Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – June 24

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

One, two Melissa Sellers is coming for you…

Three, four better lock your door…

Five, six, Gov’s office is pulling its tricks…

Seven, eight, budget signing ain’t gonna wait…

Nine, ten lobbyists and Senators won’t sleep again…

It Was A Nightmare On Adams Street.

RICK SCOTT SIGNS BUDGET IN PRIVATE, AVERTS SHUTDOWN, AXES $461 MIL FROM BUDGET via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press

Gov. Scott on Tuesday ended the state’s biggest budget crisis in more than two decades by signing a more than $78 billion budget into law, but he may have created another divide with some of his fellow Republicans.

Scott signed the budget just days after the Florida Legislature approved it during an unusual June special session. State government would have been partially shut down if a new budget had not been in place by July 1.

But before he signed the budget into law the GOP governor used his line-item veto power to slash more than $461 million in projects ranging from pay raises for the state’s forest firefighters to money used to hand out orange juice to visitors to the state’s welcome centers. He cut money for trails, museums, health care clinics, and eliminated increased rates for pediatricians who treat children in the Medicaid program.

The deep round of vetoes drew the ire of legislators from both parties.

Scott defended the vetoes, saying he targeted projects that either bypassed normal procedures used to evaluate them or that they lacked a statewide purpose. He said he had “absolutely not” retaliated against legislators who crossed him. The governor had trouble winning approval of key parts of his agenda this year due to the protracted budget fight.

“I go through the budget and I try to find out what’s best for all of our citizens,” said Scott. “This is their money. It’s not government money.”

But Senate President Gardiner, who clashed with Scott and House Republicans this year over health care spending, contended that the governor’s vetoes hit those who need the most help, citing as one example the veto of $8 million for a new program intended to help children with disabilities attend college. He said that governor’s veto list was “more about politics than sound fiscal policy.”

“It is unfortunate that the messaging strategy needed to achieve the Governor’s political agenda comes at the expense of the most vulnerable people in our state,” the Orlando Republican said in a written statement.

Scott also jettisoned other top priorities of Gardiner, including $15 million for a proposed downtown campus for the University of Central Florida.

Gardiner was not alone in criticizing Scott. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a potential candidate for governor in 2018, said he was “profoundly disappointed” that Scott axed a planned pay increase for firefighters and others who work in the state’s forestry division.

Putnam, who is also a Republican, said the governor was not consistent since he left intact a pay bump for highway troopers who work in a handful of counties and for some employees in the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

SENATORS SEE POLITICAL AGENDA IN SCOTT’S BUDGET VETOES via Matt Dixon of POLITICO

Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano … said that Scott’s massive veto list will impact relationships with the Legislature heading into next session, which begins in just three months.

“The cuts will still be fresh in members’ minds when they return to Tallahassee,” he said.

(Scott) said “absolutely not” when asked if his veto list was designed to retaliate against those who opposed his policy positions. During an availability with reporters, Scott touted the budget’s $427 million in tax cuts, nearly $20 billion for public education—a record overall number—and a record $45 million for springs restoration.

Among the projects that did not make the final cut are $15 million for a downtown University of Central Florida campus in Orlando, a big priority Gardiner; $2 million for IMG, a private sports academy in Galvano’s district; and $1 million for a marina in Palm Beach County sought by powerful Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater.

… Senate budget chief Tom Lee says members are already calling him about potential veto overrides.

He specifically pointed to a $27 million veto for “water farming,” or using contracts with private land owners to store water, and a handful of vetoes to funding for developmental programs championed by Gardiner, whose son has Down syndrome.

JACK LATVALA RAILS: THE GOVERNOR HAS DECLARED WAR ON THE LEGISLATURE via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

With the ink barely dry on … Scott‘s veto of $461 million in legislatively approved projects, Sen. Jack Latvala railed against it in an interview … saying, “the governor has declared war on the Legislature.” He predicted Scott will face continued deterioration of relations with the Republican-controlled body.

“There’s stuff in there that he has approved in the past,” said Latvala … chairman of the Senate budget committee on transportation and economic development. He cited the Miami project on paralysis research and the pay raise for forestry firefighters as examples of projects Scott has recommended in his budgets in the past but are now on the lengthy veto list.

