Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — August 10

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

By Peter Schorsch (Peter@FloridaPolitics.com; @SaintPetersBlog) with Phil Ammann (Phil@FloridaPolitics.com; @PhilAmmann) and Ryan Ray (Ryan@FloridaPolitics.com; @RyanRay_Fla).

DEBUTING TODAY — THE SECOND EDITION OF INFLUENCE MAGAZINE

SCHORSCH’S EMPIRE via Marc Caputo of POLITICO

From blogger to news-service master to…magazine mogul? Peter Schorsch (of St. Petersblog, Florida Politics and…) just released his second edition of INFLUENCE Magazine – just in time for the upcoming special session. Featuring profiles of political players from Adams Street in Tallahassee to the Biltmore Hotel in Miami [full disclosure, I’m in there], the mag offers perhaps the first-ever insider-for-insider look at the state’s influence industry. Of note: Schorsch started off new media and is now going back in time with an old-media glossy.

 A digital version of INFLUENCE Magazine can be read here.

PERSONNEL NOTE — AWARD-WINNING FOOD WRITER JEFF HOUCK JOINING SAINTPETERSBLOG; WILL WRITE ‘POWER LUNCH’ SERIES

Jeff Houck is bringing his unique take on the Tampa Bay food scene to the websites of Extensive Enterprises Media, including SaintPetersBlog and Florida Bar Tab.

For SaintPetersBlog, Houck will write an occasional series titled “Power Lunch” that will explore the relationship between food and politics.

Houck, an award-winning journalist, blogger and podcaster, is a former Tampa Tribune food editor and columnist. While at the Trib, he was the force behind “The Stew” food column, Recipes Lose & Found and the newspaper’s Flavor section. He also hosted more than 160 episodes of the Table Conversations food podcast; live-blogged for TBO.com and served as an on-camera personality for WFLA NewsChannel 8. He previously wrote two syndicated technology columns for Tribune Media Services and worked for The Palm Beach Post, FoxSports.com and The Anchorage Times.

“If you had told me when I first launched SaintPetersBlog that we would be home to the incredible talents of Jeff Houck, I would never have believed you,” said Peter Schorsch, CEO of Extensive Enterprises Media (EEM).

Houck said the way public business is conducted over food every day fascinates him, whether it’s done at a swanky restaurant, a barbecue joint, a cocktail party or a coffee shop.

“Those places are the real halls of power,” Houck said. “I’m excited to have such outstanding venues to explore that hidden culture.”

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DEJA VU SPECIAL SESSION 

LAWMAKERS READY FOR ROUND 3 OF CONGRESSIONAL MAP DRAWING via Gray Rohrer and Scott Powers of the Orlando Sentinel

Florida lawmakers will return to the Capitol … for their third try at drawing legal congressional districts … that likely will transform political campaigns across the state.

… Uncertainty puts a kink in campaigns … Candidates will be unsure of where to apply resources because districts could be drawn into a variety of media markets, [GOP consultant Rick Wilson] said.

Even after the Legislature passes new maps, campaigns will still be on shaky ground because the courts will have to review the new districts … The court encouraged lawmakers to draw a district stretching from Jacksonville west to Tallahassee and parts of the Panhandle with large black populations

A base map unveiled last week … did make that change, prompting (U.S. Rep. CorrinneBrown to file a federal lawsuit seeking to stop it.

If lawmakers agree, Democratic-leaning voters in Brown’s district will be blended in with GOP-leaning districts currently held by Republican U.S. Reps. John Mica … and Daniel Webster … Alan Grayson‘s district might also be affected … Central Florida could also feel the ripple effects from changes to Tampa Bay-area districts … prohibited the district of U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor… from crossing the bay to pick up Democratic-leaning voters in St. Petersburg.

District 6 would rejoin Central Florida … remaining solidly Republican … two Republicans, former U.S. Rep. Sandy Adams and former New Smyrna Beach Mayor Adam Barringer, and Democratic activist Richard Dembinsky are running. District 7 would pick up Democratic strongholds … but would still lean Republican.

Heavily Democratic District 9 loses Hispanic and Democratic areas in east Orlando in favor of rural areas to the south … Wayne Liebnitzky is the only Republican in the race so far … Democrats have drawn a large primary field … Susannah Randolph and Valleri Crabtree, state Sen. Darren Soto, former state Rep. Ricardo Rangel, and Grayson’s girlfriend, Dr. Dena Minning. District 10 would trade away largely Republican and white Lake County for largely Democratic and black Pine Hills. Democrat Val Demings is pondering a rematch with Webster, who beat her in 2012.

DAN WEBSTER DUCKS QUESTIONS ON REDISTRICTING DILEMMA via Matt Dixon of POLITICO 

(W)hat does the third-term congressman think of the proposed map? He’s not saying.

“Call my office and we can get you a statement,” he said … Pressed for more information, Webster said, “Thanks. Bye.”

Then he hung up.

“Congressman Webster has a longstanding policy, dating back to his time in the Florida Legislature, that he does not answer press calls on his personal cell phone,” Webster’s communications director Elizabeth Tyrrell wrote in an email. “There is a set process for submitting media requests,” she added.

