Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – November 20

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

Today’s Rise and Shine Fact-iversary is brought to you by Sachs Media Group, the public affairs firm known for unparalleled relationships and winning strategies: The world did not end. That statement has been true every day so far, of course, but never did it have more significance than on this date in 1962, when a statement by President Kennedy meant Americans could start breathing easier in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis. That day, the President announced that the United States was ending its month-old naval blockade of Cuba, greatly easing tensions in the region at large and especially here in Florida. Kennedy took the reassuring action in part because all known offensive Soviet missile sites on the island had been dismantled. With the crisis finally behind them, both sides took steps to avoid future misunderstandings, leading to the establishment of a direct telephone link between the White House and Kremlin – the famous “hotline” so commonly portrayed by a red phone in popular culture.

Now, on to the ‘burn…


Immigrants in the country illegally already are flooding attorneys’ offices with calls to see if they can qualify under President Barack Obama’s yet-to-be-announced plan to shield as many as 5 million immigrants from deportation.

Obama said he’ll reveal the long-awaited order on Thursday. Alex Galvez, an immigration lawyer in Los Angeles, said he’s going to need to add phone lines to keep up with the demand. Orange County, California-based immigration lawyer Annaluisa Padilla said she’s getting twice as many calls as usual since buzz intensified over the plan, which would also grant the immigrants work permits.

Obama is expected to take executive action to protect many of the estimated 11 million people in the country illegally from deportation after Congress failed to pass an immigration overhaul. Republicans are vehemently opposed to the president’s likely actions, with some conservative members threatening to pursue a government shutdown if he follows through on his promises to act on immigration before the end of the year.

While Obama has yet to reveal the details of his administrative order, immigrant advocates are gearing up to help millions determine if they are eligible to apply and steer them clear of fraudulent consultants and so-called notarios, who have been known to take immigrants’ money and promise to deliver even when they don’t qualify for benefits.

Immigrant advocacy groups in Southern California are planning workshops to inform community members about the order, including a 12,000-person forum at the Los Angeles Convention Center in mid-December, said Jorge-Mario Cabrera, a spokesman for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.

The New Mexico Immigrant Law Center is planning a to start a text messaging system targeting immigrants across the state, especially those in rural areas where legal services might not be easily accessible. Immigrant advocates in Florida are planning the same, and will also start a hotline in English and Spanish to keep community members informed.

In New York, immigration lawyers and nonprofits are preparing to hold clinics to help screen immigrants for the program.


President Obama’s announcement of his plans Thursday night “to overhaul the nation’s immigration system is scheduled to happen at an opportune time — at least if the White House is hoping to reach a captive audience of Hispanic television viewers,” the Washington Post reports.

“Obama’s 8 p.m. ET announcement will come at the start of the second hour of the 15th annual Latin Grammys, which begins at 7 p.m. Thursday on Spanish-language TV network Univision… Univision says it will postpone part of the awards show to air Obama’s speech, while the big four TV networks, ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, currently have no plans to air the address.”

The White House usually requests time from the broadcast networks but didn’t this time.


A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that 48% of Americans disapprove of President Obama’s expected plan to take executive action that would potentially allow millions of undocumented immigrants to stay legally in the United States, while 38% support it and another 14% have no opinion or are unsure.


No less than a half-dozen potential presidential candidates are gathering in Florida as the Republican Governors Association prepares to select its next leader.

The organization’s annual conference began in a luxury oceanside resort where the nation’s Republican governors are celebrating their party’s recent success in the midterm elections while privately jockeying for position as the 2016 presidential contest looms.

None of the most likely White House candidates is expected to seek to replace the outgoing RGA chief, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, as the group’s chair. It’s a position with responsibilities that would conflict with the presidential primary season.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said he would not run for the RGA leadership for just that reason.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam acknowledged he has emerged as the favorite to lead the Republican Governors Association through the next year, although the formal vote won’t occur until Thursday.

The conference comes two weeks after the GOP’s midterm rout, in which they gained control of Congress and expanded their majority of governorships across the country. In January the Republican Party will control 31 compared with Democrats’ 19. The party’s strong performance offers a presidential springboard to governors who won re-election, Walker among them, and others, like Christie, who played a leading role in the GOP’s success.

While Hillary Rodham Clinton remains the overwhelming Democratic front-runner should she seek the presidency, the prospective Republican field is crowded and without a clear leader. A handful of Senate Republicans may join the 2016 contest, but many donors and party officials would prefer a presidential nominee to emerge from the ranks of the Republican governors, who have executive experience and are not tainted by Congress’ low approval ratings.

