Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – April 7

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

Today’s SachsFact is brought to you by the public affairs, integrated marketing and reputation management experts at Sachs Media Group: Today is the 125th anniversary of the birth of the “Grande Dame of the Everglades,” Marjory Stoneman Douglas, whose 1947 book “The Everglades: River of Grass” highlighted the ecological importance of the South Florida wetlands expanse. By the time she died at age 108, Douglas was the face and voice of Everglades advocacy and had been honored with a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Her famous book begins, “There are no other Everglades in the world” – and surely there was no other Everglades crusader quite like Douglas.

DAYS UNTIL Sine Die – 25; Special Election in SD 6, HD 17 & 24 – 0; Special Election in  HD 64 – 14: Jacksonville’s Mayoral Election – 42; Florida’s Presidential Primary: 342; Florida’s 2016 Primary Election: 511; Florida’s 2016 General Election: 581.


The long tail of legislative seat-hopping put into motion when former Sen. John Thrasher decided to resign to become Florida State University’s new president will come to an end Tuesday.

Special elections are slated to be held in Senate District 6 — Thrasher’s old seat — as well as House Districts 24 and 17, which Reps. Travis Hutson and “Doc” Renuart were enticed to leave in order to pursue Thrasher’s spot in the upper chamber, respectively.

Though somewhat more votes are expected to be cast in these races compared to the very low-turnout affair in which Rep. Reggie Fullwood regained his seat last month after an interruption in his consecutive service due to paperwork errors — Duval Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland predicted about 8 percent of voters to come out in that race — the races will have real significance despite their obscurity.

Candidates who take office by special elections are historically far more likely to attain leadership positions within their caucuses due to their natural advantage of longer service than their colleagues.

Paul Renner and Travis Hutson continued to pour onto their fundraising advantages over their Democratic opponents Adam Morley and David Cox, who are expected to be sacrificial lambs as the GOP continues to maintain their lopsided majorities in both chambers.

Hutson submitted a letter of resignation effective on a date “to be determined” when he filed for the Senate seat he has eyed for some time. When, as most observers expect, he is elected to the seat, he will officially switch chambers on Wednesday.

Florida Democratic Party spokesman Joshua Karp emphasized the heavily R-oriented character of the districts and said that despite the turmoil injected into the atmosphere by the off-season action, the races tomorrow will simply swap around “Republican dominoes.”


Rubio returns to his old stomping grounds – Tallahassee – for a Rubio Victory PAC breakfast fundraising reception today for the prospective 2016 presidential candidate.

The $1,000-a-plate general reception begins 8:30 a.m. at the Governors Club Plantation Room, 202 S. Adams Street in Tallahassee. There will also be a VIP meet-and-greet at 8 a.m.

A place as co-host is $2,500 per person; a spot on the host committee costs $5,000 per person.

In attendance as the host committee is a catalog of some of the biggest Republican power players, lobbyists and political insiders: Sebastian Aleksander, Gaston Cantens, Len Collins, Nick Fererri, Adam Hasner, Bill Helmich, Nick Iarossi, Chris Moya, Evan Power and Scott Ross.

Listed as co-hosts: Ellyn Bogdanoff, Hurley Booth, Michael Cantens, Ken Granger, Jeff Hartley, Ron LaFace, Robert Reyes, Jared Ross and Derek Whitis.


Rubio was scheduled to attend a fundraising event Monday night at the home of a major Florida shipbuilder who is competing for a multibillion dollar contract from the Coast Guard, an agency Rubio helps to oversee as the chairman of a key Senate subcommittee.

Rubio toured the Eastern Shipbuilding yards in Panama City early Monday with owner Brian D’Isernia, who hosted the evening fundraiser at his home. Donations ranged from $10,000 for hosts, $5,000 for VIPs and $1,000 for general attendees, according to a source who received an invitation.

Rubio, who plans to announce his presidential bid next week, has oversight of the Coast Guard as chairman of the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, which has jurisdiction over the agency’s budget.

“This is a contract worth as much as $10 billion over the long haul, and the last thing D’Isernia wants is to have a senator angry with him,” said a source with direct knowledge of the fundraising efforts.

In the brutal competition for Florida’s abundant GOP donors, the 71-year-old D’Isernia is a highly sought-after target.

Indeed, he was in talks this spring to participate in a $100,000-per-person fundraiser for  Bush. But scheduling conflicts apparently got in the way. And D’Isernia was also approached by Rubio’s go-between at the time, said the source with knowledge of the conversations.


Tom Steyer, a California billionaire who spent nearly $20 million in a failed attempt to block Gov. Rick Scott’s November re-election because of his stance on climate change, plans to target battleground states including Florida during the 2016 presidential race, his political strategists said Monday.

Steyer’s NextGen Climate PAC will feature sea level rise in Miami to target U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and seek to paint the Republican Party as being controlled by industrialists Charles and David Koch, said Chris Lehane, chief strategist with NextGen Climate.

