Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for February 27 – Llamas go wild; Jeb softens on Common Core?; Adam Putnam’s op-ed; Optos’ food fight

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

February closes on a special note as we enter the 20th year of Sachs Media Group, Florida’s foremost team of public affairs, integrated marketing and reputation management experts. Started in 1996 as Ron Sachs Communications, the firm has distinguished itself as a two-time winner of the state’s highest award in the PR industry; earned six Emmy Awards, a national Gracie Award for women-related programming and more than 100 ADDY awards for advertising design; and has been named national Agency of the Year for its size, one of the nation’s top firms for social media and non-profit communications, and one of the best places to work in Florida. So here’s to the next 20!

Now, on to the ‘burn…

CAN WE TALK ABOUT THE LLAMAS via Jessica Roy of New York Magazine

Offices across America came to a standstill when people discovered a live feed of two llamas mysteriously running wild in the streets of an Arizona town. The animals eventually were captured.


The Federal Communications Commission has agreed to impose strict new regulations on Internet service providers like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T.

The regulatory agency voted 3-2 … in favor of rules aimed at enforcing what’s called “net neutrality.” That’s the idea that service providers shouldn’t intentionally block or slow web traffic, creating paid fast lanes on the Internet.

The new rules say that any company providing a broadband connection to your home or phone would have to act in the public interest and conduct business in ways that are “just and reasonable.”

Much of industry opposes the regulations, which it says constitutes dangerous government overreach. The rules are expected to trigger lawsuits, which could drag out for several years.

Internet service providers like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile would have to act in the “public interest” when providing a mobile connection to your home or phone, under new rules being considered by the Federal Communications Commission.

The rules would put the Internet in the same regulatory camp as the telephone, banning providers from “unjust or unreasonable” business practices.


The Florida Senator issued a statement saying the FCC ruling could open the door to “overreaching government regulations and devious international schemes” that seek to seize control of the Internet from the U.S.

“A federal government board in Washington today took action that threatens to overregulate the Internet to the point of making it more expensive for consumers, less innovative and less competitive,” Rubio said.  He also warned that the information superhighway is not a place to post “speed limits” and “speed traps.”

“That’s essentially what this federal action threatens to do to the Internet,” Rubio said.

“The Internet doesn’t need more rules and mandates that take power away from consumers and hand it to a federal government board that every lobbyist, lawyer and crony capitalist with a vested interest in the Internet will now seek to manipulate to their advantage,” he added.

Rubio continued by saying that “needless government intrusion” distracts from what America should be doing to “reach the next frontier in the Internet’s history,” bringing access to nearly 100 million Americans who remain offline.

The Miami Republican believes closing the digital divide is possible, but can be better achieved through legislation such as the Wi-Fi Innovation and Wireless Innovation Acts. Both bills were introduced by Rubio to increase availability, connect more people and increase capacity.

“Instead of allowing a Washington bureaucratic board to have the final say,” Rubio concluded, an action of this magnitude should be debated openly in Congress, where I’m confident it would be defeated.”


U.S. Rep Vern Buchanan: “Today’s vote represents a dangerous and reckless disregard for free market principles. The last thing we need is a new government regulation that hinders the online freedoms enjoyed by millions of Americans.”

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The prestigious consulting firm, known for its close ties to Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, was orchestrating an extensive effort to remake his image and prepare him for the 2016 presidential campaign.  … that was no deterrent for Jeb Bush. His team hired the firm anyway and quickly made it clear that it wanted undivided allegiance. The company, FP1 Strategies, soon severed ties with Perry, startling his staff.

Mr. Bush has vowed to run a “joyful” presidential campaign free from the seamier sides of party politics, projecting the air of a cerebral man almost effortlessly drawing together Republicans eager to help him seek the White House. But behind the scenes, he and his aides have pursued the nation’s top campaign donors, political operatives and policy experts with a relentlessness and, in the eyes of rivals, ruthlessness that can seem discordant with his upbeat tone.

Their message, according to dozens of interviews, is blunt: They want the top talent now, they have no interest in sharing, and they will remember those who signed on early — and, implicitly, those who did not. The aim is not just to position Bush as a formidable front-runner for the Republican nomination, but also to rapidly lock up the highest-caliber figures in the Republican Party and elbow out rivals by making it all but impossible for them to assemble a high-octane campaign team.

