Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — June 15

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

DAYS UNTIL: Jeb Bush’s announcement: 0; Sine Die: 5; Debut of Terminator: Genisys: 16; MLB All-Star Game: 29; First GOP presidential debate: 52; FSU & UF’s first football games of 2015: 82; First day of 2016 Legislative Session: 211; Iowa Caucus 232; Super Bowl 50: 237; New Hampshire Primary: 239; Super Tuesday: 260; Florida’s presidential primary: 274; Close of federal candidate qualifying: 326; Florida’s primary elections: 442; 2016 Election Day: 512.

It would be so easy to start the day with talk about Jeb Bush’s presidential announcement or what’s the latest from the Florida Legislature, but the most important story in Florida politics is one you probably didn’t read…

STAFF DISCIPLINED AFTER JAILED TEEN’S DEATH via Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald

For more than a decade, Florida juvenile justice administrators have been on notice: Children are not supposed to die in state custody for lack of the same medical care that non-delinquent kids readily receive.

But there was Andre Sheffield — Berlena Sheffield’s grandson, the one she adopted and raised as her own child — in the Brevard County Juvenile Detention Center’s East Module, complaining of a headache and stomach pain, soiling himself, limping, walking strangely sideways and falling over, as if he had no control over his 14-year-old body.

Registered nurse Karen Rainford gave him Tylenol. He died hours later.

Juvenile justice investigators completed a report late last month on Andre’s death, concluding that guards at the 40-bed lockup routinely violated agency rules regarding the treatment of sick detainees, and ignored growing evidence of Andre’s illness before he was found dead in his cell Feb. 19 around lunchtime. The 50-page report also faulted the lockup’s top officer, Superintendent Vicki Alves, for “failing to ensure” that officers under her command were properly trained in agency sick-call procedures.

“We’ve got to hold staff accountable at the very highest level,” DJJ Secretary Christy Daly told the Miami Herald in an interview Friday. “That goes all the way up to the superintendent of the facility. The leadership of the facility sets the tone.”

Now onto …

JEB’S BIG DAY

When Bush finally says today that he’s running for president, he’ll begin the campaign with much to prove.

Back in December, the former Florida governor said he was exploring a 2016 run, an announcement that by itself had the power to kick off the campaign.

In the six months since, Bush probably has shattered a fundraising record as well as pioneering a new approach to White House campaigning. He has just completed a well-reviewed trip through Europe.

Supporters had hoped that this son of one president and brother of another would by now hold a commanding position in an unwieldy Republican field. Yet he has not broken away from the pack.

“I know that I’m going to have to go earn this,” Bush said this past week. “It’s a lot of work and I’m excited about the prospects of this. It’s a long haul. You start wherever you start, and you end a long way away from where we are today, so I just urge everybody to be a little more patient about this.”

He has failed to scare any potential rival from the race, except perhaps 2012 nominee Mitt Romney. He is unpopular among some of his party’s most passionate voters and little known beyond his home state despite the Bush name.

“I thought Jeb would take up all the oxygen,” said Ohio Gov. John Kasich. “He hasn’t.” Emboldened by Bush’s slow rise, Kasich acknowledged this weekend that he is stepping up preparations for a possible campaign.

Bush is one of 11 major Republicans in the hunt for the nomination. Kasich and a few others are still deciding whether to join a field that could end up just shy of 20.

But few among them entered the race with such high expectations of success as did Bush. Those expectations have seemed a burden at times.

Take, for example, the question of whether Bush will report raising $100 million for his campaign in the first six months of the year. Lost amid the “will he or won’t he” is that Bush probably will have taken in far more than anyone else.

Bush took lots of questions this past week about a supposed shake-up at campaign headquarters, even though only one member of his senior team — who remains on Bush’s staff — was affected. The attention exasperated Bush: “It’s June, for crying out loud,” he told reporters while in Berlin. “We’ve got a long way to go.”

Still, Bush’s first six months back in politics since leaving the governor’s office in 2007 have been underwhelming at times.

His low-key speaking style often leaves something to be desired, particularly when compared with some opponents. He sometimes gets snippy during long campaign days. While detailed policy questions are often his strength, he struggled for several days last month to answer a predictable question about the war in Iraq that his brother, former President George W. Bush, waged.

“He would be an excellent president no doubt, but how far he can go in the process remains to be seen,” said John Rakolta Jr., the CEO of a Michigan construction company and a leading Romney donor.

In his speech Monday, Bush planned to make the case that those involved in creating Washington’s problems cannot fix them. The point is designed to jab the Republican senators — including political protégé in Florida, Marco Rubio — in the race.

Meanwhile, an allied super PAC fueled by Bush’s fundraising haul is developing an advertising strategy that will promote Bush’s record in Florida and attack his rivals.

JEB BUSH’S 18-MONTH SHADOW CAMPAIGN via Marc Caputo of POLITICO

… 18 months after he made the first real steps toward running for the White House, Bush drops the pretense and makes his candidacy official. His speech at Miami-Dade College follows a mammoth and meticulous effort launched in late 2013, when Bush hired a team of four longtime loyalists to help him manage his schedule and begin what they simply call the “process” of examining a potential White House bid.

Part of the process was managing the expectations of the news media, denying the seriousness of Bush’s intentions without outright spreading falsehoods about his interest. As a result, many in the world of national politics thought it more likely than not that Jeb wouldn’t run in 2016, especially because they were certain his protegé, Sen. Marco Rubio, would.

Meanwhile, his small team was sending different signals in response to inquiries from potential Bush donors and subtly keeping them in the fold. They hired a top election-law attorney to chart an aggressive new way to raise huge sums of money. And they planned a messaging strategy, including the decision to release thousands of emails from his term as Florida governor to make the case to the public that he stands for transparency in government.

Through it all, Bush and his staff have denied he’s a candidate. They’ve pushed back on the notion that his grueling travel schedule in 2014 was exceptional because he often campaigned for other conservative candidates and causes in previous elections. Yet the volume of Bush’s campaign surrogate work appeared larger in 2014 compared to other years — including 2012 — when he didn’t have a staff devoted to his potential presidential ambitions.

Bush also didn’t go to Iowa or New Hampshire (but he did go to South Carolina once) last year because he wanted to avoid appearing too coy about his intentions. Instead, he summoned those states’ politicians to Florida, where he hosted fundraisers for them. In most other cases, Bush’s surrogate work took him to other states. That broadened his media exposure and his list of potential supporters … throughout the country, Bush downplayed the level of interest in running for president in 2016.

