Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — June 1

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

DAYS UNTIL: Gov. Rick Scott’s economic summit: 1; MLB All-Star Game: 43; Debut of Star Wars: The Force Awakens: 200; First day of 2016 Legislative Session: 225; Iowa Caucus 245; Super Bowl 50: 251; New Hampshire Primary: 253; Super Tuesday: 274; Florida’s presidential primary: 288; Close of federal candidate qualifying: 340; Florida’s primary elections: 456; 2016 Election Day: 526.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: I will be in Orlando tonight, all of Tuesday, and Wednesday morning for Gov. Scott’s economic summit. If you are near the Disney Beach Club hotel and would like to meet up for a few minutes, please email me.


Rubio will not participate in the Iowa Straw Poll, his campaign team confirmed Saturday.

The Florida senator and 2016 hopeful’s decision marks the latest blow to the August event long considered a staple on the Republican road to the presidential nomination. Jeb Bush, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Mike Huckabee have all said they won’t participate this cycle. Many, including Gov. Scott Walker, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz have yet to signal if they will attend.

… Alex Conant, communications director for the Rubio campaign, cited financial concerns, stating, “We are running a lean campaign, so we will only spend money on contests that award delegates.”

JEB BUSH, RUBIO TRAIL SCOTT WALKER IN LATEST IOWA POLL via Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register

Scott Walker’s popularity streak in Iowa is real: He’s seven percentage points ahead of his nearest competition in the presidential horse race here, chased by a tight pack of four in a clear top tier: Ben Carson, Rand Paul, Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee.

Rubio lags in a single-digit scrum, but a deeper look into the numbers shows that if Walker is the hare in Iowa, Rubio may be the tortoise, potentially positioned to pull ahead if he campaigns hard, a new Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa Poll finds.

Walker, a Wisconsin governor known for imposing restrictions on labor unions, hasn’t officially announced he’s running for the White House in 2016, but he’s the first choice for 17 percent of likely GOP caucus-goers in Iowa, making him the one to beat in an oversized field of 16 Republicans tested.

Two-thirds of likely Republican caucus-goers view Walker favorably, the highest in the poll, including nearly a third of respondents who view him very favorably.


In his final show as host of CBS’s “Face The Nation,” Bob Schieffer pressed Bush to come clean about his “obvious” intentions as an official presidential candidate but the former Florida governor demurred again — and again.

“It’s pretty obvious that you’re running for president,” Schieffer told Bush, who was making his first appearance on a Sunday morning show of the year. “You’re going around the country, you’re raising huge amounts of money for your super PAC, in addition to making all the traditional campaign stops everywhere.”

But Bush continued to insist that he has yet to decide whether he’ll actually run, straining credulity further by making it sound as if it isn’t fully up to him.

“Now, you’re not telling me that there’s a possibility you may not run?” Schieffer asked in his signature shoot-from-the-hip style.

“I, look, I hope, I hope I run, to be honest with you,” Bush told Schieffer. “I’d like to run, but I haven’t made the decision.”

“Well, what would have to happen between now and then to convince you not to run?” Schieffer responded.

“Who knows. Who knows,” Bush said. “I’ve learned not to answer a lot of hypothetical questions.”

TOUGH CARL HIASSEN COLUMN: “Bush raises tons of money, loses credibility


The March 15 Sunshine State primary is shaping up as potentially spectacular theater nonetheless. Jeb Bush versus Marco Rubio. Two Florida favorite sons, longtime friends, mentor and protégé, near neighbors in Miami-Dade facing off in America’s most important battleground state. What many viewed as almost unthinkable a few months ago — Rubio beating Bush among Florida Republicans — no longer seems far-fetched … We may see a preview of that Bush/Rubio campaign contrast Tuesday at Disney World when Gov. Scott hosts an “economic summit.”


In a field of prospective Republican U.S. Senate candidates without a clear frontrunner, the strongest Republican nominee would be Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, say more than 100 of Florida’s savviest political players. … Florida Insider Poll found 38 percent calling Lopez-Cantera the strongest candidate, 24 percent saying U.S. Rep. David Jolly, 18 percent saying former Attorney General Bill McCollum, 13 percent for U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, and 10 percent for U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller.

