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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – March 12

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

Days until Sine Die: 51; Days until the 2015 Election: 236; Days until the 2016 Election: 607

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Americans’ confidence in all three branches of government is at or near record lows, according to a major survey that has measured attitudes on the subject for 40 years. The 2014 General Social Survey finds only 23 percent of Americans have a great deal of confidence in the Supreme Court, 11 percent in the executive branch and 5 percent in Congress. By contrast, half have a great deal of confidence in the military.

Drop in support for presidency driven by Republicans … 11 percent who say they’re confident in the presidency approaches a record low measured by the same survey in 1996, when just 10 percent said they had a great deal of confidence in the executive branch. The 44 percent who now say they have hardly any confidence at all is at a record high.

The survey has found that Democrats have more confidence in the executive branch when the sitting president is a Democrat, and Republicans have more confidence when the president is a Republican.

The 2014 survey finds that confidence in the Supreme Court has fallen among Democrats, Republicans and independents since 2012, driving confidence in the court to a 40-year low overall. The 26 percent of Democrats with a lot of confidence in the court is a record low in the history of the survey, while Republican confidence in the high court, at 22 percent, is also near an all-time low.

Independents are the least likely to have a great deal of confidence in the court, at 20 percent.

If there’s one issue than unites Americans, it’s that hardly anyone has much confidence in Congress, the survey shows. Over half of Americans express hardly any confidence at all, while only 7 percent of Democrats, 5 percent of independents and 3 percent of Republicans have a great deal of confidence in Congress.

Poor marks for media, too … Confidence has decreased since the 1970s, when about a quarter of Americans expressed a great deal of confidence in the press. Now, a record low of 7 percent have a lot of confidence, while 44 percent have hardly any confidence at all.


Nearly 8 million people could lose up to $24 billion a year in health insurance subsidies in a Supreme Court case threatening President Barack Obama’s law, according to a government report. …

The biggest potential loser would be Florida, with nearly 1.5 million residents getting an average of $294 a month. That works to $440 million a month currently, or up to $5.2 billion a year for the state. The subsidies are delivered in the form of tax credits.

Health overhaul opponents argue that subsidies are illegal in states where the federal government took charge of running the health insurance marketplaces, or exchanges. The justices heard arguments last week, and the court’s decision is expected in late June. … Department of Health and Human Services shows that about 7.7 million people in the 37 states with federally-run markets are getting an average of $263 a month to help pay premiums. That works out to around $2 billion a month, although it may drop over the year as the number of people insured fluctuates.

Other findings from AP’s analysis … After subsidies, the average premium for consumers in states with federally-run markets rose by $19 a month, or 23 percent from 2014. Officials said that may reflect people who picked higher quality coverage, and to a lesser degree, higher premiums for tobacco users. …  Consumers in Alaska received the highest average subsidy, $534 a month. … After subsidies, Mississippi residents paid the lowest average premium, $52 a month. Premiums vary by state.


One of the biggest criticisms coming out of Hillary Clinton’s press conference … was her admission that she opted to use a personal email account during her time as secretary of state because, “I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal emails instead of two.”

That comment led many observers to note that you can actually have two email accounts on one smartphone.

But Bill Nelson understands where Clinton is coming from, telling CNN that he would rather carry around one phone on his person, even though you can put two or more email accounts on the same phone.

“Think about it,” he said. “I don’t want to carry around two iPhones in my pocket. I want to operate from one. Now, had she done it, which she says in hindsight she would have preferred to do it that way, she would have been making choices as to what was a personal email, and what was a department email. And you wouldn’t under the circumstances if she had done it that way, be going after her personal emails. So, I’m satisfied.”

According to Mashable’s Pete Pachal, when Clinton’s stint at State began in 2009, “most smartphones could accommodate more than one email account, so Clinton’s excuse for not wanting two devices for two email addresses may not ring true to many people,” he writes. However, “Prior to 2013, though, there was no standard way to secure a BlackBerry like Clinton’s with two email accounts, at least not without giving the IT person in charge complete control over all the data on the phone, work and personal,” he writes. “To fulfill the criteria that Clinton demanded — secure email that’s not sitting on a cloud service, plus a single-BlackBerry solution — she had just one option: Set up her own email server.”

