Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — June 29

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

TEN DAYS IN JUNE via David Remnick of The New Yorker 

What a series of days in American life, full of savage mayhem, uncommon forgiveness, resistance to forgiveness, furious debate, mourning, and, finally, justice and grace. … Obama’s Presidency was surely dwindling, if not finished. His mood was somber, philosophical–which is good if you are a philosopher; if not, not. Obama described himself to me [after the disastrous midterms] in terms of his limits–as ‘a relay swimmer in a river full of rapids, and that river is history’ …

But pause to think of … the scale of recent events. On Thursday, the Supreme Court … put an end to years of court cases and congressional attacks against the Affordable Care Act … On Friday, the Supreme Court … legalized same-sex marriage nationally … [T]hroughout the South, governors and legislatures are beginning to lower the racist banner of the Confederate flag. Cruelty on a horrific scale–slaughter committed in the name of racism and its symbols–has made all talk about the valuable ‘heritage’ of such symbols absurd to all but a very few.

The endlessly revived ‘conversation about race’ shows signs of turning into something more serious–a debate about institutional racism, and about inequities in the criminal-justice system, in incarceration, in employment, in education. The more Obama leads on this, the more he sheds his tendency toward caution … the better. The eulogy in Charleston, where he spoke as freely, and as emotionally, as he ever has about race during his Presidency, is a sign … that he is prepared, between now and his last day in office, to seize the opportunity.

Finally, in recent months Obama has also, through executive action, made solid gains on immigration, wage discrimination, climate change, and foreign-policy issues, including an opening, after more than a half century of Cold War and embargo, to Cuba. These accomplishments–and potential accomplishments, like a … nuclear arrangement with Iran–will help shape the coming election.

A MOMENTOUS WEEK, SIGNALING CHANGE via William Gibson of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

From gay rights to health care to the fading glory of the Confederate battle flag, a series of momentous decisions this week pointed to a changing social landscape across America, with Florida very much in the midst of it … the fledgling Affordable Care Act became firmly rooted as the law of the land after the Supreme Court upheld subsidies for health insurance that affect Florida most of all.

The high court also established same-sex marriage as a Constitutional right, a ruling especially welcomed by South Florida’s large gay and lesbian community … across the South, the Confederate battle flag began to come tumbling down, a sign of growing intolerance for symbols perceived as hateful and racist.

For many years, Florida Democrats in Congress — notably Alcee Hastings of Delray Beach and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston — have been at the forefront of attempts to establish equal rights for gays and lesbians. They hailed the high court’s decision … as the culmination of such efforts.

The week’s developments indicated a turning point on issues such as same-sex marriage and health care, but they did not end controversies surrounding them.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and other Republicans vowed to keep fighting to repeal and replace Obamacare. And conservative Christian groups are bitterly opposed to same-sex marriage.

After the marriage ruling was announced, John Stemberger, president of Florida Family Policy Council, lamented: “This sad day in history will forever reflect the fact that the highest court of our land ignored the rule of law and the will of 51 million people in over 38 states in an illegitimate act of raw judicial power and arrogance.

“Our response to this is that we double down on our efforts to rebuild a culture of marriage,” Stemberger said. “We will never concede, and we will never give up.”

AS LEFT WINS CULTURE BATTLES, G.O.P. GAINS OPPORTUNITY TO PIVOT via Jonathan Martin and Nicholas Fandos of The New York Times

… 2015 could be remembered as a Liberal Spring: the moment when deeply divisive and consuming questions of race, sexuality and broadened access to health care were settled in quick succession, and social tolerance was cemented as a cornerstone of American public life. Yet what appears … to represent an unalloyed victory for Democrats … may contain an opening for the Republican Party to move beyond losing battles and seemingly lost causes. …

“The past week and … month … have been nothing short of a rout in the culture wars. Bruce Jenner … became Caitlyn Jenner … [S]ome Republicans predict that this moment will be remembered as an effective wiping of the slate before the nation begins focusing in earnest on the presidential race. …