TWEET, TWEET: @KBorman: thought politico FL was better than this. Calling a member on his cell & getting upset when he doesn’t talk to you?

FLASHPOINT: DISTRICT 16 via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

The congressional district covering nearly all of Sarasota and Manatee counties could be a major point of contention heading into a special legislative session on redistricting … with officials in the two counties potentially pitted against each other … a proposed new map released last week that cuts much of Sarasota County out of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan’s District 16 is drawing intense criticism … Some have cast the issue as a regional fight over control of the district, noting the population center and power base would shift to Manatee County, which currently has two of the Legislature’s most powerful members.

Joe Gruters … a Buchanan loyalist who is running for a seat in the state Legislature … acknowledged he would consider running for the congressional seat someday if it became available but said he is looking out for Sarasota County’s interests, not his own or Buchanan’s … Sarasota County would become an afterthought if it is split into two congressional districts, a position echoed by state Sen. Nancy Detert …

“Personally, I’d prefer to see Manatee and Sarasota stay together,” said state Rep. Jim Boyd … “I think there’s a lot of synergy between the communities.”

Although District 16 was not singled out by the Supreme Court as one that needed to be redrawn, Boyd noted that “when you start redrawing things one affects the other.”

TED DEUTCH AND LOIS FRANKEL PLEDGE TO NOT RUN AGAINST EACH OTHER via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald

U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel issued a joint statement … in response to the proposed map by the state Legislature that shows that their homes will both be in District 21:

“We both believe in the concept of Fair Districts and that congressional districts should be drawn to serve the people, not for the pleasure of elected officials.  We have both proudly worked as a team and with other members of our delegation, serving the residents of Palm Beach and Broward counties over many years. We both fully intend to run for re-election and we look forward to serving in Congress together as long as our constituents give us this honor. We are friends, have great respect for one another and both of us are fully committed to not running against each other.”

… if the two members remain in the same district, one highly likely scenario is that Frankel will run in the newly drawn District 22, which she represents now but the new boundaries would largely lie in Broward. Meanwhile, Deutch would run in District 21.

LAWSUITS, POLITICS, AND THE HOUSE-SENATE COLD WAR: WHY THE REAL FIGHT OVER REDISTRICTING MAY BE YET TO COME via Gary Fineout for his blog, the Fine Print

(T)here are a lot of signs that any efforts to make serious changes to this map may be quickly rebuffed by the GOP leaders in charge of the Legislature.

Take for example the rules rolled out for the session.

No lawmaker can propose just altering part of the map – they must introduce a entire new plan.

Additionally, in an effort to deal with any potential charges of partisan influence Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli will require that anyone who offers an amendment to be prepared to identify anyone who had a hand in it as well as “be able to provide a non-partisan and incumbent-neutral justification for the proposed configuration of each district, to explain in detail the results of any functional analysis performed to ensure that the ability of minorities to elect the candidates of their choice is not diminished, and to explain how the proposal satisfies all of the constitutional and statutory criteria applicable to a Congressional redistricting plan.”

In other words not an easy task.

“We don’t have the know-how in terms of creating maps, we’re not map experts,” said House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford. “And I don’t know if anybody really knows where to begin.”

Sen. Jeff Clemons added that he expects most senators to move with caution because of the proscriptive nature of the July ruling from the Florida Supreme Court. It was that ruling, which not only threw out the current congressional map, but included specific suggestions such as reconfiguring Brown’s district from a North-South configuration to one that runs East to West.

Sen. Bill Galvano, the top Republican guiding the redistricting efforts in the Senate, contends that the rules were not intended to dissuade anyone from offering up changes.

“We want to make sure we have a full record and that the reasons for amendments or proposals within the map are clear, delineated and on the record,” Galvano said.

He also said it would be wrong to assume that the “base map” won’t be fully discussed and vetted. Galvano added that he expects legislators to need all 12-days that have been set aside for the session.

But the political reality is that many legislators don’t have a vested interest in what happens to these congressional districts.

GOING NOWHERE — EVAN JENNE PROPOSES INDEPENDENT REDISTRICTING COMMISSION via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times

It has almost no chance of passing, but that isn’t stopping a Democrat in the Florida House from filing a bill for next week’s special session on redistricting that would take future congressional redistricting out of the hands of the Florida Legislature.

State Rep. Evan Jenne officially filed bill HB 5 that would create a nine-member independent commission starting after the 2020 U.S. Census to draw future congressional and legislative district maps.

In Jenne’s latest version, the state Senate president and House speaker would appoint a commission member each, as would the minority leaders of both the House and Senate. The governor would get five choices, including a Republican and a Democrat, plus three people not affiliated with either of the major parties.

REMAPPING HAS A LONG AND STRANGE HISTORY IN FLORIDA via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat

More than 60 years have passed since Gov. LeRoy Collins … asked the Florida House and Senate to draw political boundaries based on people, not politicians … was talking to — and about — the state Legislature in 1955 … the same could be said of congressional districting, at different times and places, over the decades of Florida’s post-World War II population boom.