BUSH FACES BACKLASH OVER EDUCATION RECORD via Michael Mishak of the Associated Press

Bush’s signature education overhaul is drawing criticism in his home state that could complicate any plans to run for president in 2016.

Bush has been one of the country’s most vocal supporters of academic standards known as Common Core that have been adopted by a majority of states. That puts him at odds with the conservative activists any GOP presidential hopeful would need to win the party’s nomination.

In Florida, two controversies loom over his landmark education programs. Superintendents and school boards are calling on the state to suspend its school grading system. At the same time, the state teachers union, among others, wants to overturn Florida’s private school voucher program.

Bush’s education foundation gives him a platform from which to defend his education policies. He’s speaking there Thursday in Washington.

Activists in Florida have given Bush a selection of discussion points. Parents, education advocates and policymakers in both parties say some of the measures he enshrined as governor from 1999-2007 have given rise to a culture that values testing over learning and an accountability system that confuses students and teachers.

Superintendents and school board members, meanwhile, are asking the state for a two-year delay in the use of new Common Core-based tests to grade students, teachers and schools. The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers created the standards to improve academic achievement and increase accountability. The Obama administration embraced them.

In an acknowledgment of the shifting landscape, Bush’s education foundation has mounted a public campaign to address the furor over testing, emailing parents and penning opinion articles that call for “fewer tests, better tests and tests that serve a meaningful purpose.”


Rodrigo Lehtinen grew up in a household grounded in Republican politics.

His mother, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, was the first Cuban-American elected to Congress and has served in the House for the last 25 years. His father, Dexter Lehtinen, is the former US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida who oversaw the prosecution of Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega. His grandfather, Enrique Ros, was an old-time Cuban-American hardliner and author who railed against Castro until his death last year at the age of 89.

The 28-year-old Rodrigo is willing to share a fact that has not been widely publicized. Rodrigo hasn’t always been Rodrigo. For most of his life he was Amanda, an outgoing and funny child who went to Palmer Trinity High School. Amanda was in the drama club, the rock climbing team, and founded the school’s chapter of Amnesty International.

Amanda had come out to her parents as gay in high school but it wasn’t until she was in college that Amanda made the decision to begin living her life as a transgender man.

For Amanda that moment of honesty with her parents came in the form of a letter she wrote to them in 2007 while she was home from college. In it, she explained what it means to be transgender. He even included a few pamphlets. From now on, the letter explained, he would be known as Rodrigo.

“We know Rigo as our child, whether it’s Amanda or now as Rodrigo, he’s our son, we’re proud of him,” Ros-Lehtinen said recently.

Both Ileana and her husband, Dexter, said their only concern was for Rodrigo’s well-being.

“As parents we wanted to make sure Rigo understood we were totally fine with it,” Ros-Lehtinen said, but added, “we wanted to make sure he was safe. Our society is sometimes not inviting and not caring enough and there is no mystery that LGBT kids when they are younger are bullied.”

TWEET, TWEET: @learyreports: .@GwenForCongress said she didn’t care which office she got. Th(is) photo tells a different tale:

SCOTT INAUGURAL TO BE A “JOBS JAMBOREE” via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

Gov. Scott announced that the lead-up to his Jan. 6 inauguration for a second term would include a “jobs jamboree” tour of barbecues hosted by Florida businesses in six cities.

“We know not every Floridian can come to Tallahassee, so we want to host events across Florida to highlight our economic growth and send a signal to the world that Florida is competing to become the global center for job creation,” Scott said.

The barbecue tour is set to begin Dec. 1 and will course through Miami, Ft. Myers, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, and Pensacola.

On inauguration day itself, Scott will be in Tallahassee for a prayer breakfast, the swearing-in ceremony and an evening reception at the Governor’s Mansion.

Chairing the inaugural are a handful of lobbyists and their spouses: Brian and Kathryn Ballard, Darlene and Jerry Jordan, Fred and Autumn Karlinsky, and Bill and Lys Rubin.  Meredith O’Rourke, Scott’s top campaign fund-raiser, will serve as finance director for the inaugural events, whose expenses will be covered by the Florida Republican Party.

Scott’s three-day inaugural bash in 2010 cost at least $3 million.


With political campaigns for executive and legislative offices getting most of our attention in the fall, it’s easy to forget about that other branch of state government.