Lehane spoke with reporters during a national conference call to announce the organization’s “Hot Seat” strategy for climate deniers. Asked how much Steyer will contribute in the 2016 election, Lehane said Steyer will do “what it takes” to boost climate change as an issue in target states.

Lehane said he thinks former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is “particularly vulnerable” on the climate change issue because he’s from Florida.

“He claims not to believe in the science,” Lehane said of Bush. “I think it’s particularly interesting he is from a state that will be particularly impacted by it (climate change).”

Lehane said Bush is struggling to gain support for his message that he is the most electable of the possible Republican candidates for president.


In his announcement at Miami’s Freedom Tower on April 13, Marco Rubio is expected not only to officially join the race for the presidency but the race for donor dollars in his native Florida.

It’s a race that many expect his fellow Floridian Jeb Bush to win hands down. But while Bush has signed up mega donors to cut checks for his super PAC from the area, there are tens of millions more Florida dollars for the taking that Rubio and the rest of the GOP field are fighting over.

Indeed, the Sunshine State is steadily growing as a fundraising mecca. It was the second-largest source of money for Republicans among all states in the 2012 presidential cycle, dumping in $31 million. And it’s expected to give far more in 2016. And unlike New York, California, and Massachusetts, where dollars flow in predictable channels to candidates with certain attributes, Florida’s money follows as twisty a path as an Everglades river, creating fund-raising opportunities for candidates of all stripes.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is making regular forays in hopes of locking up key donors like Stanley and Gay Gaines and billionaire donors Frayda and George Lindemann. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recently picked up Meredith O’Rourke, finance director for Gov. Rick Scott, and held a meet-and-greet in Jupiter, Florida, put together by Home Depot founder Ken Langone. Another Scott ally, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, made a recent stop to raise funds for a Jacksonville mayoral candidate, and many expect he’ll soon be back to collect checks for himself.

This may be a surprise to some people in and out of the campaigns who expected that Bush’s only competition for Florida dollars would be his home-state rival, Rubio. But in just the last few years, the state has seen a sharp influx of wealthy entrepreneurs of varying stripes, from liberals to libertarians to Wall Street-oriented conservatives.

SMART READ:Presidential candidates-to-be make the most of fundraising rule-bending” via the Los Angeles Times


There is little doubt that Jeb Bush possesses strong credentials for appealing to Hispanic voters. He speaks fluent Spanish. His wife, Columba Bush, was born in Mexico. For two years in his 20s, he lived in Venezuela, immersing himself in the country’s culture.

… In a 2009 voter-registration application, obtained from the Miami-Dade County Elections Department, Mr. Bush marked Hispanic in the field labeled “race/ethnicity.”

A Bush spokeswoman could offer no explanation for the characterization. However, Bush took to Twitter to call the situation a mistake.

While Bush’s claiming to be Hispanic may have been a careless mistake, confusion over heritage is no laughing matter during a campaign season.

During her Senate campaign in 2012, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts was accused of misrepresenting herself as Native American. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has had to explain his birth in Canada.

As for Bush, whom Univision called a “Hispanic candidate” this year, his outreach to Hispanic voters is unlikely to be deterred. With any luck, it will not go to his head again.

JEFF ATWATER UP 38%-34% OVER PATRICK MURPHY IN VERY EARLY Q-POLL via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

In a new Quinnipiac poll, Jeff Atwater leads Patrick Murphy, 38-34 percent.

Atwater has yet to officially announce his candidacy, but that’s simply considered a matter of timing at this point. The pollsters also include the state’s Republican lieutenant governor, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, and Orlando area Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson into the mix. They, too, have not announced officially, but are strongly considered to be potential candidates.

The poll shows that much of the state knows very little about our current lieutenant governor, or  Murphy for that matter.

Seventy-eight percent of Florida voters have never heard of Lopez-Cantera (even though he ran statewide last year), while 74 percent of people haven’t heard of Murphy, which makes sense since he represents only one congressional district in South Florida.

Atwater is by far the best known of the four names in the mix here; 29 percent know who our CFO is, while 58 percent haven’t heard of him.

And Grayson? 62 percent say they haven’t heard of the liberal icon, but among those who do, he’s not doing all that well. as only 20 percent like him; 17 percent don’t.

The poll also shows that Murphy would best Lopez-Cantera today, 35-31 percent.

Lopez-Canters would barely edge out Grayson, 33-32 percent.

And Atwater would handily defeat Grayson today, 42-32 percent.