But among the Republicans in our survey was a strain of frustration and concern about the overall field. “This is becoming a clown show,” said one.

The Democratic side of the race drew an overwhelming consensus: More than nine in 10 said U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy would be a stronger nominee than U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson.


DeSantis, who kicked off his Florida Senate campaign with the backing of top insurgent conservative groups, showcased his establishment bonafides this week when he unveiled a list of top supporters and hired the state’s most sought-after political pollster, Tony Fabrizio.

Fabrizio won’t just poll for DeSantis, he’ll take on the role of senior adviser to the campaign – a position he held in … Gov. Rick Scott’s two successful campaigns. Fabrizio is also polling for U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s presidential campaign this cycle.

Fabrizio made clear that DeSantis’ campaign will cast the candidate, a former U.S. Navy officer and Harvard graduate, as a fresh face who can win in a primary and general election. “Ron DeSantis represents a new generation of conservative leadership, a reform conservative,” Fabrizio told POLITICO.

Fabrizio acknowledged there would be a measure of awkwardness in helping lead a campaign against Lopez-Cantera. Fabrizio was one of a small group of advisers who urged Scott to appoint Lopez-Cantera as lieutenant governor and, as a 2014 campaign adviser, helped him get elected on Scott’s ticket.

>>>DeSantis is Adam Smith’s Winner of the Week in Florida Politics.

DON GAETZ WON’T RUN FOR U.S. SENATE SEAT via Tom McLaughlin of the Northwest Florida Daily News

“In order for me to be a credible statewide candidate I would have to spend every day between now and election day introducing myself to people across Florida,” he said. “That would require me having to resign my seat in the state Senate.”

Gaetz said he has no interest in leaving the Senate before he terms out in 2016 and he’s unwilling to put his 500,000 constituents through a costly special election.

“If asked why I was leaving the Senate, the only truthful answer I could give would be that I was resigning to pursue a political campaign,” he said. “I believe resigning my seat to do that is wasteful and wrong.”

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LAWMAKERS RETURN TO DEEP DIVIDE via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the Lakeland Ledger

As lawmakers return for their June special session … the standoff between the House and Senate over Medicaid expansion has not really changed … Senate has moved as far as way as it can from a traditional Medicaid expansion plan, with the latest proposal to provide healthcare coverage to some 800,000 low-income Floridians by allowing them to purchase subsidized private insurance from either a new state exchange or the federal exchange set up under the Affordable Care Act.

… Scott and House leaders continue to label the Senate plan as an “expansion of Obamacare.” And they continue to make the argument that Medicaid, the state-federal program that serves poor and disabled Floridians, is a “broken” system that does not provide quality health care.

But a new report from the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy (FCFEP), a liberal-leaning group that supports Medicaid expansion, makes the argument that if Medicaid is a broken system, it’s because that is the way lawmakers and the governor have designed it.

For example, more than 40 percent of Florida’s doctors do not take Medicaid patients. Nationally, 67 percent of doctors provide Medicaid care. A House website lists that fact as one of the 10 reasons why the Senate’s “Obamacare/Medicaid expansion is wrong for Florida.”

The House makes the argument that with fewer doctors participating, more Medicaid patients will end up in hospital emergency rooms – “the costliest family care.”

Another major argument in the FCFEP report is that many of the deficiencies in the Florida Medicaid program were addressed when lawmakers and Gov. Scott moved the bulk of participants into a managed-care system approved in 2011.

QUOTE DU JOUR via Senate President Andy Gardiner, “You could have a scenario where no healthcare bills get done, and you do a budget and go home.” H/t to Matt Dixon of the Naples Daily News

5 QUESTIONS FOR THE SPECIAL SESSION AHEAD via Christine Sexton of Florida Politics

— How much Low Income Pool money will the state factor into the budget? The federal government has told Florida that it can tentatively expect to receive $1 billion in supplemental Medicaid funding called Low Income Pool for the 2015-16 year and $600 million in the 2016-17 year. In a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services last week Deputy Medicaid Director Justin Senior — who works for the governor — politely told the federal government, “Thanks, but no thanks” in a letter, and shared with the feds a proposal to put $1 billion in county money directly into hospital rates, along with another $1 billion Florida wants to draw down in matching funds. Scott built his proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year with the 2015-16 figure in mind, and anything shy of that could potentially mean more general revenue is needed for health care. More GR for health care means less GR for the governor’s other priorities.