Latvala directed the blame directly at the governor’s staff and, primarily, his chief of staff, Melissa Sellers, who formerly worked for Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.

“The governor is not being well served by these kids from Louisiana,” Latvala said. “I don’t recall a governor’s office as unresponsive as that one is. They’ve got him totally isolated. You can’t have a meeting without Melissa sitting there. She totally controls the agenda but what are her credentials to do that? She won a campaign.”

Latvala criticized the governor for delegating to staff who have little understanding of the budget, the legislative process and make little effort to understand the details.

“The advice is dead wrong,” he said. “There are so many inconsistencies in the ways those things are applied. They don’t even know what he asked for before.”

He predicted Scott “is going to have problems with the Legislature now, worse than he’s had in the past, and these people will go off and take jobs in presidential campaigns and he’ll be left holding the bag.”

TWEET, TWEET: @JackLatvala: The “jobs” budget vetoes today included highest ranked BOG PECO project. A $6 million vessel to be built in Tarpon Sprgs. How many jobs??

TWEET, TWEET: @ClemensFL: So if the Gov is going to veto all these economic development projects, why do we need a Department of Economic Opportunity?

TWEET, TWEET: @SenChrisSmith: Schedule is cleared, car gassed up, who’s down for some Veto overrides?

GOV VETOES WATER PROJECTS, FIREFIGHTER PAY INCREASES via Bruce Ritchie of Florida Politics

Scott … vetoed more than $87 million in environmental spending including $27.3 million for suspect “dispersed” water projects … $461.3 million in spending from a budget of more than $78 billion. While highlighting tax cuts and spending to bring more jobs to Florida, the governor said the 2015-16 state budget provides for springs protection, Everglades restoration and land acquisition.

“We are doing the right thing for our environment,” Scott said.

He also vetoed more than $29 million in local water projects pushed by legislators into the budget behind closed doors. Other vetoes included $1.5 million for forest firefighter pay increases that Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has requested along with $5 million for agricultural best management practices that Putnam touted as protecting springs … vetoed $27.3 million in the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services budget for dispersed water storage programs that pay ranchers to hold back rainwater to keep it from filling up Lake Okeechobee.

Scott vetoed the spending because he said it was more appropriately done by water management districts without using additional state funds. He also vetoed another line item of $4.5 million for dispersed water storage. … The $29 million in local water projects he vetoed “did not provide a clear statewide return on investment.” He vetoed less than half of the $73.3 million provided by the Legislature for local water projects.

The largest of the water projects vetoed was $6 million for an advanced wastewater treatment and water reuse demonstration project in Altamonte Springs. Scott noted that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the state’s five water management districts provide funding for programs that protect water quality and water supplies.

ADAM PUTNAM ‘PROFOUNDLY DISAPPOINTED’ IN SCOTT’S VETO OF FIREFIGHTER PAY RAISE via Jeremy Wallace of the Miami Herald

Firefighters who battle forest fires in Florida will not be getting pay raises because of Scott’s vetoes. The Legislature has set aside $1.6 million in the state budget to give the state’s 606 Forest Service firefighters each a $2,000 a year pay raise.

“I am profoundly disappointed,” Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said … after learning of the veto. “Our forest firefighters put their lives on the line. They are demonstratively underpaid relative to peers.”

The vetoes come as Florida fire fighters are battling an unusually high number of fires. On Friday, the state was fighting 90 active wildfires, Putnam said. And since January the state has dealt with 1,440 fires on over 30,000 acres. The Florida Panhandle, North Florida and Florida Atlantic Coast are all facing a high wildfire threat.

Putnam questioned the lack of consistency in the vetoes, noting other government employees in less dangerous jobs will get raises, but not the fire fighters.

“I’m even more disappointed that it wasn’t applied consistently,” Putnam said. The helpful people who take your driver’s license photo were allowed to receive a pay raise. And our forest firefighters who put their lives on the line were not.”

GERALDINE THOMPSON SAYS HER PROJECTS WERE VETOED BECAUSE SHE DOESN’T “THINK” LIKE SCOTT Full story here

In a blistering press release, state Sen. Geraldine Thompson said Scott vetoed eight projects she supported in the state budget because she doesn’t “think like him.”

