hotel. Castro … touched on his personal story and his policy priorities, which include universal pre-kindergarten, paid family leave, and comprehensive immigration reform. “So we can unleash the potential of millions and millions of people,” said Castro, who was introduced by … Nelson.

FIVE TAKEAWAYS FROM THE SWING STATE BLUE GALA via Frank Torres of the Orlando Political Observer – Target Trump: The presumptive Republican nominee was the main target last night with the main avenues of attack being his remarks on punishment for women who have abortions, his mum response to the David Duke controversy, and his overall blunt delivery style on the stump … They’re “with Her” but respectful of “the Bern” … No Patrick Murphy: It was strange that the Senate candidate wasn’t there, but his Democratic primary rival, Alan Grayson, was … Rivals everywhere: While Grayson’s opponent wasn’t there, match-ups all the way down the ballot were everywhere … The short program should catch on: If you added up the talk time among the four speakers, it was probably around the hour mark, which is great.


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CBS/YOUGOV POLL OF FLORIDA – CLINTON 43%, TRUMP 42% via A.G. Gankarski of Florida Politics — Breaking down the numbers , YouGov’s analysis notes that Clinton leads among voters under 45 years old, while Trump leads with voters above 45 years old. Meanwhile, “Clinton leads among black voters by 69 points, and leads among Hispanics by 14 points, but Trump leads among whites by 14 …  Trump leads by nine among men while Clinton leads by nine among women. Both Clinton and Trump have, at 56 percent, sky-high unfavorable numbers. A poll pitting Trump against Bernie Sanders also showed a dead heat, with both the Republican and the progressive champion at 44 percent each.

TWEET, TWEET: @DrMacManus: No surprise natl polls report dead heat. Fla polls found same earlier affirming its bellwether status

TRUMP’S NON-EXISTENT FLORIDA STRATEGY via NBC News — The Trump campaign has said it will focus on about a dozen states during the general election, including Florida, but the candidate has not held a single campaign event there since winning the state’s primary in March… Even though Trump has become the presumptive nominee well before his Democratic rival, his general election team doesn’t yet have a real presence in the state. The campaign has yet to set up any of the infrastructure necessary to win a campaign in Florida, leaving its 29 delegates very much up in the air. Trump’s lack of a ground game isn’t surprising. It’s been a criticism of his campaign throughout the primary process, but as both parties turn to the general election, the lack of local organization becomes more of an issue.


— A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds Clinton edging Trump 46% to 43%. Key takeaway: Asked if they would consider a third-party candidate if Clinton and Trump were the major party nominees, 47 percent of registered voters say yes — a higher percentage than those who said yes on a similar question in 2008 and 2012.

— A new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows Trump just ahead of Clinton in the presidential race, 46% to 44%. Key takeaway: Never in the history of the Post-ABC poll have the two major party nominees been viewed as harshly as Clinton and Trump. Nearly 6 in 10 registered voters say they have negative impressions of both major candidates. Overall, Clinton’s net negative rating among registered voters is minus-16, while Trump’s is minus-17, though Trump’s numbers have improved since March.

TRUMP’S CAMPAIGN INVESTMENT TOPS $43 MILLION via The Associated Press – Trump poured more than $7.5 million of his own money into his presidential campaign in April, bringing his total personal investment to more than $43 million since he declared his candidacy … In April alone, Trump spent nearly $9.4 million, according to his monthly filing with the Federal Election Commission. Trump’s largest expense in April, about $2.6 million, was for advertisements. The campaign also spent more than $930,000 on direct mail. Other big-ticket items included roughly $585,000 in airfare paid to Trump’s TAG Air Inc. While much of Trump’s money has come from his own pocket, he reported about $1.7 million in donations last month. Those contributions have come largely from people buying Trump’s campaign merchandise … and giving online through his campaign website. Almost all of Trump’s personal investment has come in the form of loans. That leaves open the possibility that he can repay himself now that he’s aggressively seeking donations. A new fundraising agreement he struck with the Republican National Committee and 11 state parties explicitly seeks contributions for his primary campaign. Yet Trump said in a statement this week that he has “absolutely no intention” of paying himself back. Instead, he will be able to use any primary money he raises, in increments of up to $2,700 per donor, on expenses such as salaries, advertising and voter outreach over the next nine weeks.

