Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — July 27

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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)

SPOTTED this weekend at the Steinmart in northeast St. Petersburg was the first retail display for Halloween decorations. It’s not even August and we’re already suppose to care about jack o’lanterns. However, it’s not only retailers who are looking to wreak havoc with the calendar. So too do politicians. Some are planning for October, as our first item about the Florida GOP’s presidential summit planned for late in that month can attest. Some want the calendar to hurry up, like U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, who would like to know as early as possible what the new congressional districts will look like. Some are taking their time, like U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, who was expected to already be running for the U.S. Senate, but now says he’ll make up his mind in the fall.

However, this is a summer of discontent. As Dan Balz of The Washington Post so smartly sums it up, dissatisfaction and protest are roiling the politics of summer 2015. They are evident in the response to the angry rhetoric from Donald Trump, in the crowds that come to hear Bernie Sanders bash Wall Street and in the rallies demanding racial justice. For … candidates, there is no safe harbor.

Ignore the mood at your peril; engage it at your peril.

DAYS UNTIL: First GOP presidential debate: 9; Special Session on Redistricting: 13; Sine Die: 25; FSU & UF’s first football games of 2015: 38; Labor Day: 40; First Legislative Committee Meeting: 49; Florida GOP’s Sunshine Summit: 87; First day of 2016 Legislative Session: 168; Iowa Caucus 199; Super Bowl 50: 195; New Hampshire Primary: 197; Super Tuesday: 208; Florida’s presidential primary: 232; Close of federal candidate qualifying: 284; Florida’s primary elections: 400; 2016 Election Day: 470.

EXCLUSIVE — FLORIDA GOP TO HOST PRESIDENTIAL ‘SUNSHINE SUMMIT’ OCT. 23-24 Full story here

Fielding four Florida-based candidates in the GOP primary and 29 valuable Electoral College votes, the Sunshine State is poised to be ground zero in the 2016 presidential race. Leveraging its place in national politics, the Republican Party of Florida is planning the “Sunshine Summit” for October 23 and 24 in Orlando.

In a memo obtained by Florida Politics, RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia welcomes all Republican candidates to the race and invites them to join the Summit — an event expected to draw more than 2,500 activists and donors wanting to hear from the field of presidential hopefuls.

“I know that our party will be in a strong position to take back the White House with whoever wins our party’s nomination,” Ingoglia writes.

The agenda for the event on Friday at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort includes the RPOF’s quarterly meeting, a speaker series featuring candidates, and breakout receptions.

On Saturday, Summit highlights are expected to include speeches and receptions with both candidates and GOP leaders. That evening there will be a debate among GOP candidates for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat.

Unlike earlier events, the Summit will not include a televised presidential debate or a straw poll.

“We felt it makes more sense to call the event a summit to make it more in-line with people’s expectations,” Ingoglia explains.

ICYMI: FLORIDA POLL: JEB BUSH TAKES BIG LEAD OVER MARCO RUBIO via Marc Caputo of POLITICO

Bush holds a commanding lead over Rubio among registered Florida Republicans, who have soured on the senator since he announced his presidential bid in April, a new poll shows.

In the crowded GOP field, Bush leads the second-place Rubio 28 to 16 percent in their home state … three months ago, Rubio was essentially tied with Bush 31 to 30 percent. Rubio’s 15 percentage-point drop coincides with the rise of Walker, who’s now in third place with 13 percent – an 11-point increase

And the center of the GOP political universe of late — Donald Trump — is in fourth with 11 percent … the first Florida poll taken entirely since Trump’s remarks regarding John McCain’s Vietnam War service. His 11 percent showing in Florida is far below his support in recent national polls … All the other Republican candidates are polling in the single digits.

In the more-contested GOP primary, 13 percent are undecided, a decrease of 4 points since April. Because the number of undecided voters didn’t shrink much while Rubio’s support plummeted, he could have lost voters to Walker and Trump, who wasn’t named in the last survey. Bush’s two-point drop since April is statistically insignificant, indicating his support has essentially remained stable.

SALT SHAKER TEST: TAKE THAT M-D POLL WITH A FEW GRAINS OF SALT via Steve Vancore for Context Florida

We have a real issue with the fact that the poll referenced above interviewed “500 registered Republican voters and 500 registered Democratic voters.”

Why?

In the most recent Presidential Preference Primary election (2012), turnout was (according to the secretary of state) 41 percent. While we have no way of knowing what turnout will actually be next March, we can be reasonably certain it will be somewhere between 20 percent and 45 percent due to voter behavior in past primary (presidential and otherwise) elections.

So, while we don’t know exactly what turnout WILL be; we are certain that the electorate will not be comprised of “registered” voters. It will be a much smaller subset of those voters.

