Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – June 12

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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Let’s start with news of two births, some birthday wishes, and a eulogy…

A TOP OF SUNBURN WELCOME TO THE WORLD to Emma Elizabeth Henriquez (daughter of Tampa politicos Carrie and Bob Henriquez) Born Wednesday at 8:55 a.m., weighing in at 6 lbs 14 oz – 20 inches long, with a “chin dimple, bemused expression like her big brother and beautiful blue eyes like her big sister,” notes Carrie on her Facebook page.

ALSO WELCOME to Santino Antonio Agen (son of Mercury Public Affairs’ Bettina Inclan-Agen and Santino), weighing in at 10.6 pounds and stretching 22.5 inches. “Nurses are stopping by our room just to see his enormous size! And Jarrod is already on the phone with Major League scouts.”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the “titanium magnolia” of Florida politics, Sally Bradshaw. Also celebrating this weekend is Friend of the Growler Josh Aubuchon, Sen. David Simmons and Rep. Neil Combee.


Dusty Rhodes, “the American Dream,” is dead at 69 years of age. What has become apparent in the hours since the first reports of his passing on Thursday is that everyone seemingly has a Dusty Rhodes story. Especially, everyone in the south. Even more so, boys and girls who grew up in the Sunshine State.

Dusty Rhodes was professional wrestling in Florida. He was the best bad guy in the state for years and years. Then, in the mid 1970s, he turned babyface, and became the ultimate hero. From the Homer Hesterly Arena in Tampa to the Jacksonville Coliseum to the Jai Alai Fronton in Ocala and the Orange Bowl in Miami, Dusty was the man.

His cowboy boots. His potbelly preceding him everywhere he went. His lisping drawl, the cadence and the blue notes appropriated from black AM radio preachers. And that bionic elbow: lord. No matter who he hit, whether it was the Prince of Darkness Kevin Sullivan, or it was Terry Funk, or it was the Masked Assassin, or the Nature Boy Ric Flair, crowds throughout Florida would pop when that elbow dropped.



Scott on Thursday evening signed intot law a bill that aims to increase adoptions but became embroiled in the debate over gay rights after a provision was added to allow adoptions by gay parents.

The new law will create incentives for state workers to adopt children, and it rewards Community-Based Care agencies in the state for achieving performance goals in adoption and foster care.

But it also repeals from statute a ban on gay people adopting children.

That change is largely symbolic. The ban hasn’t been enforced since 2010, when the Third District Court of Appeal ruled it unconstiutional.

Still, it became an early flashpiont in the legislative session as conservative members of the House tried to add a “conscience clause” that would allow adoption agencies connected with religious groups to reject gay parents.

Rep. Jason Brodeur carried the bill and said that in other states, reigious organizations have faced a difficult choice: Serve gay parents despite their religious convictions, or shut down altogether.

“We’ve seen that in other states, these agencies are being shut down,” Brodeur said, debating on the floor of the House in April. “I don’t believe that the state should be able to discriminate against these organizations based on their religious beliefs.”

Some in the Legislature — largely Democrats — said that change would amount to discrimination.

In a letter accompanying the bill signed by Scott, the governor wrote that “signing this bill codifies the state’s current practice into law and does not harm those fundamental rights.” However, he said, there is merit to a religious protection, as well.

“It is my hope and expectation that the Legislature will take future action to make clear that we will support private, faith-based operators in the child welfare system and ensure that their religious convictions continue to be protected,” he wrote. “Florida’s laws must protect the free exercise of religious liberty and faith while protecting Floridians from illegal discrimination.”


Rep. David Richardson: “This is a momentous day and an important advance for civil rights. It’s also great news for children who will be adopted into loving homes,” Richardson said. “I’m glad the governor did the right thing. An important part of this progress for social justice goes beyond the benefits to children. The largest, most successful and forward-thinking businesses in the nation want to recruit the best employees from the broadest population. They hesitate to locate in a state that discriminates against potential employees and makes them unwelcome. This is a big deal and a great day for Florida.”