— Will the Legislature agree to any tax cuts? It’s clear that the battle over tax cuts will not be one of the central arguments as the House and Senate move closer to each other on a new state budget. The Senate’s likely insistence to offset cuts to hospitals will take away state tax dollars from the nearly $700 million in tax cuts that Scott wants. Does that mean all tax cuts are off the table? Likely not, because some are easier to absorb from a budget perspective. The annual back-to-school sales tax holiday, for example, relies on non-recurring money, so it’s a one-time influx of money. It’s the big-dollar items, like the slash in the communications services tax, that may prove just too expensive to afford.

— Will any major healthcare reforms actually pass? The Senate has agreed to retool its healthcare coverage proposal to assuage some of the concerns that the House had expressed with the FHIX plan during the 2015 session and the House has compiled what is being called the Corcoran Wish List– include eliminating certificates of need, or CON for hospitals (but not the high-demand area of nursing homes or hospices), creating surgical care recovery centers to compete with hospitals, scope of practice expansions for nurses and a rewrite of the state group health insurance plan, among other things, that the House has been pushing for for years. About the only issues missing from the Corcoran wish list are reforms to the state’s medical malpractice system.

— Can Scott salvage any of his 2015 legislative priorities? Scott came into this year’s Regular Session focused primarily on items tied to the budget, including his tax-cut package, his push for an education funding boost and his college affordability legislation. As the healthcare fight dragged on, Scott, the former chief executive of the nation’s largest for-profit hospital chain, started railing against what he calls “taxpayer- supported” hospitals, who support Medicaid expansion. He also sued the federal government after it told Florida in correspondence it would look more favorably on keeping the state’s Low Income Pool–or supplemental Medicaid funding dollars made available through a waiver — if Florida expanded Medicaid. In the end, though, Scott’s antagonism toward the Senate may have deeply damaged the prospect of the governor winning approval of any of his major priorities. He has an ally in the healthcare arena with the House (which is ironic given its leadership, who blocked his choice to run the Republican Party of Florida).

— Will there be a compromise on land-buying and environmental spending that is acceptable to backers of Amendment 1? While the sniping over health care has been the big story, there’s still no final deal on how lawmakers will comply with the amendment approved last fall by voters. During the Regular Session it was clear that House and Senate Republicans were divided over how much money would be set aside for land acquisition. Some Republicans have argued that they can comply with the conservation amendment — which calls for spending more than $700 million this coming year–without setting aside substantial amounts for land-buying. Amendment 1 backers argue that’s not what voters intended.

>>>A look inside the info the House is giving its members on Senate FHIX plan, Medicaid expansion here.


— “Discord remains as legislative session begins” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald 

— “Exit strategy for special session could lead to FHIX’s demise,” via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

— “Lawmakers likely to pass budget, punt on Medicaid” via Jeff Burlew and Sean Rossman of Gannett

Major topic for legislators? Wrestling with health-care funding ideas” via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union


The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services … has not signed off on the proposal by … Scott to rely on local governments and safety-net hospitals to draw down money for the uninsured and raised concerns about the impact of the change on communities — like Miami — that provide the bulk of the funding for the Low Income Pool.

“CMS continues to be engaged with Florida regarding the state’s LIP proposal and the May 26 letter but has not communicated approval,” said Ben Wakana, press secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in response to a question by the Herald/Times. “CMS is reviewing the proposal and public comments, and working to understand the implications of the letter as well as the viability and sustainability of the proposed funding mechanism.”