Mason-Dixon should have pulled a list of voters based on some measure of prior voting history or even tried to gauge some level of engagement once they had respondents on the phone. It is critical to note that in order for a poll to be taken very seriously, it must be comprised of respondents who will look like the electorate. In the present circumstance, likely Republican and likely Democratic voters is an absolute must.

From its release, it appears M-D did not attempt to do that, and for that we simply have to take this poll with a few grains of salt.

MORE NAT’L POLLS Summarized by Taegan Goddard of Political Wire

— A CNN-ORC poll finds Trump leading the GOP presidential field nationally with 18 percent, followed by Bush at 15 percent, Walker at 10 percent, Cruz at 7 percent and Paul at 6 percent.

— An Economist/YouGov poll finds Trump way ahead of the GOP presidential field with 28 percent support, followed by Bush at 14 percent, Walker at 13 percent, Carson at 7 percent and Paul at 5 percent.

— An NBC News-Marist poll in Iowa finds Walker leading the GOP presidential race with 19 percent, followed by Trump at 17 percent, Bush at 12 percent, Carson at 8 percent, Huckabee at 7 percent and Paul at 5 percent.

— An NBC News-Marist poll in New Hampshire finds Trump leads the Republican presidential field with 21 percent, followed by Bush at 14 percent, Walker at 12 percent, Kasich at 7 percent. Christie at 6 percent, Carson at 6 percent, Rubio at 5 percent and Cruz at 5 percent.

BUSH’S STRUGGLE TO SAY WHAT HE MEANS CONTINUES via Michael Bender of Bloomberg Politics

During a forum sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, the influential conservative group backed by David and Charles KochBush told the audience that he wants to “phase out” Medicare … the former Florida governor was approached by an environmental activist, who was momentarily excited when Bush used the same language to say he preferred to “phase out” tax credits for energy companies.

On Medicaid, Bush’s team complained that Democrats were taking him out of context, an increasingly frequent objection from the candidate who is billing himself as the most experienced and most thoughtful on the trail.

The protest from Bush’s camp has been justified, to be sure. Democrats, including presidential candidate Hillary Clinton … suggested that a component of Bush’s economic plan was that Americans should work harder. What Bush said was that he wanted to find more full-time job opportunities for part-time workers. And while the economic reality of that happening is somewhat dubious, the attacks gained some traction and the spin found its way into town-hall questions Bush has faced on the campaign trail.

Similarly, Bush was confronted … about his Medicare comments. “Why are you always attacking the seniors?” an unidentified woman (and possible liberal activist) asked Bush.

“It’s an actuarially unsound healthcare system,” said Bush, adding that he’s not attacking seniors, according to a Politico report from the event. “The people that are receiving these benefits, I don’t think that we should touch that. But your children and grandchildren are not going to get the benefit of this…because the amount of money put in compared to the amount of money the system costs is wrong.”

BUSH HAS LUCRATIVE DAY IN CHRIS CHRISTIE’S BACKYARD via Maggie Haberman of The New York Times

Bush went to New Jersey … and raised more than $500,000 at two events, a huge haul in the home state of one of his rivals, Gov. Chris Christie … But the amount was the result of months of cultivation of donors and Republican operatives in Mr. Christie’s backyard.

One event was hosted by … Bush’s national finance chairman, Woody Johnson, the owner of the New York Jets (a team based in New Jersey); state Sen. Joe Kyrillos; and Larry Bathgate, a lawyer. The second event was hosted by, among others, Cliff Sobel, who served as ambassador to both Brazil and the Netherlands under President George W. Bush.

STALKING BUSH IN NEW HAMPSHIRE via Eli Stokols of POLITICO

If he catches on (in New Hampshire), (JohnKasich poses the biggest direct threat to Jeb Bush, another establishment-friendly candidate with a centrist conservative message, in his most critical early-voting state. Bush, who has led the GOP field here for almost two months, and Kasich … are appealing to the same subset of Republican primary voters … but they are, stylistically, at times a study in contrasts.

It starts, at least in Kasich’s rendition, with their biographies. While Bush typically brushes past his privileged upbringing to tell voters about his life-altering trip to Mexico where he met his wife at age 17, Kasich opens by mentioning that his father was a mail carrier.

Answering one question about campaign finance, Kasich offered his most obvious critique of Bush, whose $114 million, six-month haul leaves him well positioned to bruise and outlast his many rivals over the course of a long, sprawling primary fight. Bush, as evidenced by his hustle here, gets that. For now, he doesn’t seem to view Kasich as anything more than another trifling inconvenience on his path to the nomination.

Bush, confident in his campaign’s overwhelming financial advantage, his spot on the debate stage given his consistently high standing in national polls and the durability of his mainstream message, is plodding along, content to let the national media chase Donald Trump while he works small towns where just a few hundred Republican votes are up for grabs.

