Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – June 4

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

DAYS UNTIL… Sine Die: 19; MLB All-Star Game: 41; Debut of Star Wars: The Force Awakens: 198; First day of 2016 Legislative Session: 223; Iowa Caucus 243; Super Bowl 50: 249; New Hampshire Primary: 251; Super Tuesday: 272; Florida’s presidential primary: 286; Close of federal candidate qualifying: 338; Florida’s primary elections: 454; 2016 Election Day: 524.


Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is expected to officially launch his campaign for the presidency June 15 at Miami Dade College in Miami, as first reported by the Tampa Bay TimesMiami Herald.

In a tweet sent Thursday morning, Bush teases “Coming soon,” linking to, which features a 06.15.15 date and says it was paid for by “Jeb 2016, Inc.”

The latest Fox News poll, released late Wednesday, showed Bush tied at the top of the GOP field with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, with both garnering 12 percent among likely Republican primary voters.

MORE THAN 10M ENROLLED THIS YEAR UNDER OBAMA’S HEALTH LAW via Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Kevin S. Vineys of the Associated Press

More than 10 million people have signed up for private health insurance this year under President Barack Obama’s law … puts the nation finally within reach of coverage for all, but it may not last.

[D]ozens of insurers are proposing double-digit premium hikes for next year, raising concerns about future affordability. And the Supreme Court is weighing the legality of subsidized premiums for millions of consumers in more than 30 states. A decision is due around the end of the month.

Still, the combination of subsidized private coverage sold through online insurance exchanges in every state, along with Medicaid expansion in most states, has resulted in historic coverage gains.

Nearly 9 out of 10 adults now have health insurance — about the same proportion of Americans who buckle their seatbelts … the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, found 88 percent of U.S. adults have coverage.

Health insurance is now a federal mandate for most people, with employer plans remaining as the mainstay for workers and their families. Violators risk fines and penalties.

Florida would be the biggest loser if the Supreme Court overturns subsidies, with 1.3 million residents losing nearly $390 million a month in financial assistance. The subsidies are delivered as tax credits and paid directly to insurers on behalf of consumers.

The Obama administration says it expects to win in court and officials say there is no backup plan if they lose the case. Leading congressional Republicans are promising to help consumers who lose subsidies, but it’s unclear Congress could pass any fix that Obama would sign.

1.3 MILLION IN FLORIDA MAY LOSE SUBSIDIES via Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald

More than 1.3 million Florida residents — the most of any state — could lose their financial aid for health plans under the Affordable Care Act if the Supreme Court rules against the federal distribution of subsidies later this month. … Florida, which enrolled the most people in Obamacare, also stands to lose the most.

Those Floridians received an average subsidy of $294 a month in March to reduce their premiums, according to the new data. Among those Floridians, nearly 1million also received financial aid from the government to reduce their out-of-pocket costs, such as co-payments, co-insurance and deductibles.

That means Floridians received at least $389 million in March from the federal government to help pay for their health insurance … subsidies are at the center of a Supreme Court case challenging the health law. In King v. Burwell, the plaintiffs argue that the language of the health law restricts the subsidies to states that established their own exchanges.

Leah Barber-Heinz, chief executive of Florida CHAIN, a nonprofit consumer health advocate in favor of the health law, said the Sunshine State risks more than financial assistance for low- and moderate-income residents to buy health insurance.

A total of 34 states, including Florida, rely entirely on the federal insurance exchange and risk losing subsidies if the Supreme Court rules against the health law. Through March, those states enrolled a total of about 7.3 million Americans, of which 6.4 million receive an average government subsidy of $272 a month to lower their premiums.

… Florida chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group that opposes the ACA, accused the Obama administration of creating uncertainty and angst among Floridians.


It’s increasingly looking like Republicans won’t have any contingency plan in place if the Supreme Court guts subsidies for millions in three dozen federal exchange states. Jonathan Cohn has a must-read this morning in which he reports … no signs of any public Congressional debate among Republicans about this contingency fix.