KEY REPUBLICAN DONORS ARE DISAVOWING TRUMP’S CAMPAIGN via Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns of The New York Times – Interviews and emails with more than 50 of the Republican Party’s largest donors, or their representatives, revealed a measure of contempt and distrust toward their own party’s nominee that is unheard of in modern presidential politics. More than a dozen of the party’s most reliable individual contributors and wealthy families indicated that they would not give to or raise money for Trump. This group has contributed a combined $90 million to conservative candidates and causes in the last three federal elections, mainly to super PACs dedicated to electing Republican candidates. Up to this point, Trump has embraced the hostility of the Republican establishment, goading the party’s angry base with diatribes against wealthy donors who he claimed controlled politicians. And he has succeeded while defying conventions of presidential campaigning, relying on media attention and large rallies to fire up supporters, and funding his operation with a mix of his own money and small-dollar contributions. But that formula will be tested as he presents himself to a far larger audience of voters.


JEB BUSH SAYS TRUMP’S SUPPORTERS AREN’T A BUNCH OF IDIOTS via Ashley Killough of CNN – Bush said Trump is a skilled politician with a “very powerful message” about shaking up Washington, but he argued the presumptive Republican nominee is campaigning in a way that’s “preying on people’s angst rather than offering tangible solutions.” Still, Bush said, he doesn’t blame voters who are supporting Trump. “What I fear is that people, kind of looking down their nose, will say the people that are supporting Donald Trump are a bunch of idiots. They’re not. They’re legitimately scared. They’re fearful. They’re not as optimistic for legitimate reasons and there should be respect for that,” he said. “And on the other side, a similar respect needs to be shown.”

POLL FINDS FLORIDA VOTERS DOWN ON LEADERS, POLITICAL CHOICES, ESPECIALLY MARCO RUBIO via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The survey found Florida voters showing high dissatisfaction with President Barack ObamaTrump and Clinton. But Florida’s two former presidential candidates? Much worse. In the poll, Florida voters … now have an almost unprecedented low opinion of him. Only 20 percent said they approved of his job performance while 56 percent said they disapproved.

ALAN GRAYSON: AT LEAST THEY’RE NOT CALLING ME HITLER via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press – Grayson has been dubbed “Angry Alan” by his Senate opponent, compared to Trump for his penchant for earning headlines with his mouth and has become the whipping post for some in the Washington party establishment who hope he loses Florida’s primary. But he said things could be worse. “At least they’re not calling me the Adolf Hitler of the Democratic Senate race. They haven’t quite gone there yet. It’s only a matter of time before they accuse me of both cannibalism and necrophilia,” Grayson, who is Jewish, said during an interview at a Florida Democratic Party fundraising dinner Saturday. “Nobody buys that!” A not-so-angry Grayson made his way through a crowd of top Democratic donors, activists and elected officials at the event – the anti-establishment candidate working the establishment itself. He was pleasant and gracious, telling U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, “If there’s anything we can do for you while you’re here, please let me know.”

DAVID JOLLY, RON DESANTIS SPLIT OVER LGBT AMENDMENT via Brendan Cheney of POLITICO Florida – Jolly and DeSantis … split again on a controversial vote in the House as part of a larger divide in Florida’s Republican delegation over a pro-LGBT amendment to a defense spending bill. The amendment would have prevented federal funds from going to federal contractors that fail to comply with President Barack Obama’s executive order protecting LGBT employees from workplace discrimination. All 10 Democrats in Florida’s delegation voted in favor of the amendment, along with four Florida Republicans. Thirteen Republicans in the Florida delegation voted no. The four Republicans in support were Reps. Carlos CurbeloMario Diaz-BalartIleana Ros-Lehtinen and Jolly. DeSantis, who is running against Jolly for the Senate seat being vacated by Marco Rubio, voted against the amendment. Four Republicans that are retiring — Curt ClawsonAnder CrenshawJeff Miller and Richard Nugent — all voted no. The amendment appeared at first to have enough votes to pass as time expired — with 217 total yes votes including 35 Republicans. But the vote was kept open and Republican leadership was reported to have twisted arms and seven people changed their yes votes to no votes. The amendment narrowly failed, 212-213.