Robert B. Zoellick, a well-known foreign policy expert, told friends he intended to advise multiple candidates, like Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, in the early stages of the race. Bush wanted something else, asking for his “sole support,” Zoellick said. Though surprised, Zoellick granted it, ending his relationships with everyone else.

Caught off guard, advisers to Christie, who had identified Zoellick as their own adviser when talking to supporters, bristled last week when Bush delivered a speech with Zoellick-inspired language similar to what Mr. Christie had employed in the past.

Bush does not take maybe for an answer. When major party contributors are on the fence, he pressures, and flatters, them with questions about what it would take to win them over.


In a ballroom at a historic hotel on the beaches of Southern Florida, Jeb Bush gave the first hint of how he will address conservative audiences as the Republican primary gets underway.

(Bush) … took the podium Thursday evening at the Club for Growth’s winter economic conference. The well-heeled crowd assembled at The Breakers, the sprawling, historic hotel in Southern Florida, is not a natural audience for Bush. Founded in 1999 as an anti-establishment, free-market group, the Club has helped toss dozens of moderate Republicans from office since its founding 15 years ago.

But at the podium … before about 150 of the Club’s top donors, Bush adjusted his rhetoric to his audience. He championed economic “growth at all at all costs”; he lambasted the president’s “so-called economic recovery”; and he tore into the Federal Communications Commissions recent ruling on net neutrality, which has for weeks now stoked the ire of conservatives. “We shouldn’t use a 1933 law” to regulate access to the Internet, Bush said, garnering applause from an otherwise subdued crowd.

Even on the thorny issue of Common Core, the former Florida governor began to relent. In a question-and-answer session with Club president David McIntosh, Bush noted almost under his breath that the standards were implemented after he left office and then emphasized that federal government “shouldn’t have any say” in the creation of education standards. It appears that will be his message on the campaign trail, even though the standards are now inextricably linked to the federal government because states are incentivized to implement the Common Core educational standards to receive federal dollars as a part of the “Race to the Top” program implemented by President Obama.


When he first ran for public office, Jeb Bush dubbed himself a “head-banging conservative.”

Now he’s heading to a face-to-face meeting with conservatives, many of whom think he’s anything but one of them, and who would pose the biggest hurdle to him winning the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

Bush will appear … before thousands of influential activists at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington, a high-stakes appearance that could allow him to start winning their hearts – or underscore a tough road ahead.

One Florida activist predicted he’ll win them over. Others forecast a cool response.

And although Jeb Bush pledges to be his “own man” and in two terms as Florida’s governor slashed taxes, staunchly opposed abortion and took on teachers’ unions, activists remain unconvinced. They point to his support for Common Core education standards, immigration and the Bush family record as stumbling blocks.

For starters, conservative critics say, Bush has remained largely supportive of education standards that outline what students should know at each grade level, even after the benchmarks became a target for conservatives leery of the federal government.


In a week during which Rudolph Giuliani went crusader-ballistic questioning President Obama’s patriotism–indeed, questioning his upbringing – Bush gave a speech about foreign affairs, the third serious policy speech he’s given this winter. … Bush’s speech wasn’t exactly a barn burner. His delivery was rushed and unconvincing, though he was more at ease during the question period. He was criticized for a lack of specificity … offered something far more important than specificity. He offered a sense of his political style and temperament, which in itself presents a grownup and civil alternative to the Giuliani-style pestilence that has plagued the Republic for the past 25 years.

It has been the same in each of Bush’s three big speeches. He is a political conservative with a moderate disposition. And after giving his speeches a close read, I find Bush’s disposition far more important than his position on any given issue. In fact, it’s a breath of fresh air. I disagree with his hard line toward Cuba and the Iran nuclear negotiations, and I look forward to hearing what he has to say about reforming Obamacare. His arguments so far merit consideration, even when one disagrees with them.