Florida Family Policy Council: “We are profoundly disappointed in Governor Scott’s signing and approving this bad bill.  First, the Governor’s office promised a face to face meeting with adoption and foster care leaders to fully brief him before making a decision, but that never happened. Second, the decision is an unprincipled capitulation of the rule of law because it removes a law from the books before a court of the highest jurisdiction has spoken. … His letter explaining the decision even recognizes the threat that has been created by his signing of this bill and calls for the Legislature to ‘take further action to make clear that we will support private faith- based operators in the child welfare system and ensure that their religious convictions continue to be protected.’  We certainly hope that since Governor Scott’s decision created the risk to these agencies, that he will use political capital and make conscience protection a top priority for passage in the 2016 Legislative Session.”

Scott signs claims bill for Tampa police officer’s family” via James Rosica of the Tampa Tribune


Gov. Scott signed a bill requiring women seeking an abortion to wait at least 24 hours between seeing a doctor to obtain the procedure and actually obtaining the procedure, with only a narrow set of exceptions.

Its passage in the state legislature during session occurred along party lines, of course, with Democrats criticizing the measure as burdensome, condescending, arbitrary, draconian, ideologically driven and, also, kind of mean.

The American Civil Liberties Union wants to add unconstitutional to the litany of things that make the law dumb.

Thursday morning the group announced it is suing the governor and state legislature to block the law.

“It’s clear that the sole purpose of this law is to make it more difficult for a woman who has decided to have an abortion to get one, and to punish and discriminate against those who do,” said Renée Paradis, senior staff attorney for the ACLU, in a press release.

It would be like, if the majority of lawmakers hated those tattoos the kids are getting these days (oh, wait, they probably do hate them), and mandated that the tattoo seeker wait at least a day between visiting a parlor and having it done. Actually, such a law would make much more sense than the one the governor signed Wednesday, given how many ill-advised tattoos there are out there (we don’t have the exacts stats out there, but we’d venture to guess bad, impulsive tattoos are much more common than abortions sought impulsively).

The bill’s critics say that 24-hour period would just add to what likely would have been days or weeks of agonizing over what is probably the toughest decision the woman would ever have to make.


During the first meeting of the Legislature’s top budget-writers, the final process before the spending plan heads to the governor, the criminal justice and general government spending silos were completed.

The items left remaining in those areas were relative low-hanging fruit, with Senate Budget Chief Tom Lee and House Budget Chief Richard Corcroan still working to hash out a way to spend roughly $2 billion in Low Income Pool money, which is used by hospitals to provide indigent care.

“It is imminent, certainly within the next 10 days,” Corcoran said after his first public meeting with Lee.

The House and Senate have agreed to spend $400 million to help make up for federal LIP cuts, but they must now agree on a model for dispersing it to hospitals. A fight over health care funding prompted the need for a three-week special session.

House and Senate budget subcommittees have been meeting since Saturday to hash out final budget details, the things left unresolved get “bumped” to Corcoran and Lee.

During the first meeting the two worked out differences in budget that oversee the state’s top technology agency, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the Department of Corrections.


Florida lawmakers … may wind up passing roughly $400 million of tax cuts that include a 10-day back-to-school sales tax holiday.

The Senate tax-cut proposal differs from one the House passed last week. The House bill would cut the cellphone tax an average of $10 a year for most Floridians while the Senate proposal is twice that. The House also offered a three-day back-to-school sales tax holiday. Instead the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a bill that would extend the holiday from Aug. 7 to Aug. 16. During that time consumers wouldn’t have to pay the state’s 6 percent tax on clothes and school supplies. Floridians would also not have to pay sales tax on any computers costing $750 or less.

The Senate also jettisoned other proposed tax cuts, including a slight cut in the sales tax charged on commercial leases.

But Crisafulli and other House Republicans said they were open to the changes made by the Senate.

“There’s so much to smile about in what the Senate has done, I anticipate the passage of the tax package being a real moment of unity for the Legislature,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz.


Speaker Crisafulli called adoption of ridesharing legislation to recognize and regulate so-called transportation network companies “inevitable” in a pre-Session talk with the media. Yet for the second year in a row, a full-court press by key Republican legislators aimed at smoothing the way for ridesharing came up short.