“Could it be that my district has less need for support than other districts or could it be that citizens in District 12 are overlooked because I do not think like Governor Scott?” she asked rhetorically.

Thompson said her projects included money for the Sankofa Project–which would stabilize African American historic sites throughout the state– to a move that would fund a Teen Express mobile health unit that provides free health care for teens.

“These vetoes were singled out of a budget that had been vetted and approved by members of the Florida Legislature. Within a ten page veto list, every item I requested was vetoed,” she said.

Thompson said she has seen the “think like me” governor before, when members of the Legislative Black Caucus met with the governor to discuss diversity in his Cabinet.

TIMING IS EVERYTHING: SCOTT CUTS BUDGET FOR BETHEL AME CHURCH IN ST. PETE via Phil Ammann of Florida Politics

Among Tampa Bay-area projects not surviving the chopping block was $240,956 set aside for the restoration of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Second Ave. South in St. Petersburg … at this particular point in time, restoration of an AME church in Florida could be considered significant, and more than a little noteworthy.

AME denominations are important in the history of black Americans and have figured prominently in the news since the assault last week on a Bible study group at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The attack on the oldest AME in the South left nine people dead, including a respected state lawmaker.

Some observers saw the shooting at a black church – allegedly in an attempt to start a race war — as an attack on the fundamentals of black culture and history.

In Florida, at a time when political optics is almost as valuable as actual dollars, slashing the restoration of a piece of local African-American history is debatable.

Especially when the budget comes so close to a tragedy that intensified the issue of race in America.

At the very least, it would have make a great talking point for Scott, who had little problem taking a victory lap Monday over $400 million in tax cuts in the budget.

MORE NIGHTMARE STORIES

— “FGCU projects escape Gov. Scott vetoes” via Seth Soffian of News-Press.com

— “Governor vetoes money for several Central Florida projects” via Gray Rohrer, Jeff Weiner and Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel

— “Gov. Rick Scott vetoes $2 million for IMG Academy; Galvano says Scott is ‘erratic’” via Kate Irby of the Bradenton Herald

— “Gov. Scott Vetoes Almost $650,000 for Greenhouse and Sciences Laboratory Project at Florida Southern College” via the Lakeland Ledger

— “Gov. Scott Vetoes $1M For Renovations Of Mayport Ferry via Taylor Johnson of WJCT

— “Gov. Scott vetoes money for soccer complex tied to Armada, other NE Florida projects” via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union

— “Local education projects feel Gov. Rick Scott’s budget axe” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times

— “Scott erases cash for Lake Worth, Riviera Beach and more in vetoing $461.4 million” via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

— “Scott vetoes cash for VGTI, Torrey Pines” via Isadora Rangel of TCPalm.com

— “USF funding projects survive Rick Scott’s veto pen” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

HOW THE NIGHTMARE ON ADAMS STREET IS PLAYING

Tallahassee DemocratFlorida Gov. signs budget, vetoes nearly $500 million – “ … vetoes went wide and far … jettisoning top priorities of legislative leaders … dozens of hometown projects … vetoed a planned pay increase for firefighters … in the state’s forestry division … left intact a pay bump for highway troopers and some employees in the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.” NPRGov. Scott Breaks Budget Veto Record – “Scott’s budget veto list broke records … education projects weren’t spared despite Scott’s emphasis on K-12 funding this year.” Tampa Bay TimesScott’s budget vetoes send a message – “For a governor with low voter approval ratings and few allies in Tallahassee … an unsubtle reminder that he still wields considerable power … no matter how isolated and unpopular he has become …” Sunshine State NewsSenate and House Leadership Split … – “…drew fire from the Republican leadership of the Florida Senate and cheers from fiscal conservatives, including … House leadership …” POLITICOSenators see ‘political agenda’ in Rick Scott’s budget vetoes – “… Andy Gardiner … said that Scott was playing ‘politics’ with his veto … to help frame his future political ambitions, which could include a 2018 run for U.S. Senate.” Miami New TimesRepublican legislators turn on Rick Scott … ‘shattering dreams’ – “’… clear disregard for the public policy merits of many legislative initiatives underscores that today’s veto list is more about politics than sound fiscal policy,’ Gardiner said. ‘It is unfortunate that the messaging strategy … comes at the expense of the most vulnerable people in our state.’” News-Press.comGovernor’s vetoes do little to inspire confidence – “We fail to see the logic in Gov. Rick Scott’s decision … veto funding to over 450 programs and projects … many involving development of children … throwing a legislative tantrum for not getting the $673 million in tax cuts …” Gainesville SunNews on Scott’s vetoes is good and bad locally – “… a mixed bag of good news and bad for UF — but mostly good news … victim of Scott’s red pen was $2 million for the expansion of engineering and IT programs at Santa Fe’s Blount Center …”