JEB BUSH SEVERS FINAL CORPORATE TIES, CLEARING THE PATH FOR A 2016 BID via Tom Hamburger and Ed O’Keefe of the Washington Post

Jeb Bush resigned … from two companies in which he had an ownership interest, severing the last of his formal ties with businesses that helped make him a millionaire.

Bush announced that he is selling his ownership stake in Jeb Bush & Associates, the consulting firm he launched after he left the governor’s office in 2007, and in Britton Hill Partners, a business advisory and investment group named for the highest point of land in Florida. In recent years, Britton Hill has included three fast-growing funds investing in energy, shipping and aviation companies.

Bush’s announcement came as his presidential exploratory effort continued to expand. His spokesperson, Kristy Campbell, called the move “a natural step” for a man who is becoming more politically active. At the end of 2014, Bush resigned from all of his corporate and nonprofit board memberships, including his own education foundation. In the weeks since, Bush has been “reviewing his private-sector commitments as he contemplates a run,” Campbell said.

Even as the announcement was being distributed … the former governor was laying plans for a visit this weekend to New Hampshire, home of the first presidential primary. He spent last weekend in the other early delegate selection state, Iowa.

Bush’s net worth — which has not recently been disclosed — is said to be modest compared with that of 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who founded private equity giant Bain Capital.

But Bush’s decision to cut ties with the companies that made him rich stands in contrast with Romney’s choice to maintain a connection to Bain — one that followed him through the primary and general election campaigns in 2012.


Rubio’s Reclaim America PAC … issued a fundraising appeal based on the controversy over a letter the Florida Republican signed along with 46 other GOP lawmakers to the leaders of Iran. The letter was organized by rookie Sen. Tom Cotton, whom Rubio endorsed in the last election.

“Marco was proud to be one of the first senators to sign the letter,” reads the fundraising pitch. “Now Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s liberal allies are accusing Tom Cotton and Marco of being ‘traitors.’ …This is too much.

“That’s why the Reclaim America PAC is redoubling our efforts to support Tom Cotton and the other conservative Senators who are bravely fighting to stop a nuclear Iran. Will you join us? A contribution of $25 today will allow us to immediately fight back against these outrageous attacks.”


Looking increasingly like a presidential candidate once again, former U.S Sen. Rick Santorum … will hit Florida later this week despite two of his chief rivals hailing from the Sunshine State.

In spite of Gov. Bush … and Rubio … testing the 2016 waters, Santorum will make a swing through Florida, offering an address to The Villages Conservative Action Group in The Villages on Friday night. On Saturday morning, Santorum will travel to Orlando to speak on “Celebrating Faith, Family, and Freedom” at the Awakening Conference.

In the meantime, Santorum continues to staff up for a second presidential bid. Last week, Santorum’s Patriot Voices PAC hired Terry Allen as national field director. Allen is a longtime Republican strategist who has helped U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn’s … campaigns and worked for Santorum’s 2012 presidential bid.

Santorum is also planning to return to Florida in April. He is scheduled to speak at an event for the Women’s Health Center in Jacksonville on April 16.

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Charlie Crist might be back on the Florida ballot once again … now considering running for Senate in 2016, an adviser to the governor told CNN on Wednesday.

“It’s very early, but he’s being encouraged to seriously consider bringing the people’s voice to the U.S. Senate,” Crist adviser Kevin Cate said. “And he always listens closely to Floridians.”

Crist has been “making calls” about the Senate race to Democrats and financial supporters in recent weeks, two Florida Democratic sources said. … Cate’s comment is the first on-the-record signal from the Crist orbit that he might mount another statewide bid.

CRIST DOESN’T REALLY CONFIRM THAT BUT HE DOES SAY THIS… via Scott Powers of the Orlando Sentinel

“Well, I have been encouraged to,” Crist said … when asked by phone about reports that he might run again. Crist, who is in New York, declined to elaborate.


(H)e’s not seriously phoning people about a 2016 campaign, his inner circle says, and the calls he’s on are with his friends and political allies who have been phoning him bout the death of his sister two weeks ago.

“A lot of folks have been talking to Charlie in the past few weeks, and I’m not aware of any focused effort on his past to run for Senate,” said Dan Gelber, a top Crist adviser who regularly speaks with him. “Of course, the subject comes up because these are political people, and they talk about politics.”

