Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — June 17

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


Facebook “is emerging as the single most important tool of the digital campaign with contenders as different and disparate as Hillary Clinton and Ben CarsonRand Paul and Bernie Sanders, all investing in the platform already.

Thanks to powerful new features unveiled since the 2012 campaign, Facebook now offers a far more customized and sophisticated splicing of the American electorate. And, for the first time in presidential politics, it can serve up video to those thinly targeted sets of people. That unprecedented combination is inching campaigns closer to the Holy Grail of political advertising: the emotional impact of television delivered at an almost atomized, individual level. … [T]hat’s why campaigns are buying their way in, reshaping not only campaign budgets but how the political battle itself is fought and won.”

JEB BUSH: NEXT PRESIDENT SHOULD PRIVATIZE SOCIAL SECURITY via Ginger Gibson of the International Business Times

Bush thinks the next president will need to privatize Social Security, he said at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire … acknowledging that his brother attempted to do so and failed. It’s a position sure to be attacked by both Republicans and Democrats.

Bush has previously said he would support raising the retirement age to get Social Security benefits, a common position among Republicans. And he backed a partial privatization that House Republicans have proposed that would allow people to choose private accounts.

… Speaking in Derry, New Hampshire … Bush acknowledged that when his brother President George W. Bush attempted to privatize Social Security in 2005, he met great bipartisan resistance.

Bush also said Social Security shouldn’t be called an “entitlement.” “I’ve learned that in town hall meetings,” he said, according to a video released by the pro-Democratic group American Bridge. “It’s a supplemental retirement system that’s not actuarially sound, how about that. Medicaid and Medicare are entitlements, and they are growing at a far faster rate than anything else in government.”


… Bush … suggest(ed) Pope Francis’ call for a global effort to combat policy change risks politicizing religion.

“I hope I’m not going to get castigated for saying this by my priest back home, but I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope,” said Bush, a devout Catholic. He added that he wanted to see exactly what the Pope recommended “before I pass judgment, but I think religion ought to be about making us better as people, less about things [that] end up getting into the political realm.”


Although Jeb Bush’s moderate stances on immigration have been portrayed as a potential drag on his chances of winning the GOP presidential nomination, it’s immigration advocates who are speaking out critically (on) his first full day as an official candidate for president.

The Huffington Post published a piece written by Orlando-area Democratic state Senator Darren Soto that questions the perception that because he speaks fluent Spanish and has a multicultural family, the former Florida governor is a friend of the Latino community.

Not true, writes Soto. “Latinos in Florida know that Jeb isn’t, and never has been, on our side,” Soto claims, and cites as proof Bush’s opposition to DACA and DAPA, the executive actions taken by President Obama last November that would shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Meanwhile, the pro-immigration group America Voices issued a statement … saying that while Bush has had a strong record on immigration reform, “there are some troubling signs that Bush is already starting to slide right.”

BUSH ON FACING MARCO RUBIO: ‘IT’S A LITTLE AWKWARD’ via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Bush (did an interview) with Fox’s Sean Hannity and was asked about going up against Marco Rubio. “It’s a little awkward,” Bush said to laughter at a town hall in Derry, N.H. “But that’s just the way it is.”

Bush was asked about his comments during his announcement speech yesterday that put down senators and played up his experience as governor. He told Hannity it wasn’t about one senator in particular but didn’t back off his sentiment, asserting that executive leadership is needed.

Other highlights: Asked what federal agencies he would get rid of, Bush responded carefully. He talked of shifting duties, downplaying some role but not killing off agencies as some Republicans want, say, the Department of Education. Asked if Guantanamo Bay should remain open he replied, “Yes.”

He knocked Hillary Clinton for dodging the press. “It’s ridiculous.” Bush has been one of the most accessible candidates on the campaign trail. Bush called Clinton “smart,” and said she “loves the country,” but he criticized her role at the State Department.


Calling the 2016 battleground in Florida “utterly fascinating,” UNF’s Matt Corrigan says Bush‘s official entry into the presidential race will put to the test Bush’s gamble that he can “lose the primary to win the general.”

“Jeb will talk about his policy differences with the base on immigration and Common Core,” says Corrigan, a political science professor and the widely quoted author of “Conservative Hurricane: How Jeb Bush Remade Florida.”