Nonetheless, speculation about Bush wanting to be president stretched back decades. As the driven intellectual in the Bush family, he was expected to run for president after his father, George H. W. Bush. But he lost his 1994 race for Florida governor while George W. Bush won his race for Texas governor, positioning the latter to seek the presidency in 2000. By the time his older brother left the White House, the country was in the midst of a deep recession, the Bush name was politically toxic, and Jeb Bush had been out of elected office for two years. Also, Bush’s focus was getting rich again, after seeing his net worth drop by about $1 million, from about $2.4 million in 1999 to about $1.3 million in 2007. And his wife, Columba, has long been known to eschew the political spotlight.

CHECK OUT THE PRE-ANNOUNCEMENT VIDEO by clicking here.

THE EXCLAMATION POINT IS BACK! via George Bennett of The Palm Beach Post

On the eve of formally opening a 2016 presidential campaign, Bush has released a … new logo that ditches his famous last name and includes an exclamation point, similar to the one he used for his gubernatorial runs.

TWEET, TWEET: @CrowleyReport: Will @JebBush bring back another staple of his previous campaigns — the Oak Ridge Boys?

SNEAK PEEK AT JEB’S ANNOUNCEMENT SPEECH via Mike Allen of POLITICO

Bush plans to say that people inside D.C. can’t fix D.C. — a swipe at the senators in the race (Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham). The setting — a campus of Miami Dade College that has a lot of minority students, and isn’t in a Republican neighborhood, reinforces two key messages from the speech:

1) He’ll talk about his record as Florida governor, especially on education, as proof that he can get results.

2) He’ll say, in a Rand-like riff, that he wants to campaign everywhere, not just in Republican areas. Bush wants the campaign to be joyful, and will try to show his heart, saying he’s animated by the belief that being a conservative reformer can help people.

–“Bush plans a ‘hopeful, optimistic’ speech to kick off campaign” via Karen Tumulty and Ed O’Keefe of The Washington Post

IF YOU’RE STUCK IN TALLAHASSEE: Gus Corbella, president of the Governors Club, says the lounge will open early “so that we can all watch the announcement live there. Doors will be open at 3.”

HOW JEB’S ANNOUNCEMENT IS PLAYING

Tampa Tribune, Jeb Bush to announce … has much to prove in leaderless GOP – “… failed to scare any potential rival from the race, except perhaps 2012 nominee Mitt Romney … unpopular among some of his party’s most passionate voters and little known beyond his home state despite the Bush name.” Washington Post, Here’s what to expect at Jeb Bush’s announcement – “… present plans to create 19 million new jobs — a specific figure we haven’t heard before … expected to talk often about a need to ‘disrupt Washington’ … plans to strike specific themes at separate stops during the week in New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina.” CNNJeb Bush’s 2016 launch strategy: Be the tortoise, not the hare – “singular theme emerges from inside his close-knit world: Patience.” CNNJeb Bush: I’ll break away from GOP pack – “My expectation is we’ll have slow, steady progress. That’s been the expectation all along.” New York TimesBefore Official Announcement, Jeb Bush Shows Off Support Inside Florida – “Bush unveiled a raft of endorsements from Republicans in Florida … 11 members of Congress and three state cabinet members … will help him show how the former governor’s leadership helped make Florida an economic success.” SalonThe front-runner is a joke: Jeb Bush plans announcement after underwhelming everyone – “Bush’s first six months back in politics since leaving the governor’s office in 2007 have been underwhelming at times … low-key speaking style often leaves something to be desired … sometimes gets snippy during long campaign days … struggled for several days last month to answer a predictable question about the war in Iraq …” Agence France-Presse, Jeb Bush Ready to Jump Into Presidential Campaign – “Nationally, Bush is bunched at the top of most polls, but he is not the dominant figure in the race that many had expected … grassroots conservatives have expressed skepticism, saying he has not since put forward a compelling conservative message.”

ASSIGNMENT EDITORSDNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz joins South Florida community leaders to discuss Bush’s “failed record and disastrous economic policies in advance of his announcement.” The event will be at 10:45 a.m. at Florida International University in the Graham Center Building Room 140.

POST-ANNOUNCEMENT TOUR

New Hampshire: Tue. in Derry, Adams Memorial Opera House, 11:30 a.m. … Iowa: Wed. in Pella, Molengracht Plaza, 5:15 p.m.… South Carolina: Thurs. Charleston Maritime Center, 10:15 a.m.… Nevada: Sat. in Henderson, 6:45 p.m.

George P. Bush will travel to Las Vegas for a separate tour event Wed., 6:15 p.m.

BUSH’S FLORIDA STORY BUILT ON SELF-MADE SUCCESSES, FAMILY CONNECTIONS via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

The city of Miami staggered into the 1980s … the city still hummed with economic promise and a flourishing Latin culture. It felt right for 28-year-old Jeb Bush and his Mexican-born wife, Columba, and they moved there in January 1981, just as his father was sworn in as vice president alongside Ronald Reagan.

It was also a place where Bush could strike out on his own … More than three decades later, John Ellis Bush is embarking on a similar journey. Smart and hard-working, he is unquestionably his “own man,” as he declared in a foreign policy speech in February. But he is inescapably a Bush. Monday in Miami — now a global destination but still a beacon for dreamers and scoundrels alike — Bush, 62, will formally declare himself a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

He will emphasize self-made successes in his adopted state of Florida, as a businessman and two-term governor. But family pedigree played a clear role, allowing Bush to immediately land a lucrative job with an ambitious real-estate developer. It also gave Bush an advantage in local politics, irritating more established figures even as Bush helped lead an effort to convert arriving Cubans into Republicans, laying the groundwork for a future generation of politicians, including current campaign rival Marco Rubio.

In the context of rapidly growing Miami, bad business partners were bound to surface. “Miami was a frontier city, a sort of wild west,” said Matthew Corrigan, a University of North Florida professor who has studied Bush’s career.

Still, brushes with scandal were fruitful for political rivals. During their bruising 1994 gubernatorial campaign, incumbent Democrat Lawton Chiles repeatedly aired ads that said, “We can’t trust Jeb Bush with our future.”

Friends of Bush said people tried to take advantage of him because of his father. But it went both ways: Bush’s celebrity fueled his rise in Miami.

“He was really the godfather of the growth of the Republican Party in South Florida,” said U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who at the time was one of the few GOP state lawmakers from Miami.

Bush “made it his mission” to win over conservatives who had chosen Reagan over Bush in 1980, “in the eventual case that his dad would run for president again,” said Tony Cotarelo, whom Bush would later hire as the party’s executive director.