OFFICIAL REAX

Speaker Steve Crisafulli: “I want to thank Governor Scott for swiftly signing the budget into law. Our balanced budget keeps Florida’s economy growing, provides record funding for our children’s education, fully complies with Amendment 1, cuts taxes for families by $400 million, and will include even more than the $3 billion in reserves we anticipated. This is a good budget that responsibly meets the needs of Florida families.”

Minority Leader Mark Pafford: “Gov. Rick Scott has weaponized the veto pen, using his executive authority to arbitrarily cut legislative priorities and settle political scores. In a state spending plan that already twisted voters’ clear priorities, Gov. Scott has made matters worse and relied on the inconsistent application of his extreme ideology to punish those who have the temerity to cross him. This is no way to govern. While in-fighting between House and Senate Republicans already made this a challenging budget year, Gov. Scott was entirely absent, providing no leadership to resolve differences in favor of the people of Florida. Perhaps now, as his approval rating sinks below 40 percent, members of both parties will fully understand the hollow leadership provided by this governor.”

TWEET, TWEET: @RichardCorcoran: Hard working taxpayers deserve to have THEIR money zealously protected. @FLGovScott – well done Governor

TWEET, TWEET: @ShevrinJones: This is only my third year in office, and I must admit, nothing has made me more sick to my stomach than the veto list by Gov. Scott.!

FACEBOOK STATUS OF THE DAY via Rep. Jimmie Smith: “I have an unfortunate announcement, the Governor has officially VETOED the funding for the Marine Science Station. Hours of phone calls, emails, text and personally hand written letters as well as face to face conversation and still it was cut.  I will commit here and now that I will do the hard work for next session to insure we once again fund this great educational tool.”

CARLOS LOPEZ-CANTERA’S ROLE (OR LACK THEREOF) IN BUDGET VETOES via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald

Scott vetoed so many projects in the state budget — and so quickly — that it made some political insiders wonder: Did he get recommendations from anyone outside his office? That question was making the rounds in Miami in particular, as the hometown of Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, whom some lobbyists privately hoped would intercede for local projects.

No such luck.

Lopez-Cantera, a likely 2016 U.S. Senate candidate, said … before celebrating the budget’s tax cuts with Scott that he left the budget review to the governor.

“There’s always room to make government more efficient, and I trust the governor and his judgement in his review of the budget, which I know is already under way,” Lopez-Cantera said before the event with Scott in Doral.

Did he make any veto suggestions to Scott? “I have not made any recommendations to the governor, no. Not yet.” Would he? “Wait and see,” Lopez-Cantera said. “I’m not sure.”

The budget, and vetoes, were signed 22 hours later.

WHAT ABOUT FLORIDA TAXWATCH’S TURKEY LIST via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

One of the annual rites of spring in Tallahassee is for Florida TaxWatch to release their Turkey Watch Report, which traditionally is released in May shortly after the Legislature finishes their work and before the governor signs the budget. The report spotlights legislative projects placed in the budget without proper opportunity for public review and debate, which circumvent lawfully established procedures, or which non-competitively benefit a very limited special interest or local area of the state.

The relevance of the report is that it gives anyone following state government the chance to review such projects, and can put pressure on a governor to strongly consider whether the item is worthy of being paid for by state taxpayers.

