Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – July 23

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


Job growth in Florida leads the nation’s ten most populous states … private-sector growth rate was 3.9 percent in June.

According to the Scott administration, this is the fourth month in a row Florida has bested the other nine most populous states for the top job growth.

“These positive economic trends show our pro-growth policies are working for Florida families. Florida continues to beat larger states in job growth rates, and we are leading the rest of the nation in the number of jobs created,” Scott said. “Florida is clearly the best state to live, work, and raise a family.”

In addition to out-ranking states like Texas and California in private-sector job growth, Florida is ranked second in the nation and the Sunshine State’s rate is significantly higher than the national average of just 2.5 percent.

Florida ranked second in June in total private-sector jobs added, with more than 265,200 jobs created throughout the year … is the third month in a row since the recession that Florida created more private-sector jobs than Texas.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will visit the Clearwater to highlight funding for VISIT FLORIDA and Florida’s record-breaking tourism. Press conference begins 10 a.m. at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, 249 Windward Passage in Clearwater. At 3 p.m., Scott will be in Hialeah for a bill signing ceremony and to highlight funding to fight human trafficking. The signing will be at the Citrus Health Network Family Medical Center, 4125 W 20th Ave. in Hialeah.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott’s Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding will make the third stop on its “Spotlight Transparency Tour” in Miami from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. AHCA Secretary Liz Dudek will discuss the letter she sent to insurance companies on Medicaid Managed Care rates. Meeting is at Miami Dade College Medical Campus, 950 NW 20th Street, Room 1175 in Miami. Attendees making presentations at the meeting: Steven Sonenreich, President and CEO, Mt. Sinai Medical Center – Miami Beach; Carlos Migoya, President and CEO, Jackson Health System; Eric Johnson, Director of Life and Health Product Review, Office of Insurance Regulation; and David Pollack, President, Molina Healthcare of Florida, Inc.

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Medical marijuana is one step closer to its return to the ballot in 2016.

United for Care, the group fighting to legalize medical pot through a voter-approved constitutional amendment next fall, announced … it’s sending petitions to county election supervisors on behalf of 100,000 Floridians who want to see the issue on the ballot.

Election supervisors must now verify that the signatures are legitimate, and if there are at least 68,317 statewide, the measure will go before the Florida Supreme Court. Campaign Manager Ben Pollara said the ballot item could be ready for Supreme Court review by mid-August.

“This is a massive head start over the previous campaign – which started late. If we can sustain this pace, we should ensure our place on the ballot before the holidays,” Pollara said.

United for Care, which is heavily backed by lawyer John Morgan, made a similar push to legalize medical marijuana on the 2014 ballot. The issue garnered a majority of the vote but fell short of the 60 percent required to pass a constitutional amendment.

The group is off to a fast start this year, raising $373,855.18 since the November 2014 election. Last month, there were $292,962.95 in contributions, nearly all of which came from Morgan.


In the wake of the exit of Patti Nelson – who had served at the helm of the state Department of Health’s nascent Office of Compassionate Use since its inception in 2014 – the agency has named a replacement just two days later.

Taking over for Nelson will be Christian Bax, who joins the office by way of CBK Consulting, a firm that the lawyer and MBA founded to facilitate medical cannabis programs akin to the one Florida enshrined into law in 2014.

Bax studied economics at the University of Alabama before receiving a JD at Florida State University and business degree at Babson College.

According to a release Wednesday, DOH “is confident his educational and professional experience make him the right choice to get this product to children with intractable epilepsy and people with advanced cancer as safely and quickly as possible.”

Bax will start work at his new post effective tomorrow, Thursday July 23 – a short turnaround indeed.

The move comes as 28 applications await review by a state panel who will award five licenses to manufacture medical marijuana for the state – the first time in state history any such license has been granted.

Nelson left DOH earlier this week in favor of a post in the governor’s Office of Policy and Budget.


Sen. Rob Bradley … is sorry to see Nelson leave the new Office of Compassionate Use, but he isn’t worried her departure will delay or confuse the process of selecting which of 30 nurseries will receive the five licenses to grow and dispense cannabis in Florida.

Nelson … left to return to … Scott‘s Office of Policy and Budget, the state Department of Health confirmed. She had served in the governor’s office for four years before taking the DOH job.

Bradley, chairman of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, said. “Patty did an excellent job through a complicated, contentious rulemaking process. With her grounding in administrative law, she was just what we needed to get the ball moving and I can’t thank her enough for it.”