The process of redistricting every 10 years has a long and colorful, sometimes ugly, history in the Sunshine State … back-scratching, or back-biting, of pitting two or more members against each other — or carving out safe seats for a favored few — affects everything else legislators do in years ending with a 2.

That’s why they’re back in a year ending with a 5 — to fix, again, what they got wrong in 2012 … All states redraw their lines every 10 years, adjusting membership in the U.S. House in accord with each census, but no state has changed so much or so dramatically as Florida. Not only does the state have more major cities than most others, its population growth has ranged from conservative Cuban Americans to liberal New York retirees, from urban black residents to Panhandle fishing interests.

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2016

DONALD TRUMP CAMP IN CRISIS via Ben Schreckinger and Katie Glueck via POLITICO

Republicans question whether the laws of political gravity have finally caught up with him …  many wondering whether he could weather the latest controversy and remain in the race, even as his campaign continued to act as if nothing was amiss … Trump’s campaign continued to take a combative tone Saturday.

“ … Trump made Megyn Kelly look really bad — she was a mess with her anger and totally caught off guard. … Trump said ‘blood was coming out of her eyes and whatever’ meaning nose, but wanted to move on to more important topics. Only a deviant would think anything else,” the campaign said in a statement …  also attacked Erick Erickson, the prominent conservative activist and RedState founder, as “a total loser.”

— “Losers: a list by Donald Trump” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post

MORE BILL COTTERELL WISDOM

Trump reminds me of Dolly Parton. … About 40 years ago, all the critics were laughing at Dolly — that Tennessee twang, the glittery costumes, the big hair, the sentimental songs and, uh, a couple other things.

She was a self-parody, they sneered.

But there was one commentator, I don’t recall who, saying, “You’re missing the point — THAT’s her act.” That’s what millions of fans loved about her, the way she was unapologetically just plain Dolly.

This is just plain Trump, too — the ostentatious wealth, the pugnacious attitude, the loud mouth, the larger-than-life bluster. He even has big hair.

I’m not saying he’ll succeed, or someday will show us some real talent as Dolly has, but the people who are so appalled by him miss the point. What offends them is what his fans like about him.

Uh-oh, it just occurred to me, 20 years before Dolly Parton, much the same ridicule was heaped upon Liberace.

OK, here’s a political analysis you won’t find anywhere else: Donald Trump reminds me of Liberace….

IN THE FIRST 2016 PRIMARY DEBATE, LUKE SKYWALKER BEAT OBI WAN-KENOBI via Marc Caputo and Eli Stokols of POLIITICO

For years, Marco Rubio stood in Jeb Bush’s shadow. Student to teacher. Protégé to mentor. Rising state representative to established governor. Now the friends are rivals, essentially co-equals as they run for president.

Sooner or later, this relationship would become a focal point for the moderators of FOX’s Thursday night debate and the 24 million watching at home. One of the Floridians would have to come out on top — and it turned out to be Rubio, according to nearly all accounts.

“Luke Skywalker beat Obi Wan-Kenobi,” said Enrique “Rick” Yabor, a Miami lawyer and Spanish-language TV and radio commentator. “Not only did Marco win that but, when you look at it the next day, you can argue Jeb lost. Here’s why: No one is talking about him.”

After a summer in which he lost ground to Bush, Rubio suddenly created an opportunity to close the gap between them. In a rare convergence, many elite conservative and mainstream media analysts designated Rubio as the winner of the 10-candidate debate — or at least the clear victor over Bush.

By almost any measure, relative to the buzz he generated, Rubio was the most-efficient. He spoke for a cumulative total of just 6:22 – putting him seventh in time used. Donald Trump spoke most, for 10:30. And Bush was in second, 8:33. But both of them generally received far-poorer reviews than Rubio.

The contrast between the fresh and fast Rubio vs. the phlegmatic and lackluster Bush only added to the nagging questions about Bush’s ability to be the party’s torch bearer. Jeb’s supporters say this, too, shall pass.

“I’m a Jeb supporter, and I think Jeb did what he had to do last night. But when you look at all 10 candidates as far as where they were at the beginning of the night vs. where they were when they left, Rubio did the best,” said Brian Hughes, a top Florida Republican consultant. “Rubio had some tough recent weeks but his performance on the national stage could enable him to reemerge as a top-tier candidate.”

HIS EYE ON THE WHITE HOUSE, RUBIO RACKS UP THE WORST MISSED-VOTE RECORD IN THE U.S. SENATE via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio … is increasingly skipping his elected duty in Washington.

In July alone, he missed more than half the Senate votes. In June, Rubio missed 67 percent of votes, including taking an entire week off for fundraising in California and to attend a candidate gathering in Utah. In April, a month in which he missed 21 percent of votes, Rubio went to the floor to bemoan how he could not get traction on amendments aimed at the Iran nuclear accord. “If you don’t want to vote on things,” he said, voice rising, “don’t run for the Senate.”