Sunshine State NewsJeff Atwater Leads Over Less Known Democrats in Early 2016 Senate Poll – “Atwater does well … leading U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy … 38 percent to 34 percent. When matched up against U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson … Atwater does even better, leading 42 percent to 32 percent.” Palm Beach PostFloridians support marijuana; Jeff Atwater, Patrick Murphy strongest Senate candidates – “Medical marijuana remains much more popular in surveys than … at the voting booth in Florida last year … 84 percent of Sunshine State voters saying they favor legalizing pot if prescribed by a doctor.” Miami HeraldJeff Atwater leads early Florida Senate field – “… all of them have a high proportion of voters — 58 percent or more — who said they don’t know enough about the politicians to form an opinion.” WFTS/ABC Action News, Florida voters support legalizing medical marijuana and possession for recreational use – “… support for medical marijuana is much higher than the 60 percent threshold, possibly signifying the amendment wording troubled many voters.” Orlando SentinelVoters support pot, Atwater, Murphy – “… last fall’s failure of proposed Amendment 2 in Florida underscores a weakness in such polling.”  FlaglerLive.comPoll Finds Medical Pot Legalization Still Heavily Favored in Florida; Gov. Scott Still Not – “… about Scott’s performance … Just 42 percent approve, with 49 percent disapproving and 9 percent saying they don’t know or have no answer.”


If history is any indication, Florida could be the major player in choosing the next president.

With some of the largest votes in the Electoral College, Florida is poised to shake up the political map in 2016, according to the folks at Smart Politics.

In 44 of 46 elections since 1832, at least one state with more than 10 Electoral College votes flipped from the previous cycle; an average of 5.5 of those elector-rich states flipped per cycle.

The particular dynamics of next year’s presidential election cycle points to a minimum of one state flipping parties in the election cycle. Of those with 20 or more votes, a switch happened in 35 elections.

As both parties look throughout the country opportunities to flip from red to blue – and vice versa — much of the political focus will naturally turn to Florida, one of the nation’s biggest electoral states, with 29 electoral votes.

In 2016, with no incumbent or repeat challenger on the presidential ballot, Smart Politics researchers expect a shake-up of the 2012 electoral map – to some degree – where Barack Obama won reelection with 332 electoral votes over 26 states and the District of Columbia.

It is nearly impossible to predict exactly which states will flip in 2016, Smart Politics says. And as the presidential campaigns begin to heat up, it is virtually certain that at least one – possibly more – will do so. Offering two leading presidential hopefuls – former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio – all signs point to Florida as the center of an active, and interesting, 2016.


Grayson says he’s in no rush to decide about a Senate run, though he’s been paying attention to the recruitment effort from progressive Democrats.

“I don’t have any set date for deciding,” the Orlando Democrat said in a telephone interview … “I’m waiting and watching as we see what develops with the Republican Senate candidates.” Grayson also wants to hear Rubio’s plans a week from today.

Of the draft Grayson movement, he said: “I’m very grateful. I pay a lot of attention to what like-minded people want. I understand and join in their sense that we need a true Democrat carrying our banner in 2016, someone who has a proven record of fighting for justice, equality, compassion and peace.”

Grayson isn’t commenting publicly on his would-be rival. But he did take a pretty clear shot on Twitter. ‘You win elections by giving voters a choice, not by pretending to be something you’re not,’ – Frank Day. The tweet linked to a story about the recruitment effort.


Murphy and Buckhorn will address the press and public at downtown Tampa’s Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park at 10 a.m..

The move comes amid speculation of a heated primary challenge to Murphy from the left, as the Florida Democratic Progressive Caucus has signaled their support for Congressman Alan Grayson over Murphy, who they say isn’t liberal enough for their tastes.

MURPHY GETS FREDERICA WILSON’S BACKING via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald

A single endorsement by one Democratic member of Congress to another is hardly news — except when it comes strategically on the same day the party’s liberal wing questioned the candidate’s credentials.

Rep. Frederica Wilson backed Rep. Patrick Murphy’s 2016 U.S. Senate bid Monday, hours after progressive Democrats called on Rep. Alan Grayson to challenge Murphy in the primary. Grassroots Democrats love Grayson, a staunch liberal from Orlando, and worry that Murphy, a onetime Republican, is too moderate.

But Wilson, of Miami Gardens, is a fervent President Obama supporter and unabashed progressive. Her support gives Murphy a veneer of liberal support on the day he needs it most.

“This gentleman will make a fine Senator,” Wilson said in a statement released by the Murphy campaign. “Since arriving in Congress, Patrick has distinguished himself as a leader who will work across the aisle to improve the lives of Floridians. He has championed legislation that will create jobs, protect our most vulnerable, and support working families.”

GWEN GRAHAM PULLS IN BIG FIRST-QUARTER BUCKS via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times  

Graham raised more than $525,000 for the first quarter this year, an eye-catching number sure to worry Republicans eager to recapture the north Florida seat.

Graham’s haul is “three times more than any of the district’s past candidates have ever raised in the first quarter of a cycle,” according to her campaign. The total was first shared the total with the Buzz.

“I promised to work with both sides of the aisle to find real solutions to the problems we face – and following through on that promise has excited people across our district,” Graham said in a statement.

Her fund-raising included 4,600 online donations, an average of $6.88, according to a release. She has $480,000 cash on hand.

Graham, daughter of Bob Graham (in case you’ve been in a cave), defeated incumbent Republican Steve Southerland in November. She’s already been talked about as a future candidate for governor or U.S. Senate. And Graham has quickly established a centrist voting record.