As Cohn notes, there’s a reason Republicans aren’t offering any temporary contingency fix or broader health reform alternative: They don’t agree with the idea of “creating a truly universal coverage system in which everybody has access, regardless of income or health,” because that “requires some combination of regulation, taxes and redistribution.”

New HHS numbers illustrate that the stakes have only grown higher: Some 6.4 million people are now at risk of losing subsidies nationally … the greatest numbers of people who stand to lose subsidies live in states that are key presidential battlegrounds and home to some of the most contested Senate races of the cycle: In Florida, 1,324,516 people are at risk of losing subsidies. If that happens, they would be hit by an average 359 percent premium increase.

Untold numbers … could lose coverage. In many of these states, vulnerable GOP incumbent Senators face reelection. If the Court rules against the government, presumably they’d be asked if they’ll support Congress doing a simple fix to keep subsidies flowing to hundreds of thousands of their constituents. (It’s no accident that vulnerable Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson rushed out his own contingency plan.) Two presidential contenders — Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio — come from the state where well over a million people will lose subsidies.

It’s not yet clear how much all this will matter for the presidential and Senate races, but many Republicans appear worried. And Democrats will certainly try to make it matter.

INBOX: “So what’s Senator Rubio’s Plan If the Supreme Court Strikes Down Health Coverage for a Million Floridians” via Americans United for Change

— “Real stories: Floridians without health care thanks to the Legislature” via the Tampa Bay Times


Jeb Bush’s presidential run in Florida was supposed to be a coronation. Instead, it’s shaping up as a momentous clash against his one-time protégé, Marco Rubio.

At a Republican presidential forum … many of the state’s well-heeled lobbyists, elite business leaders and grizzled power-brokers — some of them longtime Bush friends and allies — expressed a growing sense that the former governor was losing momentum in Florida’s all-important, winner-take-all March primary.

The likely beneficiary: Rubio, a once-junior figure on the state’s bare-knuckled political scene who — with his powerful rhetorical style, fresh political image and compelling personal story — is proving his mettle on the national stage.

In private conversations, some said that after favoring the former governor early on, they were now taking a more serious look at the senator. One business leader, who requested anonymity for fear of alienating Bush, said there was an increasing sense that Rubio was simply a better communicator — and one who would carry the party’s banner more effectively in the general election.

Bush acknowledges he’s in for a challenging campaign, even if he’s not ready to name Rubio specifically. “Look, it’s a rambunctious deal. We’ve got 75 people running I think, last time I checked? I hadn’t checked how many people announced today,” he joked … “But it’s a big field. It’ll be competitive. There’s gonna be some elbows and knees under the boards. This isn’t tiddlywinks we’re playing.”

POLITICO IS YOUR ASSIGNMENT EDITOR — “With some donors doubting Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio seizes an opening” via Matea Gold and Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post AND “Jeb, Rubio Struggle to Play Nice as Fla. Turf Battle Heats Up” via Melissa Clyne of NewsMax


It is clear that Senator Marco Rubio’s Twitter account has been hijacked by his very own campaign. Rubio’s Twitter account looks more like an online campaign souvenir store than anything else.

When trolling Rubio’s Twitter account over the past week or so, it is apparent that the account has become Team Marco central. Every single tweet going back to May 27, either peddles t-shirts or promotes something campaign related, nothing of policy, or even one of Rubio’s dopey tweets supporting his Miami Dolphins.

Nothing has been tweeted about his recent visit with Miami Honor Flight veterans, nor his vote against the USA Freedom Act. Rubio’s amigo and fellow presidential opponent, Ted Cruz doesn’t tweet much (he probably should), but did manage to tweet his support for a recent Honor Flight that landed in Austin, TX.

The last Rubio tweet of substance was … one on Hillary Clinton. Prior to this tweet on May 25, Rubio tweeted a Memorial Day video.

Don’t feel bad Marco, Rand Paul’s Twitter account is just as bad. The Paulbots are out in force over there.