All told, Rubio has the worst missed-vote record of any current senator … missed votes on the Keystone pipeline, the Export-Import Bank and trade. Rubio’s team notes that he hasn’t skipped a vote where he would have changed the outcome.

His truancy — similar to U.S. Sen. Barack Obama when he began to run for president in 2007 — is attracting attention in Washington and among campaign rivals. Now Rubio runs the risk of appearing checked out to the voters who put him on the national stage and whose support he would need in Florida’s primary next March.

RUBIO DEFENDS ABORTION STANCE: HUMAN LIFE BEGINS AT CONCEPTION via Eugene Scott of CNN

Rubio said his views on abortion … grilled at the Republican field’s first primary debate …  are rooted in his faith and that’s why he opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest.

“People should hope that my faith influences my political position and in this case I’m proud to say that my faith influences me,” he told CNN’s “New Day” … “It teaches me that God knew us when he formed us in the womb. … And even some human life that some scientist wants to have a debate about but I believe that science is clear. That when there is conception that that is a human life in the early stages of its total development that is worthy of the protection of our laws.”

Rubio, a conservative Catholic, said he is not in favor of abortion even in cases of rape or incest, a minority position even among anti-abortion voters.

“I think both of those instances are horrifying and fortunately, they are extremely rare. It happens. And anytime it happens, it’s horrifying and it’s a tragedy,” he said. “But I personally and honestly and deeply believe that all human life is worthy of protection irrespective of the circumstances in which that human life was created. I personally believe that you do not correct one tragedy with a second tragedy.”

RUBIO: WON’T COMMENT ON EVERYTHING DONALD TRUMP via Maggie Haberman of The New York Times

Rubio praised Megyn Kelly … but said he was not going to comment on Trump’s latest remarks.

Rubio … made the comments to Chuck Todd in a taped interview that will be broadcast Sunday on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”

Asked whether Trump should apologize for his caustic remarks about Kelly, Rubio replied, “I think Megyn Kelly is very good. She’s going to ask tough questions. She’s a strong woman, and I think she can take anything that comes her way.”

But he added, “I’ve made a decision here with Donald Trump. You know, if I comment on everything he says, my whole campaign will be consumed by it. That’s all I’ll do all day.”

RUBIO WANTS TO TURN HIS FINANCIAL STRUGGLES AGAINST HILLARY CLINTON via Jim Tankersley of The Washington Post

Rubio is getting second-day attention for some comments he made about abortion … But there was another moment … the point where he jiu-jitsued his personal financial struggles into an attack on the likely Democratic nominee. …”If I’m our nominee … how is Hillary Clinton gonna lecture me about living paycheck to paycheck? I was raised paycheck to paycheck. How is she — how is she gonna lecture me — how is she gonna lecture me about student loans? I owed over $100,000 just four years ago.”

It’s not a new thing for Rubio to stress his son-of-a-bartender upbringing … It’s a case of the Florida senator trying to turn an issue that could be a campaign weakness into what amounts to an electability argument.

CAN GEORGE P. MAKE JEB THE 3RD BUSH TO WIN THE WHITE HOUSE? Full story here

George P. Bush is talking up his dad Jeb – but he knows he’ll have to endure some gentle ribbing about his grandfather and uncle first. That’s because the next-generation bearer of the powerful political name has been helping relatives run since age 3, when he clutched a balloon and sported a campaign T-shirt as his grandfather, George H.W. Bush, launched his first presidential bid from a Houston park in 1979.

But never has George P.’s role as a political surrogate been as important as it is in the 2016 primary campaign. The 39-year-old is traveling the country – and flexing his muscle as a rising political star in Texas – as he attempts to help his father become the third Bush to win the nomination and then the White House.

The pair hasn’t yet hit campaigned together, though they talk frequently by phone … campaigning comes naturally to Bush. He was 12 when he led the 1988 Republican National Convention in the Pledge of Allegiance … In 1992, he concluded a brief floor address at the party convention by screaming “Viva Bush!”

The younger Bush describes himself as a “movement conservative” and was an early endorser of longshot Senate candidate Ted Cruz, now a senator and one of his father’s primary race rivals. But George P. also has struck a more moderate tone on immigration and environmental issues, and says his dad can unite the often feuding factions of the Republican Party by using his conservative gravitas to stand up to tea party activists.

BILL NELSON DOESN’T BELIEVE JOE BIDEN WILL CHALLENGE HILLARY CLINTON FOR DEM NOM via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

Vice President Joe Biden is taking some downtime with his wife Jill this week in South Carolina. When he returns … he’s expected to announce whether or not he’ll take on Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president.

Biden … started showing interest in details like filing deadlines and what it would take for him to raise enough money to build a campaign structure in the limited time left … still considerable doubt about whether he’d actually pull the trigger.

Bill Nelson … predicts that the vice president will ultimately decide not to pursue a third bid for the White House.

“Right now is it my expectation that Hilary Clinton will be the nominee” … Biden has “been an incredible vice president, one of the best that we’ve ever had.”