Under the governor’s plan, announced by the Agency for Health Care Administration in a letter to the federal government … the state would offset the loss of $1 billion into the Low Income Pool by relying on local hospitals and local governments to raise $900 million in financing to draw down $1.2 billion in federal funds. The financing arrangements are known as intergovernmental transfers.

As a return on their investment, hospitals would be rewarded a 10 percent profit — a cost to the program of about $100 million. The state would then use the $1 billion promised by the federal government in Low Income Pool funding to reimburse teaching hospitals and increase patient reimbursement rates.

But instead of sending the money to the hospitals, the funds would follow the patient under the state’s Medicaid managed-care program through increased reimbursement rates.


This seems to happen a lot here in Tallahassee: people looking at the same set of facts and drawing different conclusions … especially true when it comes to the Medicaid expansion debate and how it ties to the federal government’s decision to wind down the $2.2 billion Low Income Pool program.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sent Florida a letter last week indicating how much in LIP funding it plans to allow for the next two years. The Senate interpreted that letter as saying LIP will be sliced in half the first year and cut down to just about a quarter of its current size in the second.

… Scott’s administration read something totally different in the letter, saying HHS agreed not to reduce LIP at all in the first year. The feds later said the Senate had the correct interpretation.

It just goes to show you that even when the facts are in black and white, people will disagree on what it tells them. But what happens when a group is asked to start drawing conclusions without all of the facts?

Scott’s Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding plans this week to start drafting its list of recommendations on how the state can better spend its healthcare dollars. But the commission is working with a very limited set of facts. … Only 26 of those hospitals, 12 percent, provided enough data to be deemed “responsive” to the request. The rest are evenly split between those who didn’t bother to respond at all and those who essentially told the state “you already have most of this information already so look it up.”

Meanwhile, hospitals who receive very little government funding have little incentive to comply. Most for-profit hospitals, including those owned by the HCA chain that Scott once ran, are ignoring the governor’s data request thus far. Of the 26 hospitals that complied, only two are run by for-profit entities: Universal Health-owned facilities in Manatee County.


In Florida’s healthcare fight that has brought budget gridlock and threatens a government shutdown … Scott wielded a new weapon in recent weeks in the form of a commission to investigate hospital finances and operations, including political contributions and lobbying.

Scott’s office wouldn’t say what the commission intends to do with its review of hospitals’ lobbying and campaign efforts, or whether hospitals should receive less money, even to his campaigns, for doing so.

… Hospital interests spent nearly $1 million in campaign contributions for Scott and legislative candidates in the 2014 election cycle alone and have paid a cadre of lobbyists up to $660,000 in the first quarter alone. It’s all part of a high-stakes battle with billions in taxpayer funds and insurance coverage for the poor on the line.


… Scott is having a hard time getting officials in the state’s largest counties to back his proposal that would require cuts for many public hospitals and instead funnel money to for-profit ones … could mean a possible hit of more than $80 million for Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital and $22 million for Broward General Hospital. Leaders in both counties have said they won’t support that. Federal officials also worried Friday that the plan was not viable for local communities.

Miami-Dade County Commissioner Xavier Suarez said the cuts would come on top of 15 percent that the hospital doesn’t get reimbursed for caring for patients who are uninsured or living in the country illegally. He said the timing couldn’t be worse because the hospital is undertaking a massive expansion to meet the demand of newly insured patients.

Another Miami-Dade commissioner, Daniella Levine Cava, said she is considering an emergency motion for commissioners to take up the issue when they meet … Miami-Dade raises $375 million a year in tax dollars to help the hospital draw down federal money.


Political brinkmanship that has led to a stalemate over the Florida budget could reflect a weakening of state budget management should it continue beyond the end of the fiscal year, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services says.

“A budget standoff that continued past June 30, without appropriations in place for upcoming debt service payments, would be a sign of weak budget management that could pressure our outlook on Florida,” S&P wrote in a May 29 report, adding a caveat that no credit rating or outlook change has taken place at this point.

Credit ratings and outlooks are significant because they can influence the cost of borrowing money. Florida is rated “AAA” by S&P, the highest rating a state can hold, but weak budget management is uncharacteristic of an AAA-rated state, the report said.