Bush’s economic vision is traditionally Republican. He believes the economy is more likely to grow with lower taxes than with government stimulus. He doesn’t bash the rich, but he doesn’t offer supply-side voodoo, either. The American “promise is not broken when someone is wealthy,” he told the Detroit Economic Club. “It is broken when achieving success is far beyond our imagination.” He is worried about middle-class economic stagnation, about the inability of the working poor to rise–his PAC is called Right to Rise. His solution is providing more opportunity rather than income redistribution. We’ll see, over time, what he means by that. And he favors reforming the public sector, especially the education and regulatory systems, as a way to create new economic energy. “It’s time to challenge every aspect of how government works,” he told a national meeting of auto dealers in San Francisco.

This would be a good argument to have in 2016. It is a fundamental challenge to what the Democrats have allowed themselves to become: the party of government workers rather than a defender of the working-, middle-class majority. Bush has already drawn fire for his record as an education reformer, with his support for charter schools and educational standards. But his argument goes beyond that to a more fundamental critique of government. He has praised the work of Philip K. Howard, whose book, The Rule of Nobody, is a road map for de-lawyering and rethinking the regulatory system.


West Palm Beach resident Ben Carson continued to fuel speculation he’ll make a 2016 Republican run for president … with a speech … that called on conservatives to embrace new ways to combat poverty.

… Carson echoed many of the themes he touched on in a speech in Palm Beach last week. The retired neurosurgeon and grass-roots conservative favorite said the 1960s War on Poverty hasn’t worked and “we need to change course.”

Said Carson: “What real compassion is is using our intellect to find ways to allow those people to climb out of dependency and realize the American dream and that’s what we need to be thinking about…It is our responsibility to take care of the indigent. It is not the government’s responsibility.”


New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie doesn’t subscribe to The New York Times, and he’s unfazed by his negative media attention and low polling numbers.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz appealed to young voters by telling them he wants to “bring a disruptive app to politics.”

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina offered the harshest criticism of Hillary Clinton at the conference so far.

 FLA GOP CHAIR: WE WANT WINNER-TAKE-ALL MAR 15 PREZ PRIMARY via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald

Blaise Ingoglia, the new chair of the Republican Party of Florida, paid a visit this week to the Miami Young Republicans to rally their support and answer their questions about the party’s future.

One of them was whether the GOP would support legislation filed in Tallahassee setting next year’s presidential primary for March 15, the earliest possible date in which all of the state’s nominating delegates would be awarded to a single candidate, rather than distributed proportionally.

“It is my personal belief that the primary process in the state of Florida should be winner takes all,” said Ingoglia, who represents Spring Hill, near Tampa. “We are the largest, most diverse swing state in the nation. We are the prize.”

If a candidate puts in the work to win Florida, he added, then he or she should be rewarded in full. Left unsaid was that the party would want all of its delegates to back one of the state’s native sons — Sen. Marco Rubio or former Gov. Jeb Bush — should one of them run and win the Sunshine State primary.

“It’s sort of like a microcosm of the United States in general,” he said. The person who can win here is “the person that we want to get behind.”


Marco Rubio is a young man in a hurry … 43 years old, he faces a choice next year. He can run for re-election to the Senate, a race he would probably win, then keep building a legislative record in preparation for one of the seven or so future presidential elections he’d be able to run in before he gets too old. Or he can give up his seat and take his presidential shot now, even against some better-funded candidates, knowing that if he loses, it could become his only chance to reach for the brass ring. He may have made up his mind; according to an article in … New York Times, Rubio “is quietly telling donors that he is committed to running for president, not re-election to the Senate.” Fortune, Rubio apparently hopes, will favor the bold.

If you’re wondering why Rubio might think he has a shot, look no further than the current occupant of the White House. When Barack Obama started seriously considering running for president in 2008, the conventional wisdom held that the notion was ridiculous. Someone who had been in Washington less than four years, with only a couple of bills to his name? How could he be so presumptuous?

But Obama — whose career has been marked by long periods of caution punctuated by audacious risk-taking — recognized his own talents, and the fact that the moment was perfect for a candidate like him. And for all that Republicans may think he was unprepared and inexperienced, they’ve assimilated the idea that there’s nothing wrong with a candidate like Obama seeking the nation’s highest office. This year there are three Republican senators in their first terms who will be running — Rubio, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz — and though they each have admirers and detractors in the Republican Party, nobody’s saying they haven’t put in enough time in subcommittee hearings.