LOOK FOR Democratic congressional candidate Eric Lynn to announce his candidacy late Tuesday/early Wednesday through a sit-down with the Tampa Bay Times. Florida Politics first reported about the possibility of Lynn’s candidacy here.

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Gov. Scott threw more cold water … on the state Senate’s push for expanding health insurance for low-income Floridians, saying it was too risky to rely on support from the federal government.

Scott in 2012 announced support for expanding Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act. But he has done nothing to make it happen and separated himself further from his one-time position.

Scott pointed out the current uncertainty over the status of federal dollars to Florida hospitals treating the poor. The Obama administration has said it plans to revamp the so-called low-income pool (LIP) funding, possibly reducing the roughly $2.3 billion Florida hospitals expect from the program.

“Our priority is to cut more than $600 million in taxes this session and get K-12 education funding up to record levels while holding the line on college tuition,” Scott said.

“We still have several weeks left for budget negotiations; however, given that the federal government said they would not fund the federal LIP program to the level it is funded today, it would be hard to understand how the state could take on even more federal programs that CMS could scale back or walk away from,” he added.

Senate President Andy Gardiner responded to Scott by basically saying that without the LIP money — or cash drawn from enacting FHIX — the governor can forget about his pitch for $673 million in tax breaks.

TWEET, TWEET: @Jason_Garcia: So Gov. Scott was for Medicaid expansion when he faced a general election but is now against it with a possible Senate primary ahead? Weird.

TWEET, TWEET: @maxasteele: .@FLGovScott said he could not “in good conscience” deny efforts to expand Medicaid. What happened to that conscience? Oh wait…

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will highlight job growth with a 2 p.m. press conference at Cole Engineering Services, 12253 Challenger Parkway in Orlando.

ACTUAL TOP STORY from Florida Trend: “Florida lawmakers pay attention to powerful interests.” Oh, the humanity … lawmakers are paying attention! What’s next … listening?


As Andy Gardiner and his wife, Camille, drove home from the Orlando hospital with their newborn son 11 years ago, in shock at having just learned he had Down syndrome, they made a decision that reverberates in the Florida Legislature today.

With Gardiner now in the powerful post of state Senate president, lawmakers are poised to pass legislation that will put Florida on the cutting edge in education, savings and employment opportunities for the intellectually disabled.

The Senate president controls legislation in his chamber for two years, making Gardiner a powerful champion for his cause – probably the first legislative presiding officer to take up that cause, he said.

One bill would make Florida the ninth state to allow tax-free savings accounts for the disabled, with the contents not counted against eligibility for Medicaid or Social Security disability payments. Based on a new federal law championed by U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Jacksonville, it’s intended to help when they grow older and lose parental support.

Another allows universities to set up courses of study for students with intellectual disabilities. Weir said some 250 universities including the University of North Florida have such programs.

A third bill increases funding for vouchers for special education programs for disabled children, currently about $14 million, to as much as $50 million.

Others encourage employment of the disabled in government and private industry; establish a financial literacy program; and recognize businesses that advance the cause of employing the disabled.


The pro-business political action committee Americans for Prosperity – Florida continues to make waves this Session as it prepares to distribute mailers to a handful of legislators thanking them for their advocacy on charter school funding and expansion.

The move to gain good will among members of the Florida GOP majority serves as the carrot to AFP’s punitive stick, which they have also brandished freely this year.

The Charles & David Koch-funded group has criticized some Republican state senators for trying to advance a plan that would allow Florida to draw down billions of federal dollars to expand Medicaid, as well as a pair of Senate moderates – Sens. Jack Latvala and Nancy Detert – for their attempt to increase state incentives for the film industry.

That tension in particular got testy during a Senate hearing last week, when Sen. Detert called out AFP State Deputy Director Skylar Zander for opposing that effort in committee though not specifying the group’s objections. Latvala summoned Zander to the podium after he waived his time in opposition of Detert’s SB 1046, which would create the Division of Film & Entertainment within the Department of Economic Opportunity. Detert took Zander to task for sending out attack mailers against her and for offering “meaningless” critiques of her plan.

For now, it appears AFP is choosing to accentuate the positive aspects of its advocacy, which has been considerable this year. Besides the Medicaid and film incentives issues the group has applauded the House for its audacious $690 million tax-cut package and praised Rep. Janet Adkins for her conservative approach to pension reform, another ongoing years-long battle in which AFP has jumped into the fray.

The pro-school choice mailers are seemingly another step in that direction. AFP will drop supportive mailers in the districts represented by Sens. Lizbeth Benacquisto, John Legg and Jeff Brandes as well as Reps. Dane Eagle, Frank Artiles, Bob Cortes andManny Diaz.

A representative example implores the recipient to “Call Senator Legg and thank him for standing up for Florida’s families!”


A move to prevent doctors and hospitals from balance billing insured patients who go out-of-network for emergency services and care appears dead for the session.

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee temporarily passed the measure — SB 516 — at its meeting last week and the bill is not slated to be heard in the committee when it meets April 7.