FAVORITE SON OR TOTAL STRANGER? NEARLY THREE-QUARTERS OF FLORIDA’S VOTERS HAVE NEVER SEEN JEB BUSH ON A BALLOT via Joshua Green of Bloomberg Politics

Bush’s big political credential, and his presumed strength in the presidential campaign … is the broad appeal he demonstrated over two terms as Florida governor — doubly important given the critical role Florida’s primary will play in winnowing the GOP field. Bush handily won his last race, in 2002, by drawing support from Republicans and Democrats with what even his opponents describe as a unique personal connection to Florida voters. “It’s very hard to unify the state as a political figure,” Steve Schale, a Democratic operative who ran Obama’s Florida campaign in 2008, recently told New York. “But you can do it as a personality.”

Bush did it. But he may not be nearly as strong in Florida as his reputation suggests. A Bloomberg Politics study conducted with University of Florida political scientist Daniel A. Smith found that nearly three-quarters of Florida’s 12.9 million currently registered voters have never even seen Bush’s name on a ballot. About 35 percent of voters in that election have disappeared from the state’s rolls — most have died, moved away or gone to prison. (Another group, thought to be much smaller, has been judged “mentally incapacitated” and stripped of the right to vote, although the Florida secretary of state’s office could not say precisely how many.) By contrast, 92 percent of Floridians who voted when Marco Rubio was last on the ballot, in 2010, are still registered.

BUSH SPEAKS IN THIRD PERSON to CNN’s Dana Bash: “Jeb is different than George, and Jeb is who he is. … I don’t have to disassociate myself from my family — I love them. But I know that for me to be successful, I’m going to have to show my heart and tell my story.”

A REALLY POOR ANALOGY: “By hiring Mr. Diaz, Mr. Bush wanted to send a clear signal that ‘the culture of the Bush operation will now be a Pickett’s Charge engagement campaign with his main opponents,’ according to one Bush ally.” H/t to Jonathan Martin and Patrick Healy of The New York Times.

MORE JEB READS

How a devastating loss in Florida taught Jeb Bush what it takes to win” via Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post

The Jeb Bush Problem” via Erick Erickson of Red State

STAFF PROFILES

MIKE MURPHY PLOTS A WIN FOR JEB BUSH IN THE LAND OF HOLLYWOOD LIBERALS via Mary Jordan of The Washington Post

When he has needed a quiet place to work, Mike Murphy has pedaled his electric commuter bike onto the Paramount Studios lot, flashed his ID and rode past cavernous stages such as No. 14, where filmmakers shot “Saturday Night Fever,” “The Hunt for Red October” and “Star Trek.”

Movie and TV stars paid no heed to the balding guy in horn-rimmed glasses and rumpled East Coast khakis as he made his way toward his office, closed the door and went to work trying to elect Bush president of the United States.

When Bush officially launches his campaign … Murphy will have less time to spend at the Paramount hideaway he rented to write screenplays as he moves across town to run Right to Rise USA, the super PAC supporting his old friend.

For months, Murphy has been advising Bush, who so far has been unable to set himself apart from the crowded Republican field. Now Murphy … will effectively be running a parallel political operation alongside Bush’s official campaign, overseeing TV and digital ads, short videos and other messaging to try to sell America on a third Bush.

What Murphy won’t be able to do is strategize with Bush, because federal election law prohibits super PACs from directly coordinating with campaigns.

That is no small thing for a GOP strategist known over the years as “a candidate whisperer” who has been close to Bush since 1997, when he worked on his campaign for Florida governor.

BUSH’S SOUTHERN PUPPET MASTER, BRETT DOSTER via Mark Silva of OZY

A fifth-generation Floridian, Doster was born to an accountant father and a mother whose family members “were a bunch of moonshiners and pine tree farmers.’’ He too was home-schooled — not due to a nomadic existence but because he flailed around in fifth grade. Mom took over. And he was ambitious: Sights set on the military, he headed to the Citadel, then an all-male institution filled with pomp — cadets wore full military garb even to classes. But he never enlisted.

Over the regimented lifestyle, he chose the roller coaster of campaigns. First stop: Jeb Bush’s 1994 race. Bush was “idolized,” Doster recalls. And losing was devastating, an experience “that knit us together like many families are not.’’ Doster retreated to oak-canopied Tallahassee to sell commercial real estate. Bush called again in ’98. This time, victory came, and with it “bear hugs” among the team. Doster became political director, No. 2-ranked, in George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign in Florida.

By 2004, Doster ran the state’s Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. Those who’ve worked with Doster say you can still see the Citadel influence, though; military discipline adds a tough backbone to the otherwise scrappy grassroots world, says Jillian Hasner, who ran George W.’s 2000 Florida race.

Oh, and Jeb? We asked him; he returned the compliments, calling Doster “one of the most honorable, principled men I have met.”

TOP FLORIDA LAWMAKERS ENDORSE BUSH via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Bush was endorsed … by some of the state’s top Republican lawmakers, including Sarasota Congressman Vern Buchanan, in a big show of support leading up to the formal launch of his presidential campaign … Among the state’s Republican heavyweights siding with Bush are Attorney General Pam Bondi, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and 11 members of Congress. … His loyal following among the state’s GOP establishment could be an advantage in what is expected to be a heated primary contest in Florida against a fellow state resident, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. The lawmakers endorsing Bush will serve as important surrogates for him at campaign events around the state.

“I’ve known Jeb Bush for over a decade and witnessed how his strong conservative policies allowed our economy to prosper and grow,” Bondi said in her endorsement.

TWEET, TWEET: @JebBush: Honored by the support from some of Florida’s finest elected officials.

GOP: JEB CAN BEAT HILLARY — BUT HE MIGHT NOT MAKE IT PAST PRIMARY via Katie Glueck of POLITICO

Despite a spell of rough headlines and a recent campaign shake-up, 70 percent of early-state Republicans think Bush could win their state in a general election contest against Hillary Clinton. But they’re not confident he‘ll make it out of the primary.

That’s the assessment of this week’s POLITICO Caucus, a bipartisan survey of top operatives, activists and elected officials in Iowa and New Hampshire.

On the eve of Bush’s expected presidential announcement Monday, only 32 percent of Iowa Republicans said he could win there if the caucuses were held today. His numbers were much stronger in New Hampshire — 86 percent of both Republicans and Democrats said he would win the primary as of now — yet many caution that his frontrunner status there is precarious.

“He could win but so could several other candidates,” said one New Hampshire Republican who — like all 61 respondents this week — completed the questionnaire anonymously in order to speak candidly. “It’s going to be a horse race and Bush is no American Pharoah right now.

“Operative word is ‘could,’” added another Granite State Republican, speaking of the former Florida governor’s ability to win the New Hampshire primary. “He has all the advantages he brought to the race — he has performed very well in visits here and his staff is strong — but R voters are liking a race with no frontrunner. That will change but for now for R voters it is like Black Friday for shopping deals.”

