Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – June 25

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

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


A new Fox News poll finds Jeb Bush leading the Republican presidential field with 15%, followed by Donald Trump at 11%, Ben Carson at 10%, Rand Paul at 9%, Scott Walker at 9%, Marco Rubio at 8% and Mike Huckabee at 6%.

The bad news for Trump is that only 29% of GOP primary voters consider him a serious candidate.  More than twice that many — 64% — think he’s a side show.

QUOTE OF THE DAY via Donald Trump in the Washington Post: “I can’t believe Bush is in first place. This guy can’t negotiate his way out of a paper bag. So I’m in second place to Bush. I hate it.”

BUSH PICKS WOODY JOHNSON AS FINANCE CHAIRMAN via Beth Reinhard and Patrick O’Connor of the Wall Street Journal

Woody Johnson, a top fundraiser for the last three Republican presidential nominees and the owner of the New York Jets football team, will serve as national finance chairman for Bush’s presidential campaign.

The announcement isn’t unexpected, considering … Johnson’s visibility, standing by … Bush throughout his recent trip to Europe and flying him there on his private jet. … Johnson has been a supporter of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and his decision earlier this year to back … Bush was viewed as a setback to … Christie, who is likely to launch a 2016 bid this summer.

Bush is trying to raise money at a furious pace during the two weeks between his June 15 campaign launch and June 30, when he is required to disclose his fundraising total to the Federal Election Commission. The campaign is trying to incentivize donors by inviting those who raise $27,000 by the end of the month to a July 9-10 retreat at his family’s compound in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Johnson is seen as one of the GOP’s top fundraisers for his ability to convene top Wall Street financiers and heirs to some of the country’s fortunes. He was a top rainmaker for the past two Republican nominees, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Arizona Sen. John McCain, with a reputation for making as many as 50 calls a day on behalf of the candidates he supports. He is credited with raising $7 million for … McCain in a single night during the 2008 campaign.


When does Bush allow religion to influence his politics? When he’s not in New Hampshire.

It was this perception Bush left some campaign-watchers with last week amid an otherwise-flawless rollout of his presidential candidacy. Indeed, from Miami to New Hampshire to Iowa to Washington, Bush handled dozens of questions with an expertise and consistency that showed why some consider him the leader of the 2016 Republican field.

Yet one issue proved a difficult balancing act for Bush: God, and more specifically, the role of religion in government. … Bush held a town-hall-style meeting in Derry, New Hampshire … the second-to-last question that left Bush visibly flummoxed and produced an answer that dogged him for the remainder of the week. A man told Bush that parts of Florida “will be underwater” by 2100, and then asked what he thought about Pope Francis’s forthcoming encyclical on climate change.

After emphasizing what an “extraordinary leader” Pope Francis has proven to be, Bush gave a quiet chuckle, then declared: “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.”

Bush said he would wait to read the encyclical before commenting further. And then he added: “I think religion ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting into the political realm.”

That line drew loud and sustained applause—which was unsurprising, given the famously secular makeup of New Hampshire’s electorate. (Only 24 percent of its residents described themselves as “very religious” in a 2014 Gallup survey, making it the second-least religious state behind Vermont.) It also would seem to mesh with Bush’s reputation as someone who is intensely private about his faith and rarely speaks publicly about his religion—even when implementing policies clearly informed by it.

Indeed, Bush’s remark, a political winner in New Hampshire, ran counter to his record in Florida—where he established a blueprint for faith-based governing by repeatedly intervening where he saw a moral imperative at stake. Among other things, Bush approved “Choose Life” license plates that funded antiabortion efforts, converted three correctional facilities into faith-based prisons, interceded in multiple abortion-related court cases, and appointed prominent social conservatives to cabinet positions and nominating commissions. He also invested significant political capital in the losing fight to keep Terri Schiavo alive—an effort that flowed, he acknowledged, from his Catholic worldview. Bush’s statement in New Hampshire also conflicted with comments he would make later in the week.


Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski believes Pope Francis’ recent document on global warming is already changing the climate of the conversation in the presidential race, particularly among two friends, both members of his flock — and both angling for the most powerful position in the world.

Wenski said comments on climate change by Bush and Marco Rubio, Republicans and devout Roman Catholics from Miami, have been noticeably milder in tone since Francis weighed in.