The only medical marijuana that can be processed provides no “high” for the user, but it has been shown to help ease symptoms in epilepsy and cancer patients. The Legislature legalized the low-THC strain of marijuana 14 months ago, but a flurry of challenges to the rules have kept it from the public.

Bradley said the selection process “shouldn’t be delayed,” that the deadline for applications passed earlier this month. He emphasized that he has “genuine confidence” in Surgeon General John Armstrong.

NEW PUSH TO INCREASE STATE MINIMUM WAGE TO $15 via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times

The first bill filed for the 2016 Florida Legislature session is a bill that would increase the state minimum wage to $15. But don’t expect the bill to ever become law.

State Sen. Dwight Bullard … officially filed SB 6 on … six months before the Legislature’s regular session starts in January. But recent history shows the bill has little chance of winning support in the Republican dominated Legislature or with … Scott who spoke against raising the minimum wage on the campaign trail.

Twice over the last two regular legislative sessions, Bullard has filed bills calling for the minimum wage to jump to $10.10 an hour. Those bills never even made it out of committee for a full vote of the House or Senate.

Still Bullard said by filling the bill at the higher amount he is hoping to see more momentum build for the idea of raising the wage. He said other states and cities around the nation are boosting their minimum wage and businesses he talks to are less resistant to the idea.

“I’m hopeful that conversation will continues about raising the wage,” Bullard said …


After several months of cooking, a new proposed amendment to Florida’s constitution popped up this week. What is it?

It’s a mouthful and is called, “All Voters Vote in Top Two Primary Elections for Congress, State Legislature, Governor, and Cabinet” and it basically changes the rules for how elections are conducted in Florida.

It does so in three ways… First, it eliminates closed party primaries for Congress, the state Legislature, Governor and Cabinet. Second, it lets everyone (thus the name, “All Voters Vote”) vote in those primaries regardless of their party affiliation. Third, if a candidate gets one vote more than 50%, he or she is the winner. If not, the top two vote getters appear in the November general election. (Thanks to the U.S. Constitution, it’s slightly different for congressional races.)

Kind of simple and, I am sure for some, kind of scary.

The plan is being pushed by lawyer Eugene Stearns, a Democrat, and former chief of staff to House Speaker Dick Pettigrew and campaign manager for Ruben Askew, and founder of the Stearns Weaver Miller law firm. He is joined by Republican Jim Smith who was, as many of you may recall, the former Florida Attorney General and Secretary of State. Not a bad pair of resumes if you ask me.

Stearns and Smith say they are concerned about the huge number of voters being carved out of the process due to closed partisan primaries and the resulting lack of consensus building in our legislative halls. With declining party enrollment (currently 27% of voters were not registered with a major political party – a percentage that has quadrupled since 1990) and a polarization in the process, they want to be catalysts for changing the current system.

Is this Fair Districts Part Deux? Stearns, an early supporter of the Fair Districts effort, doesn’t think so.


Charlie Crist, the embodiment of “if at first you don’t succeed …,” could ride that adage into the record books.

The former, and possible future, candidate – if he should seek Florida’s redrawn 13th Congressional District – could be the first Floridian in 95 years to achieve a political “hat-trick,” losing gubernatorial, U.S. Senate and U.S. House races … Republican John Cheney was the last major party Sunshine State nominee to lose all three offices. That was in 1920.

After the Legislature redraws CD 13 – one of eight districts mandated for redistricting under orders of the Florida Supreme Court – the demographics will inevitably favor Crist through an influx of Democratic voters into the district.

A recent Florida Politics poll puts Crist – a native of Saint Petersburg – with a stellar approval rating of 75 percent.

Currently, Crist is the sixth major party nominee from Florida to lose a U.S. Senate and gubernatorial election. He also lost to Bob Graham in 1998 for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination, joining a select group that consists of one Democrat and four Republicans who had also lost both Florida’s gubernatorial and U.S. Senate contests.

Before Crist, the last person to do that was two-term Democratic Congressman Buddy MacKay, who lost in the open seat Senate in 1988 against Connie Mack III.

If he does run for the House and loses, Crist will become only the third Florida politician to hit that trifecta of Governor/Senate/House defeats.

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A PARTY DIVIDED via Scott Bland and Tim Alberta of the National Journal

Republicans for a generation have followed a reliable blueprint in choosing their White House nominees. In a crowded primary, as conservative candidates split votes, a single right-of-center contender — deemed “most electable” by the GOP elite — consolidates the support of moderates and, with the establishment’s blessing and tactical aid, tallies enough delegates to secure the nomination.

Crumple up that blueprint and throw it away. Ahead of the 2016 election, according to a National Journal survey, the Republican establishment is divided every which way.