S&P said it would continue to monitor deliberations as lawmakers work through the … special session.


An offshoot from a liberal organization that created “Pink Slip Rick,” a group that hammered … Scott early in his administration for laying off state workers, has started hitting vulnerable GOP House members with negative mailers.

FloridaStrong … says it’s a “new independent (nonpartisan) advocacy organization dedicated to empowering and educating the public on the policies that impact our quality of life.” But, it’s not really – based on its background and leadership – new or nonpartisan.

FloridaStrong is a fictitious name owned by Florida Watch Action … the group that organized Pink Slip Rick and later Pink Slip Mitt, a push to oppose 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Florida Watch Action’s Facebook page says it’s “dedicated to strengthening the progressive movement.” The group has not been active since late 2013, but the page is full of notices for anti-Scott rallies and references to “Scott’s hall of shame.”

The chairman of Florida Watch Action is Chris Findlater, a large Democratic donor who in early 2013 helped run a committee in Florida funded by the Democratic Governor’s Association. The group ramped up early in Florida during the 2014 election cycle to try to knock off Scott.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Members of A Healthy Florida Works, including statewide business leaders and concerned individuals, will hold a media availability at 12:30 p.m. at the Fourth Floor Rotunda, in front of the Senate Chambers of the Florida Capitol. They seek to urge the Florida House to work with the Florida Senate to pass a Florida-based solution to the state’s healthcare crisis.


Tampa Bay TimesCase for Medicaid expansion gets stronger – “It’s the wrong approach for Florida taxpayers, who should not be backfilling a hole with their state tax dollars that could be filled by federal dollars.” Orlando SentinelChris Hudson: Pass budget without Medicaid and exclude special interests – “… imperative that any budget not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act … doesn’t meet the short-term needs of at least 800,000 low-income Floridians lacking quality health care.” News-Press.comFlorida needs lawmakers to work together this time – “… we implore members of the Senate and House to end this deadlock by remembering … Turning down $50 billion in Medicaid expansion funds … puts great strain on hospitals …” Tampa Bay TimesAndy Gardiner: The Florida Senate’s Medicaid expansion plan works for Florida – “We will advance a long-term, Florida solution to the critical healthcare challenges facing our state.” Orlando SentinelDavid Simmons – Senate Medicaid proposal: Extinction, not expansion – “… just like welfare and other failed giveaway programs, it destroys a recipient’s incentive to improve herself, work harder and get a better education.” Daytona Beach News-JournalCoverage makes business sense – “FHIX … utilizes a fiscally responsible approach based on free-market principles.” Miami HeraldDangerous deadlock – “Only the Senate has actually confronted the issue … a creative approach to the state’s budget dilemma … Corcoran and his allies, nor the governor, have an alternative vision that does anything except maintain the status quo that makes Florida one of the worst states in the nation when it comes to the level of uninsured.” Palm Beach PostWith 20 days to get it right, close the budget gap – “… if Medicaid Managed Care is working in the way that many supporters say it is … take the expansion money to expand healthcare coverage and expand the Florida economy.” Tallahassee DemocratTime to get it done – “ … legislators ‘need to get down to work, stop posturing and approve a budget that provides a path to healthcare coverage for 800,000 low-income workers.’”

>>>The Tampa Bay Times publishes a stand-alone webpage editorial urging Medicaid expansion. Read it here.


As with healthcare, there are big differences between the two chambers. The House would provide $23.2 billion in total spending versus the Senate’s $22.7 billion. Both would increase funding over last year’s budget — the Senate would add $100 million and the House $600 million.

… No action was taken on education funding in the Regular Session because it was put on the back burner while the Legislature battled over Medicaid.

On a per pupil basis, the differences between the chambers don’t add up to much. The House’s numbers mean $7,129 per pupil while the Senate’s mean $7,122. But add up all those students and the money becomes significant.

The House budget provides more for early learning, more for universities, and far more for construction and maintenance of buildings. The Senate provides more for colleges because of greater performance-based funding.


