Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – June 26

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

FIRST AND FOREMOST … BON VOYAGE Alia and Rob, Sarah and Mike.

Now, back to politics…

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the nationwide tax subsidies under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, in a ruling that preserves health insurance for millions of Americans.

The justices said in a 6-3 ruling that the subsidies that 8.7 million people currently receive to make insurance affordable do not depend on where they live, under the 2010 health care law.

The outcome is the second major victory for Obama in politically charged Supreme Court tests of his most significant domestic achievement.

FLORIDA A BIG WINNER IN SUPREME COURT HEALTH CARE RULING via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Either way the ruling went, it would have had a profound impact in Florida, the nation’s third-largest state with the largest number of residents subsidized through a federal exchange. About 93 percent of the 1.3 million Floridians who signed up for coverage in the federal exchange this year received subsidies, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The ruling will allow those Floridians to keep the average health insurance monthly premium of $88 with the subsidies and avoid a potential jump to $376 per month without the subsidies, which would have likely meant many residents would have dropped their coverage as unaffordable.

The court decision will also have widespread policy and political implications in Florida, which again is poised to be the nation’s largest swing state in next year’s presidential elections, where the federal health care law will remain a sharp dividing line between the Republican and Democratic contenders.

In the short term, the ruling averts another politically charged health care debate involving the Florida Legislature and … Scott, who had not made any preparations for the potential demise of a federal insurance exchange. Lawmakers just came through nearly three months of a session and special session where the House and Senate were divided over a plan to expand Medicaid coverage under the ACA.


“At first blush, I would say the Legislature just dodged a bullet,” said Republican Senate budget Chief Tom Lee … “I think there would have been a lot of finger-pointing going on had the court not upheld the subsidies.”

Mia Jones … blasted the state’s lack of preparation for the possibility of losing the subsidies.

“If the outcome would have been different, Republican leadership in Florida—particularly … Scott—had done nothing to prepare for such an outcome,” she said. “Even though that negligence is fact, I’m glad it won’t harm anyone.”

“It is certainly a win for the Obama administration and also a win for the Florida Legislature,” Lee said. “You don’t see that very often.”


Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi did not have much to say about the U.S. Supreme Court ruling … “The Affordable Care Act continues to be the most heavy handed federal health care law in our nation’s history, and today’s decision in the King v. Burwell case does nothing to alleviate the harms the law will continue to cause,” Bondi said in a statement.

Asked to comment at a veteran’s event in St. Augustine … Scott responded: “It’s a bad law. It was supposed to reduce health care costs and health care costs have gone up” … He also noted that state-run exchanges “are collapsing across the country because it’s costing more than people thought.” He continues to hope for the law’s repeal, she said.



Scott is withdrawing his lawsuit alleging the Obama administration was “coercing” him to expand Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act by ending a separate voluntary Medicaid program.

The Low Income Pool pays hospitals and health care providers for care for poor and uninsured patients who often don’t pay. It was slated to end Tuesday, but federal officials last month gave tentative approval to extend the program for two more years, though with steep cuts.

LIP funds will drop more than 50 percent next year, to $1 billion, and fall to $600 million the following year. Next year’s LIP funds had been projected at $2.2 billion.

Still, Scott is declaring his lawsuit as the reason LIP was extended by the federal government.

“Florida saw a tremendous win for low income families this week when the Obama Administration finally agreed to continue funding part of Florida’s Low Income Pool program even though our state did not expand Obamacare.  Because of this great victory, we have decided to dismiss our lawsuit against the Obama Administration for attempting to coerce Florida into expanding Obamacare. It is unfortunate it took a lawsuit to make the right thing happen,” Scott stated.

Federal officials, though, still want to phase-out LIP after two years, and don’t want to see LIP funds used to cover patients who would otherwise be covered through an expansion of Medicaid.

The use of $400 million in state funds to paper over the LIP cuts led the Legislature to trim Scott’s desired tax cut package from $673 million to $429 million.

SPOTTED: Gov. Scott on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

TOM LEE SAYS EARLY LIP TALK GOOD FOR STATE via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics

After six months of political jockeying, litigation, and one-upsmanship Florida and the federal government have agreed in principle to $1.6 billion in supplemental Medicaid funds over the next two years.