Corrigan made his observations during an appearance on WJCT’s First Coast Connect. “He’s really making an appeal to primary voters to be strategic. He’s saying, ‘Let me start a general election right now – don’t make me go way right to get the nomination.’ But whether that works — that’s really an open question.”

There are a few other trends to watch when it comes to Bush’s candidacy, Corrigan says: “I think a lot really depends how the Bush camp emerges out of the early states. It’s tough to see if he’s going to win Iowa or not. Iowa’s voters are very conservative, and the Common Core issue is hurting him there. Can he compete?”

“In our politics, family names matter. But when you’re talking about the presidency, to have the same family names come up time and time again, I think does draw a problem with our process. It’s tough to turn a finger at North Korea, or other countries and say ‘your system’s wrong’ when we have the same names come up. That’s going to be an issue for both Bush and Hillary Clinton to deal with.”

“Bush has institutional support, and did you notice lots of Cuban-Americans came out for him at his announcement — a real shot at (Marco) Rubio. But Rubio’s the hot, exciting candidate, really almost an antidote to Jeb, in that he can create media buzz. So on the GOP side, you may see the institutional candidate against the hot candidate of the moment. Man, it’s going to be a battle royale.”

Bottom line: “Jeb is really gonna have to earn it.”


Bush “slow jammed” the news, told about meeting his wife, offered a guacamole recipe and oddly compared his presidential father and brother during a “Tonight” show appearance.

He was featured Tuesday night on the show’s recurring “slow jam the news” skit with host Jimmy Fallon. The job required Bush to recite lines about his candidacy while Fallon, stylized as a 1970s soul man and backed by the Roots, offered a series of double entendres. Bush took the straight man role that was most often filled by NBC’s suspended anchorman, Brian Williams.

When “soul man” Fallon asked about immigration, Bush gave his answer in both English and Spanish.

“Whoa, hold the telefono,” Fallon said. “I know you just got back from Miami, but I didn’t realize I was interviewing Gov. Pitbull,” he said, referencing the Miami-born rapper.

SHOT: @Fineout: Interesting @JebBush is playing along with @jimmyfallon Always seemed a bit reluctant when it came to press skits in TLH

CHASER: @SallyBradshaw: that’s because the press skits in TLH were never that funny Gary…..

BUSH MAKES A MAJOR FASHION STATEMENT via Vanessa Friedman of the New York Times

Bush is his own man. How do we know this? Well, he says it a lot. But more important, he showed it … in Miami — becoming the first candidate in his family, and possibly the first candidate ever, to announce his bid for the United States’ highest office in … shirtsleeves.

Message: He has his own style. In every sense of the word.

Forget the tie! Forget the jacket! Who needs ‘em? He is a cool, go-getter politician. Those trappings of the executive suite just slow him down.

They also, of course, could make him look like everyone else, especially his brother George W. Bush, who announced in 1999 in a gray suit, white shirt and blue patterned tie, and his father, the elder George Bush, who announced in 1987 in gray suit, white shirt and dark patterned tie.

But … Bush? He’s an outlier.

It’s actually kind of a big deal. Consider moments in the past when leaders already in office have abandoned the uniform of office and opted for more “relaxed” looks: the time in 2013 when Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain demanded that the Group of 8 members adopt Casual Friday, for example, much to the horror of the Twitterati.

After all, Americans tend to like their presidents to look, well, presidential. And that most often involves a suit. They like them to display respect for the office. And that most often involves a suit. It will be interesting to see what Mr. Bush wears for the debates.


Jeb Bush’s DNA string might as well be tied around his neck … this family inheritance, at once his greatest advantage and disadvantage.

On the one hand, it makes him an immediate force in the crowded GOP presidential field. On the other hand, it saddles him with a problem of self-definition; people think they already know him, which means they see him as more of the same of something they already got. Twice.

Bushes love a contest — and, as they’ve demonstrated again and again, they should never be underestimated when they enter one. “My intention is to run on my record, my ideas, and to run to win the presidency,” Bush said at a Florida economic summit in June, “not just to make a point or to have my voice heard.”