— “After Green Berets and CIA, next mission for Todd Wilcox is U.S. Senate” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun Sentinel

— “Dad’s cash fueled U.S. rep. Patrick Murphy’s races but now causing headaches” via Isadora Rangel of TCPalm

HAPPENING TONIGHT: Lt. Gov. and U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Lopez-Cantera will speak to the Broward County Republican Executive Committee. Meeting begins 7 p.m. at the Deicke Auditorium, 5701 Cypress Road in Plantation.

SUPER PAC EMERGES TO SUPPORT MATT GAETZ AND NEAL DUNN IN PANHANDLE CONGRESSIONAL RACES via Florida Politics – North Florida Neighbors … is supporting conservative state Representative Gaetz in his bid for Florida’s 1st Congressional District, along with the previously announced support of conservative Dunn in Florida’s 2nd Congressional District. The players behind NFN reads like an all-star roster of Florida and Republican politics … led by longtime Florida GOP strategists Rich Heffley and David Johnson, with Katie Ballard leading the fundraising effort, and Christina Johnson directing communications. Charlie Spies, partner in the Clark Hill PLC firm in Washington, will handle the legal work.

MY TAKE: GREG EVERS COMPLAINS ABOUT OBAMA TRANSGENDER DIRECTIVE, BUT DIDN’T FIX ISSUE WHEN HE HAD THE CHANCE via Florida Politics – Evers is making a lot of noise over the Obama administration’s directive to public schools instructing them to allow transgender students to use the bathroom matching their gender identity. But where was the Baker Republican – who is now a candidate for Florida’s 1st Congressional District – when he had a chance to solve the problem in Florida? This week, Evers – former chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee – drafted a letter to both Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi, imploring legal support to school superintendents who refuse to comply with new federal guidelines. However, when the senator had an opportunity to take action on the transgender issue, his committee never allowed it to come up for a vote. His inaction makes Evers one of the prime reasons Florida now has to deal with the Obama directive. During the 2015 Legislative Session … Frank Artiles filed a bathroom bill, cosponsored by Matt Gaetz … While Evers placed it on the agenda of the Criminal Justice Committee, the Senate version of the bill was never heard, and it died in his committee. So now, instead of facing the problem legislatively, Evers … is turning to a campaign stunt to get things done.

TALLAHASSEE INTERESTS INVEST IN REBECCA NEGRON’S DISTRICT 18 CONGRESSIONAL CAMPAIGN via Isadora Rangel of TCPalm – Negron has received more money from Tallahassee interests than from her potential Treasure Coast constituents. That wouldn’t be so unusual if she was running for the Florida Legislature, but the Stuart Republican is running for Congress. So what support can donors expect from her? The answer may lie in husband Joe Negron, one of the state’s most powerful politicians, who will be Senate president for 2017-18. In that capacity, he will help make policy and budget decisions that affect businesses as well as the entire state. He will set legislative priorities, influence which bills get heard on the floor and negotiate with the House and Scott on major issues. Six of her top 10 donors are employees and executives at these companies and lobbying firms that directly benefit, or would have benefited, from the Florida Legislature’s bills and budget allocations … MCNA Dental … The GEO Group … Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies … Southern Wine & Spirits … Ballard Partners … [and] Palm Beach Kennel Club.

MY TAKE: CURT CLAWSON IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS via Florida Politics – Clawson is yet another politician stepping down because he wants to, as the cliché goes, spend more time with his family. No matter how sick Clawson’s father is, the reality is Clawson is just another one of these rich guys who thought it would be neat to win an election, but found out how hard governing is once they are in office. It’s telling that in the days that have followed Clawson’s decision to step away from politics, only one of his colleagues in the Florida delegation has released a statement to the press corps acknowledging his leaving.With Clawson not running, Lizbeth Benacquisto has been given a second chance at possibly representing Florida’s 19th Congressional District. Several other candidates have already announced they will run or are considering it. After the back-to-back disasters of Trey Radel and Clawson, hopefully, the poor voters of southwest Florida will get it right this time.