Most of those funds, $1 billion, have been allocated in the budget … A little more than $600 million, though, still needs to be negotiated between Florida and the federal government.

Which means, just because the special session is over, discussions over who gets what aren’t. And that’s just fine for Lee.

“We really need to get out in front of this,” Lee told Florida Politics, saying that discovering LIP was not going to be renewed at the $2 billion level in March, was too late in the process.

“It was disappointing for me to learn in March that our budget might have been built upon a fiction of federal dollars that wasn’t going to be available,” Lee said. “Now that we know, I think it’s great that we can begin working on a model in the fall. And if it’s put to bed early, we can build our budget based on reality and avoid these conflicts based on allocations.”

WHO DECLARED WAR ON WHOM? LET’S GET IT STRAIGHT via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News

No, Sen. Latvala, the governor didn’t declare war on the Legislature. Let’s be very clear … Latvala was in the thick of it, where he likes to be, on the one hand defending the governor, on the other helping to light the first fuse.

It was the Senate that declared war on … Scott and the Florida House, and it did so the minute it took up Medicaid expansion. … Scott lobbed Senate President Andy Gardiner a softball — no, not even that … more like a beachball. Could Scott have made it any more plain that he wasn’t going to let Florida expand Medicaid with federal money?

And Gardiner got the message, too, because when he came to Tallahassee in February, Medicaid expansion was light years away from his radar gun. He mentioned not a word about it when he presented the Senate legislative agenda at the annual AP meeting. Not one. It wasn’t until he was cornered by reporters that Gardiner, public relations specialist for an Orlando hospital, found the idea “intriguing.” After that, Senate Democrats were emboldened, health-care lobbyists and business opportunists came out of the woodwork, and Gardiner & Co. seemed to circle the wagons and turn off the rest of the political world.

True, Don Gaetz presented leadership’s argument eloquently this year. Of course he did. The Niceville Republican is nothing if not the loyal soldier. But last year, as Senate president, he and Speaker Will Weatherford and the governor were the Three Musketeers against Medicaid expansion. He did what he had to do to get as much as he could on the budget.

Latvala certainly was right about a couple of things: his assessment of Scott’s staff and the inconsistency of the vetoes. Latvala told The Miami Herald Scott Chief of Staff Melissa Sellers didn’t serve her boss well. I’ll say. Actually, few of his chiefs of staff have, but Sellers — who learned how to play hardball from the best — landed Scott in a pickle this time.

She might have encouraged the governor to spend a few more days with the budget. She might also have given Scott’s budget director Cynthia Kelly, one of the best in the business, better instructions.


A number of budget brainstorms got as far as the negotiating table in the Capitol in the just-ended 2015 session, but they ended up on the cutting-room floor.

Two noteworthy ones sprang from House leaders, including one-time pay raises of $30,000 to all seven state Supreme Court justices. Another proposal would have prohibited legislators from conducting campaign events in coordination with Farm Share, a surplus food program for needy families based in Miami that gets state money.

Both ideas were advanced by House Appropriations Chairman Richard Corcoran but the Senate didn’t like either one. The Farm Share language got as far a proviso offer by the House to the Senate in the session’s final days, but senators rejected it. A number of lawmakers in both parties have held campaign events including fund-raisers at Farm Share in the past year.

Supreme Court justices are among the state’s highest paid public officials, earning $162,200 a year. But at least two justices have left the court in recent years, citing the comparatively low salary compared to what a highly skilled lawyer can make in private practice. A $30,000 raise would have stuck out in a year when the Legislature again offered no across-the-board raises to state employees.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee cited the optics of giving the justices bigger paydays with a major legislative redistricting case still pending before the state’s high court.

“I wasn’t terribly excited about the optics of that,” Lee said. “We have cases pending over there that we know are sitting there.” He said the Senate will push next session for a comprehensive review of all salaries in the court system: “It makes more sense to keep it all together,” Lee said.


Most Florida homes are covered in stucco, which is basically a layer of cement designed to seal your home from moisture. But when stucco is applied too quickly, it can lead to cracking, which can then allow water in. Most Florida homes are also at least partially built with wood, which can rot and mold when moisture is allowed in.