“Both of them, at least from what I can gather, have walked back some of their earlier comments,” Wenski told the Miami Herald in an interview Wednesday. He called the presidential contenders’ willingness to talk about how to solve the problems created by global warming an encouraging sign. “What the pope is saying is, ‘Let’s talk about this.’ And that requires — whether you’re Democrat or Republican or left or right — it requires that you transcend your particular interest or ideological lens and look at the issue from the common good.”

Rubio’s and Bush’s campaigns dispute that their candidates altered anything as a result of Francis’ encyclical, a teaching document published last week by the popular pope, who argued a religious case for protecting the environment.


Voting against John Boehner’s bid for a third term as speaker has been very bad for Rep. Richard Nugent.

The speaker’s friends and aides thought the Florida Republican was a trustworthy ally. Nugent had privately signaled he would vote for the Ohio Republican to remain the GOP leader.

Then he cast a ballot for his fellow Florida Rep. Daniel Webster.

Now Nugent is an outsider.

Campaign checks from corporate political action committees have all but dried up. GOP leaders have prohibited him from traveling on congressional trips to Iraq and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Bills that Nugent has written have been snatched away and doled out to other members of the House Republican Conference, including one dealing with mental health. And Boehner kicked him — and Webster — off the influential Rules Committee.

“It’s been quite a few things,” Nugent, a second-term congressman and former county sheriff, said in a recent interview, referring to the retribution he’s been subject to. Asked whether he would like to make amends, he said, “It’s all up to them.”

For the first time in years, Republican leaders feel they have the political capital to truly fight back against a small group of dissenters within their ranks. Senior members of GOP leadership say they are finally ready to impose the no-nonsense management style they’ve long believed in, but resisted fully instituting.


In a joint statement on Wednesday, Plantation Mayor Diane Veltri Bendekovic, Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank Ortis, Palm Beach Gardens Mayor Eric Jablin, and Delray Beach Mayor Cary Glicksteinofficially endorsed Murphy, who is seeking Rubio’s Senate seat.

“Support for our campaign is growing every day,” Murphy said, “and it’s because strong leaders like Mayors Benekovic, Ortis, Jablin, and Glickstein are stepping up early to help us.”

Both Bendekovic and Ortis serve in Broward County, one of Florida’s Democratic strongholds, with more Democrats than any other county in the state. Endorsements followed support from several other Broward County lawmakers: Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler, Broward County Mayor Tim Ryan, Sheriff Scott Israel, Property Appraiser Lori Parrish, and Commissioners Martin KiarMark BogenBeam Furr and Dale Holness.

EMAIL OF THE DAY via Chris Pack, Regional Press Secretary of the National Republican Congressional Committee: “From the FL-13 Democratic Royal Rumble to Jollymania! — If you’re a Democrat running for Congress in FL-13, you’ve probably realized that it’s starting to feel a lot like the Royal Rumble.  That’s the wrestling match where a bunch of wrestlers battle it out to see who gets to go on to wrestle for the championship at WrestleMania.”


For decades … an unspoken rule among Washington’s agricultural lobbyists: advocates for one crop do not attack other crops, so that everyone’s benefits can be protected.

But a leading member of the traditionally united community plans to do just that: the Corn Refiners Association is about to invest heavily in an effort to unwind the lucrative breaks afforded to sugar, which are among the most generous in U.S. agriculture.

The Corn Refiners, representing companies that produce high-fructose corn syrup, just hired 10 outside lobbyists for an aggressive, unorthodox attack on the federal sugar program just a year after a new farm bill was signed into law. Their first target is the agriculture appropriations bill, now moving through a House committee.

While other crop subsidies have withered, Washington’s taste for sugar has been constant. The sugar program, which has existed in various forms since the 1930s, uses an elaborate system of import quotas, price floors and taxpayer-backed loans to prop up domestic growers, which number fewer than 4,500.

Sugar’s protected status is largely explained by the sophistication and clout of a small but wealthy interest group that includes beet farmers in the Upper Midwest, cane growers in the South and the politically connected Fanjul family of Florida, who control a substantial part of the world sugar market. That mix of factors has led to an eclectic coalition on sugar’s side, from Sen. Rubio … to Sen. Al Franken.

The anti-sugar effort includes a team of left and right interests, lobbyists and organizations—from environmentalists and consumer groups to trade associations for bakers and confectioners.