CLAWSON CAMP RESPONDS via David James, senior advisor to Clawson: “Curt Clawson, as a conservative, did more to change the conversation about the Everglades and water moving south of the Lake than anyone in elected office – both parties.  He never took special interest money, or raised PAC money in DC.  He is completely why SWFL has nice things.  Read the local press – even from liberal editorial boards.  For being a TEA Party backed guy, he never got on cable and blasted Leadership – not his style.  As a first term Congressman, he got a bill signed into law by the President, protecting over 17,000 of natural acres in Collier county – the largest land transfer into protection in history (HR 890) A lot happened since the special election of 2014 – keep up!!”


— “Naples Republican Francis Rooney not ruling out CD 19 bid via Florida Politics

BERNIE SANDERS BACKS DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ’S PRIMARY OPPONENT via Kristen East of POLITICO Florida – Sanders, speaking to CNN’s Jake Tapper in an interview airing Sunday on “State of the Union,” said, “well, clearly, I favor her opponent. His views are much closer to mine than as to Wasserman Schultz’s.” Tim Canova is challenging Wasserman Schultz in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District … Wasserman Schutlz responded saying she will continue to remain neutral in the Democratic presidential primary. “I am so proud to serve the people of Florida’s 23rd District and I am confident that they know that I am an effective fighter and advocate on their behalf in Congress,” she said in a statement. “Even though Senator Sanders has endorsed my opponent I remain, as I have been from the beginning, neutral in the presidential Democratic primary. I look forward to working together with him for Democratic victories in the fall.”

HAPPENING TONIGHTCanova will give a speech to the Weston Democratic Club beginning 6:30 p.m. at Wings in Weston, 1354 S.W. 160th Ave. in Weston.

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ANDREW KORGE ATTACKS ANITERE FLORES ON IMMIGRATION BUT OMITS KEY FACTS via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Korge is a third-generation Miamian with Greek roots … running for a Florida state Senate district where the majority of voters are Hispanic. So Korge seized on a Spanish-language radio interview this week … introduced himself in Spanish, saying he speaks only “a little” of the language, “but I love Hispanics and Latinos.” He Hispanicized his last name, pronouncing it “CORE-hay.” He claimed his friends call him “El Gordo.” And then he dropped the name of his Republican opponent … Flores, in the same sentence as “Arizona-style immigration bill” and “Donald Trump” … “She proposed an Arizona-style immigration bill in 2011. Donald Trump supports that bill,” Korge told Zeta 92.3 FM’s Ahora con Oscar Haza …  noting his mother immigrated to the U.S from Greece. “Whether you are a Latino or griego, that is a crazy bill that no one should ever propose.” But Korge is distorting Flores’ record. While it’s true she sponsored a 2011 Senate immigration bill, it was well-known at the time that she did so to make sure the legislation would not be like the Arizona crackdown that allowed cops to ask for papers. Flores’ position so upset then-Senate President Mike Haridopolos that he ended up yanking the bill from her hands. She ultimately voted against it.

BRAD DRAKE HAS BIG LEAD IN RECENT POLL, FIRST TO QUALIFY BY PETITION IN HD 5 via Florida Politics – A new poll [shows] Drake with a 32-point lead over his primary challenger, former state Rep. Bev Kilmer … in a head-to-head matchup, Drake leads Kilmer 40 percent to 17 percent. Among the most likely Republican primary voters Drake leads 61 to 20 percent. Drake is even winning in Jackson County, where Kilmer recently moved, after returning from living in Texas … The poll — from Data Targeting — also found 39 percent of likely Republican primary election voters had a favorable opinion of Drake compared to 6 percent of respondents who said they had a negative view of the Panhandle Republican. Respondents had a favorable view of Drake’s performance, with 45 percent saying he was doing a good job in office, compared to 14 percent who felt otherwise … two-thirds stated that they had heard of Drake while 60 percent said they had never heard of Kilmer.