“Every once in a while, we bring down the curtain on the politics of a prior era,” said David Frum, the conservative writer. The stage is now cleared for the next generation of issues. … Huckabee and … Cruz … are already seizing on … same-sex marriage and what they call judicial overreach to distinguish themselves in a crowded primary field …

Privately, some of the strategists advising Republican hopefuls believe the last week has been nothing short of a gift from above — a great unburdening on issues of race and sexuality, and on health care a disaster averted. … [T]his optimistic thinking would have it [that] June will go down as the month that dulled some of the wedge issues Democrats were hoping to wield next year.


The U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision … relegates Florida’s gay marriage ban to the cobwebbed corners of history … brings closure to a years-long battle between same-sex couples seeking the right to marry and to have their out-of-state marriages recognized, and the state’s Republican leaders, who have fought it at every turn. Although gay marriage became legal in Florida in January, it has remained on appeal to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, waiting for the Supreme Court to decide whether gay couples had the right to marry nationwide.

The ban “is dead,” said Elizabeth White, a Jacksonville civil rights attorney who helped bring one of the cases that led to a federal judge’s decision last year striking down the state’s same-sex marriage ban. “It feels like the ultimate win.”

The court’s 5-4 ruling that all gay marriage bans are unconstitutional bookends decades of tireless activism nationally and in Florida, where lawmakers have passed some of the country’s toughest antigay laws and where Anita Bryant’s crusade against homosexuals in the 1970s made her a national celebrity for the religious right. Although attitudes toward gay men and lesbians have shifted rapidly across the United States, Florida’s legislature remains deeply divided. A few months ago, Tallahassee lawmakers voted to repeal the state’s 30-year ban on adoptions by same-sex couples, but also considered a measure allowing private adoption agencies to reject would-be parents who are gay.

Reaction from gay rights advocates arrived swiftly and joyously, as many celebrated the certainty that gay marriage in Florida would remain a legal right. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled, all that remains to cement its finality is a series of procedural steps by the 11th Circuit and the U.S. District Court in Tallahassee.

Some gay marriage opponents predicted the ruling would inspire public backlash, just as the court’s 1973 decision in Roe vs. Wade led to decades of legal battles over abortion rights. Others urged the public to resist the court’s ruling.

State Rep. Jamie Grant … tweeted that he opposed any action by the federal government, including the Supreme Court, that tramples on states’ rights.

“A centralized and autonomous government that can give you what you want today, can later and on a whim, take away all that you care about,” Grant wrote.


Jeb Bush is always facing nagging questions about the Bush family’s political legacy. Now he’s got another: John Roberts.

With conservatives up in arms over Roberts’ role in preserving Obamacare, Jeb Bush suddenly finds himself called to answer for the chief justice appointed by his brother, George W. Bush. And not just Roberts — Jeb is also taking flak for David Souter, the liberal justice appointed by his father, George H.W. Bush.

In a radio interview Friday afternoon, Jeb Bush was pressed by host Hugh Hewitt to explain the Roberts and Souter nominations to disappointed conservatives.

Bush was reluctant to criticize the chief justice, preferring to talk more broadly about the need to appoint battle-tested conservatives to the high court after back-to-back rulings on Obamacare and same-sex marriage that delighted the left.

“I’m disappointed in both decisions,” Bush told Hewitt. “It’s important I think to think about going forward what kind of judges we need in the highest court in the land.

“When I was governor, we tried to find people with a proven record of judicial restraint, and people that were committed to enforcing the constitutional limits on government authority. In essence, what I’m saying is I think we need to have people that have not just theoretically, but have had a proven record of not legislating from the bench.”

That’s what conservatives thought they were getting in Roberts, who was appointed to his position by George W. Bush in 2005. After his majority opinion in King v. Burwell, which preserved Obamacare’s tax subsidies, they’re not so sure.