There are still plenty of older senators around — the median age of the current Senate is 61, and there are 23 in their 70s or 80s — but these days when we think of a presidential candidate emerging from Congress’ upper chamber, we no longer imagine someone who has spent decades amassing a legislative record, like so many party nominees before, in the mold of John Kerry or Bob Dole. Instead, the senators who today decide to make a run for the presidency are the ones who just got there and can’t seem to wait to get out.


Not yet officially a candidate for president, Hillary Rodham Clinton is already trying to seize the mantle of problem-solver in a nation fed up with dysfunctional government. Republicans are ready to remind Clinton — and voters — of her past warnings of a “vast right-wing conspiracy.”

In her first speech in the U.S. this year, Clinton … offered plenty of hints about her likely campaign messages. Among the themes: raising wages for workers who have yet to benefit from the nation’s economic recovery, and rebuilding trust and cooperation in government.

The economic message isn’t a surprise. Democrats have spoken often about wages in recent months, and it has been a frequent topic for several prospective Republican presidential candidates, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul among them.

But Clinton also signaled … a desire to focus on bridging the partisan divide. Or, as Clinton put it, bringing people from “right and left, red, blue, get them into a nice, warm, purple space.”

It’s not a new message — President Barack Obama based his 2008 campaign in part on overcoming the old Washington ways of doing business — but it stands out given Clinton’s history as a polarizing figure in U.S. politics.

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At the height of the outcry over the forced ouster of an FDLE commissioner by Gov. Scott’s office, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam was poised to go public with a strongly-worded denunciation of the Gerald Bailey fiasco, including a reference to “key actions” made in secret that deny Floridians the constitutional right of access.

The words, under Putnam’s byline, are in the form of a draft opinion piece for newspaper editorial pages that was never submitted.

Putnam’s deputy chief of staff, Amanda Bevis, drafted the op-ed on Jan. 21. She said it was not sent because Putnam was giving interviews to Capitol reporters and making similar points that third week in January. “Because of the volume of media coverage around the issue, we decided not to do an op-ed,” Bevis said.

The tone of the unpublished piece makes points similar to the court pleadings by Florida media outlets that accuse Scott and Cabinet members of violating the Sunshine Law by quietly sacking Bailey with no public discussion or vote.

“The members of the Cabinet are required to meet on a regular basis to consider items that are required by statute to come before the Cabinet,” Putnam’s piece reads. “The recent, sudden transition in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, however, represents a breakdown in the Cabinet process. When key decisions are made without the concurrence of all Cabinet members and outside of Cabinet meetings, we are robbing our constituents of their right to witness these deliberations. Moreover, such activities are not reflective of the governing body that was established in Florida’s Constitution and do not represent the open process and shared responsibilities that were intended to be carried out by this governing body.”


Goods exports from Florida reached $58.6 billion last year, helping the U.S. set a record with $2.35 trillion in goods and services exports, the U.S. Department of Commerce reported.

Officials said the state’s exports helped support about 275,000 jobs.

Computer and electronic products led Florida’s exports with $14 billion, followed by transportation equipment with $8.7 billion and chemicals with $7.2 billion.


Attorneys for former Florida House Speaker Ray Sansom argued Thursday that taxpayers should pay his legal fees of nearly $1 million from corruption charges dating back to 2009.

The Destin Republican’s lawyers argued that because the charges stemmed from his work as a legislator and were dismissed, Samson is entitled to have the public pay his fees. They’re seeking $817,518 plus interest, $970,187 in all, for some 2,700 hours of legal work and costs.

Sansom was accused of scheming with wealthy co-defendant and political supporter, Ray Odom, and former president of the Northwest Florida State College Bob Richburg to add $6 million to the state budget for an airplane hangar at the Destin airport to benefit Odom. The defendants maintained the building was actually an emergency operations facility and training center for the school. Only $309,000 of the money was spent.