The judiciary needs a bit of budget attention in the coming legislative session — a spending increase of about 13 percent, to be precise. But that’s 13 percent more of a really small number.

As required by law, the Office of State Courts Administrator officially transmitted its budget requests to the Legislature in an unnoticed little public hearing last month. Its report noted that the current budget of the judicial branch is just over a half-billion dollars, a little more than six-tenths of 1 percent of the $77 billion state budget legislators approved last spring.

The courts would like the 2015 legislative session to add $65.3 million to this year’s total. Non-recurring general revenue would account for 65 percent of the new spending, and almost 30 percent of the courts system’s total request is for building construction and maintenance.

One striking little detail in the building budget was that the money is intended for the Florida Supreme Court and four of the five District Courts of Appeal. Guess which of the DCAs doesn’t get any renovation or improvement money – that’s right, the First DCA.

The Appellate Acropolis near Southwood in Tallahassee, newer and nicer than anywhere else the Supreme Court refers to as “the court below,” is already the gaudiest building in North America not bearing the name of Donald Trump. It either needs no repairs, or they’re still embarrassed to ask.


The Legislature set an anti-Medicaid expansion tone in the Capitol Tuesday but regulators at the state’s biggest health agency have proposed a rule that, like Obamacare, mandates the purchase of insurance.

The Agency for Health Care Administration is proposing a rule that, if cost effective, would require any Medicaid beneficiary with access to employer sponsored insurance to enroll in the commercial plan. It would not apply to pregnant adults.

The insurance mandate also would not apply to Medicaid patients who don’t have access to employer sponsored insurance even though their spouse or other family member  can purchase insurance through an employer.

Patients are deemed cost effective if the premium, co-payments, co-insurance and other cost obligations–combined with an administrative cost–are less than what the state would pay for the patient in the new Medicaid managed care program.

What they currently spend in the managed medical care program depends on where the Medicaid patient lives and what plan they enroll in, among things.

The federal government would need to sign off on the employer sponsored insurance mandate before it could be implemented. AHCA did not immediately return messages.

Under terms of the proposed rule, the Medicaid patient would be reimbursed costs after submitting the proper documentation to the agency.

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The recent midterm election could be read as the belly-flop conclusion of the Obama era: What was thought to be a transformative period in American politics—a brief spark of minority- and youth-driven enthusiasm that created the promise of a post-racial America—did not, it appears, carry through to 2014.

But that interpretation would not be entirely correct. The energy that propelled Obama to the presidency lingers in at least one important respect: An increasingly muscular minority political base is here to stay. And that’s just the beginning.

For someone like me who has dedicated to my life to studying changing demographics, there’s no bigger event than the once-a-decade census. And it’s clear that the biggest story to come out of the 2010 census actually happened the following year: In 2011, more minority babies were born in the United States than white babies. Since 2000, the nation’s population of young whites has been on the decline. All of the growth in the nation’s under-18 population has been attributable to new minorities—namely Hispanics, Asians and multiracial Americans. Just as the Baby Boom upended the second half of the 20th century, the ascendancy of racial minorities will be the signature demographic trend of the 21st. And the coming explosion will have radical implications for American politics.

Demagogues of the past once fanned fears of a “minority white” nation, but it’s clear that politicians entering the 2016 landscape will have to contend with—and celebrate—an electorate that looks more different than it looks the same. It’s a shift that will upend many of the politics and alliances we’ve come to expect.

So just how different will America look in the years to come? And who will be voting in 2016, 2018, and 2020?

As the white population continues to age, racial minorities will pick up the slack. Already, 10 states have “minority white” child populations, including reliably red states like Texas and Arizona.

By 2027, minorities will out-number whites nationally among those under age 30; ditto by 2033 for those under age 40. As the older population continues to stay much whiter than the millennial generation and its successors, current political divisions between older, whiter generations and younger, more diverse ones—something I call the cultural generation gap—will linger. In one example of this divide, a 2011 Pew Research Center survey found that seven in 10 millennial minorities favored a larger government with more services over a smaller government with fewer. The same was true of only four in 10 white baby boomers.


An initial poll of the Senate District 6 special election shows the two major GOP candidates, state Reps. Travis Hutson and “Doc” Renuart, popular with voters.

So far, Renuart, who currently represents Florida House District 17, has taken the lead by 7 points, 27 percent to 20 percent for Hutson. The poll was conducted by The Tarrance Group, on behalf of a statewide professional association.