Jeb Bush is continuing to feel the heat for what critics say is stretching the limits of election law.

The former Florida Governor is not the only potential presidential candidate to evade campaign contribution limits by holding off from an official candidacy in order to raise funds through a super PAC … Seizing on that negative publicity, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee is blasting potential Florida GOP Senate candidate Carlos Lopez-Cantera for doing the same thing. The DSCC notes … both Lopez-Cantera and Bush have used the talents of Washington-based campaign finance lawyer Charlie Spies to set up their political action committees.

“It’s no surprise that Carlos Lopez-Cantera is already flirting with the boundaries of campaign finance law even before he announces his candidacy for Senate,” says Sadie Weiner, DSCC National Press Secretary … “Lopez-Cantera knows that he will need his own personal Super PAC to prop up his candidacy, and it’s clear that he’s willing to push any legal boundary to boost his campaign.”

Lopez-Cantera … actually created two super PACs as he contemplates a run for Senate: Reform Washington, and Reform Washington Leadership PAC, both created last month. … would allow him to raise unlimited amounts of money in one of the most expensive states in the nation to campaign, with 10 major media markets to run ads in.

Bush and Lopez-Cantera are far from the only political candidates to open up such a super PAC in 2015. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, like Bush considered in the top tier of Republican candidates for president next year, has a super PAC that has been requesting top donations of a million dollars since it was created several months ago.

STORY YOU WON’T READ IN SUNBURN: “Former Sen. Bob Graham for President? Rand Paul says why not?” via William Douglas of McClatchy Washington Bureau

SENATE APPROVES HEALTH EXPANSION BILL via Gary Fineout and Kelli Kennedy of the Associated Press

After a passionate debate, the Florida Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would let a half million people use billions in federal dollars to buy health insurance, and added new measures to address criticism from the House, chiefly that the program would end in three years.

A majority of Republicans supported the controversial health care bill. Earlier this week, a state economist said the plan would save the state money. A top state health official warned it was unclear whether more or less people would gain coverage under the bill.

The Senate addressed some of those concerns by adding requirements to end the program in three years so the state isn’t locked in. Senators also folded in the state’s most vulnerable sick population, known as the medically needy program, strengthened a work requirement and ensured that premiums would not rise for those in the Healthy Kids insurance program.

The Senate approved the measure 33-3.

The bill faces an unlikely passage in the House even though sponsor Sen. Aaron Bean said it’s projected to save the state $547 million and draw down over $18 billion from the federal government. About 800,000 Floridians are eligible, but an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 would not meet the work or school requirement and would not get coverage, he said. Recipients would also be required to pay small premiums.

State health officials worked late Tuesday night with the Senate to address potential problems with the bill, but Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Elizabeth Dudek said in a statement Wednesday “we still have many concerns” and are uncertain whether the plan “will be able to provide more Floridians with health coverage.”


Associated Industries of Florida: “We commend the Florida Senate for coming back during this Special Session and continuing to work on FHIX – a private-sector, free-market solution that will address Florida’s health care marketplace by insuring hundreds of thousands of Floridians and helping to alleviate the issue of uncompensated care, which burdens businesses and taxpayers across our great state. … The Florida Senate and Senate President Andy Gardiner have been thoughtful leaders on this issue, and we thank them for their continued dedication to finding a Florida solution to health care reform.”

Florida Democratic Party’s Allison Tant“I commend the Florida Senate on their vote to expand access to health care to over 600,000 Floridians. While the bill is not perfect, the bipartisan leadership shown by the State Senate is exactly what the people of Florida are looking for in their legislature. Every step of the way Democrats have been proud to stand up for health care for working Floridians. …. It is past time for the Republican leaders of the Florida House to support this common sense, bipartisan plan. It is unconscionable that wealthy Republican legislators pay just $30 a month for health care while hundreds of thousands of working Floridians — and tens of thousands of veterans — cannot afford quality care. Floridians deserve better than the House Republicans’ Washington-style dysfunction and brinksmanship.”