SPOTTED at the kick-off event for House District 68 candidate Ben Diamond: Mary Lou AmbroseJoe BarkleyMary Rachael and Mady DudleyMark FerruloBeth HoughtonJanet LongJudithanne McLauchlanWengay NewtonSarah RibeiroAlex Sink and Ken Welch.

HAPPENING TODAY: State Rep. Jason Brodeur is holding a fundraising reception for his re-election effort in House District 28. Event begins 5:30 p.m. at the YOLO lounge, 333 E. Las Olas Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale.

HAPPENING TODAY: State Rep. Holly Raschein hosts a fundraiser for her re-election effort beginning 6 p.m. at the residence of Michael Halpern, 87 Cannon Royal Dr. in Shark Key.

HAPPENING TODAY: State Rep. Colleen Burton is also hosting a fundraising reception in support of her re-election effort beginning 5:30 p.m. at the Nineteen61 Restaurant, 1212 Florida Ave. S. in Lakeland.

ICYMI: FLORIDA UNEMPLOYMENT RATE KEEPS DROPPING; NOW 4.8% via The Associated Press – April’s unemployment was down from 4.9 percent in March. Florida added 31,100 jobs. Florida now has 472,000 jobless residents out of a labor force of 9,801,000. The state has added 254,500 jobs over the past year, an increase of 3.2 percent. The state remains below the national unemployment rate of 5.0 percent. Monroe County had the state’s lowest unemployment rate at 3.0 percent … Hendry County had the state’s highest unemployment rate at 7.0 percent.

RICK SCOTT’S DEPUTY COMMS GOES TO FWC; DOC SPOX IN via Arek Sarkissian of Political Fix Florida – John Tupps, who served as the governor’s spokesman, will take a promotion as deputy chief of staff of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Taking his place will by Florida Department of Corrections spokesman McKinley Lewis. Tupps has worked for Scott’s office since 2011 and was promoted to deputy communications director in 2014. Tupps said his new role as the deputy chief of staff of Fish and Wildlife will provide new opportunities and more responsibility. The move from DOC to the Capitol is certainly a promotion to Lewis, whose job included witnessing all executions carried out at the Florida State Prison in Raiford.

ENTERPRISE FLORIDA CHIEF BYPASSED BID PROCESS TO HIRE SPEECHWRITER, PAID HER $158 K IN CONTRACTS via Arek Sarkissian of the Naples Daily News – Bill Johnsoncircumvented agency policy by issuing no-bid contracts to a confidant for part-time consulting and speechwriting work … offered his former PortMiami spokeswoman, Paula Musto, with two contracts and one extension — one in March 2015 for $68,750 and a second in August 2015 for $75,000, extended in March of this year for $99,999. That falls just shy of Enterprise Florida policy that requires contracts more than $100,000 to be scrutinized by the Enterprise Florida board of directors … Musto works 25 hours a week; her contract expires June 30. Johnson also bypassed his agency’s competitive bid policy by claiming Musto’s contract fell under exemptions that include work for artistic services, academic program reviews, lectures, financial auditing, legal services and health consultation … As of April, Musto billed Enterprise Florida $157,896 for her services.

HAPPENING TODAY: CFO Jeff Atwater will speak to the Downtown St. Pete Republican Club. Noon at 300 Beach Dr. N.E. in St. Petersburg.