Many of them applauded the move, with some on the right suggesting the attack on sugar could become a litmus test for conservative candidates going forward, much as the Export-Import Bank has been in the first half of this year.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Bright House Networks, a trusted provider of industry-leading communications and networking services to businesses of all sizes, from startups to large, multi-site organizations. Our Enterprise Solutions provides the fiber connectivity, cloud and managed services  today’s large organizations demand, while our Business  Solutions team works with small- to mid-size companies to ensure they get the right services to fit their needs and their budget. Find out why so many businesses in your area trust their communications needs to Bright House Networks. Learn more at***

RICK SCOTT FOCUSES JOB PITCH ON CONNECTICUT via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times

Even before he lands in Connecticut today to try convince businesses there to move to Florida, Gov. Rick Scott was getting a head start on his efforts on Wednesday on social media.

Scott’s communication staff sent out a half dozen social media messages on Wednesday to tweak Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy directly about taxes and the overall business climate in the two states.

Specifically, Scott notes on Twitter that Florida is ranked as the No. 2 best place for business by CEO Magazine while Connecticut is ranked No. 45. In another message, Scott sends a tweet directly to Malloy asking what the state’s income tax is.

“It is ZERO in FL!,” Scott ads.

The Twitter blasts come as Florida has been running radio ads in Connecticut pitching Florida as a place for businesses to relocate.

“If you are a business that wants to pay less taxes so you can earn more money, come to Florida,” the radio ad started last week say.

TWEET, TWEET: @MarcACaputo: Gov Rick Scott will be on Morning Joe tomorrow about 715 am.

TWEET, TWEET: @JKennedyReport: @FloridaTaxWatch trying to salvage its annual turkey watch tomorrow on the budget. But this bird has flown.

LOOK FOR TaxWatch to release its report around 10 a.m. today and have a press availability.

MY TAKE – CRY ME A RIVER, SEN. LATVALA Full blog post here

Jack Latvala knew better than most the kind of operator Scott is and he’s done nothing but enable him.

Where was Latvala when those “kids from Louisiana” ran off the well-respected chief of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement?

Where was Latvala when those “kids from Louisiana” tried to pull a power play to force out the heads of the Office of Financial Regulation and Office of Insurance Regulation?

Latvala was nowhere to be heard from. Just like any appeaser would be.

Latvala was suppose to be Scott’s guy, so much so that House leaders are now regretting their decision to horse trade with Latvala because it was done under the false pretense that Latvala could protect their projects from Scott’s veto pen.

That last point is also making some of Latvala’s allies question that if he can’t protect their projects from Scott, how will he protect them as Senate president?

(Speaking of the Senate president race, what’s the point? Andy Gardiner has put Bill Galvano in charge of Senate campaigns, so neither Latvala or Joe Negron will have the opportunity to do that part of the job. Neither one of them will get much time as Senate president designate, which is suppose to be when they’d be at their most powerful. No, all they’ll get to be is Senate president in Rick Scott’s final two years and counterpart to Richard Corcoran, who will be able to run circles around them. Jack, Joe, you want to be Senate president? Good luck with that.)

For a while there, it looked as if Latvala would get through the 2015 Legislative Session without reverting to the form he is feared for. But then, the budget conference he was overseeing melted down and Bad Latvala re-emerged. Only in a town as twisted as Tallahassee does Latvala escape criticism for calling a reporter an a*shole, as Latvala did after that chaotic conference.

Today, Latvala is back on social media asking for those affected by Scott’s vetoes to send him numbers about the jobs to “be lost as a result of the ‘jobs’ budget vetoes.”

Boo hoo hoo, Senator Latvala. You danced with the devil and now he’s done dancing with you.

CITIZENS INSURANCE TO ASK FOR RATE HIKES IN 2016 via Jeff Harrington of the Tampa Bay Times

In the books it will go down as the board of Citizens Property Insurance unanimously agreeing to seek a 3.2 percent average rate increase for policyholders statewide … as Citizens chief risk officer John Rollins emphasized to board members for the state-run insurer in his rates presentation … “nobody pays the average.”

In fact for most of the state, including Tampa Bay, homeowners will see rate decreases. In Hernando and Pasco counties, rates will be flat to down 5 percent on average; in the rest of the bay area, rates will go down between 5 and 10 percent on average.

Inland homeowners will see an average 1 percent drop in multi-peril rates while inland mobile home owners will see rates reduced by 7.4 percent.

So what’s driving the overall rate increase? South Florida.

South Florida has long accounted for the single highest share of homeowners in Citizens, which covers property owners who cannot find coverage on the open market. Citizens has managed to push many of its customers to small, private insurers and is now down to 592,000 policies statewide (compared to 1.5 million during its peak a few years ago).