FOR DAVID SIROTA AND ANDREW PEREZ — FIERCE CRITICS OF JEB BUSH — PARTISAN ATTACKS NEGATE THE MESSAGE Full story here

In the 2016 presidential race, recent criticism of Bush’s tenure as Florida governor leads to a compelling question – when does a messenger overshadow his or her message? The answer is when the messengers are two deeply embedded Democratic operatives — David Sirota and Andrew Perez … On the surface, the reporting of Sirota and Perez is a solid attempt to connect some of the dots of Bushworld … but at this point is where the message begins to be eclipsed by the partisan Democratic messengers.

Sirota boasts a longtime relationship as a political operative for the current Democratic presidential candidate (and self-avowed Socialist) Bernie Sanders, as well as time with Democrats Brian Schweitzer and Ned Lamont … was relentless in attacks of the George W. Bush administration, as well as determined to condemn his younger brother Jeb. It is an effort that continues to this day.

Richard Wolffe, writing in 2003 for Newsweek, called Sirota “the Internet child of the Clinton ‘war-room’ generation. Intense, driven, even obsessive, he fills the gap left by a timid Democratic establishment, with his guerrilla strikes on the Bush administration … had an eye for critique and the instinct for the jugular … part of an ambitious attempt to shake Democrats out of their stupor and reshape liberal politics.”

As for Perez, his LinkedIn profile also confirms a broad progressive liberal background, particularly with roles in the office of Sen. Patty Murray … Progressive Change Campaign Committee … American Directions Group (ADG), a Democratic-leaning organization specializing in targeted grassroots advocacy programs.

With David Sirota and Andrew Perez – no matter how accurate their reporting might be – they only serve as partisan messengers who ultimately negate the overall message.

TWEET, TWEET: @EdAtPost: @JebBush doing 3 campaign stops Mon. in Orlando area and a Spanish-only TV interview w @TelemundoNews‘ @jdbalart, aides say

MEANWHILE … AMERICAN CROSSROADS GEARS UP FOR 2016 ELECTIONS, AIMS TO STAY TOP GOP SUPER PAC via Patrick O’Connor of The Wall Street Journal

CEO Steven Law says group creates committee to help protect Senate majority and plans to take lead in conservatives’ efforts to defeat Hillary Clinton … Crossroads’ fundraising today is ahead of where it was in 2011 or 2013. The group and its affiliates raised a combined $12 million during the first half of 2015 and has nearly $14 million in the bank … It had raised $10.7 million by this point in 2011 and just $2.9 million by July 2013. …

The danger for the GOP as a whole in this election cycle is that a flood of outside money to a wide variety of independent operators will make it harder for the party to speak with a single voice. … The biggest player in conservative politics these days is the web of groups financed by the Koch brothers … That network plans to spend … $900 million this election cycle. A large chunk of that money will be spent on data, television ads and an ever-growing turnout operation.

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JEFF MILLER WON’T DECIDE ON SENATE RUN UNTIL AFTER AUGUST via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller says he is assembling a team he would need for a U.S. Senate race but that he won’t make a final decision until after August.

“It’s not a decision that I take lightly or can be done quickly,” the North Florida Republican said. “I’m going through the process of assembling a team I would need in order to launch a bid, should I decide to do that.”

“I raised $670,000, including my leadership PAC, which is more than I raise in a normal cycle,” Miller noted. “But again, I don’t intend to make an announcement any time in the next several weeks. It would be after August. This is a decision between me and my family.”

GWEN GRAHAM IN NO HURRY TO JUMP INTO SENATE RACE via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Graham … is not rushing to plot her next move in light of a Florida Supreme Court decision that could reshape her already competitive North Florida district in a more Republican way.

I’m waiting like everybody else to see what maps are produced,” the first-term Democrat from Tallahassee said in an interview outside the House chamber on Thursday.

“I’m not someone that plays the what-ifs,” she said. “When the maps are redrawn and the courts have approved them, I will evaluate where I can best serve. My goal is to run for re-election in Florida’s 2nd Congressional District. I would like to continue to have the honor of being here.”

She added: “I’m a supporter of fair districting, whatever the courts determine that to be. I’m not going to in any way try to weigh in on that. That’s for the Legislature and for the courts to decide.”

— “How Florida Democrats won a huge victory, but punished one of their stars in the process” via Jack Fitzpatrick of the National Journal

DENA MINNING – ROMANTICALLY LINKED TO ALAN GRAYSON – FILES TO RUN FOR HIS CONGRESS SEAT via Scott Powers of the Orlando Sentinel

Dr. Dena Marie Minning, a biochemist and medical doctor who has been romantically linked for months to U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson … filed paperwork … to run for election to his seat in Congress.