CAR INSURANCE RATES SKYROCKET IN FLORIDA AS CRASHES MOUNT ON BUSY ROADS via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Premiums have risen 14 percent statewide since Jan. 1 of last year — nearly the exact opposite of the ubiquitous TV commercials offering savings of 15 percent or more on car insurance. “People are driving more,” said former state insurance commissioner Kevin McCarty, “and accidents have increased commensurate with that number.” On McCarty’s watch, which ended May 2, the Office of Insurance Regulation approved dozens of rate increases in the past year and a half. The average for the 25 companies that write most car coverage in Florida is a 13.8 percent increase. Scott regularly touts Florida’s “low cost of living” when talking about population growth or higher education, but the car insurance numbers tell a different story. Across the state, car accidents rose last year by nearly 9 percent from the year before … Crashes increased by 14.6 percent in Broward, 12.7 percent in Hillsborough and 9.5 percent in Pinellas. Miami-Dade, cited in numerous surveys as the home of some of the worst drivers anywhere, reported a modest 5.4 percent spike in accidents.

DEP DEFENDS WATER POLLUTION STANDARDS via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat – The Department of Environmental Protection is defending its proposed new pollution limits for Florida surface waters, saying they aren’t weaker than current standards and won’t decrease the protection they provide people. But environmental groups assert the agency is in fact weakening standards for many of the toxic compounds it allows to be discharged into the state’s rivers, lakes, streams and coastal waters. And they say DEP’s method of calculating limits — a process not used by any other state or the Environmental Protection Agency — would allow for more pollution … the state wants to weaken its restrictions on roughly two dozen cancer-causing chemicals it will allow in its surface waters. Florida is in the process of updating its standards, something it’s supposed to do periodically under the Clean Water Act but hasn’t since the early 1990s. DEP Secretary Jon Steverson said the coverage “inaccurately and unfairly” depicted the agency’s proposal … The agency would allow higher limits for more than half of the 43 toxic substances it has on the books now. And most of the 82 compounds it would regulate would have less stringent limits than what EPA recommends. “We will be at rock bottom,” said Linda Young, executive director of the Florida Clean Water Network.

DIRTY WATER SHOULDN’T BE OUR FUTURE, ENVIRONMENTALISTS SAY via Frank Cerabino of the Palm Beach Post – The state is planning to increase the allowable limits of several cancer-causing chemicals in Florida’s rivers, streams, lakes and estuaries. That isn’t sitting well with Dr. Raymond Bellamy. Bellamy, an orthopedic surgeon, is a former board member of the Florida Environmental Regulation Commission … appointed by both Democratic and Republican governors during the 1980s … “In those days, the Department was a committed defender of our natural treasures … Sadly, that does not seem to be the case in recent administrations. DEP employees, some of whom are my patients, now all fear for their jobs and are facilitating industry in most cases. Institutional knowledge has disappeared and aggressive enforcement of regulations is decried.” What has Bellamy and other doctors and environmentalists particularly concerned is that the Florida DEP is using its authority to protect Floridians under the federal Clean Water Act as a way to create more relaxed pollution standards. The proposed standards in some cases allow for more toxic chemicals into the more than 50,000 miles of waterways that affect the state’s drinking water and toxicity levels in the fresh-water and near-offshore fish. “If you ask the 20 million Floridians and 100 million visitors ‘Should we allow more carcinogens into the water?’ Nobody would say ‘Yes.” said Linda Young, the director of the Florida Clean Water Network. “Only the polluters want this to externalize their costs.”

APPEALS COURT SIDES WITH WAL-MART ON TRESPASSING CLAIM IN LABOR DISPUTE via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida – The court affirmed a trespassing injunction granted by a trial judge in Orange County at Wal-Mart’s request following a bigger fight over the union’s demonstration tactics …“the protests included a variety of practices, such as entering Wal-Mart stores, filling shopping carts full of merchandise and using them to block other customers’ access to the cash registers, confronting Wal-Mart managers, chanting slogans, playing loud music, speaking though bullhorns, and projecting videos onto the walls of Wal-Mart’s stores.” The appeals court addressed the question of whether federal labor law preempted the trespassing claim. The court noted that “property law exists in some tension with federal labor law and that the former must yield to the latter in some circumstance as the [National Labor Relations Act] protects some conduct that would otherwise violate state property law.” However, the court found that an exception to the preemption … applies in the case. Wal-Mart had filed unfair labor practice charges on behalf of its employees against the union with the National Labor Relations Board, but later withdrew those charges to pursue trespass actions in state court. The opinion says Wal-Mart is seeking similar injunctions in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maryland and Texas, and an appeals court in Washington found that Wal-Mart’s claims are preempted.