Jeb’s brother, George W., whose White House tenure from 2001 to 2009 included two wars and a recession, has said that a main obstacle to Jeb attaining the White House might be “me.”

Even his mother, former first lady Barbara Bush, has expressed reservations about a Bush 2016 campaign, because along with his name he inherits a half-century of political enemies.

“You get our good and our bad,” she says. But then, she also told George W. not to run. “Twice,” she says.

— “5 Ways Jeb Bush’s 2016 Campaign Runs Through Texas via Patrick Svite of the Texas Tribune

— “6 reasons you can’t believe anything Donald Trump says about his $9 billion net worth” via Allen Sloan of the Washington Post

— “Here Are the 9 Strangest Parts of the Trump Campaign Launch” via Charlotte Alter of TIME Magazine


Hillary Clinton has yet to make her first visit to the Tampa Bay area as a 2016 presidential candidate, but Robby Mook, her campaign manager, will visit Tampa later this month.

Mook will speak at a Hillary for America event 5 to 7 p.m. June 29 at a location to be when “guests” RSVP the event. It won’t cost much to attend. Only $25 will get you in as a “guest”; $250 will get you in as a “co-host,” and for $500 you can be listed as a “host” for the event.

Clinton came to South Florida for two fundraisers last month, holding events in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties. Although she officially became a candidate for the Democratic nomination in April, she held a second launch … at New York City’s Roosevelt Island.

SAVE THE DATE: A group of Tampa-area Democrats, including the last three Democratic nominees for governor, are hosting a June 28 Tampa fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy‘s 2016 Senate campaign. Charlie Crist, Alex Sink and former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis join Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, former state Sen. Betty Castor and other high-profile Democrats at the Hyde Park home of Linda and Tom Scarritt, lead partner of the Scarritt Law Group. The $250-a-ticket event begins 5 p.m. Sunday, June 28 at 824 Orleans Ave. in Tampa. A spot on the host committee is $2,500; to co-host is $1,000. The maximum contribution is $5,400. RSVPs are with Elizabeth at (561) 847-4105 or


Alan Grayson, who is eyeing a run for a Florida Senate seat, is hoping to position himself as the progressive alternative to Murphy in the Democratic primary. … But there’s one hitch: Some of the progressives who’ve worked closely with Grayson in Congress over the years aren’t that keen on his candidacy.

The wariness of fellow liberal Hill Democrats toward the verbose Floridian crystallized in late April, when Grayson pitched the 70-member Congressional Progressive Caucus on a plan to make a new leadership position for him. Caucus members quashed the effort, in part because they didn’t want to give Grayson a de facto endorsement from the left wing of the party.

“Alan’s problem is Alan … and the fact that he goes it alone. Many of us felt that the leadership we have needs to be disciplined enough to, on occasion, swallow their own individual wants for the good of the whole,” said a fellow Democrat, speaking on background to avoid riling Grayson.

It’s not the first time Grayson has faced blowback after rubbing fellow Democrats the wrong way. Just a few weeks ago, he specifically targeted 18 pro-trade Democrats in a fundraising email, drawing admonitions from Democratic leadership. He also has a history of colorful and brash comments. He recently accused a reporter of being a “s——ing robot” and described his wife, with whom he’s in the midst of an ugly divorce, as a “gold digger.” He also previously likened the tea party to the Ku Klux Klan.

Half-a-dozen Democrats who attended two Progressive Caucus meetings in April and May said Grayson asked to be named a vice chairman of the group. He wanted, according to sources present in the meeting, a leadership role among liberals if he jumped into the primary against Murphy, a more centrist candidate.

Murphy entered the Senate race in late March and was endorsed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in May. Although Grayson has not formally entered the Florida race yet, he’s consistently called for a progressive to challenge Murphy.

MEANWHILE …Alan Grayson’s estranged wife wants his ‘enormous fortune’ frozen” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

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RICK SCOTT SIGNS $400 MILLION TAX CUT PACKAGE via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times

Less than 24 hours after the Florida Legislature sent a $400 million package of tax cuts to his desk, Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law. The tax cut package is almost half of the $700 million Scott petitioned the Legislature for, still the Republican governor lauded the tax cut package as a way to help keep the state’s economy growing.