Whether Biden does or not … there are increasing numbers of people within the Democratic Party who appear to be growing uneasy about Hillary Clinton, as reports continue to dribble out about her home email server. Hence the search for another figure to enter the race.

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SENIOR ISSUES WILL AFFECT U.S. SENATE PRIMARY BETWEEN ALAN GRAYSON, PATRICK MURPHY via Isadora Rangel of TCPalm.com

Alan Grayson entered the U.S. Senate race in July swinging at opponent and fellow Democratic [U.S. Rep.] Patrick Murphy on two issues he said will define what is expected to be a heated primary next year.

“Patrick wants to cut Social Security, cut Medicare,” Grayson told his hometown Orlando’s WKMG-TV … “Patrick’s running in the wrong primary. He should be running as a Republican, because that’s who he really is.”

Grayson’s attacks don’t hold up. Murphy … hasn’t proposed or voted for cutting Medicare and Social Security since taking office in 2013. Murphy and Grayson have good records on senior issues … Murphy has a good pro-retiree record for a congressman representing a district that leans Republican … recent opposition to giving Obama fast-track authority to negotiate a Pacific Rim trade deal, which Grayson also opposes.

DAVID JOLLY STRIKES BACK AT CONSERVATIVE CRITICS via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

Though there is no clear early favorite in the Republican race for U.S. Senate next year in Florida, Pinellas County U.S. Rep. David Jolly has broken through enough to top some recent polls … while his record is solidly conservative, he’s certainly no Tea Partier, and wouldn’t have been elected in last year’s special election in the moderate, swing district if he had been. His stance on some votes, as well as his support for same-sex marriage, have put him in the cross hairs of some conservative D.C. groups that have blasted him as being insufficiently right wing.

In a memo sent to members of his steering and finance committee last week, Jolly fired back at those groups such as the Club for Growth. He wrote that his early support has “threatened the special interest scorecard groups in Washington who make a living off dividing our party, off encouraging and ensuring obstructionism and dysfunction, and off misleading the American people for their own financial gain.”

“These groups claim to be conservative, but the policies they push are geared toward centralizing power in Washington, the only place where they have power … And their aim is to fundraise off division to pay their own salaries. This is what the Washington establishment does. It’s most unfortunate, and we as a nation, and as a party, deserve better.”

 “I was the only Florida Republican who voted against the (Paul) Ryan budget because the budget resolution did nothing to realistically achieve a balanced budget,” he wrote, underlying the phrase to indicate that he was a hardline outlier on voting against the GOP budget this year (one of only 17 out of the entire House caucus to do so).

— “Podcast: U.S. Rep. Jolly talks about his U.S. Senate bid” via Rick Outzen of Rick’s Blog

EXCLUSIVE: MIKE FASANO CONTEMPLATING BID FOR FLORIDA SENATE via Florida Politics

One of the Tampa Bay region’s most popular politicians is contemplating running for the Florida Legislature in 2016.

Mike Fasano says he would consider a return bid to the Florida Senate if the soon-to-be-redrawn districts map offers him the “right opportunity.”

“You should never rule out what might happen,” Fasano told Florida Politics Sunday afternoon while he watched his beloved New York Mets play the Tampa Bay Rays.

It’s not clear what might constitute the “right opportunity” for Fasano to run for the Senate, but it would likely include the drawing of a seat that does not divide Pasco County as it currently is. Most of western Pasco is represented by Wilton Simpson. The southeastern portion is held by John Legg.

Running in 2016 would likely pit Fasano against Simpson, a leading candidate to one day serve as Senate President, in a Republican primary.

The thought of the maverick Fasano returning to Tallahassee — where he is held in contempt by many establishment Republicans and their lobbyist allies — and Simpson’s prospects as a legislative leader could make the race one of the most expensive of the election cycle.

“I bet there are people salivating, waiting for Fasano to pop his head out of the Pasco County gopher hole,” said Republican political consultant Anthony Pedicini. “There’s a lot of people who called him friend, that he stabbed in the back.”

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SEMINOLE TRIBE’S LAWYER: COMPACT NEGOTIATIONS ARE ‘GOING NOWHERE’ via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

With legislators poised to return … to Tallahassee, rumors are circling that they are also ready to finish off a deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida that expands the multi-million dollar gaming compact with the state in return for more money in the state’s pocketbook.

But, according to a chief negotiator for the Tribe, Tallahassee attorney Barry Richard, such talk is “going nowhere” and the stalemate that began months ago has continued.

Friday was the deadline for the state to agree to a mediator to settle the dispute from a proposed list of mediators offered to it from the American Arbitration Association. But with no response from the governor’s general counsel Tim Cerio, the Tribe sent the state a note saying they’ve picked someone themselves.

“I don’t know what that will do,” Richard conceded …

FLORIDA SET TO PASS 100 MILLION VISITOR MARK IN 2015 via Hannah Sampson of the Miami Herald

After four record-setting years, Florida tourism is poised for yet another.