Florida Hospital Association: “We are grateful to the members of the Florida Senate for passing the FHIX 2.0 plan today. Under the leadership of President Gardiner, the Florida Senate has consistently remained focused on finding a solution to our state’s health care crisis. Time after time, they have proposed, debated, amended and worked on this plan that would bring long overdue relief to our state’s uninsured in a conservative and reform-minded way. We thank every Senator who has engaged and strived to find solutions to these difficult problems. The uninsured people of Florida have been well served by their dedicated efforts, and we commend them for it.”

Healthy Works Florida: “Florida’s business community called for action on our state’s health care crisis, and the Florida Senate responded. Today, the upper chamber took a historic step forward by passing Senate Bill 2-A, which creates the Florida Health Insurance Affordability Exchange Program (FHIX). A uniquely Florida solution, the FHIX program provides a fiscally responsible pathway to health care coverage for more than 800,000 low-income, working Floridians. … Throughout the regular session, and in this special session, the Florida Senate has continued to demonstrate the courage to lead and the wisdom to compromise on an issue that has an immense impact on our state. Its resolve is to be commended and we truly appreciate the efforts of President Gardiner and all of the Florida Senate for developing a solution. … The Florida Senate has chosen to do what is in the best interests of Florida businesses and families. We now look to the Florida House of Representatives to do the same.”


A faux newspaper dubbed the Florida Capitol Times should arrive today in the mailboxes of 500,000 voters in swing districts across the state.

The mailer was sent by the group called A Healthy Florida Works … affiliated with Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Hospital Association — one of the most vocal proponents of tapping into federal dollars to expand health care — and is a member of the coalition which supports a health care expansion using federal Medicaid dollars available under Obamacare called FHIX.

The Senate FHIX plan, SB 2A, would expand health care access to low-income Floridians earn too much money to qualify for the state’s current Medicaid program but not enough money to qualify for subsidies on the federal exchange.

Some of the headlines in the Capitol Times are “Budget Crisis Looms Over Florida House Inaction” and “Florida Business Leaders Converge in Tallahassee to Call on the House to Take Action on the Senate’s FHIX Plan.”

The inside of the paper contains snippets from newspaper editorials across the state supporting the Senate proposal. The back page of the newspaper mailer has a picture of House Speaker Steve Crisafulli along with his phone number and email encouraging voters to contact him and “help him get to yes.”

— “House-Senate health care fight nastily playing out on the Twitters” via Ryan Ray of Florida Politics


As the state’s Medicaid fight continues to get national attention, UF Health Jax CEO Russ Armistead remains steadfast and vocal in his insistence that a solution must be found, and quickly, to Florida’s healthcare funding crisis- or else North Florida’s only safety net hospital will close its doors.

“I think people don’t believe it could ever happen. This is the most treacherous time we’ve had. But my hope is that the Legislature will fund our need,” he said.

Armistead made his comments during an appearance on WJCT’s First Coast Connect, just as a Senate committee made headlines by grilling state Medicaid director Justin Senior in the ongoing legislative tussle over healthcare spending. Armistead says the statehouse divide over government’s role in healthcare may be an intellectually honest one, but his hospital will be forced to live with the consequences.

“If UF Health closes, we’d lose our Trauma One Center, and patients would have to go to Gainesville, Orlando, pick your spot. We see 90 thousand emergency room visits each year, and if we close, the city couldn’t manage that volume. The other hospitals literally don’t have the capacity to take those patients. It would be a catastrophic mess,” he said.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The League of Women Voters of Florida President Pamela Goodman hosts national health care policy expert Joan Alker of Georgetown University Health Policy Institute for a conference call on the health care coverage debate. The call begins 9:30 a.m. at (605) 475-4875, access code: 643895#.


With one story — health care funding — dominating Tallahassee … Scott met with two lawmakers … The Senate’s FHIX program wasn’t on the agenda for either meeting.