The centerpiece of the proposal is a cut in the communications services tax charged on cellular phone bill and cable television services. The state charges a 6.65 percent tax on most of those services now. But under the plan signed into law, that rate would drop to 4.92 percent. The result is that a $100 cell phone bill would see about a $20 annual reduction in taxes. Scott had originally sought a $40 annual cut.

Also becoming law: A 10-day sales tax free back-to-school shopping period starting Aug. 7. Clothing and backpacks under $100, other school supplies under $15, and the first $750 of the price of a computer would all be free of sales taxes. College textbooks would be sales tax free, saving fulltime students about $60 a year in taxes. Elimination of the sales tax charged for gun club memberships. Elimination of the aviation fuel tax on accredited flight training schools … Bars the state from charging more than $60,000 for any boat or yacht repairs … Exempts irrigation equipment and parts used for farming from sales taxes … Stops the collection of sales tax on concessions sold at school support organizations, like high school sports booster clubs.


Gov. Scott signed 17 bills into law … and vetoed three. Among the 17 signed was one (HB 369) by Rep. Dave Kerner … that would require human-trafficking warning signs with a hotline number to be posted at strip clubs, massage parlors, public clinics, rest stops and farm-labor hiring sites.

He vetoed: HB 105, which would have expanded the taxing authority of county-established municipal service taxing units (MSTUs) to tax property insurance policies covering properties within its area. … HB 435, which would have changes procedures for challenging state agencies’ proposed rules. … HB 997, which would have created a public records exemption for investigative information held by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services that is part of a joint investigation with another state or federal agency. Scott wrote that he vetoed the bill because the bill text said it would only take effect if HB 995 or similar legislation also passed, and that did not happen during the 2015 regular session. Therefore, this bill would not take effect even if signed.


Florida TaxWatch insisted … that the Legislature could have done more to cut taxes this year … the Legislature passed $400 million in tax cuts and Gov. Scott signed them into law …

“While Florida TaxWatch appreciates the Legislature’s $400 million tax cut package that included a much needed reduction in the prohibitively high Communications Services Tax, it is disappointing that lawmakers did not provide more relief to the state’s hardworking taxpayers,” said Dominic Calabro, the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch …  While the final tax cut package for the 2015-16 fiscal year is much smaller than an initially anticipated $698 million tax cut proposal from the House of Representatives, it does include many of the original tax cut goals designed to save average Floridians’ money.

“Though substantially smaller than a 3.6 percentage point reduction, Florida taxpayers will see a small 1.73 percentage point reduction in the Communications Services Tax, which is paid on cell phones, satellite and cable TV service and nonresidential landline phone service. Florida TaxWatch research shows that reducing Florida’s unfair, regressive wireless cell phone tax, which is the 2nd highest in the nation, is a great option to provide broad-based tax relief to Floridians.

“Our hope is that next year, lawmakers will further reduce the Communications Services Tax to better help Florida families and businesses, reduce the sales tax on commercial leases and address the manufacturing sales tax exemption that will expire in 2017.”


Florida’s contentious and messy budget stalemate that divided the state’s Republicans and threatened to force the shutdown of state government is finally over. With just days left, the Florida Legislature has reached a deal on a nearly $79 billion budget. The final budget was delivered to legislators late Tuesday afternoon.

The budget has winners and losers in the mix as the GOP legislative leaders battled for months over health care spending, tax cuts and how much money should be set aside to comply with a voter-backed land conservation amendment. Powerful legislative leaders were able in the waning moments to add tens of millions for hometown projects, even though they did not give state employees an across-the-board pay raise or cut taxes as much as Scott wanted.

But legislative leaders still met their main goal of finishing work on the budget before the end of June when they would have been confronted with the threat of a partial government shut down.

They also contended they crafted a budget that will help the state’s hospitals absorb the expected loss of federal aid. Senate Republicans had insisted of setting aside more than $400 million in state tax dollars to help the hospitals despite the initial resistance of both House Republicans and Scott.

“There’s a vast chasm of difference between what might have been and where we are today,” said Sen. Tom Lee, a Brandon Republican and Senate budget chief.