But a funny thing happened to the release of the Turkey Report this year – it didn’t come out in advance of the governor’s signing the budget …

Last week TaxWatch released a statement after Governor Scott signed legislation providing for a $400 million tax cut package, including a reduction in the Communications Services Tax. But they chided legislators for not providing more tax relief to taxpayers.

A spokesperson for Florida TaxWatch said this morning that the Turkey Watch Report will still be released, but not until later this week.

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FEDS ANNOUNCE ‘AGREEMENT IN PRINCIPLE’ AND APPROVE FLORIDA’S LIP MODEL via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

The federal government has given preliminary approval to the funding formula prepared by state lawmakers regarding the Low Income Pool, putting an end to the long-awaited conclusion over the future of federal money paid to hospitals for charity care.

In a letter to the Agency for Health Care Administration, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid told the state that they negotiations with state officials and legislative leaders have led to an agreement that the federal government will give Florida $1 billion this year, $600 million next year and expect that the money follow patient care, not be a substitute for Medicaid expansion.

The elements of the agreement were first detailed in the April 14 letter to the state from CMS including 1) uncompensated care pool funding should not pay for costs that would be covered in a Medicaid expansion, 2) Medicaid payments should support services provided to Medicaid beneficiaries and low-income uninsured individuals, and 3) provider payment should promote provider participation and access, and should support plans in managing and coordinating care.

The agreement also acknowledges that the state budget directs $400 million in general revenue to increase Medicaid provider rates for hospitals to offset the cuts from the reduction in federal LIP funds.

GOV: “IT TOOK A LAWSUIT” TO GET LIP AGREEMENT via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics

Scott … claimed victory after the federal government notified the state of an “agreement in principle” that lays the framework of how Florida can spend $1.6 billion in supplemental Medicaid spending over the next four years.

“Our fight for Florida families saw a major victory today with the Obama Administration finally agreeing to continue funding the Low Income Pool program,” Scott said …“It is unfortunate that it took a lawsuit against the Obama Administration for them to continue this funding apart from Florida’s decision not to expand Obamacare.”

Scott sued the federal government in spring over its refusal to continue the program at the $2 billion spending level and accused the government of coercing the state into expanding Medicaid access under the federal health care law, commonly called ObamaCare. … The governor had not withdrawn the suit, according to court filings.

SCOTT, CABINET VOTE TO END LAWSUIT OVER FIRING OF TOP COP via the Associated Press

Scott and members of the Cabinet are approving a settlement in a lawsuit filed over the firing of Florida’s top cop … formally approved an agreement … to end the lawsuit filed by a St. Petersburg attorney and media organizations. There was no debate before the vote.

The lawsuit contended Scott and Cabinet members sidestepped the state’s Sunshine Law in how they handled the dismissal of former Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey.

The agreement calls for Scott and Cabinet to change procedures for handling public records and appointments. All communication regarding any items to be voted on by the Cabinet must be done either in writing or verbally in a public meeting … requires the state to pay $55,000 in attorney fees. Taxpayers have already paid nearly $200,000 to lawyers representing state officials.

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RETURN OF THE SALTSHAKER SERIES EXAMINING THE VERACITY OF THE LATEST POLLING Full story here

It’s officially summer, Legislative Session has (finally) ended and there are at least a dozen serious candidates declared for President – and that’s just the Republican side of the ledger…. POLLING SEASON HAS BEGUN! Do you know what else that means? IT’S TIME TO REFRESH THE SALTSHAKER TEST! … Saltshaker test for Quinnipiac Poll released June 22, 2015.

Verdict: A Few Grains … there were a few things that raised our eyebrows.

For starters, during their dialing, they depended on the respondent to “self-identify” as a voter. A better way to conduct calls is beginning with the voter file and verifying that the person on the line is the actual voter. The way Q-pac did it here left too much room for error. Is the person a voter who happens to vote in another state? Does the respondent actually get out and cast a ballot? The voter file would have told them that.