“We were discussing tax cuts,” Rep. Ray Rodrigues … said. “And we also discussed oil and gas because I carried the fracking bill.” … Scott wants to see the tax cuts increase … cut dramatically from his original proposed $690 million in cuts.

“The sense I have is that we’re thankful there are tax cuts,” Rodrigues said. “I don’t think any of us are happy with the amount. I think we’d like to get it higher.”

With Rep. Larry Lee … the governor discussed ensuring House and Senate budgets include funding for a literacy program for low-income students Lee sponsored.

As for FHIX or other details of the state budget?

“No, this meeting was totally about this literacy program,” Lee said.

“No, we didn’t have those discussions,” Rodrigues said.

TWEET, TWEET: @TroyKinsey: Just in: @FLGovScott‘s staff waited until his Hawker jet was airborne to announce he’s attending tonight’s #Lightning game.

PRESS RELEASE OF THE DAY via Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy, “Rep. Murphy Says Governor Scott Needs to Get to Work”


The Florida Chamber of Commerce named developer Sydney Kitsonas Southwest Florida Regional Board Chair. Kitson, who is CEO of private real estate development firm Kitson & Partners, will serve a one-year term as one of twelve individuals in the Regional Chair Program.

“Syd Kitson has a long history of being a team player and has proven leadership skills, which is vital when keeping Florida competitive,” Chamber CEO Mark Wilson said. “Syd will volunteer his time and talent in support of the Florida Chamber’s fight for free enterprise.”

Kitson made national news in 2006 when his firm purchased Babcock, a 91,000-acre cattle ranch taking up 142 square miles of Charlotte and Lee Counties. He then sold 73,000 acres of the parcel to the state, making it the largest land preservation deal to date, to the pleasure of many environmentalists.

— “No wonder the youngsters are all about Uber” via Daniel Ruth of the Tampa Bay Times


Matt Dixon, the chief of the fledgling E.W. Scripps Co. bureau in the state capital and widely considered the brightest rising star of Florida’s Capitol Press Corps, is headed to POLITICO.

Dixon was seen meeting on Tuesday with POLITICO management at Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s Economic Growth Summit in Orlando and is said to have accepted an offer after giving his current bosses at the Naples Daily News a heads-up.

Dixon would not comment for this story.

Dixon will head POLITICO’s “team of political and policy writers in Tallahassee” the news organization is committed to hiring this year as part of its expansion plans.

According to an email from Andrew Sollinger, Executive Director of POLITICO New York (through which POLITICO Florida will be operated), a subscription news service will launch this coming autumn.

In the meantime, Sollinger writes he is “chatting with the top lobbyists in the state to better understand your info needs, what you use now for intel, and what you wish you had with the waive of a magic wand.”

Earlier this year, POLITICO hired Marc Caputo away from the Miami Herald.

Pairing Dixon with Caputo gives POLITICO a one-two punch almost every other news organization will find difficult to match. One of the running jokes along Adams Street in Tallahassee is if you can’t leak a story to Caputo, Dixon is always available — and vice versa.

MEANWHILE … NEED A JOB? POLITICAL REPORTERS WANTED IN FLORIDA via Susannah Nesmith of the Columbia Journalism Review

If you’re a journalist hunting for a new gig, you may want to send your resume down to the Sunshine State … Political reporters in particular are in demand these days in Florida, in part because of the natural churn in jobs, but also because of Politico’s recent expansion into the state, which is only partially complete.

It undoubtedly helps that three declared 2016 Republican presidential candidates — Sen. Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, and Mike Huckabee—reside in Florida, and the most well-known all-but-declared candidate is a former governor here. Also a likely factor: Florida’s infamous history as the swing state with a newsworthy difficulty counting votes.

Everyone from Al Jazeera to Politico has been talking to political and investigative reporters in Florida, trying to woo them, even as wire services Bloomberg and the Associated Press were both recently advertising interesting political jobs. The Associated Press position is to replace political reporter Mike Mishak, who went to the National Journal in March to cover the presidential campaign. Meanwhile, Topher Sanders, The Florida Times-Union’s investigative reporter, announced last week on Twitter that he has been hired by ProPublica to cover racial inequality.