It’s not clear that the Seminole compact will be addressed in the upcoming Special Session. But given that the House and Senate are almost $4 billion apart on their budget proposals — driven by a healthcare dispute that spurred House members to walk off the job before completing their work — it should be.

If no deal is struck, or if Florida dog and horse tracks get more gambling options they’ve been seeking, the tribe would no longer have to pay what topped $1 billion over five years. Concessions for the tracks would create new competition for the Seminoles, but also let the tribe pocket what it now owes the state or reinvest the money.

From the tribe’s perspective, no new competition would definitely be better. But most of all, its leaders want certainty, partly to secure needed financing to enhance its Hard Rock properties in Hollywood and Tampa. The tribe’s quest partly explains why during the legislative session, it reportedly rejected a Senate bid to extend the compact for only another year.

Still, that was then, and this is now. And there is a hip-pocket way to extend the compact while this complex web gets untangled: A one-year extension could be slipped into the budget bill that comes out of House and Senate conference committee, a measure that can only be voted up or down by legislators, no amendments allowed.

A one-year extension would, as they say, “kick the can down the road,” but it would take the debate off the table until lawmakers reconvene for committee hearings in October and send a message to sort this out.


Among the many casualties in the aborted legislative session last month was legislation regulating ride-sharing apps Uber and Lyft.

Uber’s Florida General Manager Matthew Gore and other Florida business leaders have asked House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner to include transportation network companies in the call …

Lyft, the other major ride-sharing company doing business in Florida, has not submitted a formal request to state lawmakers.

Lawmakers came to the Capitol this spring intending to create regulations for the companies, which have been operating in most of Florida’s major cities in Florida for the past year. They’ve often been at loggerheads with local governments over regulations involving insurance and background checks.

Senate Transportation Committee Chair Jeff Brandes told he wasn’t aware of Uber’s request to be part of the Special Session, but agrees that it’s appropriate to discuss as lawmakers gather.

“It’s time to have this discussion,” he said. “Unless the state gets their arms around it, you’re going to have a number of different local ordinances, some of which will have conflicting pieces that deal with transportation network companies.”

HOW SPECIAL SESSIONS WORK via the Florida Current & LobbyTools

As special session 2015-A begins, the House and Senate have special rules that will govern procedures during the next few weeks. Committee meeting notices, which must be made public several days beforehand during regular session, are on a slim 2-hour notice during a special session. Amendment deadlines are similarly short, with legislators allowed to file amendments to bills on committee agendas no later than 1 hour before the committee meets, and no later than 2 hours before the start of a floor session.

Once budget conference begins, conference committee meetings are on a 1-hour meeting notice. The General Appropriations Act is then subject to a 72-hour public review, or “cooling off” period, before legislators can vote on the bill.

Campaign fundraising is also on hiatus during a special session, with both the House and Senate prohibiting any and all fundraising activity until the session ends sine die on June 20. Additionally, any registered lobbyist is also prohibited from contributing to a sitting legislator’s re-election campaign for the duration of the special session.

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Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Jon Steverson has reapplied for his job.

Before being named Secretary … Steverson served as the executive director of the Northwest Florida Management District. Steverson previously worked for DEP 2011-2012 as special counsel and acting deputy secretary for water policy before being asked by Scott to serve as secretary during the governor’s second administration.

Steverson is reapplying for the post amid a controversy surrounding the resignations of Executive Director Hans Tanzler and four top staff members at the St. Johns River Water Management District based in Palatka. The departures have prompted criticism from environmentalists and newspaper editorial writers.

Steverson was one of 16 agency directors and secretaries that the Florida Senate did not confirm during the 2015 session. Most of those executives work directly for the governor. But Steverson, and Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner, Richard L. Swearingen, work for both Scott and the Cabinet.

In the wake of the fallout of former FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey‘s abrupt departure, the Cabinet changed the requirements for secretarial appointments and Steverson and Swearingen both had to reapply for their positions. The deadline was May 31.


Slot machines could be coming to several Florida dog and horse tracks if a far-reaching court ruling holds. A Florida appeals court … ordered state regulators to award a license for slot machines to a North Florida facility located west of the state Capitol.