CNBC SURVEY INDICATES CFOS THINK JEB BUSH WILL WIN GOP NOMINATION via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

According to a survey conducted of the CNBC Global CFO Council, Bush will be the likely Republican nominee for president in 2016, and nobody else is really close. More than 72 percent of members of the council surveyed this month say Bush will in fact win the 2016 nomination. Respondents were asked to choose who they think will garner the nomination, not who they would vote for.

According to CNBC, the CFO Council represents some of the largest public and private companies in the world and collectively manages more than $2 trillion in market capitalization across a wide variety of sectors. However, only 19 (of 56 percent) of the 34 council members responded to the survey.

Scott Walker was the second place choice, garnering 11 percent … Marco Rubio, Rick Perry and Mike Huckabee were next, all at 5.6 percent.

–“Weaker Jeb Bush still safest bet to win” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

LOOK FOR Mac Stipanovich to discuss Bush’s announcement on Al Jazeera America at approximately 8:10 a.m.

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WE WENT TO THE FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC PARTY’S LEADERSHIP BLUE DINNER SO YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO

FLORIDA DEMOCRATS CELEBRATE THEMSELVES IN HOLLYWOOD via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

More than 1,200 Florida Democratic Party activists gathered Saturday night at The Diplomat hotel in Hollywood to get fired up about an election that takes place in 541 days … It’s better for FDP members to look ahead to 2016, though, since their hopes of removing Scott from the Governor’s Mansion fell agonizingly short in November.

Things haven’t been much better in Tallahassee this spring. Even with three extra weeks to work together in session, Florida House Republicans and Scott appear to have successfully staved off the Democrats’ (and Senate Republicans’) main goal this year: to expand Medicaid to more than 800,000 Floridians without insurance. After caucus meetings … party members gussied up for the evening’s Leadership Blue Gala. Three congressional Democrats — Virginia U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, Hawaii U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Baltimore-based U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings — addressed the crowd during the two-hour event.

FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC PARTY ESTABLISHMENT DISCUSSES TASK FORCE REPORT via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

Among the headlines of a just-released review on what happened to Florida Democrats in 2014 is a familiar woe – a lack of financial resources to compete with the Republican Party … the Leadership Expansion to Advance Democrats (LEAD) task force, is scheduled to be released to the public … but the Florida Democratic Party released it to select reporters.

“We raised more money in this last election cycle than we ever raised,” said Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant … about the party’s $55 million in the off-year election. “Clearly that still wasn’t enough, (not) when you have someone who can write checks from his own checkbooks,” she said, referring to … Scott‘s own resources that he tapped into in the last 10 days of the race that some analysts (and many Democrats) maintain was how he was able to narrowly defeat Charlie Crist in last year’s gubernatorial contest. The report says that the party spent $5 million last year on grass-roots organizing, but probably needed to spend $12 million.

PATRICK MURPHY WORKS DEMOCRATIC PARTY EVENT TO BUILD SENATE CAMPAIGN via The Associated Press

For now … Patrick Murphy is the only prominent Democrat in the race to replace Rubio, and he took advantage of that … at a Florida Democratic Party fundraising event in which he portrayed himself as a moderate who isn’t going to please everybody all the time.

Murphy spent the day racing from one event to the next, speaking to Democratic caucuses for gays, women, Hispanics, African Americans and other groups. His message was that he is a moderate that believes in key Democratic principles but doesn’t always vote in lock step with the party.

That’s a good strategy for the general election, but Murphy could still face primary opposition. Liberal U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson is considering a run, and he could pull votes from the far left of the party. Grayson didn’t attend the party event.

BELINDA KEISER ‘STRONGLY CONSIDERING’ GOP RUN FOR PATRICK MURPHY SEAT via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

Add Belinda Keiser, a vice chancellor at Keiser University, to the list of Republicans considering a run for the Palm Beach-Treasure Coast District 18 congressional seat that Murphy is leaving.

With Murphy running for Senate in 2016, six Republicans and three Democrats have opened campaigns so far for the open seat. Several others are eyeing the race, including Keiser, who lives in Parkland in Broward County.

Said Keiser: “As an economic development professional for the past 35 years and as a person who has contributed to Florida’s economy and job creation, I have a longstanding interest in public service.  I am strongly considering a run for Florida’s Congressional District 18 and look forward to making a decision within the coming weeks.”

Keiser lost a Democratic state House primary in Broward County in 2000. She became a Republican in 2007.

ICYMI:LAWMAKERS’ PROPOSAL COULD END $2 BILLION HOSPITAL BATTLE via Matt Dixon of the Naples Daily News 

Legislative budget writers who couldn’t agree on a state spending plan during the regular session offered details … of a deal to end the battle over $2 billion used by hospitals to treat low-income patients.

To help avoid huge cuts to state hospitals, lawmakers had to craft a plan to replace the promised cuts in federal money, which came as part of a phase out of the Low Income Pool used to cover indigent care in hospitals. Legislative budget leaders proposed using $400 million in state money to boost the reimbursement system for hospitals, a move that helped draw down $600 million in federal funding.

The move comes as federal officials cut the $2.1 billion pot by $1 billion this year, and will take away another $400 million next year. If the plan is approved by federal regulators, the money from rate increases coupled with the $1 billion approved would put the overall pot of hospital money at roughly $2.1 billion.

A top concern expressed by federal officials, who must sign off on the plan, is that the state’s current plan benefits too few hospitals. Under the existing model of reimbursing for indigent care, the $2.1 billion flows to 129 hospitals, a number that jumps to 215 under the current plan, according to state records.

“It’s not a perfect formula, but it’s the fairest formula we can come up with so that we ensure these hospitals … are taken care of,” said state Sen. Rene Garcia, a Hialeah Republican who writes his chamber’s health care budget.

REAX

Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida: “We are very grateful Senate and House leaders recognize that the federal LIP funding Florida is losing needs to be replaced with recurring state general revenue. This state funding support, which will draw down a significant federal match, is critical to averting a financial crisis in the state’s Medicaid program in the next two years as federal LIP funding is further reduced and ultimately eliminated. While we are still analyzing the details of this agreement to understand its full impact on our safety-net hospitals, this state funding support is crucial to our hospitals’ ongoing mission of providing highly specialized health services to the state’s most vulnerable residents, regardless of their ability to pay.”

LAWMAKERS BUILDING A VETO PROOF HEALTH CARE BUDGET via Christine Sexton of FloridaPolitics.com

(B)uried in the mounds of paper that House and Senate budget chiefs signed off on Saturday was language that stated the two chambers agreed to reference a 53-page document in the General Appropriations Act as well as proviso called the Medicaid Hospital Funding Programs. It is the 53-page Low Income Pool offer the House made to the Senate.