Hutson serves House District 24, which covers Flagler County, southern St. Johns County, and northern Volusia County. District 17 covers northern St. Johns County, from St. Augustine to Palm Valley.

However, the Senate race is still wide open, with 53 percent of respondents currently undecided.

As for the candidates, Renuart has a slight name recognition advantage, with 39 percent. Hutson’s name ID is at 25 percent.

Voters also give a small job approval advantage to Renuart. The Ponte Vedra Beach Republican gets 24 percent positive and 4 percent unfavorable.  In HD 17, he has 68 percent name ID, with 51 percent favorable and 8 percent unfavorable.

In comparison, Hutson has 11 percent favorable and 2 percent unfavorable numbers in District 6.  In HD 24, he has 47 percent name ID, with 24 percent favorable and 1 percent unfavorable.


After State Rep. Kionne McGhee easily won re-election, he filed paperwork to for re-election in 2016, according to the Division of Elections. McGhee, a Miami Democrat, received about 77 percent of the vote to defeat Republican Carmen Sotomayor in House District 17, which covers Miami-Dade County. Filing paperwork allows candidates to raise money.

St. Augustine Republican Michael Davis also indicated he would run in a special election to succeed Rep. Ronald “Doc” Renuart in St. Johns County’s House District 17. Davis initially filed paperwork to run for the seat in 2016 but moved it over to the special election.

That special election, to replace Renuart, a Ponte Vedra Beach Republican, who is seeking the Senate seat vacated by John Thrasher to become Florida State University president.

St. Augustine Republican Cyndi Stevenson is also planning to run in District 17. Both special primary elections are scheduled for Jan. 27 and a special general election on April 7.


Former St. Johns County Commissioner Ron Sanchez filed his paperwork to run in the special election for the House seat vacated when Rep. Travis Hutson decided to run in the special election for an open Florida Senate seat.

Sanchez, who was nominated by Gov. Rick Scott to serve on the federal Selective Service System Local Board in Florida, is running as a Republican.

Sanchez was first elected to the County Commission in 2006 but lost his bid for another term to Jeb Smith this year.


Nearly 158,000 people in a Tampa-area legislative district won’t have a representative when lawmakers meet next spring with a vote in the Florida House of Representatives to disallow results of an election for the seat.

The House’s unanimous rejection of GOP state Rep. Jamie Grant’s re-election creates a vacancy and means Grant will have to run again in a special election to be called by Gov. Rick Scott.

But given the amount of time required for a new round of candidate qualifying, ballot printing, polling place set-up and other requirements, “I don’t know that we’re going to have that seat filled by March 3,” said Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer, referring to the start of the 2015 session.

Since 2010, Grant has represented the district, which covers northwest Hillsborough and eastern Pinellas counties. But the seat has been in question since an appeals court invalidated the election results as part of an ongoing court case involving a write-in candidate.

Grant’s absence does not affect Republican control of the chamber.

The case is still pending, now under appeal with the Florida Supreme Court. And no one still can say which branch of government would have to defer to the other because the matter has no precedent, at least in recent Florida political and legal history.

The House rejected the Nov. 4 results, in which Grant won by 59.5 percent of the vote, under its constitutional authority to be the “sole judge” of its membership.

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There are more than two thousand lobbyists plying their trade in Florida’s capital city. However, if you go by the coverage of the Tampa Bay Times, the newspaper with the largest bureau in Tallahassee, there is just one: Brian Ballard (or maybe two if you add in John “Mac” Stipanovich).

If you read through the last three weeks’ worth of work by Times bureau chief Steve Bousquet and reporter Michael Van Sickler, they do not quote a lobbyist in every story they write, but when they do, it’s Ballard.

… Unless Google is lying, there are no other lobbyists quoted during this period except for Mac the Knife, who is renowned for his ability to drop the mic with a sharp quote to a reporter on a deadline.

Just Ballard, Ballard, Ballard at the Times. All Ballard, all the time.

Not that Ballard doesn’t deserve the press coverage. He is the Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, depending on your preference, of the lobbying world. Ballard Partners is either the number one or number two highest paid firm in the state.

But he’s not the only lobbyist in the state, is he? He’s not the only lobbyist in Tallahassee who would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to give a glowing, magnanimous air-kiss of a quote about the governor’s incoming Chief of Staff.

Somehow though, Ballard has become the Greek chorus for the entire lobbying corps. Forget about Ron Book or Chris Dudley or Nick Iarossi. Why bother talking to Travis Blanton or Michael Corcoran or Katie Webb? Steve Metz who?