Further, and on the subject of self-identification, Q-pac relied on the respondent to declare their party and not the voter file. This is fine, if you want to measure trends and sentiments related to party affiliation, but it is not a good way to balance your sample. Each sample, especially in Florida, absolutely must be balanced according to how voters actually are registered to vote and not how they wish they were registered. That is likely why the sample has 34% “Independent,” when the actual number in our state is closer to 27% registered, and we reasonably estimate they will be about 23% of those who cast ballots, next November. Additionally, this sample has a +4 Democrat advantage over Republicans and, while that is close to voter registration, history tells us the actual number will more likely be +1 Democrat. In short, the poll favors the Democratic candidates by a slight margin, and we suspect (given the large number of “Independents” and nearly 40% of calls taken on a cell phone) that the sample is also too young.

Finally, this poll was in the field for 11 days. That’s not that big of a deal, as opinions are relatively static this far out from an election, but that length of time should be more condensed as the election approaches. However, and this is important to note, even in a non-election year, public opinion can – and often does – change quickly …

In conclusion, this is a pretty good poll. Anytime a group goes to the lengths Q-pac did to get it right, we need to acknowledge that. But, not verifying that they were talking to actual Florida voters, (or even those who have a history of voting) having party balance off, and using respondent “self-identification” for party registration causes us to give this poll a few grains of salt.

WALL STREET LINING UP FOR JEB BUSH CAMPAIGN FUNDRAISER IN NEW YORK via Matea Gold of the Washington Post

Wealthy hedge fund managers, bankers and private equity investors have signed on to host one of the first official fundraisers for Jeb Bush‘s soon-to-be-announced presidential campaign, a breakfast reception in New York that is on track to bring in at least $1 million.

Already, three dozen heavyweight players have committed to raise a minimum of $27,000 each for the event, according to a copy of the invitation obtained by the Washington Post.

Among them are New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, former Barclays chief executive Robert E. Diamond Jr., private equity executive Emil Henry, investment banker Jeff Bunzel, hedge fund manager Duke Buchan, and Alex Navab, who heads KKR’s private equity business in the Americas.

New Jersey state Sen. Joseph M. Kyrillos, who chaired Chris Christie’s 2009 New Jersey gubernatorial campaign, is also listed as a co-chair of the fundraiser. He defected to Bush this spring.

REPUBLICAN MARY THOMAS CONSIDERING CHALLENGE TO GWEN GRAHAM IN FLORIDA’S CD 2 via Ryan Ray of Florida Politics

Tallahassee attorney and political newcomer Mary Thomas is “considering” a run in Congressional District 2 in the eastern Panhandle. Thomas was seen working the tables, looking very much like a candidate, all the while sounding very conservative at Tuesday night’s Leon County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner.

“I think we’ve found a candidate that can beat Gwen Graham,” wrote Leon County GOP committeeman John Howell in an email to local Republican boosters. “Like Graham, Mary is an attorney. Mary went to FSU Law, while Graham went to law school in Washington D.C. Like Graham, Mary is a mother, a wife, and a professional woman.

An Indian-American daughter of immigrants, Thomas has worked in Scott’s administration since he took office in 2011. She currently works as General Counsel for the Department of Elder Affairs.

“But unlike Graham, Mary is also a strong conservative Republican and a first-generation American. In fact, if elected, Mary would be the first Indian-American woman ever elected to Congress!”

The National Republican Campaign Committee visited North Florida earlier this year to recruit possible candidates to run against Graham, who unseated former U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland last November.

Despite some rumblings about a possible run by Tallahassee lawyer Pete Williams  broadly expected to launch a bid to succeed retiring local State Attorney Willie Megs — circulating around the same time, the NRCC seems to have come away empty-handed. Thomas looks to this observer like a homespun recruit, bereft of any national watermark.

ERIC LYNN KICKS OFF CONGRESSIONAL CAMPAIGN; FOCUSES ON SECURITY, ECONOMY via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times

Former military adviser Eric Lynn launched his 2016 congressional campaign in front of a crowd of several dozen Democratic supporters at the Veterans of Foreign Wars office in St. Petersburg … Lynn, who hopes to unseat Republican incumbent David Jolly for Florida’s 13th district congressional seat, stressed the importance of economic, national and social security in his kickoff speech.

“What Pinellas needs is more than just an improved economy and jobs,” Lynn said. “We need job security.”

Lynn, a St. Petersburg native, argued Rep. Jolly is not working to support the economy of Pinellas.