The final budget deal reached by legislative leaders includes more than $400 million in tax cuts, including a 10-day back to school sales tax holiday. Scott had been seeking nearly $700 million in tax cuts. Florida will also spend 3 percent more on each public school student although the final amount falls short of Scott’s campaign promise to raise school funding to historic levels.

Legislators will vote on the final budget late Friday. That’s because Florida law requires a 72-hour “cooling off” period before a final vote.

TWEET, TWEET: @RealMichaelW: Mr. Speaker – the budget is on the desk. Time stamp: 5:37 pm.



Just before midnight Tuesday at Florida’s Capitol, legislators reappeared in public to put the finishing touches on an $80 billion-or-so budget that now awaits the formality of an up-or-down vote by lawmakers and a review by Gov. Scott. Vendor-driven language dealing with replacing portable statewide police radios, creating a pilot online education program and a $1 million handout to the beef and beef products industry … Now that’s pork!

The day had begun with Senate President Andy Gardiner … saying “so far so good,” but warning that money was extremely tight because of the need to spend $400 million in tax revenue to shore up the loss of federal money in the low income pool for hospitals. … “We’re in a new world order now,” Gardiner said. “When you take over $400 million out of the budget and put it into health care, there’s going to be impact.”

Legislative leaders insist that they and not bureaucrats know how to best allocate taxpayers’ money because they understand the needs back home, and they traditionally hoard a secret stash of public money to fund the wish lists of powerful members.

So projects suddenly sprouted more zeroes, such as the $2 million for the “IMG Campus Expansion” for a privately-owned youth sports training center in Bradenton that had appeared as a $50,000 line item on Saturday. A $500,000 grant to the Urban League that had been quietly mumbled into the budget over the weekend swelled to $2 million. But there would be no public explanation of why taxpayers’ money was being divvied up like this.

Projects that were rejected two days earlier in budget areas that had been closed out suddenly sprang back to life, like a $1 million appropriation for expansion of the Charlotte County Justice Center. Millions of dollars for solid-color school uniforms appeared … a priority of House Speaker Steve Crisafulli … Many projects appear noble, such as $400,000 for an elderly meals program for seniors in Nassau and Duval counties.

No backup paperwork. No explanation in public. The clock had run out on the Legislature.

Monday night’s orgy of spending on what lawmakers call “supplemental funding issues” almost seemed to dare Gov. Scott to sharpen his veto ax … Late-night backroom dealing on member projects is nothing new in Tallahassee. For lobbyists, lawmakers, staff members and the media, this wasn’t their first rodeo.

MEDICAID HMOS FAIL TO GET $57 MIL MORE OUT OF STATE BUDGET via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics

More than $300 million in additional revenue was plowed into the budget in the late hours … leaders did not agree to spend any more money on Medicaid.

That’s a disappointment to the managed care plans that are participating in Florida’s mandatory Medicaid managed care program. They were hoping to get an infusion of $57 million on “grants and donations” trust funds that could be used to drawn down federal matching funds.

In all, it would have been about a $110 million infusion for the plans, about 25 percent of the original $400 million bump in rates the plans initially requested at the beginning of the 2015 regular session … several HMO lobbyists expressed disappointment that the Legislature did not provide the allocation.

Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Liz Dudek scoffed at the notion that the 13 plans that participate in the Statewide Managed Medical Assistance Program needed $400 million increase in current year rates. In a letter to health plans, Dudek said under the current contracted rates with HMOs, the state is saving slightly more than 5 percent compared to prior year’s spending after the shift to statewide Medicaid managed care.

Florida Law requires HMOs to maintain solvency requirement in the greater amount of: $1,500,000; 10 percent of total liabilities; and 2 percent of total annualized premium.


For pro-gun Republicans in the Florida Legislature, passing a slew of tax cuts this week also meant standing up for their 2nd Amendment rights.

That is because among the more than $400 million in tax cuts sent to the governor … is one that would bar the state from collecting sales tax revenue on gun club memberships. It amounts to a $1 million tax cut for gun club members in Florida.