By the time homeowners notice the significant cracking or buckling of their stucco, the damage is often done, with fixes costing as much as $100,000.

Tampa Bay’s most memorable stucco failures in recent years came from the Willowbrook Townhomes in Lakewood Ranch. Dozens of condos in the KB Home community, which were sold to homeowners between 2005 and 2008, had massive water intrusion problems that led to collapsed balconies, crumbling walls, and widespread mold.

It took significant TV exposure, years of legal battles, and tens of millions of dollars’ worth of fixes, but Willowbrook homeowners finally got most of their problems repaired. KB Home ultimately acknowledged the shoddy work in court documents, but sued its subcontractors, blaming them for the defects. Home-builder Taylor Morrison has also acknowledged major stucco defects in legal proceedings.

Yet dozens of other communities around Tampa Bay continue to fight with home-builders over similar stucco problems. … stucco installation is not a licensed profession in Florida, all aspects of home-building are to reflect Florida’s building code … ensuring quality of the work is the responsibility of the general contractor assigned by the home-builder.

Because all building materials expand and contract – especially in a hot, humid environment like Florida – proper care needs to be used when installing stucco, a cement-like material layered on like paint. But when proper expansion joints and procedures aren’t used, stucco will expand at different rates than the wood underneath it, leading to cracking.


Small businesses lead the way as the Sunshine State continues to outpace the nation’s economic recovery, according to a new report by the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

In the Chamber’s Small Business Index Survey, small businesses are signaling the good economic news by reporting higher company sales, an improved economic outlook, and increased willingness to hire new employees.

Among the survey findings, 55 percent of small businesses reported higher sales over the previous quarter, while 62 percent said they had higher sales compared to the same time last year.

Despite the good economic news, Florida business owners continue to have several concerns. Top issues include economic uncertainty (24 percent), workforce quality (15 percent), government regulations (12 percent), access to capital (10 percent) and ways to manage growth (10 percent). Access to capital dropped to the fourth overall issue, compared to being tied as the single biggest concern more than a year ago.

As for the state’s future, the survey says business owners remain cautiously optimistic: 78 percent of respondents expect the economy to improve in the next 12 months, with 18 percent expecting the economy to “improve significantly,” a figure more than double of that from the Florida Chamber Q2 2014 survey.

In addition, 57 percent of businesses say their business are better off than six months ago.

>>>Returning to the campaign trail


A super PAC backing Bush’s presidential campaign … went up with its first ad in New Hampshire.

The Right to Rise PAC put up a paid 30 second spot on-line in the first-in-the nation primary state, as well as Iowa, which holds the first caucus in the presidential primary and caucus calendar … the ad is targeted to Republicans and independent voters and that it will run until July 1.

The web ad uses clips from the former Florida governor’s announcement for president, which Bush made at an event June 15 in Miami.

“Our country’s on a very bad course, and the question is what are we going to do about it? I know we can fix this, because I’ve done it,” Bush says in a clip used in the spot.

MARCO RUBIO IS PLAYING TO WIN THE SHELDON ADELSON PRIMARY via James Hohmann and Elise Viebeck of the Washington Post

Marco Rubio is playing to win The Sheldon Adelson Primary. The Florida senator, who has relentlessly sought the billionaire casino mogul’s backing for 2016, co-sponsored a bill yesterday afternoon to ban online gaming. It is not only Adelson’s top legislative priority, it could significantly boost his company’s bottom line.

This is just the latest in an aggressive string of moves by Rubio to win over one of the GOP’s biggest donors. The two men dined together at Charlie Palmer steak house, adjacent to the Capitol, in March. That was one of at least half a dozen private meetings, which we know about, since the Florida senator took office … Rubio calls Adelson every fortnight to provide detailed updated about the campaign. Meanwhile, the newspaper Adelson owns in Israel has trumpeted Rubio on its front page so much so that Israelis joke about it.

After spending at least $92 million on the 2012 elections, a good chunk of it for Newt Gingrich, GOP insiders say that Adelson wants to get behind someone who can actually win. That was reportedly a factor in his souring on Ted Cruz. He likes (Lindsey) Graham … but he’s seemingly more attracted to Rubio’s story as the son of Cuban immigrants. He’s reportedly told friends that Rubio is the future of the Republican Party. Adelson has telegraphed that he will hold off until at least September to get behind anyone, and he could also invest in multiple contenders. This posture will encourage others to keep kissing his ring.