We put three questions to the Republican National Committee’s 100 committeemen and women representing the 50 states: Whom would you vote for today? Who do you think is most likely to win the nomination? And who would be the best candidate to take on Hillary Clinton? In interviews with more than 50 of them, opinions on the 2016 field revealed a jarring lack of consensus among the party’s ruling class.

Their answers show that no one candidate is poised to monopolize the structural and institutional support that has sustained every recent Republican nominee. This dynamic, enhanced by the historic size of the GOP field, threatens to produce precisely the scenario that RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and his colleagues have plotted to avoid: a prolonged primary season in which candidates trade ugly, reputation-crushing attacks, resulting in a months-long slog to the nomination.

A plurality of the RNC members surveyed said Jeb Bush, once believed to be the party favorite, is their most likely nominee—but only a fraction say they would vote for him today. Scott Walker would take the largest number of primary votes today, yet startlingly few say he’d make a strong general-election candidate. And while Marco Rubio is seen as an unlikely nominee, he’s also regarded as the strongest opponent Republicans could nominate to face Hillary Clinton.

These findings, and dozens of conversations with senior party officials, demonstrate a deep-rooted disagreement within the GOP’s governing body that hasn’t been visible in decades. A few outliers aside, RNC members overwhelmingly supported Mitt Romney in the 2012 primary. Several even formally advised his White House campaigns. The opinions of RNC members, which were collected anonymously to allow for candor, are instructive because they come from those individuals who literally write the GOP’s rules and collectively embody a party establishment that prioritizes order and electability.

“I have at least three favorites,” said one RNC committeeman, naming Rubio, Walker, and Paul.


A new Public Policy Polling survey finds Donald Trump leading the GOP presidential field with 19%, followed by Walker at 17%, Bush at 12%, Carson at 10%, Rubio at 10% and Mike Huckabee at 8%. Everyone else draws under 5% support.

“Trump’s lead comes despite the fact that only 22% of Republicans agree with the comments he made about John McCain over the weekend compared to 50% who disagree. Despite his overall lead there are some signs that Trump’s comments may have hurt him. For one thing his favorability rating is back down in the 40s, at 48/39.”


“Donald Trump is not running a real campaign. He is working the phones, stirring the pot and using the media ecosystem to its fullest. Soon, the bolder members of the field will follow Rick Perry, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush in making harder and more decisive strokes against him. Unlike Trump, they’ll use real oppo, tested and targeted messages—ads built not just to cut, but to kill. They’ll break his operational tempo, get inside his OODA loop and turn his circus into a crispy ruin. It’s what real campaigns do.”

“Trump will lose, and Trump supporters will wake up with a combination I call ‘herpes and a hangover.’ They may have had fun the night before, but they’ll regret the hangover for a day. However, if Trump’s games in this campaign lead to the election of Hillary Clinton, they’ll regret the herpes a lot longer.”


In his highly touted speech on government reform this week, Bush accused President Barack Obama of waiting too long to remove tainted appointees, saying he would take on “Mount Washington” in the same way he made “Mount Tallahassee” more accountable when he was governor of Florida.

But his eight-year record shows he often stood by appointees who were mired in scandal or mismanagement until long after damaging revelations emerged, and in only two reported instances clearly fired agency heads – one accused of sexual harassment, and another of taking kickbacks.

Bush publicly backed embattled appointees at the Department of Children and Families -even amid revelations that the agency lost track of 515 children under state care, including a child who was murdered. He supported his corrections chief throughout a scandal involving guards engaging in beer-soaked brawls, stealing state property, selling steroids, and impressing inmates into forced labor. Bush finally fired the prison chief, Jimmy Crosby, in early 2006 when it became clear he was part of a bribery and kickback scheme, for which he was later convicted.

Bush also supported a state law-enforcement commissioner accused of inappropriately interfering in the investigation of the death of a 14-year-old boy beaten by guards at a boot camp. The commissioner ultimately resigned after making inappropriate comments about “Barack Osama” and “Jesse James” – his nicknames for then-Sen. Barack Obama and Jesse Jackson, who were invited to a march in protest of the boot-camp death.

— “Jeb’s fundraising relies on big city support” via Daniel Lippman of POLITICO

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Bush will take part in a town hall in Gorham, New Hampshire.


Miami’s two Republican presidential contenders, Bush and Rubio, along with Wisconsin’s Walker, lead Democrat Hillary Clinton in hypothetical head-to-head match-ups in three key swing states, according to a new public-opinion survey.