“The Department of Revenue has been in error charging a tax on peoples’ membership in a gun club,” state Rep. Matt Gaetz … Gaetz is not alone in that thinking. The NRA’s longtime Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer has been making the same case for years, insisting that the state Department of Revenue has long been violating state law. Florida law states that “except as expressly provided by the state Constitution or general law, the Legislature hereby declares that it is occupying the whole field of regulation of firearms and ammunition.” To the NRA and Hammer, that means gun memberships are exempt from state sales taxes unless the legislators pass a bill to state otherwise.

On the lower end, gun club memberships in Florida can run between $80 and $200. The sales tax in that regard can run from $5.60 to $14. But there are high end gun clubs in Florida, like the South Florida Shooting Club in Palm Bay, which has a standard membership for $1,800. But their prices can go up to $100,000 for a lifetime membership. That could save as much as $7,000 on a membership.


Lawmakers gutted the initial list of 475 projects — and added some new ones at the last minute. Sen. Alan Hays … the Senate’s budget chairman for environmental issues, said lawmakers tried to keep things as fair as possible, even as they had to pick which projects got reduced funding, or none at all … some counties are coming away with big chunks of change for water infrastructure, while others won’t get any at all.

Miami-Dade County is getting $6.48 million to help fund 23 projects, more than any other county in the state. Included are drainage work in Miami Gardens and Miami Lakes. … The Tampa Bay area will see a water projects boon, too: $7.53 million across Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties.

Lawmakers dropped in $1 million to hook up some Pasco County residents to a different water source. Another $1.9 million will go to a Dade City stormwater project.

In fact Hillsborough and Pasco counties account for nearly all of the Tampa Bay water project funding. The two counties have important residents to this budget process: Appropriations Chairs Rep. Richard Corcoran … and Tom Lee.


— @Fineout: @FloridaEA Lawmakers agreed to top priority by @AFloridaPromise $1.2 mil for teacher insurance … Emails showed @AFloridaPromise wanted $1.2 mil for teacher liability insurance to take away potential recruiting tool for union

— @Fineout: Another budget loser (kind of): State workers. No across-the-board pay raise again this year despite last min. spending frenzy … But #FLLeg agreed to keep health insurance premiums at current levels – inc. the $8.34/$30 paid by @FLGovScott & others

— @MDixon55: Proviso added last night gives circuit court system rubber glove treatment. OPPAGA to study staffing, case processing & effectiveness of JNC

— @MDixon55: Sen got $300k for a Department of Corrections study. Funding put in during last offer.


— “How some of Florida’s top lobbyists produce blockbuster budget results” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics

— “Local projects abound in final state budget deal” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

TWEET, TWEET: @FasanoMike: Shame on you Fl Legislature. Budget you eliminate funding for programs for our Fl Adults with disabilities. You have no conscience.

***Applications are now being accepted for the 2015 Central Florida Political Leadership Institute’s Oct. 8-10 class. If you reside in the 7-county region, and are considering a run for public office but don’t know where to begin, this groundbreaking initiative is for you. Thank you to our sponsors AT&T, Bright House Networks, Central Florida Partnership, Clear Channel Outdoor, Orlando Magic, Roy E. Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College and Universal Orlando Resort. Deadline is August 21, so don’t delay. More info here. Contact PLI Director Christina Johnson here.***

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart will join Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), and Chester Spellman, CEO of Volunteer Florida, on a media conference call to announce new grant funding for Florida. The grants will support education programs across the state.  888-989-6494; PASSCODE: 4130


The Seminole Tribe of Florida is saying a recent court decision on slot machines could cause “grave financial harm” to the tribe. Lawyers for the tribe filed court papers … want the 1st District Court of Appeal to let the Seminoles weigh in on a far-reaching ruling that could lead to slot machines at several dog and horse tracks.

Judges last month ordered state regulators to allow slot machines at a track in the north Florida town of Gretna. If left unchallenged, the decision could lead to slot machines in several other counties. Attorney General Pam Bondi last week asked the entire appeals court to review the ruling that was decided on a 2-1 margin.

An attorney representing the Gretna track said they will oppose the tribe’s motion.


After more than a year of delays, the Florida Department of Health … will begin accepting applications for five geographically distributed licenses to grow non-euphoric marijuana, process it into a concentrated oil and market it to epileptics and people with cancer.

It is a process that was expected to get underway last summer, but was prevented when various would-be applicants made legal challenges to the rules. How many applicants there will be is unknown, but the number has likely dwindled from what it would have been a year ago.