A Democrat, Minning … has no Florida political background. She is a medical doctor and a biotechnology entrepreneur who founded and runs MedExpert Consulting Inc. In the past two years she was listed as a federal lobbyist with her company to represent Biocryst Pharmaceuticals, which advertises the drug Rapivab as a “first-and-only one-dose intravenous treatment for influenza.”

Minning has not spoken to any major media about her candidacy, except in a written statement, nor even about the prospect, or about her relationship with the congressman … her campaign spokesman sent an email … stating, “Dr. Minning is not conducting any interviews at this time. She will be doing so in the future.”

A former top Grayson aide, Susannah Randolph, entered the race two weeks ago. Therefore, Minning’s candidacy would pit his longtime political associate, Randolph, against his reported girlfriend. She also filed to create a campaign committee, Dena for Congress. Her treasurer is Dustin P. Andersen, a former Grayson staff member.

DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIR THINKS IT’S PREMATURE TO SPECULATE ABOUT CD 13 RACE via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

Even before a poll was released … that showed he would be an overwhelming underdog to former Gov. Charlie Crist in a Democratic primary election in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, Eric Lynn made it clear that he was committing to run for the seat next year … And that’s the way it should be, says Susan McGrath, chair of the Pinellas Democratic Executive Committee.

“I don’t know why he would not stay in. He’s had a very strong start,” she told Florida Politics … at the time of his announcement, Lynn was the only Democrat to show any interest in opposing GOP incumbent David Jolly.

“Eric’s had a very strong start, but I wouldn’t encourage anybody to get out of any race at this point. It just doesn’t make any sense.” But McGrath says it’s way too early for any polls to predict anything at this point. “The campaign hasn’t even begun yet,” she says. “Nobody’s had any voter contact.”

— “David Jolly says he’s already under attack by special interests” via Phil Ammann of Florida Politics

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor and AARP Florida will tour a local senior center and talk to seniors to mark the 50th anniversary of the Medicare program for the elderly as well as people with disabilities. There will be a 10 a.m. media availability at the Oaks at Riverview (Hillsborough County Senior Center), 101 E. Kirby St. in Tampa.

STORIES YOU WON’T READ IN SUNBURN

— “David Jolly’s wife visited Cuba” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times — Who cares where the then-girlfriend of a U.S. representative travels? I guess it’s better than “David Jolly killed a man

— “Lawmakers dodge term limits, land big pensions through local politics” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — Running for another, completely different office is not “dodging term limits,” it’s the exact opposite. Stories like this are why people who work in politics despise most political reporters.

— “Will the roadmap through Florida redistricting include revising Senate map early by Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — Will the last reporter to repeat this story turn out the lights at the press center?

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RICK SCOTT WANTS ANSWERS FROM GROUPS GETTING STATE MONEY via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press

Gov. Scott is asking for answers from those who received money in the state’s more than $78 billion budget.

The head of Scott’s budget office is sending out more than 300 letters to groups and local governments that received money for projects in this year’s budget.

Those letters ask the organizations to provide detailed information on how the state money will provide a “positive return” on the investment made by Florida. The information is supposed to be given to Scott’s budget office by the end of July.

The letters also ask the organizations to provide quarterly updates so the Governor’s Office can evaluate any future requests for money.

SCOTT AT ODDS AGAIN WITH FELLOW REPUBLICANS via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press

Just six months ago … Scott stood onstage outside the state Capitol basking in his hard-fought victory as he began his second term … boldly proclaimed in his inaugural address that the campaign was over, and while there would be “robust debates on the best direction for Florida” that “we should not let partisan politics, or any politics for that matter, get in our way.”

But that’s not been the case for the Republican governor who has grown isolated from many other Republicans in the GOP-dominated Sunshine State.

He’s not actively helping the Republican Party of Florida, his recent budget vetoes angered already fragile relations with Senate Republicans, and he’s at odds with other statewide elected officials such as Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam … questions about his relationship with Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera after Scott didn’t rely on the former legislator to help push his agenda in the Legislature this past spring.

The battle over the budget and Medicaid expansion … damaged the governor’s ability to win approval of his top priorities and his campaign promises … poll numbers, which have been lackluster, are sinking again …

Republicans rallied to Scott’s side last year when he was challenged by former Gov. Charlie Crist … GOP legislative leaders pushed through most of the governor’s agenda, which was partly designed to contrast the taxes and spending of Crist … But the goodwill and unity dissipated quickly after Election Day.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott, in a 10 a.m. budget highlight ceremony, will talk about funding for the PACE Center for Girls and other prevention partners of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice at the PACE Center for Girls, 1225 D South Military Trail, in West Palm Beach. At 2:30 p.m., Scott will honor Florida veterans at a ceremony for the Governor’s Veterans Service Award at the Robert A. Ballard Armory, 700 NW 28th Street in Miami.