The reason why, according to sources familiar with ongoing budget talks: Crisafulli’s counterpart Senate President Andy Gardiner.

Earlier this week Joe Negron showed his cards on the issue inserting a last-minute budget item that would have placed a moratorium on local governments enacting ordinances hostile to ridesharing firms until next legislative session.

The line item — anchored to $10,000 for a study on whether ridesharing reduces rates of drunk driving — miffed Gardiner so much that he reportedly threatened member projects and other budget items that would later “bump” up to appropriations chairs, sources told


As legislative budget chairs powwow to finalize the budget, unresolved items in the state’s general government budget silo have left the door open for a move by holders of a large state contract to tip the scales in favor of its renewal down the road.

A state panel under the Department of Management Services recommended a competitive bidding process back in January in order to procure an upgraded law enforcement radio system. The contract’s current vendor, Brevard County-based Harris Corporation, recently argued before the Joint Task Force on State Agency Law Enforcement Communications

However, according to Sen. Jack Latvala, the telecommunications firm is also engaged in budget maneuvering to secure some $84 million for new Harris-produced radios that would give it substantial leverage in the future negotiations.

“If I had my druthers, I’d zero it out,” Latvala told Florida Politics, referring to the budget request. “It’s a back door way of extending the contract.”

House and Senate appropriations committee chairs recently agreed to final proviso language to ensure the state law enforcement radio system is competitively bid starting no sooner than June 30, 2016.  The only remaining issue left to be resolved is whether any funding for Harris’ unsolicited request for the state buy radios is provided.

When asked about the status of funding for the Harris radio request following a budget conference meeting on Thursday, House Appropriations Committee Chair Richard Corcoran said the issue was “closed out.” However, as with many heated budget issues, it is not uncommon to see a late-hour addition of funding.


Two groups sued the state of Florida on Thursday seeking to stop a 24-hour waiting period for abortions from taking effect, arguing that it imposes an unnecessary burden on women seeking to end their pregnancies.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed the suit one day after Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law. They argue that the law, which is to take effect July 1, violates the right to privacy guaranteed in the state constitution by interfering with their right to undergo the procedure.

“For many women, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to schedule an appointment on two consecutive days due to work and/or school schedules, child-care availability, and the need to secure transportation to and from a provider,” the suit says.

Plaintiffs listed in the case are Bread and Roses Women’s Health Center in Gainesville and Medical Students for Choice, a Philadelphia-based group that advocates for abortion training for medical students.

The suit argues that most women seeking abortions have low incomes, adding the loss of salary or travel costs for what will be at least a two-day process are particularly harmful to them.

COURT: ONLINE TRAVEL SITES DON’T OWE HOTEL TAX via James Rosica of the Tampa Tribune

After a decade-long legal fight, the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that Expedia and other online travel concerns don’t have to charge hotel tax on the fees they charge when customers use them to book rooms.

The state’s highest court sided with the businesses against Alachua and sixteen other Florida counties – including Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas – who argued that they were losing millions in tax money.

In a 5-2 decision, the court said the tourism development tax counties get from hotel guests should apply only to the amount actually paid for the stay and not for the service used to book that stay.

“It is irrelevant to the taxation issue at hand which actors are involved and what roles they play in transactions for facilitating hotel room reservations,” the opinion said.

The majority opinion said state lawmakers knew of the taxing dispute for years and chose to do nothing about it.

Their inaction “reflects the Legislature’s willingness to maintain the status quo of not subjecting” online travel companies’ fees to being taxed, the decision said.


A Florida appeals court is ruling the state’s communication services tax treats satellite TV providers unfairly.

The 1st District Court of Appeal ruled Thursday the tax is unconstitutional because cable TV companies are taxed at a different rate than satellite TV companies. The lawsuit was filed by DirecTV and the company that operates the DISH Network.

The Florida Legislature first passed the communication services tax back in 2001. The ruling comes at the same time legislators are considering a bill to cut the overall tax rate.

The state Department of Revenue had argued that the tax was fair because cable companies also pay local taxes authorized under the law. But the court ruled that there was no guarantee that local governments would charge that tax.