Incorporating the document by reference means that there will be no dollar amount listed by the appropriation. Scott can veto an appropriation in a substantive bill without vetoing the underlying policy. Without a dollar amount, the governor would have to veto the entire bill to eliminate the spending.

The chambers agreed to putting language in the conforming bill that that notes if any portion of the General Appropriations Act is unconstitutional then “all other provisions or applications of this act invalid” and that “the entire act shall be deemed to never have become law.”

Though included in the conforming bill, which, is permanent law, the chambers agreed to repeal the language effective July 2016.

Lee said the House knew that hospital funding and stabilizing the health care environment in the aftermath of the loss of $1 billion in Low Income Pool funding was a priority for the Senate. As such, Lee said the House was “accommodating” when it came to including the comfort language throughout the bills.

Matt Hudson, chief writer for the House health care budget, said the language was put in the bills at the behest of the Senate but may unnecessary.

“I think at the end of the day the governor is going to be very pleased with the work we have.”

LEGISLATIVE BUDGET NEGOTIATORS INCH TOWARD A DEAL via Bill Cotterell and Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat

Legislative appropriations chairmen (worked) through the weekend to resolve some big-ticket spending issues and get a state budget ready for a vote that will end the special session late this week.

“The tunnel is a little bit away,” Senate appropriations chairman Tom Lee said … when asked if he saw some light ahead, “but we’re working hard to get there.”

Lee … and his House budget counterpart, Chairman Richard Corcoran … met for a half-hour (Saturday) morning to accept each other’s offers on some tourism-economic development items and portions of the health and human services budget.

Progress in subcommittees studying different areas of the budget had been so swift over the past eight days that Senate President Andy Gardiner… and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli … decided not to step in. Rather than “bumping up” unresolved issues to the presiding officers, they decided to let Lee and Corcoran negotiate a little longer.

A budget deal needs to reach members’ desks by Tuesday, so they can vote on it Friday and adjourn the special session. The three-week session runs through Saturday, so a final deal could be struck Wednesday and still comply with the constitutional mandate that the budget be delivered to members 72 hours before the full House and Senate vote.

LAWMAKERS WRAP UP ENVIRO BUDGET THAT INCLUDES $55 MIL FOR LAND BUYS via Matt Dixon of the Naples Daily News

After almost 36 hours without holding a meeting, budget-writers emerged Sunday night with a deal for the state’s environmental budget, including nearly $750 million to meet a constitutional amendment passed by voters in November.

The spending plan includes the budget for Agriculture Commissioner Adam Puntam and the Department of Environmental Protection, which will spend $55 million on land purchases under the spending plan.

Buying conservation land has been a flashpoint this year, as environmentalists have pushed the state to purchase more land, saying it was the will of voters who passed Amendment 1, a constitutional provision that directs real estate taxes to environmental spending.

“We tried to split it up pretty evenly between springs, land acquisitions, water, to make sure everyone got a fair share,” said Senate Budget Chief Tom Lee, R-Brandon.

… The largest single land purchase is $20 million for the Kissimmee River restoration, which will help clean water headed into Lake Okeechobee. The spending plan also gives $17.4 million to Florida Forever, the state’s chief land buying program. Environmentalists pushed for higher levels of spending, noting that at its peak, the fund had $300 million.

From Amendment 1 $28 million will be spent for springs restorations, $26 million will be spent on Everglades restoration projects, $20 million for upgrades to state park facilities, $11 million will be given to regional water management districts to manage existing state lands.

LAWMAKERS TRY TO SLIP EDUCATION POLICIES INTO NEW BUDGET EFFORTS via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of the Naples Daily News 

… While several key funding decisions have been agreed upon, the inclusion of policy priorities — including teacher liability insurance and a teacher scholarship program — are still being considered.

In April, the state House approved a measure that required the state Department of Education to administer an educator liability insurance program. Supporters said the program would protect educators from liability on claims stemming from on-the-job incidents and would provide $2 million in coverage to full-time instructional personnel, such as teachers.

The proposal was not included in the Senate’s proposed budget … there is support for the program, but it didn’t fit into Senate’s budget allocation this year.

The two sides have also failed to reach an agreement on a scholarship program for teachers who were considered high achievers while they were in school. The program received support in the House but made little progress in the Senate. That doesn’t mean there isn’t support there … the Senate “agreed to the concept of the program” but didn’t have the money available to fund it the way the House wanted.

Under proposals released this week, the House wants to award $10,000 scholarships to up to 4,545 teachers; the House proposed awarding $5,000 scholarships to up to 1,000 teachers.

Not all of the policy proposals have ties to the budget, though.

Senate leaders have pushed several policy issues — such as changing eligibility criteria for a scholarship program aimed at children with disabilities and eligibility for Bright Futures college scholarships — that received Senate support during the regular session. While lawmakers are still negotiating some portions of the budget, they have reached an agreement on the K-12 public education budget.

LEGISLATURE NIXES DETERT’S LATEST PLAN FOR FILM FUNDING via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Nancy Detert‘s latest effort to boost Florida’s film and television industry died … in the end-stage negotiations over a new state budget. The Senate accepted a House proposal on economic development spending that eliminated Detert’s plan for $10 million in tax-credit funding in an effort to sustain a film industry program, which is set to expire next year.

FLORIDA HOUSE VOTES TO KEEP LOW HEALTH INSURANCE PREMIUMS via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press

The Republican-controlled Florida House voted along party lines … to retain – for now – the rates that … Scott and thousands of state workers are currently paying for health insurance.

Nearly 30,000 people in state government … pay either $8.34 a month for individual coverage or $30 a month for family coverage. Rank-and-file state workers pay $50 a month for individual coverage or $180 a month for family coverage. House and Senate members also pay this rate.

Scott has proposed requiring all state workers to pay the same amount, but his suggestion has been rejected for five straight years.

The measure to freeze the premiums was included in a sweeping overhaul of the state health insurance program that covers nearly 400,000 state workers, their families and retirees. If it becomes law, the amount would stay the same for the rest of this year and 2016.

It appears unlikely the House-supported health insurance overhaul will be voted on by the Senate – and it’s not clear if all of the House Republicans who voted for it were aware that the premium amounts were included in it. Most of the debate over the bill focused on sections that called for revamping the type of coverage and offerings available for state workers.

House Republicans, however, pushed forward several bills that they said would help with health care costs and access to coverage … they voted on several measures, including the bill to change the state worker health insurance program. Employee premiums are usually set each year in the overall state budget.

WINNER OF THE WEEK IN FLORIDA POLITICS via the Tampa Bay Times: Jack Latvala. The GOP state senator from Clearwater saw Gov. Scott sign into law his bill that would reduce monthly rates for Duke Energy’s 1.7 million customers in Florida. Latvala also led the charge in a Senate staredown with the House over increased funding for job incentives and called for budget horse trading to be done in public.