The singular failure of Bush’s political career was his 1994 loss in the Florida governor’s race by less than two percentage points. The defeat cast Bush, a rising Republican star, into the political wilderness just as his older brother, George, won an upset victory over Ann Richards in Texas, putting him on the path to the presidency. When Jeb ran again in 1998, he brought in Mike Murphy, an ad man credited with helping John Engler and Christine Todd Whitman win governorships in Michigan and New Jersey. Bush won by more than 10 points. He had Murphy at his side as he cruised to re-election in 2002. Now he’s trying to win the presidency without his favorite strategist whispering in his ear.

Murphy is in charge of Right to Rise, a super PAC created to get Bush elected. Because of regulations requiring a separation between candidates and super PACs, they can’t formally coordinate their efforts between now and the election … Bush and Murphy are trying something unprecedented in U.S. presidential elections: building a separate, and better-funded, organization that will in some ways eclipse the official campaign as a vehicle for promoting the candidate. Murphy’s Los Angeles-based team will produce digital marketing, television ads, and opposition research on behalf of Bush, whose campaign headquarters are across the country in Miami.

“He’s a good friend, and I’m going to miss him,” Bush says. “I hope to see him on election night and give him an embrace. But from here on out, I won’t be talking to him.” Going forward, he’ll be allowed to appear at the group’s events as a guest, but he can’t discuss strategy or coordinate with Murphy directly.

For Murphy …the setup offers some clear benefits. For one thing, he’ll be the autonomous ruler of the super PAC staff, free of the office politics of the campaign … In a June 17 conference call with donors, Murphy said he was no longer coordinating with the campaign but was “well informed as of a week ago” about Bush’s strategy.  The call … illustrates the limits of the no-coordination rules. In the midterms, candidates and super PACs devised numerous tactics for telegraphing their strategies. One was tipping off mainstream news organizations to ad buys or strategic shifts.

“If Bush’s chief strategist is doing conference calls to lay out exactly what the plan is and how that’s part of the campaign, then there is no independence,” says Bill Burton, a co-founder of Priorities USA, a Democratic super PAC created in 2012 to support President Obama’s re-election that’s now working for Hillary Clinton. … “That’s not to suggest Mike Murphy and the Bush campaign or anyone is breaking the laws. It’s just that the law is really stupid.”

BUSH TO MEET TODAY WITH PASTORS IN CHARLESTON via Thomas Beaumont of the Associated Press

Bush plans to meet with black pastors in Charleston, S.C., today — part of a rescheduled visit to the state after he cut short an earlier stop because of the church shooting.

The Republican presidential candidate was in Charleston as part of his campaign kickoff on the day that nine people were shot to death during a prayer meeting at a church. Bush was staying not far from the scene of the shooting.

Bush then canceled the rest of his visit, which included a town hall meeting focusing on military issues.

His campaign says Monday’s meeting with the ministers will be closed to the media. Later that day, Bush plans to visit a pharmaceutical company in the Columbia area.

SO SMART: “Viva Snapchat!! Ten Things We Learned From Your Snapchats” via the Jeb Bush Campaign1. The Bushes Salsa … 2. Some of Jeb’s supporters still have braces … 3. Some folks got there… early … 4. Jeb’s mom is definitely going to vote for him … 5. Jeb rolled up to the stage like a boss … 6. This guy did not get there early … 7. Jeb still appreciates his mom’s help once in a while … 8. Jeb is getting very good at the ‘selfie walk’ … 9. Chow time is very important when you’re on the Paleo diet like Jeb … 10. But spending time with friends is even better.


A nonprofit created by allies of Sen. Rubio is preparing to launch a more than $1 million+ advertising campaign highlighting the presidential candidate’s resistance to an emerging Iranian nuclear deal, marking its first commercials since Rubio launched his campaign in April.

The ad campaign, which will include cable TV, radio and online components, will run at a time when the Senate is preparing to focus on Iran as the deadline for securing a deal approaches.