The court split 2-1 on the decision.

DOR Executive Director Marshall Stranburg said in a statement the department would appeal the ruling.


Charlie Crist’s narrow loss last fall to Rick Scott was devastating for the Democratic Party of Florida, but hope springs eternal when it comes to 2016.

To prepare for next year’s battles, as well as just getting together and having a good time, over 1,200 Florida Democrats from across the state will regroup and get fired up about next year’s election, when they gather at the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood for their annual Leadership Blue Gala fundraising dinner.

“It’ll be a program that gets people focusedand organized for the upcoming fight,” says FDP spokesman Joshua Karp.

Formerly known as the Jefferson-Jackson dinner, three national Democrats will headline the event: Virginia U.S. Senator Mark Warner, Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings and Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard will all speak on Saturday night.

Bill Clinton spoke at the fundraising dinner last year, which raised over $1.1 million for the party, the most for the Florida Democrats at the annual event in years. In 2013 the keynote speaker was Julian Castro, the-then mayor of San Antonio and currently the secretary for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz will also speak on Saturday night.

— “Will the Florida Democratic party return to relevance” via Kartik Krishnaiyer of The Florida Squeeze


TWEET, TWEET: @MichaelKruse: Barbara Bush in the new @TIME: “I promised my family I would keep my mouth shut.”

JEB BUSH SAYS HE’S EVOLVED ON UNWED MOTHERHOOD via Thomas Beaumont of the Associated Press 

Bush says his views toward single mothers “have evolved” since he suggested 20 years ago that they were becoming too accepted by society.

In a 1996 book, Bush and co-author Brian Yablonski expressed concern about changing cultural mores and wrote, regarding unwed motherhood, that there was “no longer a stigma attached to this behavior.” This was in a chapter titled “The Restoration of Shame.”

Visiting Poland on Thursday, Bush told reporters his book, “Profiles in Character,” was a policy piece on cultural indicators and, despite its tone on single mothers, the focus was more on holding fathers accountable.

“My views have evolved over time, but my views about the importance of dads being involved in the lives of their children hasn’t changed at all,” he said.

After writing the book, Bush went on to serve two terms as Florida governor. He sought legislation as governor making it difficult for fathers to escape paying child support.

“It’s a huge challenge for single moms to raise children in the world that we’re in today,” Bush said when asked about the book. “It limits the possibilities of young people being able to (live) lives of purpose and meaning.”

Bush made the comments after meetings with Poland’s president, foreign minister, parliamentary speaker and other figures. He plans similar meetings in Estonia on Friday.

TWEET, TWEET: @MarcACaputo: Dems chide Jeb for FL ‘Scarlet Letter Law’ (which he didnt sign), dont mention it was sponsored guy who was DEMs 06 FL Atty Gen nominee


Jon Stewart tore into The New York Times’ coverage of Marco Rubio on “The Daily Show,” mocking the Gray Lady for its reporting on the senator’s traffic violations and financial issues.

On Tuesday, the Times published an article headlined “Marco Rubio’s Career Bedeviled by Financial Struggles,” referencing in it Rubio’s purchase of an $80,000 “luxury speedboat” as he continued to face outstanding debts. Rubio spokesperson Alex Conant told POLITICO the same day that the vessel is an offshore fishing boat. The same Times report also found that Rubio used $100,000 from an $800,000 payment to write his book “An American Son” to pay off his student loans.

“You bastard! Paying off law school loans? How dare you. At long last, senator, have you no sense of insolvency?” Stewart deadpanned.

That story followed a shorter item last Friday in which the Times reported on the 17 parking tickets accrued by Rubio and his wife Jeanette. (His wife racked up 13 of those citations in that time; Rubio had 4.)

“Oh sh—! Marco Rubio got … 4 tickets! In … 17 years! I assume The New York Times obtained this damning information from Marco Rubio’s plaque in the ‘Hall of Best Miami Drivers Ever,’” Stewart cracked.

— “Living it up with the Rubios via Rich Lowry of POLITICO

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APPOINTED: Thomas Winkour to the First District Court of Appeal.