The applications must be made by Florida nurseries that have been in existence for 30 years or longer and have 400,000 or more plants under cultivation.

“Ninety-two nurseries are eligible to apply,” said David Kotler, a Boca Raton attorney who specializes in medical marijuana legal consulting. “The scuttlebutt was 15 were probably capable of applying. Frankly I think the number is going to be a little less.”

The Southwest Florida license takes in a north-to-south strip of Hillsborough, Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and Collier counties. The South Florida license covers the largest portion of Florida’s population. Using conservative estimates, Kotler and a client figured they should only count on 1,400 monthly clients. “The expected revenue was pretty good after ramp-up, but start-up costs were high,” he said.

Overall, it will cost each successful license winner more than $2 million just to set up shop. Submitting an application requires a $63,000 nonrefundable fee. If successful in winning a license, the enterprise must post a $5 million bond, which costs $50,000 to $300,000 per year to maintain. Building an indoor grow operation could cost $1.75 million or more. The processing plant and lab together would bring that total to a minimum of $2.25 million.


Five of six Florida A&M University alumni serving in the Legislature have written a letter to the state Board of Governors asking for an investigation of the FAMU Board of Trustees. The lawmakers said FAMU President Elmira Mangum has been treated unfairly by the board, with members’ behavior amounting to micromanaging and possibly bullying. The letter especially focuses on newly appointed Chairman Rufus Montgomery.

“Since her name was first advanced as a leading candidate for FAMU president, and, subsequently, after her historic selection, Dr. Elmira Mangum has been a frequent target of FAMU BOT Chairman Rufus Montgomery, whose abrupt and ongoing challenges to her leadership are bordering dangerously close to bullying,” the lawmakers wrote. “Unfortunately, his actions recently intensified at a meeting of the Board last week, leading to spurious demands we believe are unwarranted and detrimental to the effective operation of the university as a whole.”

The letter was signed by Sen. Arthenia Joyner, Sen. Dwight Bullard, Rep. Mia Jones, Rep. Shevrin Jones, and Rep. Bobby Powell. The only FAMU alumnus in the Legislature who didn’t sign the letter is Rep. Alan Williams.

Mangum has been accused of failing to brief board members on her travel schedule and search process for high-profile positions in her administration. Meanwhile, board members and especially Montgomery have been accused of not showing the new president — she is a little more than a year on the job — respect that previous university leaders — all of them male — have been afforded.

— “Chris Timmons: FAMU trustees’ egos fail school’s best interests” via Florida Politics


Floridians seem interested in making a visit to our closest southern neighbor, with nearly half surveyed in a recent poll by USF Sarasota-Manatee researchers saying they would like to go to the island nation.

The poll shows 91 percent of respondents supporting the elimination of travel restrictions to Cuba and a slightly higher percentage say the Cuban embargo should end. The research was conducted by Cihan Cobanoglu of the College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership and graduate student Adrianna Ramirez.

Thirty-four percent indicated they would not travel to Cuba and 19 percent were undecided in the poll, which was conducted nationally and posed 20 questions that elicited 467 responses.

Among other findings: Thirty-seven percent would travel to Cuba “as soon as they believed Cuba was ready for Americans.” … Twenty-one percent would travel there “when there is an American embassy.” Nineteen percent would plan a trip to Cuba for “next year’s vacation” if the travel ban was removed. Eight percent would travel to Cuba, “within the first year” of restrictions being removed.

Most respondents — 67 percent — said they would stay a week, about three-quarters would travel by plane — only 22 percent by cruise ship or ferry — and almost half would rent a car upon arrival. About 40 percent would hire a local tour operator.


Uber Technologies Inc. became one of the world’s most valuable startups by creating a new way to transport millions of people in more than 300 cities. But using the same formula to upend the delivery business has turned into a slog.

For more than a year, the San Francisco company has been trying to build what its chief executive once called “an urban logistics fabric” that enables drivers who shuttle passengers with the tap of a smartphone to pick up food, grocery items and packages along the way. In a sign of Uber’s potential, it has more than 200,000 active drivers, roughly double the size of the delivery workforce at United Parcel Service Inc.