Under Senate rules, any bill that is temporarily deferred must be considered at the next meeting or else it’s considered “abandoned.” The rules can be waived, but it requires two-thirds vote, which is difficult to obtain.

The bill was championed by Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater who issued a press release earlier this year calling the bill a “priority legislative issue for the 2015 session.”

The Florida Association of Health Plans also considered the bill a priority issue for the 2015 session. Association President and Chief Executive Officer Audrey Brown called the bill in a press release a “win for Florida consumers.”

Brown cautioned that it was early in the process to “opine” whether the bill would die and that her association continues to support it.

The Senate bill would have established payment methodology for providers who don’t have contracts with insurance companies and provide emergency care to insured patients. The bill defined emergency services and care to include transportation.


Less than a week after House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Richard Corcoran complained that the Senate wouldn’t consider any of his chamber’s health care proposals the Senate Health Policy Committee will take up a bill on “direct primary care” when it meets Tuesday.

The proposed bill — SB 7084 — incorporates the substance of HB 7047 which was developed by the House Health Innovation Subcommittee after conducting a lengthy workshop on direct primary care and how it works with physician supporters as well as National Federation of Independent Business-Florida.

Direct primary care allows doctors to charge and collect a monthly fee in exchange for health care services without running afoul of insurance law. Specifically the House bill amends insurance codes to make clear that direct primary care is not insurance.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli told Florida Politics that he liked the idea behind direct primary care and had discussed the concept with a physician friend of his.

The proposed Senate bill also is the first health care “train” of the session. That’s because in addition to including the direct primary care proposal the bill also contains a section on “medical tourism” similar to what’s contained in SB 86 and HB 945, neither of which has been considered by a House or Senate committee. The medical tourism bill is sponsored by Senate Health Policy Committee Chairman Sen. Aaron Bean.

The bill also amends the Access to Health Care Act, which provides sovereign immunity in certain instances, and has in it the original version of SB 1146, filed by Sen. David Simmons.

The term “trains” is used to describe a bill that has contains proposals that are supported by a broad group of people but also contain other bills that aren’t as well liked or as well known.


Eric Draper of Audubon Florida told a television audience that legislators are showing they are “out of sync” with voters who supported Amendment 1. Seventy-five percent of voters in November approved the funding initiative that would provide an estimated $742 million for water and land conservation in the 2015-16 state budget.

Environmental groups contend the House and Senate have ignored voters’ intent in their spending plans. The House approved perhaps $10 million for land acquisition although House leaders say it’s more. The Senate voted last week to boost spending on land buying from $2 million to $37 million.

Appearing on “The Usual Suspects” … Draper praised the Florida Forever state land-buying program as scientific process for determining land that should be bought. He said, though, that legislators have “started substituting their own judgment” for that process in recent years.

“For example there is a bill in the State Affairs Committee that would actually start giving the (state) land away, giving it to adjacent farmers,” Draper said. “Those are the sorts of things that seem very out of sync with where the voters are, with the voters who voted 75 percent” for Amendment 1.

Draper was referring to HB 7135, filed by the House State Affairs Committee on March 26, which would allow the Cabinet to give state land to adjacent landowners who agree to conserve both properties. Rep. Matt Caldwell, a Republican from North Fort Myers who is committee chairman, argued the state could end up conserving land without having to spend money.

Draper appeared on the show with Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, with show hosts Gary Yordon and Steven J. Vancore.


Critics of a wide-ranging House growth management bill say that a section would undermine local development planning by requiring approval of agricultural lands that are nearly surrounded by development.

HB 933, by Rep. Mike La Rosa, a Republican from St. Cloud, is scheduled to be heard Tuesday by the House Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee. Another subcommittee on March 25 combined HB 933 with six other House bills dealing with growth management.

The 68-page bill faces opposition from groups including 1000 Friends of Florida, the Florida League of Cities and the Florida Association of Counties. They particularly objected to a section that would create a definition for a “constrained agricultural parcel” in state growth management law.

Palm Beach County officials say the proposal appears to be intended to aid developers of two parcels — one in the unincorporated county and another in Palm Beach Gardens. But they are not sure what other parcels that the law change might apply to in the future.

A “constrained agricultural parcel” would be defined as undeveloped land with at least 75 percent having been used for agriculture for three years and with at least one mile of its boundary adjacent to existing or approved residential commercial or industrial development. The proposed change in land use designation would not constitute urban sprawl under state law and restrictions could be placed on the property that are inconsistent with surrounding land uses.

Rep. Bobby Powell, a Democrat from Riveria Beach, asked La Rosa during the March 25 subcommittee meeting during which the bill was amended whether the law change would create new “constrained parcels” after the former agricultural lands are rezoned.


Crooner Jimmy Buffett will be strumming his guitar and singing at the Capitol as part of a rally to save the Everglades.

Buffett, who is traveling to Tallahassee with his friend and Florida writer Carl Hiaasen, will perform a short acoustic set with Mississippi singer-songwriter Mac McAnally and steel drummer Robert Greenidge. The rally is set for 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Old Capitol.

The performance is part of the Everglades Action Day rally at the Capitol, sponsored by the Everglades Coalition.