Marco again risks upsetting conservatives, but Adelson’s money would more than make up for any blowback.


Rubio is the first 2016 presidential candidate to book significant TV advertising time in early presidential voting states, reserving at least $4.3 million in airtime so far.

On Thursday afternoon, Rubio’s campaign began the process of placing buys on TV stations in media markets in the four states slated to vote next February: Iowa, South Carolina, New Hampshire, and Nevada. The ad flights are set to begin on Nov. 24 in Iowa, and stretch on until late February in South Carolina and Nevada, according to media tracking information.

2018 WATCH — BOB BUCKHORN TAKES HIS ACT TO TALLY via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

Buckhorn travels to Tallahassee … his first overt move to broaden his statewide appeal in advance of 2018, when he’ll likely take a run at the Democratic nomination for governor.

The Tampa Mayor will address the Tallahassee Tiger Bay Club … as well as tape an appearance on the local public affairs program, The Usual Suspects. The visit comes just a few months after Buckhorn breezed through a reelection “campaign,” complete with receiving a walloping 96 percent of the vote, with the only token opposition coming from a write-in candidate with a criminal history in his past.

What should be interesting to hear at Tiger Bay is how the mayor will adapt the tenants of his basic stump speech to an out of town audience … he’ll weave a narrative describing how Tampa fought through the depths of the Great Recession to emerge as a stronger city, “blazing a trail that others could follow,” as he has said in his inauguration address back in April.

But there are hurdles that have already surfaced just a few months into his second term.

First of all, there’s been the increase in homicides in Tampa in 2015, after an unprecedented decade-plus reduction in crime in the city. A subsequent remark about one of those young black men slain prompted a virtually unprecedented less-than positive critique … The mayor was also caught flat-footed in the wake of a Times report that said that his Police Department has been disproportionately citing blacks for bicycle infractions.

But what will be an interesting challenge for Buckhorn going forward is how much he plans to be involved in advocating for the half-cent road maintenance/transit tax, which seems on its surface designed to attract more votes from those living outside of Tampa than in the city.

“We need more choices, walkable streets, rail to the airport, to our jobs centers, and eventually to St. Petersburg,” Buckhorn said in his soaring rhetoric back in April, but many transit supporters question what if anything this newly unveiled plan will actually do for Tampa. For all of the talk about how bad the 2010 referendum was that rejected by county voters, it includes a full-cent sales tax that was crafted 75 percent towards transit (and actually won more votes in Tampa). The new proposal is just a half-cent (something that even Plant City Mayor Rick Lott says is too low), with only a third of that devoted to transit. The mayor has tried to spin the math to say that it will provide enough to present maybe a “starter line” to the airport, but can he persuade others to the cause?


State Sen. Joseph Abruzzo is supporting Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay in her bid for Florida’s 18th Congressional District.

McKinlay, elected in November, is running for the seat held by Congressman Patrick Murphy … Abruzzo represents Senate District 25, which covers the eastern section of Palm Beach County.

In the past, Abruzzo and McKinlay have worked together to bring state money for development, infrastructure essentials, jobs and economic opportunities for the Glades region.

Other Democrats seeking Murphy’s seat include Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Ann Taylor and John Xuna of Stuart. Five Republicans have also filed campaigns for the CD 18 seat.


Although he’s been in politics for a long time now, Joe Gruters has just became a political candidate for the first time in 15 years.

The 38-year-old Republican Party chairman of Sarasota County and vice chair and head of fundraising for the Republican Party of Florida recently announced his candidacy for the House District 73 seat held by fellow Republican Greg Steube. It’s strongly indicated that Steube will opt out of running for re-election next year, however, and instead will run for the Senate District 28 seat held by Venice Republican Nancy Detert.

Of course, that’s if Detert follows the script envisioned by political analysts and cuts short the final two years of her current Senate term to resume a career back at the Sarasota County Commission.

Last week Florida Politics spoke with Gruters about his candidacy, and where he stood on some of the biggest issues that dominated the 2015 legislative session, beginning with Medicaid expansion. Was he aligned with the Florida House and Gov. Rick Scott and against the state Senate and the business community on this volatile issue? Yes, he was.