JENNIFER CARROLL TO PAY FINE, ADMIT VIOLATIONS IN ETHICS CASE via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press

The Florida Commission on Ethics … unanimously approved a settlement with Jennifer Carroll where the one-time rising star in state Republican politics agreed to pay a $1,000 fine and admit she violated the state’s ethics law.

Under the settlement, Carroll acknowledged she did not disclose money paid to a company she controlled. The money came from Allied Veterans of the World, which was eventually accused of running an illegal gambling ring.

Carroll maintains that her failure to disclose the money from Allied Veterans was an “accounting error” and inadvertent. She said she corrected it once it was discovered. She noted that other legislators have been allowed to correct their financial disclosure forms.

Because the violation occurred when Carroll was in the state House it will be up to House Speaker Steve Crisafulli to decide whether to impose the $1,000 fine.

Carroll has previously said it was wrong for Scott to force her to resign since there was not any evidence she was involved in any illegal activity with Allied Veterans.

She has demanded an apology from Scott, but the governor has not given her one.

SEMINOLE TRIBE EDGES TOWARD FEDERAL LAWSUIT OVER BLACKJACK RIGHTS via James Rosica of the Tampa Tribune

The state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe are one step closer to squaring off in a federal courtroom over the tribe’s right to continue offering blackjack at its casinos … the Seminole Casino Hotel in Immokalee and the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa, which alone generates more than $1 billion yearly for the tribe.

An agreement to give the Seminoles exclusive rights to blackjack and other banked card games expires next Friday … renewal talks went nowhere earlier this year. Scott had till Friday to respond to the tribe’s request to enter into informal dispute resolution, a precursor to formal mediation and, if necessary, a possible federal lawsuit.

“Staff has met with them and we are in full compliance with procedures outlined” in the agreement, said Jeri Bustamante, Scott’s press secretary … Not good enough, said the tribe’s spokesman.

FSU FOOTBALL PLAYER’S CLAIMS BILL AMONG FIRST BILLS FILED OF 2016 LEGISLATIVE SESSION via Sascha Cordner of WFSU

Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner is the author of a claims bills totaling $1.8 million to further compensate the family of a former Florida State University football player. They already received $200,000 from the school.

“This claims bill is filed on behalf of Wendy Smith and Dennis Darling, Sr., the parents of Devaughn Darling, who collapsed and died while participating in pre-season training at FSU back in 2001,” said Joyner, in a previous interview.

Joyner has filed this bill every year since 2010. It came close to passing in the recent session, but ultimately failed.

There’s also a bill filed by state Sen. Thad Altman … another repeater claims bill. The state would be required to pay more than $695,000 as part of a settlement reached between the Department of Transportation and the family of Sherrill Lynn Aversa. The 33-year-old doctor died after she was struck by an unsecured ladder on an FDOT truck on I-75.

Another claims bill filed multiple times seeks to compensate Brian Pitts—a well-known outspoken Capitol gadfly. If an administrative law judge agrees Pitts was wrongly jailed years ago for practicing law without a license, he could be eligible to receive up to $7 million under the claims bill filed by state Sen. Oscar Braynon.

GREG STEUBE FILES GUNS ON CAMPUS BILL via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

State Rep. Greg Steube … is an outspoken advocate for doing away with gun-free school zones …  So it’s no surprise that the first bill Steube filed for the 2016 legislative session, and one of the first submitted by any lawmaker, is his failed attempt from last year to repeal a provision in state law that bans carrying concealed weapons on college campuses.

Steube’s bill drew criticism from campus police chiefs, the Florida State University student government and gun control groups, while the National Rifle Association and other gun rights groups supported it.

“Law-abiding citizens should have the ability to defend themselves and that right to defend themselves shouldn’t stop just because they’re on a college campus,” Steube said.

LITTLE SUPPORT FOR BILL TO RAISE MINIMUM WAGE via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

State Sen. Dwight Bullard is renewing his quest to lift Florida’s minimum wage … filed a bill (SB 6) for the 2016 session … that would increase the current $8.05 minimum wage to $15, starting Jan. 1, 2017. But the odds of the legislation winning favor in the Republican-controlled Legislature and securing the support of … Scott remain long … while Bullard’s latest effort may fail again, his legislation could ride some of the momentum building for a higher minimum wage, particularly in the nation’s largest cities.

But the $10.10 federal wage was opposed by most Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio … who has reiterated that position as he runs for the presidency this year.

The issue divided … Scott and his Democratic challenger, former Gov. Charlie Crist, in last year’s gubernatorial race. Crist supported the $10.10 federal minimum wage. Scott opposed it, citing a study from the Congressional Budget Office showing an increase in the wage could lead to job losses.