“David Jolly is simply outside the mainstream,” he said. “He does not share the Florida and Pinellas values that you and I do.”

The former Pentagon worker also underscored his support for abortion rights, gay marriage, extended maternity and paternity leave, increased environmental protection and the Affordable Care Act. But the crowd of mostly elderly local Democratic club members saved one of its loudest cheers for Lynn’s promise to protect Pinellas from “the constant attempts on the right to unravel the separation between church and state.”

DARDEN RICE SERIOUSLY CONTEMPLATING CHALLENGING DAVID JOLLY IN CD 13 via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

Another Democrat is looking at the possibility of challenging Republican David Jolly in 2016, and this one actually lives in the district … St. Petersburg City Councilwoman Darden Rice says she’s been asked “for some time” to consider running for the Democratic nomination for the CD 13 seat … she is giving it the serious consideration that it deserves. She says she will make her decision shortly after returning from an upcoming vacation.

Among those interested in a possible Rice candidacy is Emily’s List, the D.C.-based group that backs pro-choice female Democrats.

After two previous attempts at local office … Rice finally earned a seat in local government by winning the St. Pete City Council District 4 seat in November of 2013, easily defeating Carolyn Fries. “I love my job with my city of St Pete,” she acknowledged in an interview … “I’ve put my heart and soul into that work.”

Rice previously worked with the League of Women Voters and the Sierra Club, and says she will always work on issues like transportation and the environment, whether it’s at the local or national level.

There is already one declared Democrat in the race, Eric Lynn, who previously served as a senior administration adviser in the Defense Department under President Obama.

3 DEMOCRATIC STATE LAWMAKERS ENDORSE MELISSA MCKINLAY FOR PATRICK MURPHY’S SEAT via Phil Ammann of Florida Politics

Three Democratic state lawmakers are endorsing Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay in her bid for the Treasure Coast congressional seat held by U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy.

McKinlay, who was elected in November, is running for Florida’s 18th Congressional District, as Murphy runs for Marco Rubio’s U.S. Senate seat. If elected, she will become one of a handful of working single mothers in Congress.

In a joint statement issued Tuesday morning, Democratic state Sens. Jeremy Ring of Margate and Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth, as well as state Rep. David Kerner from Palm Springs, all announced support for McKinlay.

“Melissa has been a solid resource for all of South Florida,” Ring said. “Her ability to work with others, identify priorities and actually bring home the dollars needed to complete projects has been invaluable. She will make a fantastic congresswoman.”

FLORIDA TEA PARTY UNANIMOUSLY REJECTS SOLAR POWER AMENDMENT via H. Sterling Burnett of heartland.org

The solar power industry and the so-called Green Tea Party suffered a crushing defeat last week as The Villages Tea Party voted overwhelmingly to oppose a Florida constitutional amendment to give the solar power industry special rights to sell power directly to electricity consumers. The vote followed a highly publicized debate between prominent solar power lobbyist Alexander Snitker and Heartland Institute Vice President of External Relations James Taylor at The Villages Tea Party’s weekly meeting.

Atlanta-based Green Tea Party founder and solar power activist Debbie Dooley was scheduled to debate Taylor at the June 15 Villages Tea Party meeting, but Dooley called in sick claiming health issues prevented her from debating Taylor.

Dooley designated Snitker to fill in for her at The Villages Tea Party debate. After an hour-long debate, Villages Tea Party president Aileen Milton asked attendees for a show of hands supporting and opposing the proposed amendment. Just one person supported the amendment while 70 people opposed it. Milton later pointed out that the one person who supported the amendment was not a member of The Villages Tea Party, meaning The Villages Tea Party unanimously opposed the proposed amendment.

The unanimous Tea Party opposition to the proposed amendment defies media claims the proposed amendment is widely supported among Florida Tea Parties and Tea Party members and follows the Board of Directors of the Tampa 912 Project voting unanimously to oppose the proposed amendment after Floridians for Solar Choice chairman Tory Perfetti and Taylor debated the issue at a Tampa 912 Project meeting.