Crist is neither ruling in nor ruling out running, however, and he made that clear in a brief conversation with POLITICO … when he said he had nothing to announce and was still grieving the loss of Margaret Crist Wood, 60, who died of brain caner Feb. 24.

“He’s not making calls to my knowledge about running for Senate, and I would probably know,” said Bob Poe, treasurer for Crist’s 2014 political committee. “People have raised this with him, and people would like to see him run, but there’s no real effort.”

Steve Schale, a top adviser to Crist’s 2014 governor’s race, echoed Poe and Gelber as did John Morgan, a major Florida donor and Orlando trial lawyer who employs Crist.

“Suffice it to say, he hasn’t called me about this,” Morgan said. “Read into this what you will.”

NEW ON THE TWITTERS longtime Crist friend Jay Burmer.

TWEET, TWEET: @JayBurmer: A real “D” statewide primary against Murphy would be tough on CC< hold out for Buckhorn 2018 Guv, easier

CRIST RUNNING FOR THE SENATE IN 2016 IS A TERRIBLE IDEA via Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post

This is a terrible idea. And someone close to Crist needs to tell him that. Soon.

Here’s the thing: On paper, you can see what Crist is thinking (sort of).  He has been elected governor (as a Republican.) He has run for the Senate once (as an independent). And he has run for governor once (again)(as a Democrat).  All of that running for office has made Crist a household name in Florida, a notoriously difficult state in which to communicate and get known in as a politician. … 2016 will almost certainly be a better year for Democrats than either 2010 or 2014 — when Crist most recently lost races. Double and, the Democratic field to replace Sen. Marco Rubio, if he runs for president in 2016, isn’t exactly a murderer’s row.

So, Crist thinks “Why not me?” Here’s why.

Yes, Crist did run and win statewide in Florida. As a Republican. In 2006.  In the last nine years, Crist has done the following: Blew a 35-point lead — I am not exaggerating — to a guy named Marco Rubio in the 2010 Senate Republican primary. Left the Republican party and ran in the general election as an independent. He came in second with 30 percent, 19 points behind Rubio. Became a Democrat, spoke at the 2012 Democratic convention and became the Democratic nominee against Gov. Rick Scott (R) in 2014. Lost to Scott, 48.1 percent to 47.1 percent

It is absolutely true then that Crist remains a household name in Florida politics. But unlike five-ish years ago when the Crist brand could rightly be described as “common sense conservatism”, Crist now represents for many Floridians exactly what they don’t like in politicians: A conviction-less (and, largely, party-less) person willing to say or do whatever is necessary to win their vote. Case in point: Crist asserting during the 2014 campaign that he left the Republican party because of racism. Um, not accurate.

Crist was once a promising politician with a potentially bright future on the national stage. But, it’s not 2010 anymore — and the last five years has been disastrous for his political brand.  Facing that reality may be difficult for Crist. But it’s still the reality.


Murphy has signaled he’ll run for Senate regardless of whether Rubio, Crist or anyone else is in the race.

Murphy’s announcement has been tentatively scheduled for March 23. Two top Democrats in Washington and Florida said he’s doing so with Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid’s blessing and in coordination with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. A spokesman for Reid declined to comment.

“Congressman Murphy is actively considering a run for the U.S. Senate and is close to making a decision. He is discussing a potential race with supporters and is being encouraged to run by Floridians from across the state,” an email from Murphy’s office said. “His decision will be based on how he can best serve the people of Florida, not on who may or may not enter this race.”

A top Washington Democratic consultant familiar with the talks between Senate leaders and Murphy was blunt about Murphy’s situation: “Harry Reid wants him. The DSCC wants him. That’s Crist’s problem. He doesn’t have the support he had last year when he ran for governor.”

MY TAKE: Even if Crist does want to run in 2016, this is a horrible time to float a trial balloon. Didn’t Crist just bury his beloved sister, Margaret? As for the politics, I genuinely do not think Crist gets out of a Democratic primary versus Murphy. And I certainly do not think he beats a well-organized Republican, like Jeff Atwater or Will Weatherford. Bottom line? Don’t do it, Charlie.

RICK SCOTT’S BAN ON CLIMATE CHANGE TERM EXTENDED TO OTHER STATE AGENCIES via Tristram Korten of the Florida Center For Investigative Reporting

No one told Bart Bibler not to use the terms “climate change” and “global warming” during his six months on the job at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Then, on March 4, he walked into a Florida Coastal Managers Forum, a teleconference with representatives from other state agencies.