EFFORT TO PUT BILLBOARDS ON STATE TRAILS ENDS WITH NO TAKERS via James Rosica of the Tampa Tribune

A program that would have erected miniature billboards on state trails has ended, with the company hired to find potential sponsors having found no takers. The program’s failure has the legislator who created it scratching his head.

The company in charge — Bikepath Country Florida — lists one of Florida’s top lobbying firms as an owner, according to state records.

“I can’t see lobbyists not trying,” said state Rep. Irv Slosberg … “I just find it hard to believe they couldn’t find anybody to advertise.”

In fact, they tried their hardest, said a company representative.

“At the time we were just about to close some deals, the (contract) was up,” said Ivan Bellotto, president of the company’s New York parent firm. “New projects like this take some time to find fit sponsors.”

A trial run was set for seven trails, including the Withlacoochee State Trail that passes through Hernando and Pasco counties. But the contract expired April 1, DEP spokeswoman Lori Elliott said, leaving the state with no sponsors, no signs — and no sponsorship money.

NEW HUNT FOR OIL IN FLORIDA RAISES ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS via Jason Dearen and Jennifer Kay of The Associated Press

Renewed hunts for oil in sensitive Florida ecosystems have environmental groups raising questions about the state’s regulation of the oil and gas industry. A Miami company, Kanter Real Estate LLC, has submitted a permit application to drill an exploratory oil well on the eastern edge of the Everglades.

Meanwhile, federal approval is pending for a seismic survey meant to locate new areas for drilling in the Big Cypress National Preserve, a freshwater swamp whose health is vital to the neighboring Everglades and to native wildlife, including the endangered Florida panther.

The state recently issued a wetlands activity permit to Fort Worth, Texas-based Burnett Oil Co. Inc. for the survey that would cover 110 square miles within the preserve. Florida and the National Park Service are requiring a number of steps to ensure minimal harm to wildlife and the environment, but the proposal worries critics who have complained that lax oversight of previous drilling operations left ecologically sensitive areas vulnerable to contamination.

From 2012 to 2014, Florida issued three environmental violations for oil and gas operations in the state … violations occurred in 2014 after Collier County officials raised concerns about another Texas oil company’s use of a fracking-like oil recovery practice at a well near panther habitat.

The Department of Environmental Protection — the state’s oil and gas regulator — say the number doesn’t show lax law enforcement, but rather that Florida’s strict inspections keep well operators in compliance.

COLUMNIST ROUND UP: PARKS, PRIMARIES AND TOLLS, TOLLS, TOLLS

On behalf of the millions of Floridians and tourists who enjoy our award-winning state parks, columnist Paula Dockery gives a message to Gov. Scott — lay off them. They are not for profit nor for plunder. Scott ignored the wishes of 4.2 million voters — the 75 percent who voted in 2014 — by not properly funding conservation and preservation programs.

The Miami Herald reports on a bipartisan group of activists pushing for a constitutional amendment to open Florida’s closed primary system to all voters. The All Voters Vote amendment will be presented this week to the Florida Division of Elections, hoping to collect enough signatures to place it on the 2016 ballot.

Florida leaders have developed a three-pronged approach to road congestion, says Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel: tolls, tolls and more tolls. They want to build more toll roads and add toll lanes to roads that are currently free. That’s not a plan, he writes, it’s an affliction, and one that inflicts the most pain on working-class commuters who can least afford it.

THE DISAPPEARING APALACHICOLA OYSTER: FLORIDA’S FIGHT TO SAVE ITS PRIZED DELICACY via Chris Fuhrmeister of Eater.com

For many Southern Americans, especially those who reside in Florida or spend their summers vacationing on the northwest coast of the Sunshine State, the ideal oyster comes from Apalachicola Bay … Its industry is oysters, which are pulled out of the bay and are reported to be some of the best on Earth … They’re typically large and plump — three inches across is the standard.

But, there’s a problem with oysters from Apalachicola Bay: They’re getting harder and harder to find beyond the hyperlocal market.  It was shut down for nine months in 1985 and ‘86, following a damaging hurricane, but within three years it was producing at 90 percent of the previous level. Twenty-five years later, the market has hit the floor, and it’s facing a long and uncertain road toward any potential comeback.

Apalachicola was recovering well from the hurricane damage in 1989, but the turmoil it faces in 2015 can be traced back to that year.  … U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommended that some water flowing through the Buford Dam, located on the Chattahoochee River in northern Georgia, should be used for the city of Atlanta’s water supply. That sparked a three-state legal fight between Alabama, Florida, and Georgia — dubbed the “Tri-State Water Wars” — over allocation of the river’s water.