South Florida’s current bane is a spike in water damage claims pushing up regional rates. But it also is still paying for having a large number of valuable properties clustered in a hurricane-prone area.

Despite nearly a decade without a hurricane strike and a steady stream of rate increases, the coastal area still has artificially low rates that do not reflect its risk of hurricane damage, Citizens maintains. As a result, policyholders clustered in Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties face the bulk of higher rates.


The Seminole Tribe of Florida told Gov. Scott and other state officials on Wednesday that it will keep blackjack and other card games in place at its casinos despite the looming end of a deal the tribe inked five years ago.

After Scott and state legislators were unable to reach an accord with the tribe it appeared the Seminoles would be forced to drop the card games that have helped turned their casinos – including ones in Tampa and Hollywood – into some of the state’s most well-known gambling destinations.

But tribal officials assert that they can keep the card games in place because Florida regulators violated the gambling agreement by allowing South Florida tracks to offer electronic versions of card games.

The move by the Seminoles just creates another complication in the state’s gambling landscape as outside companies continue to want to build casinos and owners of existing horse and dog tracks are pushing to add slot machines at their locations. Over the last several years efforts to revise the state’s gambling laws have floundered in the Florida Legislature.

The five page letter signed by Tribal Council Chairman James Billie calls for state and tribal officials to meet in the next 30 days to try to resolve the dispute. If that fails, the two sides will go mediation and eventually federal court. The tribe, however, says it will continue to make payments to the state for the card games as a “gesture of good faith.”

There was no immediate reaction from Scott to the letter from the tribe.


One of the most interesting citizen generated political development in Florida this year is the coalition attempting to get a ballot measure on the 2016 ballot that would give businesses and property owners the ability to sell a limited amount of solar energy. … The Floridians for Solar Choice coalition consists of free-market conservatives, retailers and alternative-energy supporters. Member groups include the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, the Florida Retail Federation, the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association, and the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy, the Christian Coalition of America, the Libertarian Party of Florida, the Republican Liberty Caucus of Tampa Bay and the Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida … coordinated by the Florida Green Tea Coalition, led by Atlanta Tea Party head Debbie Dooley and Oldsmar Republican Tony Perfetti.

But … a faction of Tea Party Republicans … wince at the idea that they support the measure. In fact, they say it’s quite the opposite, and have signaled their opposition to the proposal during debates that have been held in Tampa and most recently, the Villages between advocates and opponents of the proposal.

A blog post written by H. Sterling Burnett, a research fellow with the Heartland Institute appeared on that organization’s website … about last week’s debate between Heartland’s James M. Taylor and Alexander Snitker, vice president of the Libertarian Party of Florida at the Villages.  Dooley was scheduled to debate, but tells Florida Politics that a blood clot that began forming in her legs after a cross-country flight prevented her from traveling down from Atlanta last week.

“When I was originally scheduled to speak at The Villages Tea Party, it was just me speaking because Mr. Taylor had spoken a few months prior,” Dooley explains. “I was called a month prior and told Mr. Taylor had called wanting to speak the same night as I was. I agreed and looked forward to the debate even though I knew members of The Villages Tea Party were strongly anti- solar and close to Mr. Taylor.”

In the Heartland post, Taylor accuses Dooley of chickening out of debating him … Dooley fired back…

“Mr. Taylor gives outright false information about solar and the Florida Ballot Initiative,” she writes in an email. “I don’t allow speakers at Atlanta Tea Party events that resort to lies. I would be happy to debate Mr. Taylor in Florida at another date at a neutral site open to the public. True conservatives champion free market choice-not government created monopolies. It is unfortunate that Mr. Taylor and Heartland choose to ignore free market choice and instead seek to protect monopolies from competition and deprive Floridians of the right to engage in commerce with the power produced on their private property.”

FWC TO FLORIDIANS: SHOOT THEM BARRS! via Kate Bradshaw of Creative Loafing

Despite hours of impassioned pleas from dozens of residents and environmental advocates, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which met in Sarasota, gave a thumbs-up to a proposal to lift the current ban on bear hunting in Florida, a move that will likely serve as fodder for late-night TV hosts.

… State officials proposed the hunt as a method of “management” after encroaching human civilization in wooded areas began to attract bears in regions like north-central and southwest Florida as well as the Panhandle. Yes, there were incidents in which bears harmed humans, and typically the animals that cause harm are euthanized.