APPOINTED: Dr. Thomas Kinchen to the Commission for Independent Education.

CORRECTION: On Wednesday, in a SPOTTED blurb, I noted Larry Williams’ presence at the Florida TaxWatch board meeting in St. Petersburg. I wrote that this Larry Williams was the Larry Williams of Gunster. It, in fact, was not. It was, as that Larry Williams would tell me, “the good looking Larry Williams.”


The Florida Technology Council, a newly-formed association exclusively focused on the needs of the technology sector, held its post-regular session board meeting in the Capitol Thursday. The agenda included a legislative update, a review of the council’s mission statement, goals heading into the 2016 Legislative Session, as well as a question and answer portion with legislative guest, Rep. Jamie Grant.

“We are excited to continue to work to provide a voice for companies looking to take advantage of the exciting opportunity for information technology growth here in Florida,” said Executive Director James Taylor. “We have a real opening to bring together industry leaders and government decision makers to maximize our state’s IT potential and today’s meeting was laser focused on making that goal a reality.”

The FTC’s mission statement is to provide a trusted voice in Florida’s capital city for lawmakers, regulators, CIOs, procurement officials and staff to interact with as they seek information from the technology sector.

The 2015 FTC board includes leading information technology companies, such as Advanced Systems Design, AT&T, CNLBank, Five Points Technology Group, Kyra InfoTech, SAS, Scholastic and Uber Operations.


Peter Antonacci, David Griffin, Jason Unger, GrayRobinson: PC Solutions & Integration

Richard Pinsky, Akerman: Village of El Portal

TWEET, TWEET: @BSFarrington: Am I the only one who thinks lobbyists should just call themselves lobbyists instead of instead of saying they’re in “government relations?”

SOUNDS LIKE FUN via lobbyists Jeff Sharkey and Taylor Biehl: Our Client, Tesla Motors, is offering test-drives of its Model S this Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm at the Hotel Duval. The Model S is the world’s first premium electric sedan and has  the most  advanced electronics in the automotive industry and goes from 0 to 60 in just 3.1 seconds. The autopilot equipped vehicle’s range is 270 miles. Rides will be 15 minutes over a pre-determined route set to showcase the all-electric car’s abilities. Test drives will be led by a Tesla specialist. Up to three guests and ride in the back seat.


Trimmel Gomes’ newest episode of The Rotunda heads to Europe as former governor Jeb Bush attempts to bolster his foreign policy credentials. Gomes talks with Michael C. Bender of Bloomberg Politics as he travels with Bush to Germany, Poland and Estonia before Bush’s much anticipated June 15 rally in Miami where he’s expected to make his campaign for president official. Gomes examines the backlash of The New York Times coverage of Marco Rubio, the latest budget news from the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott’s sprint to sign bills into laws.

As he prepares for retirement, Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho reflects on his 27 years in office and says Gov. Rick Scott has done an awful job ensuring all citizens can have their votes counted.

The Rotunda podcast is available every Friday via iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud. Subscribers receive free automatic downloads of episodes to their devices.


Lyons announced his departure on Facebook, taking some in the newsroom by surprise…

Speculation in the city room is that Lyons was either laid off because of the newspaper’s dire finances or he had a falling out with Rosemary O’Hara, the editorial page editor and Lyons’ boss.

Lyons wrote on Facebook: “Body snatcher got me, but life goes on.”

His departure is another blow to the paper.

He was an increasingly rare commodity among the staff  — a veteran news writer.  He had worked at Ebony magazine and U. S. World & News Report before coming here.

No one at the Sun-Sentinel had better connections in the African American and Caribbean American community, the fastest growing population in Broward.

What few readers the Sun-Sentinel has left will miss Lyons’ historical knowledge of Broward. He knew the players and the process that runs the county.  And he had been here long enough not to mix up Davie with Dania Beach, something I saw in the newspaper.

Unlike too many other editorial writers I have known, Lyons didn’t remain cloistered in his office.  When I was there, he worked the community like a hungry cub reporter.

I would bump into him at political events and government meetings all the time. He traveled to Tallahassee to learn first hand what was going on and not going on.

His loss will be missed.

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.