Data on the amount of water flowing from Apalachicola River into the bay and how it has changed over the years is hard to come by. While the lack of fresh water coming in from the Apalachicola River is the main part of the problem … 70 percent … there’s more to the bay’s struggles. Because there are so few oysters available, over-harvesting is an issue.

***Conversa is a women- and minority-owned, full-service public affairs, public relations, design and research firm, specializing in the development of campaigns that help you listen, understand, engage, and interact with local and global audiences. We’ve helped organizations ranging from Fortune 500 clients and national nonprofits to small businesses and international associations define messages, protect interests, influence opinion leaders, and create the conditions necessary for social change. To learn more about how we get people talking, visit www.Conversaco.com.***

— “How the never-ending battle of redistricting will impact 2016” via Alan Greenblatt of Governing Magazine

BID FOR CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO RESTORE EX-FELONS’ RIGHTS NOT LOOKING GOOD FOR 2016 BALLOT via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

Florida is one of only three states that require a governor’s order to restore civil rights to ex-felons … men and women released from the prison system must wait five years before applying for full citizenship rights. Then they must petition the governor and Cabinet for clemency, a process that can take 10 years or more.

Such a cumbersome process has led the ACLU to conclude that as many as 1.5 million people are disenfranchised by that law in the Sunshine State … Floridians for a Fair Democracy said in the fall that they would work toward correcting it. The solution, they said, would be a constitutional amendment on the 2016 ballot that would automatically restore the civil rights of former felons.

“Right now, I believe there are over 50,000 signatures that have been collected, and are now in the process of being turned in to the supervisor of elections for official verification,” Desmond Meade with the Florida Restoration Rights Coalition said this week. When asked how soon he thought he’d have enough of those signatures to submit to the Florida Supreme Court for review, he laughed and said, “That’s the question.”

TIFFANY NAMEY PASSES ON HOUSE DISTRICT 30 RUN via Frank Torres of the Orlando Political Report

Activist Tiffany Namey announced this morning that after consideration, she would not be running for Florida House District 30 … Namey mentions the passing of her father, and other roles in the community as reasons for passing on a run.

“I believe at this time if I enter the race one or more of these roles would suffer; my family, my candidacy, or the caucus. I cannot in good conscience allow this to happen when there is another qualified Democrat in the race. I have spoken to Ryan Yadav and he has assured me he will champion Parity for Mental Health Care and Neurological Conditions, Affordable Access to Mental Healthcare, Healthcare Expansion and Women’s Issues.”

She goes on to address speculation of her potential candidacy by critics and lists supporters whom she consulted throughout the decision-making process.

Attorney Ryan Yadav is the lone Democrat filed, to challenge incumbent Bob Cortes … Namey joins former District 30 state Rep.   Karen Castor-Dentel as the second Democrat to pass on running for the seat.

CONTEXT FLORIDA: GUN CONTROL COMPROMISE, NATIONAL PARKS AND DONALD TRUMP

On Context FloridaMarc Yacht asks if another gun tragedy, such as the recent Lafayette, La., theater shooting, will finally lead to change. The two sides, pro-gun and pro-regulation, must sit down. Both issues need attention: mental health services and sensible gun policy. Mental health needs are cited by both groups. Perhaps that’s a good place to begin needed collaboration. Florida’s nine national parks are suffering, Joseph H. Carter says, needing about $190 million in crucial maintenance left unfunded and neglected at the end of the last fiscal year, the National Park Service reports. The issue is bigger than White House action, though. Donald Trump ahead in the polls? Jac Wilder VerSteeg says Republicans must be crazy! Another way to look at the polls is about 80 percent of Republicans do not say Donald Trump is their top choice. That illustrates why Republicans are not as crazy as they’re often portrayed for creating the Trump Bump, and why the traditional nominating process remains a serious problem for them.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

***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.***

BENJAMIN CRUMP NEW PRESIDENT OF NATIONAL BAR ASSOCIATION via Yamiche Alcindor of USA TODAY

Benjamin Crump, the national civil rights attorney who often represents the families of people of color whose rights allegedly were violated by police, was sworn in as the 73rd President of the National Bar Association Thursday.

The group says it is the oldest and largest voluntary professional membership organization for African American attorneys and judges and has more than 20,000 members. Now, it will be led by Crump whose successful campaign to have George Zimmerman arrested and put on trial for the death of Trayvon Martin earned him a reputation as a dogged advocate. Crump also represents the families of Michael Brown and Tamir Rice.

Crump’s list of clients has grown widely since Trayvon’s 2012 death. There’s the Pittsburgh teenager paralyzed by police bullets. The family of the Florida man who suffocated under a police cruiser. The California woman who lost consciousness while handcuffed in the back of a police car and died at a hospital soon after. Crump graduated from the Florida State University College of Law in 1995 and co-founded the Tallahassee, Fla. based law firm Parks & Crump.