Floridian Partners, one of Florida’s leading statewide government affairs and lobbying firms, is joining with Tampa-based Josko Public Affairs + Communications, to provide expanded government relations and public affairs services, focusing on Central and Southwest Florida.

Founded in 1999, Josko Public Affairs is headed by Todd Josko, a former campaign consultant with the Republican Party of Florida who served as the Florida West Coast field director for Jeb Bush’s campaign and as a legislative assistant in the Florida House.

Local elected officials from both sides of Tampa Bay have already begun to weigh in on news of the collaboration.

“Todd Josko and Ana Cruz are two of the Tampa Bay region’s top public affairs consultants, and I congratulate them and the entire Floridian Partners team on this partnership,” said incoming Pinellas County Commission Chairman John Morroni.

“I have known and worked with Todd Josko for two decades,” added Hillsborough County Commission incoming Vice Chair Al Higginbotham. “He has always worked diligently and been a man of his word. There is no doubt he will continue a path of integrity and success in this new endeavor.”

“Floridian Partners is recognized across Florida and the nation as one of the premier government affairs and lobbying firms, whose team members are considered top experts in their profession,” Josko said.  “I’m honored to be associated with such talented professionals and am looking forward to this exciting collaboration.”


It continues to be a strong year for South Florida super-lobbyist Ron Book, who — along with Rana Brown and Kelly Mallette—brought in third quarter 2014 estimated revenues of more than $2.25 million.

In Q3 2014, Book – with a roster of 85 legislative and 58 executive clients — filed estimated maximum earnings of $1,698,933 in legislative fees and $559,950 for executive advocacy, for a total of up to $2,258,883.

Book’s single biggest paydays in Q3 were $75,000 each from Auto Tag Management Group, Performance Title Services, Inc. and Title Clerk Consulting Company, LLC.

Deerfield Beach-based environmental services and disaster recovery contractor AshBritt gave the firm $68,000 for legislative representation.

With a strong focus on the Miami-Dade region, Book’s other legislative clients include $56,000 from the Miami Project/Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis; and up to $49,999 from Southwest Florida Enterprises, a gambling interest group.

Top paying executive clients include Keiser University and Miami-Dade County, which gave up to $29,999; dyslexia education group Learning Ally and Miami-Dade Public Schools each gave up to $9,999.


As a top Tallahassee specialty lobbying house, Capital City Consulting boosted its earnings by adding more than $2.26 million for the third quarter 2014.

In Q3 2014, Capital City filed estimated maximum earnings of $1,456,930 in legislative fees, $769,928 for executive advocacy, bringing its total to $2,226,858. Adding $4,378,719 from the first half of 2014, CCC has now brought in over $6.6 million this year.

Blockbuster lobbying revenue are becoming the norm at Capital City, considering its seven-member lobbying team with top names such as Nick Iarossi, Gerald Wester, Ronald LaFace, Chris Schoonover, Ken Granger, Jennifer Gaviria, and Ashley Mayer, who combined cover a roster of 87 legislative and 85 executive clients.

Once again, Capital City’s highest paying Q3 customer was the Las Vegas Sands Corp, which paid the firm legislative lobbying fees of $77,000, up from last quarter’s $73,000. Following Sands Corp. is insurance giant Aetna, Inc., which gave up to $49,999.

At the $39,999 mark is Palm Beach County Sheriff Office.


Insurance regulatory specialists at the newly renamed Colodny Fass, with stable of 15 lobbyists, were responsible for nearly $2.14 million in lobbying revenue in the third quarter of 2014.

Led by founding partner Mike Colodny, veteran lobbyist Doug Bruce and former Florida Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, Colodny, et al. reported 76 legislative and 115 executive clients for an estimated maximum earnings of $949,950 legislative and $1,189,930 executive advocacy fees — for a total of up to $2,139,880.

These solid numbers Colodny Fass as one of Florida’s top lobbying firms and a leader in insurance, regulatory, governmental advocacy and litigation issues.

Colodny’s single biggest paydays in Q3 were a wide range of insurance-related interests such Guy Carpenter & Company, LLC. Heritage Property & Casualty Insurance Company and Risk Management Solutions, Inc., each giving up to $49,999 for legislative advocacy.

At the $39,999 level in legislative lobbying were Florida Peninsula Insurance Company and Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.

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TWEET, TWEET: @tandrewgus: Congrats to the incredibly talented @JessicaPubRadio: the next @WJCTJax news director!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our great friend, Anthony Pedicini.

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.