When he introduced himself, Bibler congratulated everyone for the “exciting” work being done to address the impact of climate change, and then he mentioned his opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline project.

“The reaction was mostly shock,” Bibler said. According to Bibler, the forum moderator, Ann Lazar, said she hoped his advocacy on the conference call wouldn’t result in cancellations of future ones.

“Obviously, she’s nervous I had violated this unwritten policy of talking about climate change,” Bibler said. “I didn’t get the memo.”

DEP officials put Bibler on a two-day leave. The letter of reprimand chastised him for expressing his personal views about the pipeline. It also stated that a summary of the meeting Bibler supplied to his supervisor “gave the appearance that this was Ann’s official meeting agenda that included climate change.”

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will make a jobs announcement at Hernon Manufacturing as part of a groundbreaking ceremony on their new facility expansion. Announcement begins 2 p.m. at Hernon Manufacturing, Inc., 121 Tech Drive in Sanford.


It’s coming down to the wire with the finishing line on the move. A deadline to challenge the proposed rule for the state’s medicinal marijuana law is March 24, according to the Department of Health, not Thursday.

“The later date is due to the Revised Statement of Estimated Regulatory Costs, which was prepared in response to the submission and rejection of a Lower Cost Regulatory Alternative,” wrote Tiffany Cowie, DOH’s spokesperson in an e-mail exchange.

To review: the Joint Administrative Procedures Committee had questions concerning the proposed rule including DOH’s calculation of a Statement of Estimated Regulatory Costs.

DOH’s response to the JAPC inquiry represented a revision – by pulling out a provision relating to license renewal and avoiding a cost threshold requiring legislative ratification DOH started a new time line for finalizing the proposal. The revision was announced at a March 2 hearing but few in attendance recognized as a formal revision and what it represented – a new deadline.

The drawing of a timeline in the Florida rule-making process is complicated. It is like coming to a 3-way fork in the rule a new clock may start ticking depending on the route chosen and then regardless of the road taken a 2-way fork quickly appears.


Health Policy Committee Chair Aaron Bean and Vice Chair Eleanor Sobel are working together on a Senate Medicaid expansion plan. … The two are at odds over how it should be administered, with Bean championing a little-known program called Florida Health Choices and Sobel throwing her weight behind the better-known Florida Healthy Kids Corp, which administered the popular state children’s health insurance program.

Sobel withdrew an amendment that would have carved the Florida Health Choices out of the mix in the development of the new statewide Florida Health Insurance Exchange — or FHIX– program. The FHIX program would be the virtual marketplace for employer insurance, Medicaid managed care plans and 800,000 new people covered under the Medicaid expansion under the proposed committee bill the Senate agreed to introduce earlier this week.

Florida Health Choices was established in 2008 ago under the direction of then House Speaker Marco Rubio and championed by then House member Bean, helped direct $2.4 million in state funding to the program and also once served as the chairman of the Florida Health Choices board of directors.

Sobel says she thinks Bean is championing Florida Health Choices because it was created with the help of Richard Corcoran, who was Rubio’s Chief of Staff.

“I think it’s something for the House. It was passed under Marco Rubio and Corcoran was Chief of Staff there. They feel confident about it. That’s what I think it’s about. It just doesn’t have the proven track record.”

Corcoran said he is not easily swayed.

“There’s nothing near and dear to me,” Corcoran said. “I like good publicly policy and I hope we can get to that point. And when a member out of nicety put my mom’s name in a bill, I had to strip it out and bounce it back because I refused to have my mother’s name (in it).”


In the latest update to the Medicaid expansion debate, the League of Women Voters in Florida held a call … supporting the recent passage of a proposal in the Senate that hopes to expand coverage to about 800,000 uninsured Floridians.

The League’s president, Deirdre Macnab, said she was encouraged by the passage of the bill in the Senate and is hopeful it will also go on to pass in the more conservative Florida House.

The league held a similar call in January, urging legislators to find a “unique and flexible Florida solution” to the issue of Medicaid expansion.

Also on (the) call was Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, who explained that the proposal from the Florida Senate was a “hodgepodge” of plans passed in other states that have expanded Medicaid.