MUST-READ — EXPELLED: NO SECOND CHANCES via the Sarasota Herald-Tribune  – Sarasota County school leaders often brag about how the district is among the best in the state academically, touting high test scores, innovative early childhood literacy programs and cutting-edge classroom technology. But the Sarasota County School District also is near the top in another category: kicking kids out of school. Among Florida’s 67 counties, Sarasota County expelled the second-highest number of students between 2010 and 2014, kicking more than 350 students out of their regular schools — averaging more than four expulsions per School Board meeting. The district booted more students than Miami-Dade, Broward, Duval, Pinellas, Lee, Volusia, Charlotte, Manatee, Collier, Hernando, Indian River, Santa Rosa and St. Johns counties combined over the period. It expelled an additional 25 students during the 2014-2015 school year. Sarasota County turned to the most severe form of punishment — expulsion without educational services — more than any other district in the state, essentially leaving 244 students on the street for misbehavior ranging from failure to obey school rules to sex offenses. Statewide, more than 4,400 students were expelled during the five-year period, nearly 2,000 of which were expulsions without educational services. Offenses that resulted in about 47 percent of Sarasota’s expulsions fell into two categories: repetitive disruptive behaviors and drug, paraphernalia, alcohol or tobacco possession. Polk County was the only school district to expel more, with 446 over five years. But 361 of those students still received educational services such as instruction in an alternative school.

SANFORD BURNHAM’S HANDOFF TO UF DRIVEN BY SHRINKING RESEARCH MONEY, DOCUMENTS SHOW via Mary Shanklin and Naseem S. Miller of the Orlando Sentinel – Losing money and tapped out of state incentives, Sanford-Burnham — a centerpiece of Orlando’s Medical City — began exploring strategies to leave Central Florida as early as last fall. Lured with more than $300 million to build an east-coast center in Orlando a decade ago, the California-based research institute has suffered as federal research grants have become more scarce in recent years … Struggling with losses of about $12 million in Orlando during the most recent budget year, it started studying options. Chief among them was handing over its $80 million building and operations in Lake Nona to the University of Florida, which is much richer with research-grant funding than the institute. “One of the alternatives being considered is to transfer the Lake Nona Facility and its operations to the University of Florida” or another nonprofit, read the bond statements filed by Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Center last year to restructure debt.

A STORY WITH ALL THE INGREDIENTS OF TALLAHASSEE: LEGISLATION, TRANSPORTATION POLICY AND BROMANCE via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Democratic communications savant Kevin Cate and hirsute state Rep. Jamie Grant released a three-minute YouTube video sharing their devotion to their alma mater, Auburn University. The news was that Grant, a Hillsborough County Republican, intends to file a bill next year to create an Auburn specialty license plate, to add to the 123 (by our count) specialty tags Florida now offers. It would be the first collegiate specialty tag for an out-of-state school. One slight complication … state law isn’t all that clear whether a specialty tag can be created for an out-of-state school. That may have to be another bill. But really, the newsworthiness of the announcement was the obvious bipartisan bond between these two men … The support Grant showed Cate by calling him a “bitter member” of the Auburn family. You too can feel the warmth by visiting and registering your support.

WHAT MIGUEL DIAZ DE LA PORTILLA IS READING — MIAMI-DADE JUDGE PIONEERS CRIMINAL MENTAL HEALTH PROJECT via the Miami Herald – Judge Steve Leifman, along with local law enforcement, mental health providers and community leaders, launched the Criminal Mental Health Project, a program that diverts people with mental disorders out of the criminal justice system and into community treatment. With private insurers often refusing to pay for mental health care, and Florida ranking at the bottom among states in funding for public mental health programs, the Miami-Dade County Jail became the largest psychiatric warehouse in the county — symbolized by the notorious ninth-floor ward, which was shuttered in January 2015 … There are now fewer people incarcerated in Miami-Dade jails, from a peak average of about 7,000 in 2008 to about 4,700 in 2014. More than 4,600 police officers have received special training for identifying and handling individuals with mental illness. And the county has saved millions by diverting people with mental disorders out of the criminal justice system … The program’s success has earned Leifman accolades from the U.S. Supreme Court, and this month the New England Journal of Medicine held out the CMHP as a Miami model for the nation. Still, a lot of work remains.