The effort … comes from Conservative Solutions Project, a nonprofit organization established by J. Warren Tompkins, who also started a pro-Rubio super PAC with a similar name. This effort will have more than $1 million behind it in the first week, according to the nonprofit.

Both super PACs and nonprofits can accept unlimited contributions. But nonprofits, which must spend most of their money on non-political matters, do not have to disclose their donors while super PACs do.

The TV commercial from Conservative Solutions Project is technically an issue ad. But it mostly highlights Rubio in his own words.

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Miller … has yet to make a final decision on a Senate bid, despite a Capitol Hill newspaper story saying he plans to announce a campaign bid as early as next week … while he continues to lean toward a bid for the seat GOP U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is giving up to run for president, he’s not ready to announce anything.

“While I continue to seriously consider running for the U.S. Senate, a final decision has not been made and no date has been set for any announcement at this time,” the veteran congressman said through his chief of staff, Dan McFaul.

Citing two sources, Roll Call posted a story … that Miller has decided to run and could announce next week.

If Miller enters the race, he would join a small number of GOP candidates unknown to most voters. U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, a former federal prosecutor from Ponte Vedra Beach and a tea party favorite, is the only announced major Republican to announce, though Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera also is expected to run.

In a Quinnipiac University poll … 81 percent of voters said they didn’t know enough about DeSantis to form an opinion of him, while 77 percent said the same about Lopez-Cantera. Miller was not included in the survey of 1,147 voters.


Aside from trying to save the stogies, Carlos Lopez-Cantera has a lot of down time as the state’s second-in-command … the Republican lieutenant governor — who’s paid $125,000 a year and is considering a U.S. Senate run — more often than not has nothing to do.

Over the last 60 daily schedules released by the Governor’s Office and dating back to mid-April, two-thirds showed Lopez-Cantera had “no scheduled events.”

He did champion the Florida cigar industry last year, co-signing a letter with Scott to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration … asked the feds to cut a break to cigar manufacturers like Tampa’s J.C. Newman Cigar Co. from proposed tighter regulation of tobacco products.

Otherwise, when he does have things to do, they’re largely ceremonial. Take his busiest day in recent weeks … he met with the Dunedin Council of Organizations, went to lunch at the Intercultural Advocacy Institute in Safety Harbor and attended the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics in Lake Buena Vista.

Wayne Mixson, lieutenant governor under Democratic Gov. Bob Graham, served as head of the state’s now-defunct Commerce Department.

Other lieutenants have assumed less-structured leadership roles, such as Toni Jennings under former Gov. Jeb Bush during and after the devastating hurricanes in 2004.

The 41-year-old Lopez-Cantera, however, usually serves sidekick duty, attending Scott’s tax cut “victory tour” when it stopped in Miami … Lopez-Cantera did not respond to a request for comment about his schedule or workload.

After he was sworn in in February last year, Lopez-Cantera was asked if he’d like to be put in charge of any special projects. He deflected the question, saying he was only on “day one.”

“There are many days to come to talk about those things,” he said … That was 510 days ago.


Florida’s federal lawmakers and their staffs took 103 privately sponsored trips in 2014 valued at more than $350,000, according to records filed with the House Clerk’s Office.

Foreign destinations included Sweden, Peru and Japan. But lawmakers also spent time in Florida examining ways to protect the Everglades and in the Washington area learning about strategies for running a congressional office.

Members of Congress and their staffs must file reports detailing travel-related expenses (including airfare, lodging and meals) each time a private source pays for a trip.

In 2014, Florida senators — Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio — and 22 of the 28 House members representing the Sunshine State during all or part of 2014 took privately financed trips or approved them for aides, records show. In a number of cases, relatives came along and had their expenses covered.

Topping the list was U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw … who combined with staff members to log $75,021 in privately financed trips. That included travel to Japan (paid for by the Aspen Institute Congressional Program), Colombia and Peru (paid for by the International Conservation Caucus Foundation) and Cambodia (paid for by the Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere).

The trip to Japan, valued at $21,290, was the most expensive trip taken by a delegation member. Crenshaw, who took his wife Kitty along, justified the trip by citing his membership on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs.