Richburg accepted a deal to pay a third of that amount and testify against the other two. But the case collapsed when a judge ruled Richburg couldn’t testify as a co-conspirator.

Lawyers from the state Attorney General’s Office argued that Sansom tacitly agreed for Odom to pay $206,000 in restitution for both men in return for a dismissal of the charges, meaning they weren’t truly exonerated.

Stephen Dobson, a white collar crime specialist who represented Sansom in the 2011 trial, is now suing for the fees along with Sansom, and his firm stands to collect the money if they succeed.

A former Associated Press reporter, Jim Rosica, also testified Thursday under subpoena concerning a story he wrote on the 2011 trial. Rosica quoted Dobson as saying Sansom might have to borrow money to pay his share of the restitution payment, which attorneys for the state interpreted as an admission that Sansom accepted the restitution deal.


Benjamin Franklin delivered the memorable line, “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Were he alive today, I believe Franklin would amend his short list of inevitabilities with a declaration that Florida Republicans can solidly count on negative editorials from the Tampa Bay Times.

Such is the case with the Feb. 22 editorial, “Water plan is a step backward” … written with a lack of understanding of the complexities of Florida law and paints the House with an anti-environmental brush that can only be held by the most uninformed and extreme.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has publicly described Florida’s water quality system as one of the most sophisticated and comprehensive water resource protection and restoration programs in the nation. The House water policy bill (HB 7003) builds upon Florida’s existing foundation of science-based assessment and establishment of water supply and resource development plans, total maximum daily loads, basin management action plans, minimum flows and levels, and recovery and prevention strategies to protect and restore priority springs and other water bodies.

The Times states that the House’s proposed legislation will slow Everglades restoration, the single largest natural resource protection program in the world. Nothing could be further from the truth. Everglades restoration will benefit from the bill’s proposal for all northern Everglades protection and restoration programs to be concentrated under a single plan. The Florida Legislature is committed to seeing Everglades restoration through to its end and has demonstrated this commitment by adopting a plan to invest more than $800 million to the project over the next 10 years.

FACEBOOK STATUS OF THE DAY via James Rosica: “I regret to report that we lost the motion to quash and I was required to testify under a protective order. That meant that my testimony was limited to the veracity of a particular article that I wrote. I’m still not clear what the probative nature of my testimony was, but at least I’m not in jail and I wasn’t forced to discuss anything that may have been told to me off the record.”


For nearly 2 million Florida public school students, the next few weeks could be a crucial moment in their education.

The state is undertaking one of the biggest changes in its classrooms since former Gov. Jeb Bush pushed through his signature A+ school grading system nearly 16 years ago.

Students will switch this spring to a new test based largely on Common Core standards and it’s a test that most will do on a computer instead of paper.

What happens before the end of the school year could go a long way in determining whether the Florida Legislature enacts sweeping changes to the current system. The 60-day annual session … A backlash against the state’s use of standardized testing has been building up as school districts and even some Republican legislators say it’s time for an overhaul.

Gov. Scott has already acknowledged the testing backlash, which included a southwest Florida school district briefly discarding state-mandated tests last fall. Just this week, he suspended an 11th grade standardized test scheduled this spring.

But it’s not clear how far that Scott and the GOP-controlled Legislature will go beyond that.


Six weeks after he said he was considering filing such legislation, St. Petersburg Republican state Senator Jeff Brandes  … filed a bill that prohibits law enforcement agencies from retaining property and assets seized from individuals who are not convicted of a crime.

Civil forfeiture is a controversial legal process in which police take assets from persons suspected of involvement with crime or illegal activity without necessarily charging the owners with wrongdoing.

The legislation amends the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act to prevent law enforcement from supplementing their budgets through assets seized in civil forfeiture proceedings. Under the proposal, property such as vehicles cannot be retained by a law enforcement agency and any assets that are legally seized from an individual under the Contraband Forfeiture Act must be split equally between local charities and the State of Florida Crime Victims Compensation Trust Fund.

The issue has been of concern to groups like the ACLU for years, and has been garnering more support from libertarian and conservative groups more recently. Last fall, HBO’s John Oliver did a segment on it on his weekly Sunday night comedy show.

The Florida Sheriffs Association informed Florida Politics this afternoon that they oppose the bill.