“I just don’t think government is the answer,” he said.

He then forwarded an opinion piece he recently wrote about the battle between the feds and Gov. Scott regarding the Low Income Pool (LIP) funding issue. Gruters writes that “as the heavy-handed feds show with the LIP program, they can give and take away at their whim. No one should think that Medicaid expansion money will stick around indefinitely.”


Taylor Patrick Biehl, Jeffrey Sharkey, Capitol Alliance Group: First Green Bank

Daniel Russell, Jones Walker: Bally Technologies


On Context Florida: The Florida Senate and several communities hoping to receive state money for local projects or programs are unhappy, says Bob Sparks. Florida Republicans are giving the Democratic National Committee a layup of an opportunity to portray both legislative chambers and executive leadership as dysfunctional. All they need are news clips from the past four months. So Jeb! didn’t know. Chris Timmons notes that Mr. Wonky, details-oriented, well-briefed, bureaucratic slayer of 500-page white papers just didn’t know. Jeb Bush, told the news media he didn’t quite know if Dylann Roof was making a racial terrorist attack, or had any racial animus whatsoever. Timmons points out that this is typical Jeb Bush tone-deafness on race — which is, by the way, legendary.  Thanks to social media, a 24-hour news cycle, reality television and millions upon millions of people who’d rather feel than think, Catherine Durkin Robinson says that public shaming is a growth industry. Now the Special Session is finally over and the Legislature finally finished the budget they worked on long into the night. They handed it to the governor so he could have his way with it and put his pen to paper, signing it into law with one hand and slashing it with his veto pen line item by line item with the other. In the meantime, Scott took his victory tour. At least he called it his tax cut victory tour. Gary Stein calls it his shrinkage tour. As you read this, Jaimie Ross of the Florida Housing Coalition says property values, home prices and apartment rental rates are on the rise and, in some areas, starting to skyrocket. While this is good news for Florida’s economy, as well as the housing market, which has been limping toward recovery since the housing bubble burst in 2007, it’s a bad omen for those looking for affordable housing.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


Trimmel Gomes’ newest episode of The Rotunda tracks how Florida politicians are reacting to the U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding Obamacare. Gomes talks with Joan Alker, executive director at the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University and Damien Filer with Progress Florida about the impact of the ruling.  Gov. Rick Scott takes the wind out of Florida TaxWatch’s annual list of budget “turkeys,” however the organization’s Vice President of research, Kurt Wenner says their goal was never about beating the governor over what to veto, but about holding legislators accountable through the budget process.

As debate rages on over the use of the Confederate battle flag, Gomes takes a look back in history at Florida’s removal of the flag from the Capitol with Vice President of the Florida State Conference of the NAACP, Dale Landry. And for all those who participated in #CATEBUDGET, the grand prize winner is state reporter for the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Dan Sweeney, who has earned a spot on this week’s episode of the podcast. The game which played out mostly on Twitter, called for the best guess of when the last chamber passes a budget. Thanks to Kevin Cate of public relations firm CATECOMM for infusing some fun and keeping us entertained during special session.


Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James  on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: A generational look at child care with Elma McKay, author of The Conductor.

Facing Florida with Mike Vasilinda: Sen. Nancy Detert and Rep. Kathleen Passidomo on power of attorney abuses in state Guardian programs for elders, plus Richard Polangin on why not to move to Florida.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Sen. Wilton Simpson, Rep. Darryl Rouson, Tampa Bay Times reporter Kat McGrory and New College of Florida professor Dr. Frank Alcock.

On Point with Shannon Ogden, on WFCN in Jacksonville: Newly-minted Jacksonville City Council President Greg Anderson, correspondent Garin Flowers with a legislative update.

Political Connections on Tampa Bay’s BayNews 9: Political reporter Troy Kinsey leads a Special Session recap as campaign season descends all over again.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner, plus analysts Lou Frey and Ditch Batchelor break down this year’s last-minute maneuvering on the budget and a claim about immigration by Sen. Marco Rubio goes in for Politifact scrutiny.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): A special one-on-one discussion with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the FMA’s Eric Carr and fundraiser extraordinaire Ann Herberger.

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.