Other top travelers at a private group’s expense include Rubio ($37,255) … U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen ($36,084) … U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart($28,922) … U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan ($20,983) and U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch ($20,713).


Lynn, running against Republican incumbent David Jolly of St. Petersburg, hasn’t done much to scare off potential primary rivals. Both St. Petersburg City Council member Darden Rice and former Tampa City Council member Mary Mulhern are seriously looking at jumping in the race. But they may think again when they see Lynn’s early fundraising numbers.

The campaign has more than two weeks before it must file official reports, but Team Lynn … has raised more than $400,000 so far.

“I am humbled by the support of so many Floridians ready for change in this district and I’m ready to take on the fight for Florida’s workers and veterans in this campaign,” said Lynn, 37, a former Defense Department official. “It is a long road until November but I’m pleased to begin this journey with the resources necessary to take on this fight to defeat David Jolly.”


Buckhorn doesn’t like to say if he’s eyeing the Governor’s Mansion in 2018. But speaking to the Capital Tiger Bay Club … the Tampa mayor hinted that Floridians should look to a mayor to lead their state.

“I’m convinced that, No. 1, mayors should run the world,” said Buckhorn, a Democrat. “Mayors more than anything are the governing model of what this country should look for in its candidates.”

Perhaps the mayor of the third-largest city in Florida?

Many of those who came to hear him speak at the Tallahassee political club seemed eager to hear the answer to that very question … Buckhorn is waiting another year to decide definitively whether to run. How his wife and daughters feel about it will factor heavily, he said. And it will matter just how much he can increase his name recognition, which he admits isn’t great outside Tampa Bay.

At the heart of Buckhorn’s remarks … were a belief that the political climate in Florida, particularly during the governor’s race last November, has gotten too divisive and rancorous.

Still, he took a series of subtle jabs at Gov. Scott, whose record in office will certainly be part of the 2018 gubernatorial campaign. … If what Buckhorn calls the “rumors” of his decision to run are true.

TWEET, TWEET: @BobBuckhorn: Silver Airlines out of Tally. 1 1/2 hours late. Suppose that is progress by comparison to their normal performance. @whatajoke

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Florida is getting its first female state auditor general … Sherrill Norman will be sworn in Wednesday. The auditor general is a constitutional officer who serves as the state’s independent auditor. She will replace David Martin, who is retiring after nearly eight years. Norman will oversee 350 employees and a budget of more than $35 million.

She has worked for the auditor general for the past 25 years and recently served as the deputy auditor general for the state government audits division.


A new report by the bipartisan Foundation for Excellence in Education found Florida is currently suffering from what education experts call a “proficiency gap,” where Sunshine State students are increasingly falling behind. Started in 1999 by former Gov. Jeb Bush, the Foundation believes every child has the ability to learn and achieve success. To provide an equal opportunity for children reach their highest potential, the advocacy group believes Florida’s education system must ensure every child masters these important skills.

The report … offers some sobering numbers: only 19 percent of 2014 ACT-tested high school graduates were college-ready in four key targets — English, Reading, Math, and Science.

In Florida, 65,000 freshmen entering two-year colleges require remediation, costing those who earn a bachelor’s degree up to $65,596 for each additional year they don’t graduate on time (broken down to $20,269 for attendance and $45,327 in lost wages).

Excellence in Education says one way to close this proficiency gap is through accurate assessments: honest, objective yardsticks to measure student learning and competence – mastery of the subject matter being taught.

Every state has what is known as a “proficiency cut score,” an annual assessment, varying from state to state, that determines student proficiency in a particular subject. When cut scores are too low, parents, teachers and educators get an inaccurate idea of student success. One benchmark for measuring student proficiency, considered by educators to be the gold standard, is by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), producer of the Nation’s Report Card. Proficiency gaps are the difference between the NAEP and expectations of the individual states. States with large gaps have set the bar too low, leading parents and teachers to believe students are performing better than they actually are.