Brandes has filed legislation that would allow share-riding companies Uber and Lyft to operate legally in Florida, and would also change the current composition of the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission — an agency that Brandes tried to kill in proposed legislation a year ago.

The Brandes bill on the ride-sharing companies is similar to its companion in the House filed last week by Fort Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz in many respects. They both impose state requirements for insurance, background checks for drivers and minimum vehicle safety standards, but the House version contains more regulations.

The Gaetz bill would require Uber and Lyft to pay a $5,000 annual permit fee, post fare calculations and insurance coverage limitations on their websites, provide electronic receipts to passengers, and provide insurance for drivers if their personal vehicle insurance doesn’t cover them when they’re providing rides. Also, Uber and Lyft would be required to implement a “zero tolerance” drug and alcohol policy. Passenger complaints of drivers would result in an automatic suspension of the driver until the companies complete an investigation.

Uber spokesman Taylor Bennett said … “We applaud Sen. Brandes for his leadership and taking this positive step forward in creating a uniform set of ride-sharing rules across the entire state. We look forward to continuing to work with the State Legislature and providing access to the choice and opportunity that all Floridians deserve.”

But inside the omnibus transportation bill filed by Brandes … is language that would switch the power of the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission board from local governments to the governor’s office.

TWEET, TWEET: @FirstNameTom: Direct quote from @MayorGimenez : “@Uber and @Lyft are here to stay.”


Thirty statewide organizations, including the Chamber, Florida Home Builders Association and The United Way, released a study Thursday calling for the full appropriation of housing trust funds. They want the money used to build homes working people can afford and provide a boost to the economy.

“Housing equals jobs,” said Jerry Linder of the homebuilders association.

Linder and about 30 others representing groups in the Sadowski Coalition say that housing is being pitted against the environment for funding as lawmakers work to implement Amendment 1, a water and land conservation initiative and that it doesn’t have to be that way.

Environmental initiatives share money from an excise tax on deeds, bonds and mortgages with the affordable housing and transportation trust funds. Sixteen percent of documentary stamp revenue goes to affordable housing, about 20 percent to transportation and voters said 33 percent shall go to the environment; the remainder is deposited into the general revenue fund account.


In anticipation of the 2015 Legislative Session, is asking state lawmakers about their goals and priorities — and whether they support controversial issues in the state … responses from Rep. Janet Cruz of Tampa.

Local issue … “The Tampa Bay Area is in a tremendous position for growth over the next decade, and a big part of that is the revitalization of our downtown, thanks to the diligent work of Tampa Bay Lightning Owner Jeffrey Vinik and Mayor Bob Buckhorn amongst others. A crucial peg of this plan is the new USF Medical School that would be located in downtown.”

Special appropriations … “Hillsborough Community College is one of the leading community colleges in our state … this year’s budget gives us an opportunity to build state-of-the-art facility that would house primary care and diagnostic allied programs.”

Expand health care coverage … “In policy, sometimes the simplest and most obvious answers are the best. Instead of trying to find ways of piecing together a plan, the Legislature should do right by the people of Florida and expand Medicaid coverage.”

Sen. Jeff Brandes’ medical marijuana bill … “Last year’s referendum on medical marijuana convinced me of two things: Many Floridians overwhelmingly support medical marijuana as a potential treatment for serious and chronic conditions, yet many Floridians are equally concerned about expanding access to marijuana by persons attempting to game the system for illegal or non-medical uses.”

Ongoing debate over 64-ounce growlers … “By not allowing containers larger than 32 ounces we are putting businesses in our state at a disadvantage. Growlers of 32, 64, and 128 ounces should be permitted for sale by properly licensed vendors as long as the process put in place to inform and protect the consumers is adhered to.”

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Former LG Jeff Kottkamp and Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of Drug Policy Alliance, will give keynote addresses at Legislative Policy Conference at the Merrick Ballroom of the Westin Coral Gables, 180 Aragon Ave. Coral Gables  Kottkamp’s keynote speech is at 9:15 – 9:45 a.m. and Nadelmann’s keynote speech is at 12:10 – 12:55pm.