The Quinnipiac University poll found Clinton trails or is statistically tied in Colorado, Iowa and Virginia with the three GOP candidates. In some cases in Iowa and Colorado, Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont does the same or better than Clinton against Bush, Rubio and Walker, according to the poll … results indicate the 2016 general election could be a close one, assuming Democrats nominate Clinton and Republicans nominate Walker, Bush or Rubio.

Clinton has negative favorability ratings in all three states — but they’re better than  Donald Trump, the most negatively viewed of all presidential candidates, according to the poll.


In the wake of the latest controversy involving Planned Parenthood, Rubio has joined 49 of his Senate colleagues in urging Department of Health and Human Services Secretary (DHHS) Sylvia Burwell to cooperate with ongoing and future investigations into the “legal, ethical, and policy issues” raised by recent footage unearthed by an anti-abortion group. The videos depict Planned Parenthood Federation of America executives discussing in explicit detail the organization’s role in the harvesting of the organs of unborn babies.

“The videos speak for themselves,” Rubio said … “The cruel and callous language used by senior Planned Parenthood officials is sickening, shows a complete disregard for innocent unborn life, not to mention Planned Parenthood’s clients, and speaks to an organization that is morally bankrupt. There is simply no justification for an organization that fosters this kind of culture to receive a penny of taxpayer funding, and there should be a serious and impartial investigation into the grotesque practices revealed by the video.”

Earlier … Attorney General Loretta Lynch said her department will review all information surrounding the videos taken by the Center for Medical Progress, the group that produced the videos. The group claims it shows Planned Parenthood illegally profiting from the sale of fetal organs.

Lynch made those comments after 11 GOP senators sent a letter to the Department of Justice requesting an investigation.

A total of 50 U.S. senators signed the letter to DHHS Secretary Burwell, 49 of them Republicans. The lone Democrat was West Virginia’s Joe Manchin.

“The footage raises a number of questions about the practices of the organization, including whether they are in compliance with federal laws regulating both the use of fetal tissue and partial-birth abortions,” the senators wrote in the letter. “In addition to questions about Planned Parenthood’s compliance with applicable federal law and medical ethics, we believe the footage prompts important policy questions surrounding the issue of abortions permitted so late in a pregnancy – sometimes even later than 5 months – that an unborn baby’s organs can be identified and harvested.”

— “Bush: Congress should investigate Planned Parenthood” via Eli Stokols of POLITICO


Rubio tweeted … that he’s excited to see the movie Straight Outta Compton, a biopic about the ’80s L.A. rap group NWA. If you’ve followed Rubio’s public statements, his enthusiasm for the movie isn’t surprising—he’s called “Straight Outta Compton” (the song) one of his three favorite rap tracks and generally seems to have a broad knowledge of hip-hop history.

Rubio and NWA are an odd match—for fairly obvious reasons. Rubio is a cheerful Republican politician, and NWA were angry obscenity-case rappers whose name stands for Niggaz Wit Attitudes. “Straight Outta Compton” itself is a celebration of killing people with automatic weapons, getting “pussy,” and referring to women using such terms as “slut,” “bitch,” and “dirty-ass ho.”

It’s not really that unusual for a politician to praise a song that tends to undermine that politician’s stated ideals and/or an artist who would never vote for him. It’s also possible to enjoy a work of art while being uncomfortable with some of the attitudes that art expresses, and to understand that artists sometimes adopt personas that don’t reflect their true beliefs about moral behavior. (To the best of anyone’s knowledge, for instance, Ice Cube has never actually killed any “punk motherfuckers” with a machine gun.) Rubio furthermore isn’t using “Straight Outta Compton” as his official campaign song or claiming it represents his views—he’s just saying he likes it.

Still, I can’t help but wonder if Rubio understands the depth of the dissonance here—which, in short, is about the legacy of Ronald Reagan. Marco Rubio loves Reagan. He’s often compared (by his supporters) to Reagan and is happy to encourage those comparisons. Here’s part of a speech he gave in 2011 at the Reagan Presidential Library in California:

I tell people all the time that I was born and raised in Ronald Reagan’s America. I was raised in Ronald Reagan’s America. He was elected when I was in fourth grade and he left office when I was in high school. Those are very important years, fourth grade through high school, they were the years that formed so much of what today what I believe and know to be true about the world and about our nation.

The members of NWA were also born and raised in Ronald Reagan’s America. Reagan was the governor of California when they were children and the president when they were teenagers and young men. For them, Reagan’s America was not a good one. More than any other American leader, Reagan was responsible for popularizing resentment of welfare recipients and creating the modern war on drugs. As president, he treated poor black people as threats to be governed with force. And whether or not you think Reagan’s actions were justifiable, it’s impossible to deny that they are exactly what NWA was angry about.