JAY FANT, PAUL RENNER ONCE RIVALS — NOW BEST BUDS via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union

You wouldn’t expect a negative primary campaign culminating with a razor-thin margin of victory to be the impetus for a friendship. But Paul Renner and Jay Fant’s bond appears to be the real deal.

These days, it is rare to find one without the other during the special session. They often linger at their desks — they sit next to each other — and chat for several minutes after floor votes, they go out to dinner, and they now are nothing but complimentary about each other.

“When I think of things, he is my go-to guy to say, ‘Hey, Paul, would this be of interest to you? Let’s do this.” Fant said recently.

But this friendship was not a given.

Fant and Renner met last summer in the Republican primary for the Westside Jacksonville seat in the Legislature vacated by Daniel Davis. There were smear ads, and finger pointing and websites full of opposition research and backed by shadowy groups during that campaign.

Many of the region’s Republican politicians and fundraisers chose sides. After a costly election — financially and otherwise — Fant emerged as the winner … by two votes.

In a surprise twist, Renner relocated to Palm Coast and won a different House seat in a special election in April. That was good for the Republican Party and Northeast Florida, many observers said, since both men had always been considered strong and capable candidates.

LEGISLATIVE STAFFING MERRY-GO-ROUND

With a hat-tip to LobbyTools, here is latest on who is on and who is off the legislative staffing merry-go-round.

Off: Audie Canney has left her position as district secretary for state Sen. Tom Lee.

On: Victoria Nowlan is the new legislative assistant for state Sen. Maria Sachs.

On: Alexis Howard is the new district secretary for state Rep. Sharon Pritchett.

On: Laurel Bolderson is the new legislative assistant for state Rep. Irv Slosberg

Off: Benjamin Brown has left his position as district secretary for state Rep. Cyndi Stevenson.

WHAT JEFF BRANDES IS READING — THE SLEEPING GIANT OF THE SOLAR INDUSTRY: FLORIDA via Reem Nasr of CNBC

If there’s any state people may automatically expect to be a busy market for SolarCity, it would be the Sunshine State. But that is not the case. Far from it, in fact.

Florida’s solar panel industry is very limited compared with states such as California, Hawaii or even New Jersey. A series of legislative barriers, including a property tax, have curbed a thriving solar industry, much to the dismay of firms like SolarCity. … laws in Florida that prohibit third-party power purchase agreements (PPAs). In a state like California, a solar company can lend panels to a homeowner and then sell the power generated by those panels directly to the owner — usually at a cheaper rate than a traditional utility bill.

But that isn’t allowed in Florida. Nor can a homeowner sell power generated on his or her private property to anyone else, such as neighbors or tenants for example. In essence, the only entity that can sell power in Florida, no matter where it is generated, is a regulated utility company. Florida is one out of only a handful of states that do not allow third-party PPAs.

SolarCity relies heavily on such models in its business plan. That is why currently, the company barely does business in the state. The incumbents … are the electric power companies, many of which are monopolies in their respective states. Pushback against solar in Florida is not unique to that state—it’s part of a larger trend faced by a burgeoning solar industry that’s trying to crack the energy market.

Debbie Dooley agrees that change is inevitable and may be coming sooner than many have expected. She is the president of the Green Tea Coalition and Conservatives for Energy Freedom, part of a growing movement among political conservatives who are advocating for solar across the country.

She, along with a larger coalition, is pushing for a ballot initiative that would take the issue of solar straight to the state’s Supreme Court, bypassing the state legislature, which has failed to pass most pro-solar bills in recent years.

Bills have been awaiting passage “for years,” she said, “and they have all stalled in committee. Now we are taking the message straight to the people, giving Floridians the right to decide for themselves.”

AND THE AWARED FOR THE SESSION’S MOST BOTCHED LOBBYING JOB GOES TO … THE EVERGLADES TRUST via Nancy Smith of Sunshine State News

First, as the legislative session began in March, this “501(c)(4) corporation of non-elected board appointees” — “committed to keeping Florida’s water flowing clean and safe” — launched a fact-twisted, six-figure TV, radio and online campaign to buy U.S. Sugar Corp. land.

It did nothing for them but make new enemies.

By muscling up and demanding the first and largest share of Amendment 1 cash, the Trust created not a sense of shared common treasures but an unhealthy atmosphere of competing environmental priorities.

Then, into the special session — when they didn’t get their way, when the South Florida Water Management District voted to go forward with the Everglades restoration projects already planned rather than continue trying to spend $500 million of Amendment 1 proceeds on 46,800 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. land, the group’s braintrust decided to trash a few legislators.

Not just any legislators. And here’s the bizarre part. They singled out three of the most proactive members of the Florida House in the quest to solve water problems in South Florida and promote Everglades restoration:

Heather Fitzenhagen, Kristin Jacobs, and Katie Edwards.

Don’t ask me why. A fit of pique? An object lesson for all legislators? It reminded me of an old World War II movie about the French occupation when the Germans, in an effort to ferret out the collaborators, lined up every 10th man in the town square and shot them while the townsfolk watched. Scared the pants off the survivors.

Apparently — if you look at the angry attack mailers (“Political Paybacks or Clean Drinking Water?”) circulated in each of the condemned three’s districts — they stand accused of taking campaign contributions from Big Sugar, pretending to care about water problems and the Everglades,  but … “BIG SUGAR is calling in their favors and pressuring our legislators to turn their backs on the will of the voters.”

Huh?

— “ABC of Florida names Alan Hays, Jack Latvala and Keith Perry as Legislators of the Year” via Phil Ammann of FloridaPolitics.com

LEGAL LOW-POTENCY MARIJUANA INDUSTRY WILL BE AN EXPERIMENT via Drew Dixon of the Florida Times-Union

Florida officially opens up to the legal marijuana cultivation industry this week, but it will be for the low-potency drug and it won’t be cheap for anyone wanting to get into the business.

Following an administrative law judge’s ruling June 1 that dismissed a challenge to Florida’s “Charlotte’s Web” law, the path has been cleared to allow limited low-THC marijuana growing operations in Florida. The original state law was drafted by state Sen. Rob Bradley … and signed by Scott about a year ago.

Beyond the medicinal use of the low-potency pot, which removes the euphoric sense that high-potency marijuana carries, Bradley said the state faces a grand experiment in developing a marijuana-cultivation industry.

He acknowledged that as applications for growers’ licenses begin to be accepted at the Florida Department of Health … the business aspects pose many questions … Bradley acknowledged the marijuana industry is entering a highly experimental phase in Florida.