So far, though, an Uber same-day delivery program launched a year ago with plans to sign up dozens of retailers has announced partnerships with just six. … In recent months, Uber lost out on the opportunity to make deliveries in some cities for Apple Inc. and Starbucks Corp., which discussed tie-ups with Uber but then made deals with startup courier service Postmates Inc. … Popular food-ordering apps Eat24, owned by Yelp Inc., and GrubHub Inc. also held talks with Uber but haven’t reached any agreements.

Uber says it remains committed to making deliveries and still is in an early phase of testing new approaches to the business … Rivals of Uber in the nascent world of on-demand delivery also are betting that the smartphone era is breeding a new kind of shopper who will want many kinds of products delivered as quickly as the hailing of a car.

Investors in Uber are enthusiastic about the potential, valuing the privately held company at $41 billion in its last funding round. Uber is in talks to raise a new funding round at a valuation of $50 billion or more … roughly equal to FedEx Corp.’s stock-market value.

Uber, which had revenue last year of roughly $400 million and is planning to invest more than $1 billion in China this year, hasn’t said publicly how big it hopes to become in the delivery business.


Bloomberg is creating a team within its Washington, D.C. bureau dedicated to reporting on campaign finance and lobbying practices, Poynter has learned … represents an effort to bring the company’s financial reporting muscle to bear on politics as election season looms.

The team will comprise three full-time staffers to start. Josh Gallu, who currently covers SEC enforcement for Bloomberg, will lead the team … joined by Zachary Mider, whose reporting on tax evasion won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting. Also joining the team is Bloomberg’s Apple reporter, Tim Higgins, who will relocate from the West Coast for the assignment.

The team will also include three other journalists who will contribute as needed: Richard Rubin, who reports on tax policy in Washington, D.C.; Businessweek National Correspondent Josh Green; and Noah Buhayar, who covers Berkshire Hathaway and the insurance industry.

The creation of the team comes amid an initiative by Bloomberg to use the news organization’s political reporting resources, divided between New York and Washington, D.C., more effectively. In a memo sent to editorial staffers in April, Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait stressed the importance of better collaboration between that organization’s D.C. bureau and the New York-based Bloomberg Politics.


Take a few accomplished journalists, add some venture capital, mix with the Internet — and, voila!, you had the ingredients for a revolution in journalism and business.

Or so commentators suggested when a wave of news start-ups fronted by “brand-name” reporters crested last year. “We are in a time very similar to the early 1980s, when big cities were finally wired for cable,” wrote the New York Times’s media columnist, the late David Carr, in one of the typical assessments last year. “What followed was an explosion of new channels, many of which have become big businesses today.”

Or maybe not. It’s still early, but the digital-news revolution of recent vintage hasn’t been an unbroken run to glory. Some celebrated new ventures have found tough going; others are experiencing what might charitably be called growing pains. The journalism that has emerged from them has been decidedly mixed.

In perhaps a sign of the times, ReCode, a tech-news site founded by journalists Walter Mossberg and Kara Swisher amid big buzz just 17 months ago, was sold last month to Washington-based Vox Media for an undisclosed price … ReCode was attracting about 1.5 million unique visitors per month, according to ComScore, a modest number (by comparison, digital goliath Huffington Post reaches about 100 million people per month, according to the Pew Research Center).

The jury is still out on other new news innovators.

Predicting success on the Web is, of course, a dicey proposition. It took several years for an earlier wave of digital-news outfits — Vice, BuzzFeed, Mashable, Gawker, Business Insider — to evolve into major forces, with enormous audiences, if only modest profits. BuzzFeed, for example, started in 2006. Mashable and Huffington Post launched in 2005.

The most promising commercial operations so far among the new crop appear to be and Both are sites that use data to illuminate complicated news stories … Both have drawn significant audiences in Year One: Vox approached 13 million unique visitors in April, according to ComScore; FiveThirtyEight had more than 8 million unique visits, according to Silver. Both, too, are backed by bigger outfits: FiveThirtyEight by Disney’s ESPN, and Vox by Vox Media, the outfit that bought Swisher’s company last month.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to RSA Consulting’s Natalie King. Celebrating today are two of the best, Brett Doster and Toby Philpot.

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.