In terms of star-studded lineups, the Katherine Van Zant fundraiser … in Jacksonville at the San Jose Country Club cannot be beaten. Both the event chairs and the host committee are full of some of the biggest names in Florida GOP Politics.

Event Chairs include House Speaker Will Weatherford, former Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton, Senator Anitere Flores, former Duval GOP Chair Mike Hightower, Ambassador John Rood, local power players W.W. GayJay DemetreeMarty Fiorentino, and Mac McGehee,

The event hosts, meanwhile, are names that conservative Republicans know also.

Former Sheriff John Rutherford, Clerk of Court Ronnie Fussell, United States Congressman Daniel Webster, and State Representatives Janet AdkinsLake RayJay FantBen Albritton, and Charles McBurney, along with the candidate’s own husband, round out the all-star team of Florida Republicans backing Mrs. Van Zant’s bid.

One of her opponents, former RPOF Chair Leslie Dougher, has her own fundraiser scheduled for next week in Clay County, but her lineup lacks this level of statewide firepower, which suggests that the power players in Florida politics are backing Mrs. Van Zant over Dougher.

The Van Zant event begins at 5:00 p.m.


Two Democratic minority women, both political newcomers, are likely to face each other in a primary for the state House District 59 seat held by Ross Spano.

Golnaz “Naze” Sahebzamani, International Baccalaureate social studies teacher at Robinson High School, filed July 9. Likely to file is Rena Frazier, a commercial litigation and real estate attorney who says she is “seriously considering” the race.

Sahebzamani may be able to count on support from an important Democratic constituency. She’s a board member of the Florida Education Association teacher’s union. Frazier is a University of South Florida and Stetson law school grad who is married to former USF basketball star Anddrikk Frazier, a former TECO official who now runs an alternative fuels company.

Democrats say the Brandon/Bloomingdale/Valrico district is about 30 percent black and Hispanic, and it’s on their list of a dozen or so GOP-held seats that could swing Democratic in a presidential year, though not at the top of that list, like Shawn Harrison’s District 63 in Carrollwood, New Tampa and Lutz.

Frazier said D59 is winnable, noting Spano edged Gail Gottlieb by less than 2 percent to win the seat in 2012. However, he held it easily, 58-42 percent, over Donna Lee Fore in 2014.

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CateComm ( has some massive news to share later today. I got a sneak peak yesterday and it should turn a few heads. It’s been almost five years since Kevin Cate started CateComm, and although they don’t broadcast it, they’ve had some heavy hitting legislative victories, in addition to their innovative TV and political work.


David Brown: Youth Law Center

H. French Brown, Gary Hunter, Cheryl Stuart, Hopping Green & Sams: Babcock Property Holdings; Rayonier
Benjamin Palazesi: Department of Education

Tallahassee-based boutique public affairs firm Anfield Consulting has announced the addition of environmental policy authority Pepper Uchino.

As a policy expert for the Florida Legislature, Uchino’s work in the Senate touched on nearly every aspect of Florida’s environmental policy. Among his various roles included director of governmental affairs for The Trust for Public Land and a legislative attorney for the Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation, as well as for the Select Committee on Inland Waters.

Most recently, Uchino was staff director for the Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation and the Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin.

“Pepper’s impressive experience and passion for environmental issues make him a significant addition to our team,” said Anfield founder Albert Balido. “As a water policy expert and former legislative staffer who has played a vital role in drafting Florida’s environmental and water statutes, he is going to be an incredible resource for our growing list of clients. We could not be more pleased with Pepper’s decision to join our firm.”


On Context Florida: When Andy Ford first began his teaching career it was in an inner city school where extreme poverty permeated nearly every child’s life. Knowing what they were headed toward at the end of the day was by far the hardest part of Ford’s job. For some, it’s hard to imagine what life is like for a child who steps outside that fence to face poverty. Healthcare continues to be at the center of debate in Florida’s Capitol, says Wayne W Oliver. But while many focus on the number of Floridians covered by some form of health insurance, equal attention should be paid to the factors driving the costs of delivering healthcare. These costs affect everyone: the insured, the uninsured, employers and the State. If costs are reduced, by definition healthcare becomes more accessible to all Floridians.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

SPOTTED: In Jimmy Fallon‘s July 21 monologue on a Jeb Bush “Godfather” campaign ad: Senate President Andy Gardiner, who discusses the former governor’s veto prowess. “If your program didn’t meet the principles he put forth … he was going to whack them.”

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.