Visit Florida president and CEO Will Seccombe … drew a link between bigger budgets for destination marketing and more people coming to Florida, showing how numbers increased from 81 million visitors in 2009-10, when the budget was $28.4 million, to 98.9 million in 2014-15 with a $74 million budget.

“We’ll certainly be in a position to surpass 100 million visitors in the state of Florida this year,” he said during a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce trustee luncheon at Jungle Island.

The state’s official tourism industry marketing corporation is working to “establish Florida as the Number One travel destination in the world,” … highlighted several efforts, including a campaign aimed at dog lovers using the hashtag #DogsLoveFL. Other marketing efforts target travelers without school-age kids during the still-warm fall season. Yet another highlights Historic Overtown.

INSURANCE DEPARTMENT TO PUSH ‘BALANCE BILLING’ BAN IN 2016 via Christine Sexton of POLITICO

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation will support efforts to limit what physicians can charge insured patients who seek emergency medical care from out-of-network providers. The OIR made the announcement at a Cabinet meeting … when insurance commissioner Kevin McCarty’s chief of staff, Belinda Miller, outlined the agency’s legislative agenda for the upcoming 2016 session.

The so-called “balance billing ban” has been one of the most divisive health insurance issues over the last several years and pits the state’s largest medical organization against the insurance industry. Balance billing for emergency services already is prohibited for HMO patients but there is not a similar prohibition for patients insured in traditional health plans.

Florida Medical Association executive vice president Tim Stapleton said the solution to the problem of unexpected medical costs for emergency services and care does not lie with a balance billing ban. Instead, he said that insurance companies need to do a better job of explaining to their customers that when care is provided out-of-network, their insurance policies often don’t cover the costs.

JUDGE SIDES WITH UBER, SAYS IT’S NOT A TAXI SERVICE via Mike Salinero of the Tampa Tribune

A Hillsborough circuit judge refused … to order ride-share company Uber to stop operating within the county. Circuit Judge Paul Huey denied a motion by the Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission for a temporary injunction against Uber. Chief Assistant County Attorney Rob Brazel … was not sure if the county would continue to issue citations to Uber drivers in light of Huey’s ruling.

“There’s nothing in Judge Huey’s order that prohibits them from operating … But the PTC still contends that they are operating in violation of the rules.”

Brazel said county attorneys will confer with their outside counsel at the Holland & Knight law firm before deciding what action they will recommend to the transportation commission. PTC sued Uber and Uber drivers seeking a declaration that the vehicles and drivers fall under the agency’s rules. The county also sought a permanent injunction that would stop the company from operating.

OIL INDUSTRY PROMISES BOOM IF IT CAN DRILL CLOSE TO FLORIDA via William Gibson of the Tribune News Service

Florida would be showered with thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of tax revenue over the next two decades if the federal government would quit standing in the way of energy exploration, the oil industry claims.

The lure of jobs and money is part of a pitch to Congress to open much of the eastern Gulf of Mexico to rigs, just five years after the massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

A former economist for the U.S. Energy Department and even some drilling boosters say the industry’s projections of jobs and revenue are greatly inflated. But the lobbying is making headway.

The Senate energy committee on July 30 approved a bill that would shrink the no-drill buffer zone along Florida’s West Coast from 125 miles to 50 miles.

The relentless pressure to drill is mounting despite relatively low oil prices and a surge in domestic production. For the long term, the industry sees a chance to gain access to deposits known to exist under the Gulf and across the southern peninsula.

“We can continue to put downward pressure on the cost of important energy resources into the future,” said David Mica, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council, an industry promoter in Tallahassee.

Florida would gain 183,000 jobs by 2035, and the state economy would get a $440 billion boost from 2016 to 2035 if the federal government adopted “pro-development policies,” according to a report commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute, a powerful lobby in Washington. “Pro-development policies” would include dropping restrictions on drilling in the eastern Gulf.

The report, conducted by Wood Mackenzie, a research consultant, also projected $53 billion in Florida tax revenue from 2016 to 2035.

‘REGULATE FLORIDA’ MARIJUANA INITIATIVE WOULD LEGALIZE THE PLANT FOR ADULTS via Michael Pollick of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Florida marijuana activists have launched a voter initiative called “Regulate Florida,” which would amend the Florida Constitution to legalize and regulate adult use of marijuana in the Sunshine State.

If the Regulate Florida measure makes it on to the November 2016 ballot, Florida voters could face two decisions about the future use of marijuana: one to legalize medical use and another to legalize adult use. The Florida Legislature would be in charge of taxation in either case.

Regulate Florida’s multi-page document “is completely drafted,” said Bill Wohlsifer, a Tallahassee attorney who is the director of legal affairs for the political committee in charge, Sensible Florida. The proposed amendment, said Wohlsifer, “is very comprehensive. It doesn’t leave that much for the Legislature to do.”

Regulate Florida, with details to come as early as next week, would license growing, processing, distribution and retail sales of cannabis and would make possession legal, he confirmed.