Florida has one provision no other state does: enrolling eligible residents through Florida Health Choices, the Florida healthcare exchange, rather than the federal exchange or another system. Consumers who earn less than $16,000 a year or $33,000 for a family of four will be eligible to sign up for coverage.

But preparing the small Florida exchange for a new influx of enrollees may be another challenge, Alker added. In the 2015 open enrollment period, from Nov. 15 to Feb. 15, Florida Health Choices enrolled just 42 people compared to the federal exchange’s nearly 1.6 million Floridian enrollees.


Former Rep. Jimmy Patronis wants senators to know he can serve on the Florida Public Service Commission and still help run his restaurant in Panama City Beach. PSC Commissioner Julie Brown wants you to know that last fall she didn’t vote for gutting utility energy conservation goals.

Both commissioners are going through Senate confirmation for their commission seats, which pay $130,036 per year.

During confirmation before the Senate energy committee, a representative of the Southern Alliance for Clean energy criticized the PSC for gutting utility conservation goals and allowing utilities to charge customers for proposed nuclear plants.

Brown, though, told Florida Politics after the meeting that she didn’t vote with the majority to reduce the energy conservation goals. She said Wednesday through a PSC spokesperson that she couldn’t discuss the issue further because the case docket still is open.

Patronis, who was appointed this past fall and took his seat in January, is co-owner of Captain Anderson’s Restaurant & Waterfront Market.

He was asked by Sen. Denise Grimsley, a Sebring Republican, how he could juggle both his full-time PSC job with his responsibilities at the restaurant. That was the only question either of the commissioners were asked by senators.


State Sen. Alan Hays … sternly informed a Senate subcommittee audience that the Legislature had not neglected the environment in past years, and that Amendment 1 supporters may have misled Florida voters.

The ballot initiative, approved by 75 percent of voters in November, provides an estimated $22.6 billion toward water and land conservation over the next 20 years.

Hays made the comments while chairing a meeting of the Senate Subcommittee on General Government Appropriations during a discussion of bills to redistribute documentary-stamp tax revenue in the wake of Amendment 1. He spoke later after state Sen. Thad Altman said voters approved the measure in response to budget cuts for land acquisition.

“This Legislature has not neglected the environment,” said Hays, a Republican from Umatilla.

“We have funded it and funded it healthy,” he said. “So those who led you to believe we neglected it misled you, whoever you may have been.”

A leading Amendment 1 supporter said voters never were misled.

The debate came during discussion among senators over the effects of Amendment 1 on other spending, and SB 586. The bill redistributes the remaining $1.3 billion in documentary-stamp tax collections in fiscal 2015-16 after $757 million is set aside for Amendment 1.


Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, says the Florida residents affected by discharges from Lake Okeechobee need to let state leaders know about their concerns. Eikenberg is at the Capitol this week meeting with House and Senate leaders including House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner.

He’s trying to get state leaders to buy U. S. Sugar Corp. land for a reservoir to store water for Everglades restoration. However, one Senate committee chair, Republican Wilton Simpson of Trilby, said the state is looking at other options.

Some water now being discharged from Lake Okeechobee flows into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers where it smothers seagrass and other aquatic life and disrupts local tourism.

“You have realtors,” Eikenberg said. “You have chambers of commerce. You have local businesses.”

Environmental groups have been pushing the state to exercise an option that expires in October to buy 46,800 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. land. The company agreed to sell the land in 2010 but reportedly opposes the sale and wants to build 18,000 homes there.


A bill moving back Florida’s presidential primaries from March 1 to March 15 – the Ides of March – passed the Florida House by a 114-0 vote.

The proposal, sponsored by Speaker Pro Tem Ritch Workman, allows Florida Republicans to take advantage of new national party rules that lets states that hold primaries after March 14 to award all primary delegates to the winner of that state’s primary, as opposed to apportioning them according to percentage of vote-share earned.

There was pushback though from the backbenchers, namely from Rep. Kevin Rader who “debated” the bill for about ten minutes, mostly focusing on how he introduced a similar bill back in 2009 when he was a newly-minted House Democrat. The bill got no traction. He insinuated that today’s move was intended to help Florida’s two likely presidential primary candidates.

Yes, Rep. Rader. It’s called politics.

“Congratulations, Representative Rader,” was Speaker Crisafulli’s ironic coda when the bill was passed.