The First District Court of Appeal ruled by a 2-1 margin that the state improperly denied a slot machine license to a horse track located in Gretna in Gadsden County. The court said the license should have been granted because Gadsden voters approved a referendum authorizing slots.

Several dog, horse tracks could get slot machines if court decision holds” via  Gary Fineout of The Associated Press.


Consumer sentiment among Floridians dropped for the second month, falling seven points to 87.6, the lowest reading since December, according to the latest University of Florida consumer survey. The sharp decline is in line with the University of Michigan’s mid-month reading for the United States, which also fell by seven points.

Four of the five components that make up the index fell in May. Perceptions of personal finances now compared with a year ago rose by less than a point to 86.1, while expectations of personal finances a year from now fell by nearly 10 points to 93.4.

Expectations of U.S. economic conditions over the next year fell nearly nine points to 84.3, and long-term expectations of U.S. economic conditions over the next five years fell more than 10 points to 79.7. Perceptions as to whether it is a good time to buy big-ticket items fell 7.7 points to 94.2.

Meanwhile, respondents age 60 or older are pessimistic about the future of the U.S. economy.

For Floridians, an additional source of unease may be the abrupt ending of the legislative session in Tallahassee, with news of a special session to resolve the state budget. Many people still remember the wide-ranging impact of the federal government shutdown of 2013. Even if they are not affected by the healthcare issues at the heart of the debates, they may feel uncertainty around planned vacations to state parks and other state services.


Just two years ago, the president of Duke Energy Florida said the Sunshine State had too many clouds for solar power to be effective.

But since early this year, Alex Glenn, the Duke Florida president, has touted one solar project after another, with promises of up to 500 megawatts over the next 10 years — more than twice the state’s current solar capacity.

Last week, for instance, Duke announced plans for about 1 percent of its goal with 48,000 panels laid out in a Disney-themed design near Orlando. That followed a solar power event filled with great fanfare, including a set of Tesla electric cars, a week earlier at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

Duke isn’t alone … Florida Power & Light, the state’s largest investor-owned utility, pledged in January to build three solar farms that would nearly double the state’s current solar capacity. Gulf Power, the smallest of the investor-owned utilities, this year entered an agreement with the military for the state’s largest solar power system so far.

So why have the Sunshine State’s utilities suddenly changed their tune about solar?

Critics of the utilities say it’s because they feel threatened by a ballot initiative that would essentially deregulate solar power in Florida through a constitutional amendment. Landlords could install solar panels on properties they own and sell that power directly to tenants, a practice that is currently illegal.

When asked at a Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council energy conference … whether the ballot initiative is influencing the utilities’ push for Solar, Glenn curtly responded: “No.”

There are two reasons, he said: For one, panels have dropped in price by 60 percent, and second, battery storage systems are developing to allow energy storage when it is cloudy and at night.

— “Another major corporation enters Florida’s state law enforcement radio fray” via Florida Politics

— “Email insights: Say it ain’t so, Joe Negron” on SaintPetersBlog


Orlando’s professional soccer team will build a new stadium with private funding, instead of taxpayer money, and the structure will have almost 50 percent more seats than the original plan, team officials said … the revised stadium plan will have up to 28,000 seats, compared to 19,500 seats in the original plan. Orlando City Soccer Club will be the sole owners and operators of the stadium, which under the original plan would have been owned by the City of Orlando. The soccer club will purchase the land from the city.

Attendance for the team’s inaugural season in the MLS has exceeded expectations. The Lions have averaged 37,400 fans per game, giving it the second-highest attendance in the MLS, although the figure was skewed by the overwhelming showing of 62,510 fans at its inaugural match. They are currently playing in the Citrus Bowl, a football stadium.

Team officials said the private-funding of the stadium will allow it to be built by the summer of 2016. Around $30 million in funding has been tied up in the Florida Legislature. Orlando and Orange County had committed to funding tens of millions more but now won’t have to spend that money.