For the second time in a week, Duke Energy is moving to change its troubled image with Florida customers.

The latest: a proposal by the utility to credit customers $600 million — or $2 to $3 per month for the average residential consumer.

That proposal will be discussed at a hearing Tuesday before the state Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee.

The proposal comes less than a week after Duke announced plans for construction of large-scale solar power plants as a bipartisan coalition pushes the Sunshine State to produce more of its electricity from the sun.

Sen. Jack Latvala said senior executives from Duke Energy’s corporate offices in Charlotte met with him over recent weeks to discuss how the much-maligned utility can boost the low customer satisfaction ratings it regularly receives.

“They’re tired of the bad press,” Latvala said.


If you are among the millions of Floridians who are now or someday will be part of a homeowners’ association – READ THIS VERY CAREFULLY – because CS/SB 736 and HB 611 have your name written all over them.

Here’s an example of how these bills will stick to it condo owners: When some deadbeat decides to stop paying homeowners fees, he or she accrues fines and other debts. That outstanding debt travels with the property and must be settled at closing. And under these bills it still will.

Except – you knew there would be an “except” – these legislative proposals severely shift the burden to the HOA, making the association have to more quickly prepare the necessary documents (a.k.a. “estoppel certificates”) and get them to the title company. That wouldn’t be that big of a deal except (there we go again) the bill also caps the fees that can be charged for processing the docs (no matter the actual cost involved).  And if that doesn’t make this a full on knee-slapper, the company requesting the documents can take its own sweet time paying the tab for this service.  Yes, everyone involved in the closing (from the appraiser to the title company) gets paid when they perform their particular service – at or before the closing. But the HOAs are being singled out. Not only do they have to wait to collect their fees after the fact, if the closing doesn’t occur in a timely manner, they will be forced to wait even longer to be paid and may be required to go to court to collect. (Good luck with that.)

And if the HOA (a.k.a. the homeowners) doesn’t get the documents done within the shortened time frame, they lose the ability to collect the unpaid debts.

It’s really not a laughing matter. If you are one of the millions of folks who belong to a homeowner’s association, this bill could be really bad news because, quite simply, it will force YOU to pay.



The House Transportation & Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee takes up HB 933, from St. Cloud Republican Mike La Rosa seeking numerous changes to the state’s growth-management system. Meeting is 8:45 a.m. in Reed Hall of the House Office Building.


The Senate Criminal Justice Committee discusses SPB 7080, which would expand body camera use by police officers. The bill would require law-enforcement to follow uniform policies governing the use of body cameras, if agencies allow officers to wear the devices. Meeting is 10 a.m. in Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.


The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee examines HB 7131, filed by Miami Republican Carlos Trujillo and Orlando Democrat Rep. Randolph Bracy, which would improve oversight of the state’s prison system. Among the changes are expanding security audits at prisons and making a priority to facilities with high levels of incorrect use of force against inmates and assaults on employees or inmate sexual abuse. Meeting is 10:30 a.m. in Reed Hall of the House Office Building.


Surgeon General John Armstrong, who also is the secretary of the Florida Department of Health, faces a confirmation hearing with the Senate Health Policy Committee. Meeting is 1:30 p.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building.


The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee considers SB 984, a measure filed by Miami Gardens Democrat Oscar Braynon, creating limited state law exemptions banning lobbyists from giving gifts or spending money to benefit lawmakers. If passed, the measure would allow governmental entities to provide facilities or property to lawmakers if there is a “public purpose.” Local governments either employ or hire lobbyists. Meeting is 1:30 p.m. in Room 401 of the Senate Office Building.


The House Appropriations Committee takes up HB 1247, from Hialeah Republican Bryan Avila and Lantana Democrat Lori Berman, to prohibit sale of powdered alcoholic beverages. Meeting is 1:30 p.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.


A bill (SB 288) in front of the Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee seeks to make wide-ranging changes to the state Public Service Commission and electric utilities. Filed by Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala, parts of the bill would require yearly ethics training for commission members as well as preventing utilities to use extended billing cycles to charge higher electricity rates. Meeting is 4 p.m. in Room 301 of the Senate Office Building.


The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee takes up SB 840, from Hollywood Democrat Eleanor Sobel to eliminate the residency requirement for write-in candidates. The bill seeks to remove sections of the state law requiring write-in candidates to live in the districts they seek to represent at the time of qualifications. That condition led to a pair of court battles last year: House District 64 in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties and Broward County, for a commission race. Meeting is 4 p.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building.


The House Civil Justice Subcommittee will examine 14 claim bills, representing lawsuits against various government agencies. Damages are limited to $200,000 by the state’s sovereign-immunity laws, unless lawmakers pass a claim bill permitting larger payments. Meeting is 4:30 p.m. in Room 404 of the House Office Building.


10 a.m.:

>>> Senate Finance and Tax Committee meets in Room 401 of the Senate Office Building.

>>> Senate Higher Education Committee meets in Room 412 of the Knott Building.