REAPPOINTED: Gary Chartrand and John Colón to the State Board of Education

APPOINTED: Stephanie Scuderi to the Florida Keys Community College District Board of Trustees.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Florida School Boards Association will dedicate its building to Dr. Wayne Blanton, the iconic leader of the FSBA, at 4 p.m. 203 South Monroe Street in Tallahassee.

BACK ON THE TWITTERS: Jeff Hartley of Smith Bryan and Myers. Follow him @Hartley91


Despite getting out of the 2012 U.S. Senate race early, former Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos shows signs he might be attempting a comeback.

Haridopolos, who from 2003 to 2012 represented the district that includes Brevard, Indian River, Osceola, and St. Lucie counties, has stayed under the political radar, with many asking what his next move will be. Lately, however, he has started showing up at public events with other government officials.

Even more telling that Haridopolos is looking at staying active is that he now is following in his wife’s footsteps, finding his way in front of a TV camera. Dr. Stephanie Haridopolos has become very well-known in Central Florida through her TV appearances focusing on medical issues.

The “Mike Haridopolos Show,” a one-hour show broadcast by Space Coast Daily out of Brevard County, started this month. The new show will be updated once a month, though it doesn’t have a set schedule.

In his debut show, which appeared this week, Haridopolos had U.S. Rep. Bill Posey and racing legend Geoff Bodine on as guests. While Posey shows no signs of slowing down and is gearing up to run again next year, according to members of his team, many have speculated that Haridopolos will opt for the seat once the congressman retires. Haridopolos still has popular name recognition in the district and has been seen on Fox News and other national news outlets. Much of the district Posey represents parallels the area Haridopolos represented in the Senate.

If he does run for Congress, Haridopolos has a healthy war chest already assembled from his U.S. Senate bid. With $1.3 million in the bank, he has a leg up on any potential Republican rivals.


Louis Betz, Louis Betz & Associates Inc: Covanta Energy

Taylor Patrick Biehl, Jeffrey B. Sharkey, Capitol Alliance Group: CanopyGrow, LLC

Laura Boehmer, Southern Strategy Group: Daytona State College Foundation, Inc; Florida Association of Wholesale Distributors, Inc; Florida Polytechnic University Foundation, Inc; Sims Crane and Equipment

Dean Cannon, Capitol Insight LLC: Citizens for Florida’s Waterways; City of Orlando

Christopher Coker, Coker Consulting LLC: Lake Worth Drainage District

Christopher Finkbeiner, The Rubin Group: Community Based Care of Central Florida; Florida Taxi Cab Association; Southwest Airlines; University of Miami

Martin Fiorentino, Thomas Griffin, The Fiorentino Group: Lighthouse of Central Florida / Lighthouse Works; Save our Society From Drugs, Inc

Steven Geller, Greenspoon Marder PA: Las Olas Recovery, LLC

Joseph Howard Hirabayashi: National Federation of Independent Business

Natalie King, RSA Consulting Group LLC: Tampa Hillsborough Film and Digital Media Commission

Victoria Kliner: Florida Department of Law Enforcement

Joseph Mobley, The Fiorentino Group: Alachua County; Florida Crystals Corporation; Lighthouse of Central Florida / Lighthouse Works; Save our Society From Drugs, Inc

Jabari Paul: PICO United Florida

Donald Payton, Ballard Partners: Friends of Miami-Dade College

Kirk Pepper, Richard Reeves, Capitol Insight LLC: Citizens for Florida’s Waterways

***Today’s SUNBURN is sponsored by Corcoran & Johnston Government Relations. One of Florida’s top lobbying firms, Corcoran & Johnston has demonstrated the ability to navigate government and successfully deliver results for clients, time and again. To learn more visit***


On Context FloridaEveryone seems to be completely blowing off Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s candidacy and thinks her chances of winning a 2016 Senate race. At the risk commendation to outlier status for eternity, Peter Schorsch makes the case for her. Benjamin Franklin delivered the line, “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Were he alive today, Steve Crisafulli believes Franklin would amend his short list of inevitabilities with a declaration that Florida Republicans can solidly count on negative editorials from the Tampa Bay Times. For once, Florida legislators can vote for a gun bill that isn’t totally crazy. Adam Weinstein figures most of them probably won’t. A bill filed recently seeks to change state review of proposed large development projects, but Bruce Ritchie wonders if it will pass the Senate and House.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: Members of the Howard Club of Southwest Florida