SAVE THE DATE: Florida’s Senate Majority leadership will be holding a July fundraiser featuring a performance at Cirque Su Soleil in Downtown Disney, Orlando … which includes dinner and live “La Nouba” show on Thursday, July 9; dinner at Downtown Disney is at 6 p.m., show begins at 9 p.m. Hosting the event, which benefits Senate Majority 2016, are Senate President Gardiner, Majority Leader Bill Galvano, and state Sens. Lizbeth Benacquisto, Joe Negron and Jack Latvala.

— Paula Dockery for Mayor of Lakeland? Read the Ledger story here.


On Context Florida: Florida legislators reconvene this week in a special session to do its only real job – pass a budget. The politics of personal resentment is alive and well and back in Tallahassee, says Julie Delegal. The shortsighted idea, as Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center describes it, is this: “No one should get anything that only I should be entitled to.” Why else would House Speaker Steve Crisafulli bring up words like “able-bodied working-age adults” in the Medicaid expansion debate? Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, says he looks forward to working with Gov. Scott, the Florida Legislature and SFWMD to finish what we’ve started with the bipartisan Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. CERP, signed into law in 2000, seeks to build a vital reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee in the Everglades Agricultural Area. Sal Nuzzo writes that the Florida Senate’s new healthcare FHIX offering is – in the words of Yogi Berra – “like Déjà vu all over again.” Dr. Dale Brill says six measures can be used for the initial evaluation of Florida’s aggregate healthcare system, used as conversation starters rather than an exhaustive list. The first symptom of interest addresses our life span. Florida ranks 25th in the United States, with 7,116 years lost prematurely.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

APPOINTED: Robert W. Heine and reappointment of Janie E. Watson to the DeSoto County Hospital Board.


Erika Alba, Karen Bowling, Christian Caballero, Jonathan Kilman, Paul Lowell, Jon Yapo: Foley & Lardner: Grant Thornton, LLP

Leslie Dughi, Fred Karlinsky, Greenberg Traurig: American Ambulance Service, AssuranceAmerica Insurance Company, Bencor, Inc., Modern USA Insurance Company

Martha Edenfield, Brittany Finkbeiner, Dean Mead: Charlotte County

Jessica Kraynack: Department of Veterans’ Affairs

Evan Power, Cruz & Company: My Jukebox and Games, Inc.

Jennifer Anne Marie Silva, The Fiorentino Group: Florida State College at Jacksonville


Andrea Saul, communications director for Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s nonprofit Lean In, is taking her talents to Instacart, the startup on-demand grocery delivery service.

As VP of communications, Saul brings a wealth of political expertise; she served as communications director for former Gov. Charlie Crist as well as press secretary to presidential candidate Mitt Romney and for Carly Fiorina in her U.S. Senate bid. She also was communications aide for U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch and director of Media Affairs in John McCain’s presidential campaign.

Instacart, so far available in 16 U.S. markets, is experiencing substantial growth. The firm started the year with 120 employees, and now has more than 200, and is currently hiring across the board.

BEST “SPOTTED” FROM THE WEEKEND: Alia and Rob Johnson, Sydney Ridley, Andrea and Kevin Reilly and Alli, Chris and Liberty Schoonover at The Renaissance Vinoy Resort in St. Petersburg as part of the wedding celebration of Megan Demartini and Andrew Fay.

ALSO SPOTTED: Holland & Knight’s one-two punch of Mark Delegal and Josh Aubuchon at St. Petersburg’s Green Bench Brewing Company as part of a fundraiser for City Council candidate Ed Montanari. Also in attendance were state Sen. Jeff Brandes, Southern Strategy Group’s Laura Boehmer and the Florida Justice Reform Institute’s William Large.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Arron Gober, USF’s Helen Levine, and Southern Strategy Group’s Alex Setzer. Celebrating over the weekend was state Sen. Charlie Dean and state Reps. Dwight Dudley and Julio Gonzalez, Ashley Cate, and Phil Vangelakos. Celebrating today is state Rep. Danny Burgess and 30-under-30 rising star Keith Fernandez.

TWEET OF THE WEEKEND: @FLGovScott: Congratulations @TBLightning 2015 Eastern Conference Champions! On to the Stanley Cup Finals! #GoBolts

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.