For Florida, the proficiency gap between expectations and NAEP averages at 20 points. For example, the state’s 4th graders have a 21-point gap in reading, and 20 points in math, placing Florida 18th out of the 50 states. With eighth graders, the gap in reading is 23 points.

While closing such a large proficiency gap may sound difficult, the Foundation says there is a solution. And the answer starts with parents. That is why the Foundation says now is the ideal time for parents to start contacting school leaders, education officials, and local representatives to raise awareness of this ability gap and the need for more accurate assessments.


A jaw-dropping event occurred behind closed doors in Tallahassee last week.

Gov. Rick Scott actually did something gubernatorial.

He sat down at his desk and whacked $461.4 million out of the state budget, line by line. Some of the projects he vetoed were favorites of powerful legislators from his own Republican party, whom he felt had shorted his priorities of tax cuts and school funding.

Some are saying Scott’s veto orgy was political payback, a gratuitous flexing of executive muscle. Whatever his motives, he saved Florida taxpayers some money.

The governor’s axe fell on worthy projects as well as pork. Forestry firefighters deserved a $2,000 pay hike, but Scott scratched the funds for that. Charities, local museums and libraries were also hit hard. Other items on the hit list included programs for the elderly, the homeless and children at risk.

But the $78.7 billion budget was also bulging with dubious allotments. There was $150,000 for “avocado tree removal,” $250,000 to buy Ma Barker’s hideout in Marion County and turn it into a museum, $100,000 to refurbish a rodeo arena in Davie and $100,000 for a “culinary project” in Miami-Dade.

How about $190,000 for the Fort Myers Sesquicentennial Foundation? Or $500,000 to relocate the Miami Boat Show?

Scott vetoed them all.

… The governor’s relationship with this malfunctioning Legislature has been prickly and remote, and some veteran lawmakers view the veto blitz as a call to war. However, it’s hard to study the 10-page list of killed grants, from the Panhandle to the Keys, and say that Scott was picking on anyone in particular.

What he didn’t do is leave expensive hometown projects in the budget for top-ranking GOP lawmakers. That’s not chummy party politics, but at least the slashing was evenhanded.

And, for this awkward and furtive governor, a rare display of might.

— “Gov. Rick Scott’s vetoes leave lingering damage with lawmakers” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times


Our state political leaders should be ashamed. In twisting the intent of Amendment 1, they have brazenly ignored the will of Florida voters. But the ballot initiative, born of a wish to keep lawmakers from raiding money set aside to purchase and preserve Florida lands, was subverted and misappropriated by state legislators.

Now state environmentalists are fighting back with a lawsuit to stop this from happening next year. They deserve our support.

In a bold move, they are suing the Florida Legislature, Senate President Andy Gardiner… and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli. Both leaders defend their actions. True, vague Amendment 1 wording may give them leeway, but the intent of voters was always clear: Acquire land and preserve it. Period.

The lawsuit says lawmakers violated the state Constitution by misusing money set aside from fees on real-estate transactions for land acquisition and conservation through Amendment 1.

Supporters of the ballot initiative want a judge to declare exactly what lawmakers can and can’t do with the money. In years to come, Floridians, including legislators and governors, definitely need such clarification.

The environmental groups suing say almost half of the $740 million generated by the environmental initiative this year will go to salaries and operations, not land purchases. The Legislature, the suit says, “defied the constitutional mandate” in spending less than half of the money for the purposes intended by millions of Florida voters. What a betrayal.

The 2015-16 budget siphons existing money from the environment to other areas and uses the new money to replace it. Amendment 1 should not follow the path of the Florida Lottery.


A law passed by state legislators mandating a 24-hour wait for women who want abortions is in jeopardy just days before it is set to go into effect.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida is asking for an emergency injunction to stymie House Bill 633, slated to become active July 1. The civil rights group says the law offends and encumbers women.