It will be costly for any entity wanting to grow the drug and it will be tightly controlled. The Department of Health will be issuing only five licenses for the entire state, one for each of five designated geographic areas.

There’s no specification required for the amount of marijuana that will be grown … Even after a license has been approved, a dispensing organization must request a cultivation authorization from the state within 75 days of being notified it will be a regional cultivator. … The dispensing organization must begin dispensing the drug within 210 days of being granted cultivation authorization. … If there are any violations of the state stipulations following frequent inspections, the dispensing organization must explain in writing the violation and immediate corrective actions planned.

WHAT NADINE SMITH IS READING — GAY WEDDINGS GIVE $182M BOOST TO FLA. ECONOMY via Will Isern of the Pensacola News-Journal

[A]n archetypal sort of wedding for gay couples since same-sex marriage became legal in Florida: small, cheap and often at the courthouse. But the sheer number of same-sex weddings that have and will happen are bringing an economic boost to the state.

Gay weddings have been happening in Florida since Jan. 6 when a stay on a judge’s ruling that the state’s 2008 constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional expired at midnight. Five months later, marriage license issuances are up over the same time last year, and the beginning of an estimated $182 million boost to the state economy is beginning to be seen.

For the Memorial Day week alone, the Escambia County courthouse issued 34 marriage licenses and performed 24 marriage ceremonies. In total, the county has issued 566 same-sex marriage licenses since January. Statewide, marriage license issuances were up by roughly 3,000 for the first three months of the year as compared to last year, especially in January.

The Williams Institute of the UCLA School of Law estimated that 24,248 same-sex couples would marry in the state within the first three years of same-sex marriages becoming legal, and that spending on those weddings would total $182 million, with $116 million coming in the first year. That spending, they estimate, will result in $12 million in sales tax revenue for the state.

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>>>MORE FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

JOHN MORGAN WRITES A “BIG CHECK” TO GET MEDICAL MARIJUANA AMENDMENT 2.0 UP AND RUNNING via Janelle Irwin of Politics of Pot

John Morgan just wrote a “big check” to get a second medical marijuana ballot initiative off the ground. And a big check it was. $150,000.

“I’m going to do whatever it takes to put medical marijuana back to the people of Florida to make it your decision,” Morgan said in a video statement posted on the website for his group, United for Care.

Morgan said it won’t be the last check he writes, but implores supporters to write their own big checks. … funding will go first toward paying for a massive petition drive to gather enough signatures statewide to force another constitutional amendment in 2016. Once ballot language is finalized campaign funds will pay for key advertisements and educational outreach dispelling messages from critics.

“We were outspent last year 3 to 1 and that hurt us. But this time we’re not going to be – and we have more time to answer the lies and falsehoods that, without question, will come from those who will do anything to obstruct reasonable access,” Morgan wrote in an email.

The outspending came primarily from Las Vegas Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson who pumped $5 million of his own outside money into the Florida campaign to squash medical marijuana in 2014.

Despite being grossly out-funded, Amendment 2 only lost by two points. Worse for critics of the effort, Morgan and his United for Care campaign managed to draw down 58 percent of the vote. In most states that would have been an overwhelming victory, but in Florida constitutional amendments require 60 percent of the vote.

MARY MULHERN ‘INVESTIGATING’ A RUN FOR CONGRESSIONAL SEAT via Mitch Perry of FloridaPolitics.com

Former Tampa City Council member Mary Mulhern says she is “investigating” running for political office in 2016, and that includes the possibility of moving to Pinellas County this summer to compete for the CD 13 congressional seat currently held by Republican David Jolly.

“I’ve been crunching numbers for months, and networking, and talking to people at all levels of government in Pinellas County, and here (in Hillsborough County), so it’s a definite possibility,” Mulhern told Florida Politics … “But I haven’t decided, and we will move over there right away if I decide to run,” she added, referring to the fact that she currently lives in South Tampa and not in the congressional district, which encompasses most of Pinellas County, with the exception of parts of Northern Pinellas as well as downtown and South St. Petersburg.

For some Pinellas Democrats, it could be a case of deja vu all over again.

There is already one declared Democrat in the race to challenge Jolly next year — 36-year-old former Obama Defense Department official Eric Lynn, who has lived mostly outside of the district since graduating from St. Petersburg High before moving back last fall. He declared his candidacy in April, though he has stayed under the radar working on fundraising since he announced.

Meanwhile, there is still some question about whether Jolly himself will be the GOP incumbent in 2016. The 42-year-old Indian Rocks Beach resident is considering a run for the Republican nomination for Senate next year. He has said he will make a decision regarding his future in the next month.

Mulhern acknowledges that her lack of roots in the district will be a “big talking point,” if she were to get into the contest, but says that she has spoken with “many” Pinellas Democrats who might be candidates, “and nobody wants to run.”

Mulhern served on the Tampa City Council from 2007 to just a few months ago, when she was term-limited after eight years. In 2013 she filed to run for the countywide Hillsborough County Commission seat that was being vacated last fall by Mark Sharpe, but announced in early 2014 that she was dropping out of that race, attributing her withdrawal to symptoms involved with her multiple sclerosis, an ailment she has suffered from for years (though she recently told this reporter in an interview on WMNF radio that it’s not a major problem for her).

JOE GRUTERS RUNNING FOR STATE HOUSE via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times

The second highest ranking official in the state Republican Party is hoping to join the top ranking officer in the Florida Legislature next year.

Sarasota Republican Joe Gruters, the vice chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, officially has filed to run for a seat in the Florida Legislature in 2016. Gruters, an accountant and former campaign manager for U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, put in papers earlier this month to become a candidate in District 73. That District includes most of Sarasota and Manatee counties east of Interstate 75.

If Gruters wins the seat, he would join RPOF chairman Blaise Ingoglia in the Florida House of Representatives. Ingoglia was elected to the Legislature in 2014. Earlier this year, state GOP activists voted for him to become the chairman of the state Republican Party.

Gruters officially jumping into the contest further indicates that state Sen. Nancy Detert is nearing a decision on leaving the Florida Senate before her term expires in 2018. That is expected to set off a domino effect that would assure Gruters, who was Detert’s campaign treasurer in her 2014 re-election, is running in an open seat.

BOB BUCKHORN GIVES CHARITY $119,000 IN LEFTOVER CAMPAIGN FUNDS via Richard Danielson of the Tampa Bay Times

Back when he was running for re-election, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn raised gobs of money — $404,000 in all, more than he needed to beat his write-in opponent. Going into the vote, Buckhorn said he was inclined to give as much of that money as possible back to his supporters. Candidates often give excess campaign funds to charity, but Buckhorn said that wasn’t likely in his case.