… The overwhelming majority of public speakers at Wednesday’s hearing shared that sentiment. Some offered emotional pleas about the bear population’s emotional intelligence and susceptibility to pain as well as the potential for orphaned cubs. Others cited science, including research suggesting trap-and-release is a much more effective way at keeping human populations and bear populations separate.


In a landmark settlement on Wednesday,Gulf Power Company agreed to protect North Florida’s Apalachicola River by moving toxic coal ash waste stored at the company’s Scholz Generating Plant.

The retired 62-year-old plant, located near Sneads, Fla., still contains hundreds of thousands of tons of coal ash in holding lagoons overlooking the river. According to three environmental groups bringing the federal lawsuit in the Tallahassee U.S. District Court, the waste contains an array of toxic heavy metals like arsenic and lead, and the unlined lagoons are beginning to leak.

Water samples taken by Waterkeeper Alliance and Apalachicola Riverkeeper found pollutants seeping into the river. The results led environmental law activists Earthjusticeto sue Gulf Power in 2014 on behalf of the Waterkeeper groups under the Clean Water Act.

Under the settlement, Gulf Power will develop plans to dry out and remove coal ash from unlined ponds, transferring it to a new onsite landfill located out of the river’s flood zone. The company will also install an impermeable cover over the landfill, as well as a subterranean “cutoff wall,” which prevents groundwater from flowing and cause contaminants to leak out of the ash.

Once construction is complete, Gulf Power agreed to continue monitoring groundwater in the area, to ensure pollutants do not escape into the environment.


The Mosaic Company released its 2014 Sustainability Report, titled “Leading with Purpose.” In it, the Polk County-based company, one of the world’s leading producers of agricultural nutrients, outlined both last year’s past progress in sustainability and set new goals for 2020.

The Report addresses several Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) indicators, which govern activities such as freshwater and energy use, and greenhouse emissions. It is Mosaic’s sixth such report since 2009.

GRI, an independent global organization, helps corporations, governments and organizations worldwide understand the impact of business on sustainability issues such as climate change, human rights, corruption and others. The independent organization, founded in the late 1990s, develops a series of reporting guidelines on various issues called G4 Core Sustainability Reporting. Groups provide data to GRI on water, waste, energy and greenhouse gas emissions, which is verified by third-party reviewers.

Through the most recent set of GRI guidelines, Mosaic renewed its commitment to materiality – the use, waste and conservation of physical material.

“No element of our company’s progress shines more brightly than our commitment to sustainability,” said Mosaic CEO Jim Prokopanko, “We are leading with purpose. We’re growing our value to shareholders while achieving measurable and meaningful environmental and social progress.”

In helping Mosaic identify areas of improvement, Prokopanko credits its employees – the company employs about 4,000 Floridians — for “delivering industry-leading sustainability performance.”

Among Mosaic’s strategic 2020 objectives: Reduce freshwater use by 10 percent per ton of product produced; avoid the use of approximately 30 million gigajoules of energy; and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent per ton of product produced.

“As global demand for food, water, and precious natural resources increases, we are driven to improve how we operate and produce crop nutrients,” said Mosaic COO Joc O’Rourke, slated to become Mosaic’s chief executive officer in August. “These water, energy and emissions targets build on our existing business strategy, and position us to stretch our environmental responsibility efforts even further.”


Women’s clinics and the state government are waiting on a Tallahassee judge to decide whether a controversial 24-hour abortion waiting period passed by the Legislature this spring will go into effect next week.

The law, which is scheduled to go into effect July 1, requires that a woman see a doctor at least 24 hours before having an abortion.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of a clinic in Gainesville shortly after Gov. Scott signed the measure earlier this month. They say the waiting period is overly restrictive, creates an “undue burden” and is unconstitutional under the Florida Constitution’s sweeping privacy protections.

Now, they’re asking a judge to step in and use an injunction to prevent the law from being enforced while they continue a legal battle with the state.

Chief Judge Charles Francis said he expects to issue a decision soon … He could decide either to temporarily stop the law from going into effect or to allow it to continue. In either case, it is likely the question will be appealed.

It’s important to note that while an injunction would halt the 24-hour wait period requirement temporarily, it will not be the end to the lawsuit. So it’s entirely possible that that injunction will be granted but that the law will be upheld as constitutional at a later point.

***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.***

SPOTTED: Lauren Book in the latest edition of Newsweek

MY TAKE: Newsweek posted this in-depth story about Book and her remarkable journey.

If you choose not to read her book, that’s your choice. I get it. But take 10 minutes and read “The Predator Next Door.”