“If it goes into effect, the act will cause immediate and irreparable harm to all Florida women seeking abortions,” states a lawsuit backed by the ACLU filed June 11, the morning after Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill.

The goal of the injunction is stop the measure from going into effect so interested parties have more time to figure out the legal implications of what legislators have already done.

No matter the intention of the bill, women involved in the issue see it one way: “We think women are able to make this decision on their own without government (interference). It’s insulting to women to think they’re making a rash decision,” said Michelle Richardson, ACLU of Florida director of public policy.

“This law creates a real hardship for women, requiring additional days off work, more child care and extra travel,” the ACLU said. “… For a low-income woman, or any woman, who has difficulty getting time off work, arranging for travels costs and paying for additional child care, this law is a significant obstacle.”

Richardson said what is even more insulting is that victims of rape, incest and domestic sexual violence who want to avoid the 24-hour delay are required to provide either a police report corroborating the crime or a note from a doctor saying the woman is at risk of serious harm or death without the abortion.

Others say the risk is not worth the loss of an unborn baby’s life.

“A child is innocent; two wrongs don’t make a right,” said Pastor Edward Valkanet with First Assembly of God in Fort Myers, of aborting a child conceived from rape.

RAY PILON TO RUN FOR RE-ELECTION via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Declaring that he has unfinished business in the state House and can accomplish more as a senior member of that body, state Rep. Ray Pilon … is no longer considering a run for the Senate and will seek a final term in his current seat in 2016.

The Sarasota Republican will go up against Democrat Edward James III in the District 72 House race, which should be one of the more competitive legislative matchups in the entire state.

Pilon had floated the idea of running for the state Senate seat held by Nancy Detert … if she decides to run for the Sarasota County Commission as expected. He said polling indicated he would have been competitive against the three other Republicans currently eyeing the seat.

“I think I had just as good a chance or better than anybody,” he said, but “It’s a lot easier for a senior legislator to accomplish things in the last two years.”

Pilon was facing a strong group of potential contenders for the Senate seat and had not raised as much money as some of them.


Jeremy Kozyak has left his position as district secretary for state Rep. Joe Geller.

Kimberly Simon is the new district secretary for state Rep. Jamie Grant.

Troy Gras is the new district secretary for state Rep. Bill Hager.


Seven young Floridians have been selected for the 2015 White House Internship Program … the White House announced the 76 college students who will participate this year.

The new interns from Florida are Mae Bowen, from Lynn Haven and attends Emory University; Peter Campbell from Miami and attends Florida International University; Khari Fischer-Pratt from Tallahassee and attends Loyola University; Nicolas Garcia from Haines City and Ariel Koren from Jacksonville, who attend the University of Pennsylvania; and Carleigh McFarlane from Coral Springs and Caroline Stonecipher from Tallahassee, each attending the University of Florida.

Two other non-Florida natives, but attend Florida schools, were also named to the program.

Nathan Kiker, from Jacksonville, Ala., attends Florida State. Ali Mirghahari, from North Caldwell, N.J., goes to the University of Florida.

According to the White House website, an internship provides a “unique opportunity to gain valuable professional experience and build leadership skills.” The program helps make the White House accessible to future leaders from all over the country, and to prepare those dedicated to public service for future opportunities in leadership.


Sarah Criser is moving to Moore Communications Group after serving more than five years as a spokesperson for several elected officials in both Florida and Washington, D.C.

Criser, a University of Florida graduate, previously served as communications director for Ohio U.S. Rep. Bob Latta, and as press secretary for U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis from Tarpon Springs.

Tallahassee-based MCG is a nationally rated communications, branding and public relations firm offering full-scale branding, advertising, crisis communications and Hispanic outreach.

According to her MCG bio, Criser’s experience with critical issues at all levels of government gives her an unmatched “ability to navigate under tight deadlines and crises (big or small).” In her new role, Criser will lead state and federal advocacy and direct communication programs for a range of clients, including U.S. Trust and the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience.

APPOINTED: Milo “Scott” Thomas as the chair of the Florida Elections Commission.