Five months later, Buckhorn has done just the opposite, giving nearly $119,000 to the nonprofit Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, according to a campaign finance report filed this month. It’s not a first: Former Mayors Dick Greco and Pam Iorio likewise donated surplus campaign funds to charity.

“I want this fund to focus on a couple of things,” Buckhorn said … One is scholarships for women or minority applicants who want to be Tampa police officers but need help attending the police academy. Another is grants to nonprofits that work on youth development, urban issues or initiatives that could help “mitigate what we’re seeing” in the inner city.

So why the change of direction?

For one thing, he said, refunding what was left over “would have been a pretty significant undertaking given the number of contributors” — 1,359 of them. Plus, “a lot of people came up and told me, ‘If you have anything left over, don’t send it back to me. Just do good by it.’ “

Buckhorn also transferred $20,000, the maximum allowed, to an office account that he can draw on for expenditures related to his job. They include travel, holiday cards and dues to civic or charitable organizations. If the mayor wants to send flowers to a constituent’s funeral, money for the arrangement can come out of the office account.

APPOINTED: David R. Maymon to the Broward College District Board of Trustees.

APPOINTEDDaniel Diaz Leyva to the Miami Dade College District Board of Trustees.

APPOINTED: Pastor Marcus Smith to the Florida Faith-Based and Community-Based Advisory Council.

APPOINTEDYvonne Boice and Suzanne Niedland to the Florida Film and Entertainment Advisory Council.

REAPPOINTEDMatthew Carlucci to the Commission on Ethics.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Edward Briggs, RSA Consulting: Florida Tax Collectors Association
Christopher Dudley, Southern Strategy Group: Florida Insurance Council
Bill Hemich: Village of Key Biscayne
Judy Preston: School Board of Brevard County
Ron Silver, Ron Silver and Associates: Rentar Environmental Solutions

IN THE DEPARTURE LOUNGE: DAN KRASSNER FROM INTEGRITY FLORIDA via Mitch Perry of FloridaPolitics.com

Krassner left the group last month to become the political director of Represent.US, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit which calls itself a “fiercely” nonpartisan movement to pass tough anti-corruption laws in cities and states across America, and end the legalized corruption that has come to define modern politics.

Meanwhile, Ben Wilcox will keep on keeping on. The former executive director of Common Cause Florida for a decade, Wilcox has been with Integrity Florida since its creation, and he says that the group will continue to issue hard-hitting reports pointing out corruption in the Sunshine State.

A report, to be published in conjunction with the LeRoy Collins Institute that looks at the state of campaign finance in Florida, should be out in the next couple of months.

Krassner remains on Integrity Florida’s board of directors.
SPOTTED at the Leadership Florida gathering at the Vinoy Renaissance Resort in St. Petersburg: Dave AronbergLorranne Ausley, Tim CerioPaula Dockery, Andrew FayShevrin Jones, Mike Griffin, Simone Marstiller, Duval Property Appraiser Jim Overton, Sean Pittman (who received the Distinguished Member Award).

POSTCARD FROM A TESLA P85D via Florence Snyder of FloridaPolitics.com

“Holy s$#@, where’s my heart monitor?!” said Tallahassee Magazine Editor Rosanne Dunkelberger, a full 10 minutes after our test drive ended.

In the driver’s seat was Orlando-based Tesla representative Kevin Leyva. His mother can be very proud of him. Leyva surely could tell by looking that his passengers were not “in the demographic”; he spoke slowly and used small words so as not to make us feel stupid as he explained why the car had no transmission, no gears, and an engine that looks like an empty trunk.

No words were necessary — or even possible — as Leyva took us 1.2 miles from the Hotel Formerly Known as the Prince Murat to the Whole Foods Plaza in the nanosecond it takes for the P85D to accelerate from zero to the mode Tesla calls “insane.”

This is not a car for the old, the poor, or the faint of heart.

SPOTTED at Sunday’s Tesla experience: state Sen. Jeff Brandes, state Reps. James Grant, Ray Pilon, Jimmie Smith, and Ritch Workman

WHAT CESAR FERNANDEZ IS PLAYING — UBER JUST RELEASED ITS OWN VIDEOGAME via Davey Alba of Wired
Uber, the multibillion-dollar on-demand rides company, wouldn’t be able to execute its global grand plan without the million drivers who have offered rides on its platform. Over the past five years, the company has relied on myriad tactics to lure new drivers in and keep them happy: rallies, ads, word-of-mouth, even a quarterly magazine. Now it’s trying another strategy: a videogame.

The company today released UberDRIVE, an iOS game that essentially mimics what it’s like to drive for Uber. Players “pick up” passengers and drive them from point A to point B. The more efficient the route they choose, the more points they can rack up in the game. If players earn consistently high ratings, they can unlock new cars and explore new areas of the city. The game also includes fun facts on important landmarks in the city, as well as a “trivia mode” where riders quiz drivers (the player) on certain destinations on the map. At launch, the game only includes a virtual San Francisco, though it’s available to play nationwide. If the game is successful, Uber says it will add new cities to the app soon.

TWITTER KILLS THE 140-CHARACTER LIMIT FOR DIRECT MESSAGES via Nathan Olivarez-Giles of The Wall Street Journal

One of the defining qualities of Twitter is its constraint. The company’s website and apps are part social network and part publishing platform, but no matter what anyone uses the service for, everyone has 140 characters to get their thoughts out. This limit has even applied to private exchanges between Twitter users, until today. Now Twitter is doing away with limits for what are known as direct messages—DMs for short.

Starting in July, direct messages will no longer have a 140-character limit. Sachin Agarwal, Twitter’s product manager for direct messages, announced the change on the company’s developer website Thursday afternoon, about an hour before its embattled CEO, Dick Costolo, stepped down. (Co-founder and Chairman Jack Dorsey is filling in as interim CEO.)

Does this signify future changes for the length of public tweets? “You may be wondering what this means for the public side of Twitter. Nothing! Tweets will continue to be the 140 characters they are today,” Agarwal wrote.

The change to DMs come as Twitter is under fire on several fronts, including a clunky UI and a perception it has done too little to weed out trolls. Earlier in the week, Twitter introduced a new feature that lets users share their block lists with one another. Twitter users can create lists of users they don’t want to interact with. When a user adds someone to a block list, the blocked person cannot see their tweets or view their profile. Twitter said it’s allowing users to share block lists to make using the service safer for “people in your community facing similar issues,” such as harassment or bullying. Those who import another user’s block lists into their own user profile will automatically block the list’s multiple accounts all at once.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Adams Streeters Allison Carvajal and Foyt Ralston and Sachs Media Group’s Drew Piers. Celebrating today is FDOT’s Bob Esposito, ContextFlorida.com’s Stephen Goldstein, lobbyist Travis Moore, and Jim Taylor.

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.