10:30 a.m.:

>>> House Government Operations Appropriations Subcommittee meets in Morris Hall of the House Office Building.

1:30 p.m.:

>>> House Finance & Tax Committee meets in Morris Hall of the House Office Building.

>>> Senate Banking and Insurance Committee meets in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

>>> Senate Community Affairs Committee meets in Room 301 of the Senate Office Building.

4 p.m.:

>>> Senate Judiciary Committee meets in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

4:30 p.m.:

>>> House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee meets in Reed Hall of the House Office Building.

UBER SEEN AS BOTH AN OPPORTUNITY AND COMPETITION via Sean Rossman of the Tallahassee Democrat

The ride-booking app Uber has been making headlines in Florida since starting in Jacksonville about a year ago.

State and local officials are searching for ways to regulate the new technology without stifling the upstart business and angering cab companies. But aside from the policy debate, what is Uber and how does it affect Tallahasseeans?

Uber, a web-based smartphone app accessed from an iPhone or Android device, represents opportunity for some and competition for others. It first started in Tallahassee in August and in just about seven months, has generated 50,000 trips in the capital city, company officials say.

What keeps people honest with Uber is the ratings system. Riders can rate and leave anonymous comments about a driver. The driver can also rate a ride. Drivers and riders can be suspended or banned from the app based on ratings.

Joe Hirabayashi, an Uber rider and a representative of the National Federation of Independent Business, told city commissioners in a recent meeting that Uber got him out of a bind when he was having car troubles at Trader Joe’s.

Michael Gallante, the owner of Classic Limousines in Tallahassee, said Uber drivers regularly cut into his business, impacting it 20 to 30 percent. Gallante says his company has been in town for 27 years and has 15 drivers and 15 limousines.

He argues Uber can charge lower rates because it doesn’t have to abide by the same regulations. He said he’s had to cut back on expenses to cover losses.

“If we’re going to go forward as a community, I think we need to make sure that we embrace the change that’s ahead of us,” he said. “I believe that any sort of policy that’s going to slow down ride sharing in Tallahassee is a significant problem.”


Some 3,100 students accepted as freshman by the University of Florida for the fall got a big surprise along with their congratulations notices: They were told that the acceptance was contingent on their agreement to spend their first year taking classes online as part of a new program designed to attract more freshmen to the flagship public university.

The 3,118 applicants accepted this way to the university — above and beyond the approximately 12,000 students offered traditional freshman slots — did not apply to the online program. Nor were they told that there was a chance that they would be accepted with the online caveat. They wound up as part of an admissions experiment.

The new program, begun in 2015, is called the Pathway to Campus Enrollment, or PaCE …  it “allows us to offer admission to additional qualified applicants with academic potential and demonstrated success.”

It also allows the school the chance to expand enrollment in its new online undergraduate program, which was created by the state legislature in 2013 with $15 million for start-up and initial operational costs, and which began serving students in 2014. State legislators are eager to expand online learning at state universities as well as in the K-12 sphere. The Florida Virtual School opened with state funding in 1997 as the first online public high school in the country, and in 2000, it was declared an independent educational entity by the state legislature.

Under the PaCe rules, degree-seeking students accepted into the program must spend a minimum of two semesters and complete at least 15 credit hours online. After earning a total of 60 credits — up to 45 credits may come from previous college credits earned through AP, IB, Dual Enrollment or other accelerated methods — and meeting program requirements, they may move from online learning to the campus as residential students.

In-state freshmen who agree to enroll in PaCE will pay 75 percent of what residential students pay for tuition (current in-state fees are $6,310 for 30 credit hours). Because they do not pay the activity and services fees, they do not have automatic access to campus recreation centers but can purchase the same meal plans as residential students.


Rep. Jacobs has joined the National Institute for Coastal & Harbor Infrastructure (NICHI) as National Director of Leadership Development.

The Coconut Creek Democrat is a former Broward County Mayor and currently represents House District 96, which covers parts of Broward County and the cities of Coconut Creek and Margate.

Jacobs’ water management experience includes a key role in the 2011 Broward Leaders Water Academy, a panel that addressed several water-related issues in South Florida and specifically Broward County.

In 2013, President Barack Obama named Jacobs to the 26-member White House Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, the only Floridian on the panel.

Jacobs’ new position allows her to oversee leadership academies, which recruit and train local elected officials facing inadequate or aging coastlines.

NICHI is a national non-profit entity seeking to bring together both private and public interests to improve the national coastal infrastructure system and better deal with the impact of climate change.


Wayne Bertsch, Civility Management: Sunoco

William Helmich, Helmich Consulting: Capitlal Pawn Holdings, Florida Pawnbrokers Association

Bill Rubin, Melissa Akeson, Christopher Finkbeiner, Heather Turnbull, The Rubin Group: Canopy Grow LLC

Eric Prutsman, Prutsman & Associates: Alarm Association of Florida; BayCare Health System; Consortium of Florida Education Foundations

Joseph Salzverg, Meenan PA: Asurion Corporation

Marlene Williams: General Motors


As the Round of 32 dust settles and the more than 400,000 votes are tabulated, the TallyMadness 2015 Sweet 16 has taken shape. Like a lot of the upset-dominated early action, the path to a championship campaign looks to be quite a doozy. See below for a full slate of quarterfinal matchups; click the headline for our full Sweet 16 preview.