TOP OP-ED — TRAIN LOAD OF QUESTIONS ABOUT A TRAIN via Carl Hiassen of the Miami Herald

If you’ve got some extra cash lying around, here’s an idea:

Sink all your hard-earned dollars into tax-free bonds for All Aboard Florida, the high-speed passenger train service that will supposedly run between downtown Miami and the Orlando airport.

Or, for the same return on your investment, take all your cash, dump it in a bucket and light it on fire.

Every passenger rail service in the United States loses money, but All Board Florida last week was approved to sell $1.75 billion in municipal bonds to finance its 235-mile fantasy. The private firm promises to put up about $700 million in equity and assume all debt.

The bonds will be unrated because of the absurdly high risks, which required a couple dozen pages to explain.

Bottom line: It will be impossible for the train project to ever make a profit. If your broker calls up and tries to sell you some of these bonds, fire the fool.

Here’s the pitch you might hear: When the project is finished, All Board Florida will be running trains between Miami and Orlando 32 times a day at speeds exceeding 100 mph.

The company won’t say what the price of a ticket will be, yet it predicts yearly revenues of $300 million. No less rosy is its ridership projection of 5.4 million passengers annually by 2020 — about 14,000 riders daily.

Whoever cooked up these numbers must have been heavy into the mushrooms. It sounds like they basically sat around listening to Pink Floyd and making stuff up. Clearly they paid no attention to historical rail-use data.

***Applications are now being accepted for the 2015 Central Florida Political Leadership Institute’s Oct. 8-10 class. If you reside in the 7-county region, and are considering a run for public office but don’t know where to begin, this groundbreaking initiative is for you. Thank you to our sponsors AT&T, Bright House Networks, Central Florida Partnership, Clear Channel Outdoor, Orlando Magic, Roy E. Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College and Universal Orlando Resort. Deadline is August 21, so don’t delay. More info here. Contact PLI Director Christina Johnson here.***

SAVE THE DATE: Republican state Rep. George Moraitis is hosting a fundraiser on Wednesday, Sept. 2, for his re-election to House District 93. The poolside reception begins at 6 p.m. at the Beachside Village Resort, 4564 N. Ocean Drive in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea.

APPOINTED: David Bisaillon to the Board of Pharmacy.

APPOINTED: Dr. Barbara Wolf and the reappointment of Angela Corey to the Medical Examiners Commission.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Randy Hanna, Bryant Miller Olive: City of Gretna

Grace Marie Hemphill: Executive Office of the Governor

Fred Karlinsky, Greenberg Traurig: Florida Association of Court Clerks & Comptrollers

Ben Parks, Ben Parks and Associates: Florida Agritourism Association, Inc.; Florida State Beekeepers Association, Inc.

Jerry Paul, Capitol Energy Florida: Lee Memorial Health Systems

LOBBYING COMPENSATION REPORT ROUNDUP via Ryan Ray of Florida Politics 

CAPITAL CITY CONSULTING PULLS IN $1.7 MILLION 

Capital City Consulting … brought in an estimated $1.7 million … representing 86 legislative clients and 88 executive clients among the firm’s seven influence professionals. The highest paying … would be Las Vegas Sands Corp., which plunked down at least $86,000 … The Paradise, a Nevada-based casino and resort company, also contributed up to $9,999 in executive branch fees for an estimated total of about $91,000 in all.

Healthcare company Aetna employed Capital City’s services to the tune of up to $59,999, and Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform rounded out the firm’s top five clients, accounting for more than $100,000 in compensation all told.

… 18 businesses and organizations paid Capital City between $20,000 and $29,999 … for at least $360,000 … health care (Memorial Healthcare Systems, CIGNA), financial services (VISA, American Bankers Insurance Group) and … miscellaneous concerns (Anglo-Dutch publishing company Reed Elsevier, Swisher International, and the Everglades Trust).

Higher education … New College Foundation, which raises money for the tiny Sarasota liberal arts school, University of Florida Student Government Association, and Florida International University Foundation all counted themselves among the clients represented by Capital City.

JEFFERSON MONROE TAKES IN $70K 

Chip Case‘s solo practice, Jefferson Monroe … took in an estimated $70,000 … Without a doubt the anchor of the Case’s client list was a pair of healthcare interests, Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, which contributed as much as $19,999 to Jefferson Monroe’s coffers for legislative work, and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, which pitched in up to $9,999 for legislative and the same amount for executive branch representation for an estimated total of $10,000 altogether.

Case also received substantial compensation from Florida Power & Light, U.S. Sugar and Learning.com, each among Jefferson Monroe’s 19-client legislative roster. Each group paid up to $9,999 in fees in Q2 for his work … FPL as well as Florida Independent Pharmacy Network, Smart Horizons Online, EZPAWN Florida and Association Capital Resources ponied up for up to $9,999 each for executive compensation for influence work done on the Capitol’s plaza level as well as in the labyrinthine network of state governmental administrative buildings across Tallahassee. Together, their contracts with Jefferson Monroe were worth an estimated $25,000 …

LOUIS BETZ & ASSOCIATES COLLECTS $110K 

Louis Betz & Associates hauled in an estimated $110,000 in compensation for its work during the second quarter of 2015, according to recently release state lobbying records.