APPOINTED: Jason Brodeur to the Florida Government Efficiency Task Force.


Greg Black, Metz Husband & Daughton: Information Systems of Florida, Inc.

Leigh Davis, Eric Neiberger: Department of Elder Affairs, Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program
Lee Killinger: Mosaic Fertilizer

Jason Unger, Gray Robinson: Orange/Lake Parkway Partners, LLC

SPOTTED at a Thursday night party celebrating the 10th anniversary of Southern Strategy Group’s Orlando office: Senate President Andy Gardiner and his wife Camille; state Sens. Daren Soto and Oscar Braynon; state Reps. Jason BrodeurEric Eisenaugle and Mike Miller. Also at the event were Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Lake County Commissioner Jimmy Connors; Seminole County Commissioners Brenda Carey and Lee Constantine; School Board members Tina Calderone and Dede Schaffner; Property Appraiser David Johnson and Supervisor of Elections Michael Ertel; Orlando Commissioners Jim GraySam Ings and Tony Ortiz; Orange County Commissioner Ted Edwards; Property Appraiser Rick Singh; Comptroller Martha Haynie and Osceola County Commissioner Fred Hawkins.

Among the other community dignitaries were Phil Rawlins, the founder and president of MLS team Orlando City Soccer; Lynx CEO John Lewis and Orlando EDC President Rick Weddle.


On Context Florida: Florida’s future depends on innovation, says Dale Brill, to address threats, including rising sea levels, the effect of nitrogen cycles, ocean acidification and more. For Florida to emerge as a vibrant innovation system viewed as globally competitive, increased investments in the university research community must address the tension between job creation expectations and licensing revenue necessity. To Jac Wilder VerSteeg, it’s hard to be a straight-down-the-line Catholic and maintain logical consistency. The Most Rev. Thomas G. Wenski doesn’t have a choice. The church’s inconsistency on human rights was in clear evidence on Saturday in Wenski’s piece in the South Florida Sun Sentinel in response to Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of gay rights. Peter Schorsch is certain the public’s opinion is as divided on the subjects of gay marriage and Obamacare – and, in particular, this week’s SCOTUS rulings – as the court itself. He can’t help but wonder if dissenter-in-chief Antonin Scalia has lost his mind. In reading his two recent dissents, Scalia’s words read more like bizarre (and more than a little bit whiny) manifestos than reasoned or articulate rationales for his position. You know, the kind of thing one might expect from the highest court in the land!

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


Don’t bring your selfie stick to Disney World. Officials announced … a ban takes effect Tuesday at all four Disney theme parks in Orlando as well as at Disney’s water parks and Disney Quest, a gaming attraction at Downtown Disney … selfie-sticks have become a “growing safety concern for both our guests and cast.”

Selfie sticks will also be banned at Disneyland Resort in California … and at Disney’s parks in Paris and Hong Kong starting July 1. Officials say guests will have the option of turning in their selfie sticks for pick-up later, or returning them to their cars or hotel rooms.

SPOTTED at the Gina Herron-Chris Spencer (both are SaintPetersBlog 30-under-30 Rising Star honorees) wedding in Las Vegas: Mike Fisher, Liz and Adam Goodman, Andy Gonzalez, Nick Hansen, Matt Lettelleir, Jim Rimes, Bobby Combs, Rob Jakubik, Liz Mabry, and Michael Wickersheim.

SPOTTED at the Jennifer David-Justin York (another SaintPetersBlog 30-under-30 Rising Star honoree) wedding in Lake Mary: Bob Cortes, Harold Hedrick, Jim Stelling, and Al Swartz.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY from the weekend to two of the best: former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker and the Associated Press’ Brendan Farrington. Belated wishes to Disney’s Leticia Adams, Tyler Hudson. Celebrating today is Christian Ulvert.

SPECIAL BIRTHDAY WISHES to my dear friend, Sarah Bascom, arguably the savviest political communications expert in Florida.

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.