Bestselling writer Peter Schweizer, who’s most recent work – Clinton Cash – is currently #3 on the New York Times best-selling list, has been ignored by the local media. Other than a visit on WFLA’s Morning Show with Preston Scott, Schweizer has not scored any local coverage in the Tallahassee Democrat, on WFSU, or WCTV. Why is this news?

Not only does Mr. Schweizer live in Tallahassee, the investigative research organization he founded, the Government Accountability Institute (GAI), is located in Tallahassee. GAI employees that live in Tallahassee helped produce Clinton Cash! You would think that would be news.

New York Times called “Clinton Cash” the most anticipated and feared book in a presidential cycle. So, while the New York Times, 60 Minutes, the Washington Post, Fox News and MSNBC provide coverage of a book that has captured the attention of the nation, no local media outlets have found the time to pursue a story about the author who resides in Tallahassee.

You say he is a one hit wonder.

So, how many New York Times best-selling authors with a degree from Oxford live in Tallahassee? How many best-selling authors house their research operations in Tallahassee? How many authors have had their book used as the basis for a Federal law that garnered bipartisan support and live in Tallahassee?

Exactly one.

GOV’S CLUB SPECIAL SESSION BUFFET MENU: Chilled Curry Chicken Soup, Cold Cut Combo Sandwich Board with Chips, Chef Salad Bar, Tuna & Chicken Salad, Beef Stroganoff, Grilled Swordfish with Pineapple Salsa, Chicken Cordon Bleu, California Vegetable Mix, Rice Pilaf, Peach Cobbler, Assorted Mini Desserts

AWAY MESSAGE OF THE DAY via Allison DeFoor: “I am traveling in off the beaten path areas of Turkey from June 1-14, and cannot guarantee service or responses.”


At its best, Tiger Bay Club forums held throughout the state can provide a valuable public service as a place where the public can interact with lawmakers, political candidates, activists and journalists who are asked to participate each month. However, these same events can often devolve into dull, scripted events. That’s where the audience of Tiger Bay members get to play their part in what we have of a democracy, raising questions that the public wants to know that can put the newsmaker on the spot.

Trying to grow its membership, the board last year asked if local political analyst and former Republican Party staffer Chris Ingram if he would like to take over the board, which he agreed to, though he said he wasn’t all that psyched at the time. Ingram said that over the years he had attended some meetings, but wasn’t very impressed by the organization.

Ingram has been a major presence on the Tampa Bay political landscape for the last decade after moving down to the Bay area from Washington D.C. He currently writes a column for the Tampa Tribune, appears as a political analyst for Bay News 9, and occasionally fills in as a guest talk show host on stations like 970 WFLA and 820 WWBA (and he hints that he may be doing something more regular on radio in the future).

Since he took over late last year, he’s been building up membership, actively recruiting Republicans like state attorney Mark Ober, tax collector Doug Belden and County Commission Chair Sandy Murman to become members. But he’s worked to get Democrats like former state representative Betty Reed and County Commissioner Kevin Beckner to join as well, making for a more interesting dynamic at the local meetings.

Ingram has also brought in sponsorships … that have allowed the club to subsidize the attendance of students from the University of Tampa, USF and HCC at their monthly luncheons.

“I felt like part of this revitalization effort of the club in terms of new members and better speakers that I’ve been encouraged to do, also included a change of venue to give a stronger message saying hey, something different, something new is going on at Tiger Bay,” he says. “And I have to tell you, you wouldn’t have believed the amount of controversy on the board that the notion of we’re going to leave Maestro’s created. It was unbelievable. But ultimately, we prevailed in that effort…”

TWEET OF THE DAY: @AdamSmithTimes: So, so proud of and excited for my @Oliviasnowsmith graduating from St Pete High today

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.