OUTGOING STATE LAWMAKERS EMPHASIZE CHANGES AHEAD FOR NORTHWEST FLORIDA via Tom McLaughlin of the Northwest Florida Daily News – As state Sen. Don Gaetz pointed out to those assembled, a long-familiar Northwest Florida legislative delegation is going to look drastically different when state lawmakers next convene in 2017 … “Of the four of us standing here, only one will be back,” said Gaetz … gesturing from himself to state reps. Matt GaetzDoug Broxson and Mike Hill. “The majority of the Northwest Florida delegation won’t be back” … Matt Gaetz has opted out of state government to make a run for Congress, Broxson and and Hill are facing off for the state Senate seat Sen. Greg Evers is leaving. Evers is leaving the delegation too. He will be competing … for the U.S. House seat Jeff Miller is vacating … with Matt Gaetz, Broxson and Hill all departing their state House seats, doors have opened for three new faces to take their places in Tallahassee. As for Don Gaetz, the term-limited senator joked that he’s planning a new career as an Uber driver. “You really need to bring the newbies into the fold,” he said. “You’re going to have a new set of legislators and they need to be oriented.”

THE WORST STORY YOU’LL READ TODAY — CHILD FOUND RIDDLED WITH BEDBUGS, UNDERWEIGHT; 2 CHARGED WITH NEGLECT via Zac McDonald of – Bedbugs found crawling in the hair and packed lunch of a 6-year-old boy on multiple occasions has led authorities to arrest his caregivers … Helena P. Jones, 54, and James Claremont Jones, 59 … The incidents have been documented since February 2015 and eventually led to the condemnation of the couple’s home … the couple allegedly found their way back into the condemned home before they were arrested for not properly caring for the child, according to Bay County Sheriff’s Office reports. The latest report came when the boy again came to school with live bedbugs on him and several bites on his body. The school … refused to let him come inside and sent him home on a special bus. When the bus arrived at the home, they found Helena and James Jones had moved back into the formerly condemned residence … The child only weighs 37 pounds, is not potty-trained and often shows up to school in a diaper soiled with urine and feces … The child also is on medication, which affects his ability to walk or stand at times. The combination of factors caused a “major concern” for law enforcement.

MY TAKE (PLEASE CLICK AND READ THIS COLUMN): “What the f*ck does it take for DCF to save a child

MARION CO. SHERIFF CHRIS BLAIR CHARGED WITH PERJURY, REMOVED FROM OFFICE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Scott … [is] suspending Blair from office and appointing Emery Gainey immediately to replace him as Marion County sheriff … A Marion County grand jury indicted Blair on two counts of perjury and one count of official misconduct for sworn testimony and written statements he made in a grand jury investigation of his deputies for using excessive force in making arrests. He was charged by the state attorney’s office and arrested … All three charges are third-degree felonies. Blair was elected sheriff in Marion County in 2012 and has served a career of more than 35 years in Marion County law enforcement.


Robert Beck, Tanya Jackson, Adams Street Advocates: Florida Public Guardian Coalition

KEN PRUITT: I WON’T RUN FOR RE-ELECTION via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News – “I love my professional staff and this county with all my heart,” Republican Pruitt [said]. “Bowing out isn’t something I do lightly — it comes after a lot of soul searching and with a very heavy heart.” Pruitt said he crunched the numbers “a dozen different ways” and “did everything a candidate needs to do to wage a viable campaign.” But he ultimately realized that winning against a Democrat in St. Lucie County this year would require a “win at all cost,” scorched-earth type of campaign. “This is something I never did in all my years campaigning for the Legislature,” he reminded me, “and I refuse to start now.”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our friend, Rob Johnson.

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.

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