Facing Florida with Mike Vasilinda: Pete Dunbar, Screven Watson, Paul Phipps, Gail Loveless and Bart Hudson

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Paula Dockery, Ana Cruz, Daniel Ruth and Jeremy Wallace

On Point with Shannon Ogden on WTLV/WJXX in Jacksonville: Former State Attorney Rod Smith

Political Connections on Tampa Bay’s BayNews 9: Rep. Senate President Andy Gardiner, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner, Joshua Gillin

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Rep. Senate President Andy Gardiner, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner, Joshua Gillin

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Gary Yordon, Steve Vancore, Mary Ellen Klas

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Sen. Aaron Bean, Jennifer Carroll, representatives from the Mayo Clinic

HOUSE OF CARDS SEASON 3: MORE POLICY THAN CHICANERY via Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times

“House of Cards” began as a fun-house-mirror reflection of Washington, an outlandish sendup decked out in the pinstripes-and-Prada props of real-life politics. This Netflix series about a conniving congressman wasn’t realistic, but it was sly and knowing enough to pass as a naughty behind-the-scenes peek at government.

Fittingly enough, the first several episodes of Season 3 are weighed down with the same burden that bedevils real politicians when they come to power: After all the campaign high jinks and maneuvering come to an end, it’s time to actually govern.

And policy is not nearly as sexy and exciting. As a result, the series, whose new episodes all debut on Friday, gets off to a surprisingly sluggish start. The pace picks up and the subplots thicken by the fourth episode, and by the fifth the series recaptures some of its early panache, but given that there are only about 13 hours per season, that’s quite a slow windup. Viewers who intend to feast on the entire season should beware: Before dessert, there’s a heavy, overcooked first course that is hard to swallow.

At the end of Season 2, Vice President Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) was sworn in as commander in chief after having successfully schemed and colluded to bring down the sitting president, with the help of his equally ambitious wife, Claire (Robin Wright).

Strangely, though, the early episodes unfurl without significant new characters or intriguing distractions. Instead, the story mostly stays on the Underwood administration. And when the action is so overstated and static, it makes the show’s inherent weak points stand out.

Netflix streams the series all at once, but this time there is no instant gratification. Binge viewers get the government they deserve.

BEST WISHES to our friend, Fred Piccolo, who is marrying Kristin Collis this Saturday at St Mary Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church with a reception to follow at the Vinoy Renaissance Resort.

CONGRATS TWEET, TWEET: Congratulations to @RepMannyDiazJr on adding another blessing to his lovely family this October! New session, new baby.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Ana Cruz, Ron Greenstein, and former Rep. Jerry Paul. Celebrating today is our guy Mitch Perry, Ryan Duffy, Kathleen Haughney, and Rep. Kathleen Peters.


As expected, once Disney broke the $100 barrier for ticket prices, Universal Orlando followed … hiking a one-day, one-park ticket price to $102 from $96. A two-park ticket is now $147, an $11 increase.

Walt Disney World rolled out a $6 increase that puts Magic Kingdom admission at $105, and other prices such as annual passes at the world’s most popular tourist destination also spiked.

Industry experts say other theme parks feel pressure to raise their prices to show they are just as valuable as Disney, so … price increase at Universal came as no surprise.

At the moment, SeaWorld admission is $95, as are one-day tickets to Busch Gardens in Tampa, and they both have Florida resident deals, such as Busch Gardens offering a free pass to Adventure Island with the purchase of a $95 Fun Card at That deal ends Sunday.

Florida residents still have deals at most theme parks to bring their per-day cost down. The Discover Disney deal right now costs $139 for three days or $159 for four days. You have to use that pass by June 5.

Price doesn’t seem to be having an impact on attendance. Earlier this month, Walt Disney Co. reported that park attendance rose a record 7 percent in the last three months of 2014, and Disney resort hotels also jumped 8 percent to a rate of 89 percent.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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