A contentious bill that would allow some public school employees to carry guns is advancing in the Florida Legislature with support – or at least no active opposition – from some who fought it in the past, including the Florida School Board Association.

Stricter training requirements for those allowed to carry guns, and clearer delegation of authority to local school boards and superintendents to decide whether to allow it, apparently made the difference for some past opponents.

The bill would require that those allowed to carry guns be former or current law enforcement or military personnel; that they undergo background checks, and that they receive training at law-enforcement academies.

Some, however, still aren’t convinced.

“I just don’t think guns in schools mix. I think we’re not setting enough minimum standards here,” said state Rep. Joe Geller … during a committee debate on the bill Wednesday. “I don’t think an American sniper approach is the way to protect our kids.”

But Republican committee member Erik Fresen of Miami said the bill would help prevent school shootings.

“The common denominator almost without exception in these school shootings has been the absence of an armed school resource officer” or other trained individual with a firearm, he said.

BILL WOULD REMOVE GAY ADOPTION BAN via Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press

A bill that would create incentives to adopt children in state care passed the House on Wednesday on a vote made much closer because of opposition from conservative Republicans who don’t want gay couples to adopt children despite an appeals court ruling five years ago that said they can.

The bill strips language from state law that bans gay people from adopting children – a practice that has been allowed since the law was found unconstitutional in 2010. It passed on a 68-50 vote with conservative Republicans joining some Democrats who opposed the bill for other reasons, including a provision that would allow foster children to be home-schooled.

Many of the Republican “no” votes came from the party’s most conservative members.

But other Republicans said the important part of the bill is helping kids find homes and that they weren’t bothered by the gay adoption issue.

Among those was Republican Rep. Frank Artiles of Miami, the target of criticism from gay and transgender groups for a bill he is sponsoring that would ban transgender people from using public bathrooms assigned to the gender they identify with.

Artiles said same-sex couples should be able to know the joy of parenthood and children should be allowed the opportunity to be in a stable, loving home. He said the ban was wrong.

“I am not a homophobe. I am not a transphobe. I am a father,” Artiles said.

The gay-adoption ban hasn’t been enforced since the 2010 appeals court ruling. Then-Gov. Charlie Crist didn’t appeal the ruling, so the issue never came before the state Supreme Court. Some gay-adoption opponents contend the issue could be revisited if it ever came before a different district appeals court and it issued a conflicting ruling.

That’s the hope of the Florida Family Policy Council, a group that opposes gay rights. It sent its supporters an “extremely urgent action alert” asking them to contact lawmakers and urge them to vote against the bill (HB 7013).

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A billion dollars! Really?

I have to admit that when I first saw the release from, I was a little skeptical. Despite the fact that I love the work Lauren Book is doing on behalf of kids and the very real fact that her work has earned national ink, the actual number itself – (cue your best Dr. Evil) “ONE BILLION DOLLARS” – jumped off the page.  We all know how these kinds of reports can pile on the numbers and if one adds in some soft estimates or a few multipliers, the figures can climb rather quickly.

My skepticism, as tempered as it was, was misguided and to some degree after reading the actual report, the “billion” might even be, dare I say, a little conservative.

How did they get there? At one level it seems pretty complex, yet at another, it was pretty simple: Lost wages/earnings + Added medical/mental health expenses + Added costs to the criminal justice system = A lot of money!

Here’s the ironic part … they could have thrown in lost taxes generated to the state. But they didn’t. They could have thrown in collateral costs, like the cost of have the state raise a child of someone who is incarcerated. But they didn’t. They could have even added things like costs to the schools for remedial education. They didn’t do that either.


Most Floridians believe the Florida Legislature needs to take action on greyhound safety … A Mason-Dixon poll, conducted on behalf of an advocacy group comprised of greyhound owners, the Florida Greyhound Association, found more than three-quarters (77 percent) of Floridians want the Florida Legislature to require greyhound track owners to improve their facilities to reduce greyhound injuries and deaths.

More Democrats (87 percent) said they believe track owners should improve their facilities than Republicans (64 percent).

A bill revolving around greyhound injury reporting flew through the Florida Senate last week. Under the legislation, injuries would have to be reported via a signed form within seven days after the injury occurs.