If after reading it, you still choose to think this is not a serious woman or if you choose to think she is not a force of nature – someone who has walked through hell to get to where she is today – that is your own fault.

And if you choose not to take Lauren Book seriously, you do so at your own peril.

Without being the spoiler, let me give you one thing – one small but very important thing – Lauren is doing to change the world.

We all know what a sexual predator looks like, right?


Lauren is teaching kids, parents, and educators what social scientists have known for a while now. Sexual predators are not just Aqualung-like strangers (Does anyone remember “stranger danger?”) leering in the park or the creepy voyeur. These predators can be a neighbor or a friend or a relative or, yes, even a trusted nanny.

That cannot be easy for someone who was victimized for as long as she was.

It’s not light summer reading by any stretch, but if you read only one Newsweek article this season, read “The Predator Next Door.”


Eliakim Nortelus, Akerman: Indian River Medical Center

Christopher Rooney: Investment Corporation of Palm Beach

David Shepp, Southern Strategy Group: Wheelchair Transport Service, Inc.

William Stander, Whisper: Columbia Insurance Group


Sexton, our extraordinarily talented reporter who has dominated the intersection of health care policy and politics, is being scooped up by POLITICO and its new Tallahassee bureau.

While I am genuinely distraught (I am still getting acclimated to the hot-stove nature of the journalism industry) to see Sexton move on, I could not be happier for Christine and her husband, Gary Fineout.

I’d like to think — and Christine insists this is true — we have provided an attractive platform for her this past year. A platform prominent enough for POLITICO to take note of Sexton’s excellent work.

Christine probably scored the scoop of the year in Florida politics, breaking the news (along with Carol Gentry) where Eliot Fishman, the director of the Medicaid division of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told policymakers that there was “no way” that Florida’s “Low Income Pool” program will continue when it expires in June. Fishman’s comments set off the firestorm that would eventually engulf the 2015 Session.

It would be the first of many agenda-setting stories Sexton would write for us.


On Context Florida: Republicans who have left no stone unturned in efforts to crush Obamacare are having second thoughts as they realize 6.4 million could lose their health insurance, says Marc Yacht. It reminds one of the adage, “Be careful what you want; you may get it!” The murder of a pastor and eight parishioners in their historic Charleston church last week was swiftly answered by law enforcement the next day, when police arrested 21-year-old Dylann Roof, who expressed ideological kinship with the Council of Conservative Citizens, one of numerous hate groups whose poison is available with a few clicks on the Internet. Julie Delegal says that according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are 50 hate groups in Florida, making it the second-largest hate-group host-state in the U.S. As Anthony Major wrote this column, his ears rang with the news of another senseless shooting. Major will never forget his grandmother’s words as he left home to move to New York City: “Be nice to people.” A simple four words, but if learned, remembered, respected and followed, that would put a lot of these senseless killings to rest. As she talks to a health care provider, Catherine Martinez repeats the mantra (to herself) that she is more than just a number. Her hope is that in the near future — at the local, state, and federal level — administrators and lawmakers will realize students cannot be reduced to a number, and that the qualitative measurements, e.g. grade-point average, awards, community service, participation in clubs and organizations, are a much better predictor of future success than a mere number on a test.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Rep. Bryan Avila.


Former Florida Sen. Durell Peaden, a well-liked Panhandle legislator who represented Northwest Florida in the House and Senate for 15 years, died Tuesday at age 69. He had suffered a severe heart attack earlier this month while in Pennsylvania.

Sen. Greg Evers … who is a cousin to Peaden and replaced him in the state Senate, notified his colleagues of Peaden’s death on Wednesday morning in an email.

“Doc had a love for his family and his community that was beyond anything. He was a friend. He was a cousin but most of all he was a mentor,” Evers told the Times/Herald.

When Evers went to him with a problem, Peaden would offer a history lesson and words of wisdom, often mentioning their great uncle in the Whig Party of 1800s. “Things are the same now as they were then,” Peaden would say. “It just has a different spin.”

In an interview with the Herald/Times in 2010 while aboard a National Guard C-130 plane to inspect the BP oil spill, Peaden talked about the importance of what’s known in Panhandle politics as the Yellow River Code.

Peaden, a self-styled “country doctor” from Crestview, was elected as a Democrat in 1995. He switched to the Republican Party in 1997, part of a wave of North Florida Democrats who switched to the GOP in the 1990s.

Peaden is survived by his wife Nancy and three children, Durell III (Trey), Tyler, and Taylen. Funeral arrangements are pending.

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.