#1 seed Brian Ballard will take on #5 seed Jeff Hartley, while Holland & Knight’s Mark Delegal will continue cranking his vote-snagging efforts up to 11 against surprise quarterfinalist #15 Andy Palmer, who ran up the score in second-round action.

The top-seeded Ron Book will face off against #12 Marc Reichelderfer in another contest sure to generate interest from TallyMadness voters and their infinite electronic surrogates. Meanwhile sneakily effecient #7 seed Tim Meenan will square off against #14 Will McKinley, who has defied the TallyMadness selection committee’s rankings to string together some impressive early Ws.

Brecht Heuchan made like Robert Horry this week and hit for some crucial late-game votes in his Round of 32 come-from-behind victory against #1 seed Nick Iarossi. He’ll face off against #13 seed Bill Peebles who is also putting together a solid TallyMadness record at nearly the halfway mark of the budget process and this year’s tournament.

#7 seed Slater Bayliss advances to the Sweet 16 by way of a more certain victory than his Round of 64 performance, where he won by 1 vote. He meets #11 seed John Holley and his customary deluge of votes early and often. Cinderella par excellence Monica Rodriguez may have only ranked a #16 seed, but she is punching far above her weight class heading deep into the TallyMadness playoffs where she meets #12 Richard Coates who continues to roll after two solid early-round Ws.

Cast your votes in this epic race to the Elite 8 until midnight on Wednesday, April 8 on Check out our Twitter feed for updates and sabermetric analysis, @TallyMadness.


The Mosaic Company announced Eileen Stuart will assume the role of Vice President, Public Affairs – Phosphates. The move is effective April 13.Mosaic is the Polk County-based phosphate fertilizer mining and manufacturing firm and the world’s largest combined producer and marketer of concentrated phosphate and potash.Stuart will oversee all internal and external communications for Mosaic. She will also be in charge of community engagement and investments, public policy and government affairs throughout Central Florida and Louisiana.

Stuart will play a crucial part in the company’s Phosphate Business Unit leadership team, led by Gary “Bo” Davis, Senior Vice President of Phosphate Operations. She will report to Mark Kaplan, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs.

“I am delighted to lead Mosaic’s exceptional phosphate public affairs team,” Stuart said in a statement. “We are committed to improving the Central Florida and Louisiana communities where we operate, and I look forward to creating and growing long-lasting relationships with our key stakeholders there.”

TWEET, TWEET: @RadioRicko: Against my better judgement, I’ve started writing a weekly blog for our Tallahassee news station: WFLA FM 100.7.


On Context FloridaJack Stevenson says that if there were any doubt House Appropriations Chairman and Speaker-In-Waiting Richard Corcoran is a conservative crusader whose commitment to his principles leaves him indifferent to comity, convention and the nuances of legislative diplomacy, that doubt was laid to rest last week when he went on a rampage through the legislative china shop. Looks like Gov. Rick Scott wants to “keep working” past January 2018, writes Daniel Tilson. That is the inauguration of our next governor, but that does not mean the term-limited Scott wants to give us a break. The original Religious Freedom Restoration Act – RFRA for short – was intended to protect faith-based practices from unnecessary government interference, says Martin Dyckman. That’s the opposite of trying to use it to justify faith-based discrimination against others. But of course irony and hypocrisy are hardly strangers to politics. Shannon Nickinson notes 9,071 years is what Escambia County lost in a year based on the health outcomes reported in by the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. That measure – years of potential life lost before the age of 75 – is the bottom line of the county health rankings released March 25.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


“RightThisMinute” wants to save you time — the minutes and hours you might spend trolling the Internet for interesting new videos in a search you could never hope to get ahead of.

Instead, “RightThisMinute” invites you to tear your eyes from your browser for this syndicated TV show (which, available in more than 90 percent of the United States, airs weekdays in two 30-minute blocks; check local listings).

Its mission: to unearth interesting stuff.

“We want to find a great video before 3 million people have seen it. We want to find it when 32 people have seen it,” says Beth Troutman, one of the show’s team of five co-hosts. “Then we add the journalism aspect: We don’t just show the video and laugh and point. We actually talk about the story and people behind it.”

“What we’ve tried to do is bridge the daytime TV audience with the hardcore I’m-on-YouTube-all-the-time world,” says Phil Alvidrez, “RTM” executive in charge of production.

The brisk format is simple: Hosts convene to share with one another (and the audience) videos they like, none of which their fellow panelists have seen until then.

Each of these laptop-equipped curators comes to the table having logged time plundering the Web’s nooks and crannies — their efforts bolstered by a round-the-clock team of e-jays (as in “e-journalists”) — while also digging into details of who made a chosen video and why.

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.