JAMES MADISON INSTITUTE LEADERS FELLOWSHIP APPLICATION DEADLINE 

James Madison Institute’s Leaders Fellowship is accepting applications for its second yearlong program to encourage and promote the growth, development, knowledge, and networks of under-40-year-old professionals in the state of Florida. The Fellowship is a regional program with chapters in Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Palm Beach, Tallahassee and Tampa. A new class of Fellows will begin in September, with an application deadline August 1; interested parties can apply here.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Jeff Sharkey, Taylor Biehl: Capitol Alliance Group: HavanaFerry Partners

Chris Floyd: Insurance Office of America

Jeff Littlejohn, Littlejohn Mann & Associates: Shechem Industries

QUIS CUSTODIET IPSOS CUSTODES: POLITICO PRO FLORIDA SET TO LAUNCH AUGUST 3 WITH PRICEY STATE-BASED SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE Full story here

An email obtained by Florida Politics provides new details on POLITICO Pro Florida, set to go live August 3.

Founded in 2011, POLITICO Pro is a subscription-based real-time news outlet, which provides detailed coverage of Washington, D.C., and beyond. Capitol Hill staffers, lobbyists, and other professionals rely on Pro for the most up-to-date policy news on technology, energy, health care, transportation and more.

With a full launch in mid-August, Pro Florida will take the same formula of its Washington service to the state level, through a roster of reporters including Marc CaputoMatt DixonChristine Sexton (formerly of Florida Politics) and Jessica Bakeman.

Annual access to POLITICO Pro Florida is an eye-opening $16,000 for up to 10 users, with the email offering a pre-launch rate (prior to July 31) of $12,000. Rates nearly double for larger organizations, those with up to 20 users.

STATE LAWMAKER’S WIFE PLAYS MOTHER OF SUPERHERO IN “THE FANTASTIC 4” via Paul Guzzo of the Tampa Tribune

Many comic book superheroes have an alter ego to hide their true identity from the world.

Sometimes, the names of their movies are kept secret, too. At least temporarily.

St. Petersburg actress Mary Rachel Dudley will be in “The Fantastic 4” film portraying the mother of the superhero foursome’s leader Mister Fantastic.

The movie premieres August 7. With a $122 million budget, hot young Hollywood talents such as Michael B. Jordan, and the marketing of both Marvel Comics and 20th Century Fox behind it, “The Fantastic 4” is expected to be a blockbuster.

But when Dudley read for the part, the producers hid from her what the movie was about.

“The audition material did not say ‘Fantastic 4.’ There was no reference to that title. Instead, it had an obscure title,” she said. “And the scene I was given was a small snippet of a conversation that gave nothing away.”

A few months later, when she received word from her agent that she booked the part and was told what the film really was, she was overcome with “joyful shock.”

“All I could say was, ‘Oh my gosh,’” she said. “I knew how big the movie would be.”

As for how her character helps drive the storyline along, she is not allowed to say.

FLORIDA MAN WINS ERNEST HEMINGWAY LOOK-ALIKE CONTEST IN KEY WEST via The Associated Press

A white-bearded Florida man has won the “Papa” Hemingway Look-Alike Contest on his 15th attempt. Retired air traffic controller Charlie Boice of Palm Beach Gardens prevailed … at Sloppy Joe’s Bar, a hangout of Ernest Hemingway during his Key West residency in the 1930s.

A panel of former contest winners chose Boice, 56, who said he shares Hemingway’s passion for marlin fishing. Celebrity cook Paula Deen‘s husband, Michael Groover of Savannah, Ga., finished in the top five.

The contest attracted 122 entrants. It’s a highlight of the annual Hemingway Days festival honoring the author’s literary legacy.

VIDEO: GREEN POLICE TELL FLORIDA HOMEOWNER THAT SMOKE FROM HIS BBQ GRILL CAN’T CROSS HIS PROPERTY LINE via Intellihub

In yet another shocking example of how out of control federal and local government bureaucracies have become, a county environmental specialist in Florida literally told a homeowner that he has to control the smoke coming off his BBQ grill from leaving his property.

Scotty Jordan originally posted video of the exchange between himself and Pinellas County Environmental Specialist (“green police”) Joe Graham … “I can smell it again right now, but I’m on your property,” Graham is heard saying in the video. “You’re allowed to have it smell on your property, so that doesn’t count, but when I’m on the street, that’s when it counts.”

After being asked how they were supposed to literally control smoke, Graham laughably suggested moving the grill each time it is used to match wind directions which would absolutely not always stop smoke from being able to be smelt by neighbors.

Unfortunately, craziness such as this are becoming the norm across the country as cities and states fall in line with the EPA.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to state Rep. Richard Stark and congressional candidate Mary Thomas.

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.