SAVE THE DATEJASON FISCHER DRAWS HIGH-PROFILE DUVAL REPUBLICANS FOR HD 16 FUNDRAISER Some of Jacksonville’s most influential Republicans will appear at a fundraiser next week to support Jason Fischer in his bid for House District 16. The afternoon reception begins Monday, June 29 at 5:00 p.m. at the Epping Forest Yacht Club, 1830 Epping Forest Drive in Jacksonville.

RADIO HOST, HYPNOTIST TO CHALLENGE KATHLEEN PETERS IN HD 69 via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

South Pasadena Republican Rep. Kathleen Peters drew an opponent for her House District 69 re-election bid Monday in Libertarian Robert Saviola, according to Florida Division of Elections records.

The Treasure Island candidate is an Air Force veteran, conservative talk radio host and hypnotist who teaches “covert hypnotism” and “neurolinguistic programming techniques.” He also appeared in the 2009 film “House of Horrors: The Movie.”

Saviola said he filed to run through the Libertarian Party of Florida because he believes there is no difference between the Republican and Democratic parties and that neither party protects the Constitution.

“I wanted to just relax under a palm tree,” Saviola said in a press release on his campaign site. “The problem is I have children and, for them, and for all of your children and grandchildren, we need to get our Constitution back.”

If elected to the House, Saviola aims to “reduce taxes and increase freedoms” by lowering the incarceration rate for victimless crimes. Though he does not have a background in political office, he said he has the ability to “create rapport with most anyone at most any time,” which could come in handy.

CONGRATS — HOLLAND & KNIGHT NAMED LAW FIRM OF THE YEAR

Holland & Knight has been named the winner of this year’s Legal 500 Government/Government Relations ‘Law Firm of the Year’ Award. The firm will be honored at the annual awards dinner in New York City on Oct. 14. H/t POLITICO Influence.

AP HIRES SERGIO BUSTOS AS MIAMI-BASED POLITICS WRITER via the Associated Press

Sergio Bustos, a veteran political journalist, has been hired by The Associated Press as the news cooperative’s Miami-based politics reporter, a key position ahead the 2016 elections.

Bustos, 52, joins the AP from the Miami Herald, where he has led that newspaper’s politics and state government coverage since 2010, worked with PolitiFactFlorida.com in partnership with the Tampa Bay Times and served as the paper’s Sunday editor. The appointment was announced … by AP’s Politics Editor David Scott, South Editor Lisa Marie Pane and Florida News Editor Terry Spencer.

“Sergio knows Florida and the politics of the state, and Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio in the race only adds to the importance Florida will play in the choice of the next president. We’re excited about what he’ll bring to our report,” Scott said.

CONTEXT FLORIDA: POPE FRANCIS SAVES THE WORLD, DONALD TRUMP AND THE PHONY ‘TAX-CUT TOUR’

On Context Florida: Pope Francis’s encyclical on saving the world — “our common home” — from what we are doing to it is a powerful appeal to everyone, not just to those who belong to the church he leads. The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism — the denomination of Martin Dyckman— praised Francis for having “shone a Catholic spotlight on an issue of importance to people of all faiths and no faith around the world. …” Regrettably, there is a small but conspicuous audience unwilling to hear it, composed of people who look in the mirror and think they see a Republican president. When billionaire Donald Trump entered the race for the 2016 Republican nomination for president, Steven Kurlander, like many political junkies, initially met his announcement with great skepticism. In other words, Trump is nothing more than a political “assclown,” a very wealthy demagogue who can put his campaign money where his mouth is. But when Kurlander read Trump’s recent announcement, and changed his mind. Trump may be the right candidate at the right time, he says, and very good for politics indeed. Daniel Tilson, through an imaginary “dialogue” between Rick Scott and a constituent, shows that the governor is simply phoning it in with his 2015 tax-cutting “victory tour.”

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

CORRECTION: In yesterday’s edition of Sunburn, we bungled an endorsement received by Dennis Baxley in the Senate District 5 race. Levy County Superintendent Robert Levy is who has endorsed Baxley.

SPOTTED: Reis Suskey on the floor of the U.S. House with Reps. David Jolly, Gwen Graham, Rich Nugent, and Jeff Miller. Voting “Yes” on all three of the night’s bills.

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.