The lion’s share of the fees … came from four major clients: American Traffic Solutions, Epperson Ranch, Tampa Taxi Coalition and Waste Management Inc. of Florida each employed the firm’s services to the tune of up to $19,999, for an estimated combined total of $75,000.

One common thread throughout Betz’s client list is the large number of Tampa Bay-area clients; of the 24 businesses and organizations that sought representation by the firm, 20 were headquartered in the region.

Betz also partnered with fellow Tampa Bay power players at Corcoran & Johnston … in their mutual representation of the Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority…

MOSI — the Museum of Science & Industry — Mindshare Technologies, Covanta Energy, Link-Systems International and the City of Temple Terrace also used Betz … contributed up to $9,999 each to the Betz & Associates coffers, for an estimated total of some $25,000.

THE MAYERNICK GROUP HAULS IN A COOL $510K

The Mayernick Group — comprised of the husband and wife team of Frank and Tracy Mayernick plus consultant Jodi Lea Stevens … took in an estimated $510,000 — $395,000 from legislative clients and $115,000 for executive branch work — during the Q2 reporting period …

Headlining the firm’s report were a bevy of high-paying clients: Boyd Gaming Corp. and Jacksonville Armada Football Club each contributed up to $39,999 for the group’s services, the largest totals overall.

Also among their roster of clients were more than a dozen who paid between $10,000 and $29,998, including heavyweights like HCA Healthcare, Florida Power & Light and U.S. Sugar … maternity and infant health charity March of Dimes, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Florida, Lutheran Services and PACE Center for Girls shared space on the Mayernick agenda with more industry-centric “food fighters” such as AT&T, Alkermes Plc and Dredging Contractors of America.

The firm also cooperated on contract work with Capitol InsightCruz & Co. and The Rubin Group, with whom the Mayernick Group has two clients in common, Securus Technologies and Citrus Health Network.

POOLEMCKINLEY PULLS IN $575K 

PooleMcKinley’s six-strong team of influence professionals put together a nice haul during the second quarter of 2015: according to just-released records from the state’s lobbying registry, the firm took in an estimated $575,000 … Their 37 legislative and 38 executive clients combined to compensate the firm, led by senior partner Van Poole, to the tune of some $290,000 and $285,000 respectively. The firm’s highest-paying client was Motion Picture Association of America, the trade association for six of Hollywood’s largest film studios, which contributed combined fees of around $50,000 …

Other major clients included Accenture, Breitburn Energy Partners, Colonial Management Group, Community Financial Services Association, General Motors, and Seminole Tribe of Florida, each of which were among the 11 clients who paid between $20,000-$39,998 each for representation before the Legislature and state executive agencies.

All told, those clients accounted for an estimated $165,000 in fees for services rendered last quarter.

RSA CONSULTING COLLECTS MORE THAN $300K 

RSA Consulting … collected an estimated $300,000 or more from 43 legislative and executive clients … The four-person team composed of firm owner Ron PierceNatalie KingSara Gross and Edward Briggs drew major compensation from … H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center contributed up to $39,999 in combined compensation for plaza level and legislative representation, while Associated Builders & Contractors Florida Gulf Coast, Charter School Leaders Florida, and the Northside Mental Health Center in Tampa all tendered nearly $20,000.

Clients from the world of sports and entertainment also figured heavily … NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning and the Tampa Bay Sports Authority were both among clients that paid up to $9,999 for RSA’s services in the influence trade, as was the Brandon Sports & Aquatic Center and the Sunshine State Athletic Conference.

SRG Technology, Pepin Distributing, Tampa Bay Partnership and ride-hailing firm Uber each contributed up to $19,999 combined as well.

CONTEXT FLORIDA: FLORIDA’S CONSTITUTION & THE COURTS, TRUMPING THE GOP AND HANDLING GRIEF

On Context Florida: It’s been fun blaming the Florida Legislature for gerrymandering and all that, Henry Kelley says, but GOP state Rep. Mike Hill from Pensacola wrote penned an interesting letter to House Speaker Steve Crisafulli. In part, he wrote: “Under the guise of interpreting Sections 20 and 21 of Article III of the Florida Constitution — Florida’s new Redistricting Amendments — the court is systematically rewriting the Constitution,” Hill wrote. “Most significantly, the Court has cast aside the notion of separation of powers so vital to our Republic and indeed our State. We must act now.”The Donald clearly trumped the field of Republican presidential wannabes in Thursday’s Ohio debate, says Marc Yacht. Can there be a politician who tells it like it is, even an unacceptable message?  Over the course of the past 2½ years Traci Evison found herself in a position she never dreamed possible: Three immediate family members died. Although not all of their deaths were the same, each one was painful to me and deeply felt in its own way. Evison learned through her grief journey that those of us who remain living after the loss of a loved one have a rough road ahead. But with time and hope, things will get better.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY from the weekend to Emmett Reed and former state Rep. Sandy Murman. Celebrating today is Josh Karp.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, 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.