A separate bill, SB 262, sponsored by Sen. Chris Smith … would go further than the already green-lighted Senate legislation. Under the bill, greyhound-racing facilities would be required to provide a safe racetrack surface, install safety devices to remove the lure from the racetrack surface as well as insulate all exposed electrical wires on the racetrack that a greyhound could come in contact with.

The poll also found voters believe the Legislature should not simply end live greyhound racing and then convert the facilities into casinos without receiving voter approval.

The process, called “decoupling,” would separate greyhound racing from other forms of gaming, so facilities could run their card and video games without having to race dogs.

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“Solar Choice” received $229,993 of in-kind contributions, mostly from the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. Part of the proposed amendment allows businesses and property owners to sell restricted amounts of solar energy.

BOB BUCKHORN’S ONE FLORIDA PAC RAISES ABOUT $44,000 IN FEBRUARY via Richard Danielson of the Tampa Bay Times

Tampa’s Laser Spine Institute was the biggest contributor to Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s new political action committee, One Florida, with a $10,000 check in February, according to a finance report filed … with the Florida Division of Elections.

Buckhorn’s committee took in a total of $43,875 in February, bringing its total fundraising since its launch in December to $60,425.

Re-elected to a second and final term last week, Buckhorn, a potential candidate for governor in 2018, has said the purpose of One Florida is to allow him to do some traveling, support candidates and maybe get involved in local referendums.

One Florida’s biggest — and essentially its only — expense so far is $2,500 spent with Meyer, Brooks, Demma and Blohm, a Tallahassee law firm with practice areas that include election law, lobbying and governmental relations.


Jason Fischer, Republican hopeful for Florida House District 16 … raised over $84,000 in the first quarter since announcing his candidacy.

The Jacksonville native added over $18,700 in contributions from roughly 50 donors during February, which the candidate calls proof of “continued momentum and increasing grassroots support.”

Fischer, who currently serves on the Duval County School Board, seeks to replace term-limited Republican state Rep. Charles McBurney. District 16 covers Mandarin and Baymeadows as well as parts of downtown Jacksonville and Duval County.

In 2012, he became the youngest person ever elected to the Duval County School Board. In the GOP primary, scheduled for Aug 30, 2016, Fischer so far only faces Republican Dick Kravitz.


Three-term Marion County Commissioner Stan McClain announced raising $31,900 in February for his bid for House District 23.

McClain’s campaign calls the latest fundraising numbers a show of strong, early support in the race to replace incumbent Rep. Dennis Baxley in 2016, who is mounting his own run for the state Senate.

McClain, an Ocala Republican, has not yet drawn opposition in the race.

In addition to fundraising, McClain has received a number of endorsements from numerous Marion County elected officials and community leaders, including former House Speaker Larry Cretul and State Rep. Charlie Stone.

District 23 covers much of Marion County, including parts of Ocala, Belleview and Silver Springs Shores.

***CoreMessage is a full-service communications and issues advocacy firm with the experience, relationships and expertise to help you get your message out. Connected at the state Capitol and throughout Florida, the CoreMessage team unites issues with advocates, messages with media and innovative solutions with traditional tactics to get results. Follow CoreMessage on Twitter and visit them on the Web at***

APPOINTED: Dr. Carl Spear to the Board of Optometry.

REAPPOINTED: Elena Spottswood to the Florida Keys Community College District Board of Trustees.

4TH FLOOR FILES talks to Reggie Garcia about winning, The Fugitive, and getting it in writing. Here’s the file on Reggie.


Pete Antonacci, GrayRobinson: Corizon, Inc.

David Ash, DLA Consulting: Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools

Brian Ballard, John Johnston, Sylvester Lukis, Ballard Partners: Central Florida Equipment

Barney Bishop, Barney Bishop Consulting: S.T.E.P. Prevention, Inc.

Michael Corcoran, Jeff Johnston, Matthew Blair, Michael Cantens, Amanda Stewart, Corcoran & Johnston: CMA Consulting

Emily Buckley, Jones Walker: Don Joiner

Dean Cannon, Capitol Insight: Mat Media; Wharton Investment Group, Ltd.

Laura Donaldson, MansonBolves: Greater Naples Fire Rescue District

David Ericks, Adams St. Advocates: Palm Beach County

Marty Fiorentino, Thomas Griffin, Joseph Mobley, Mark Pinto, The Fiorentino Group: Astadia; Jacksonville Aviation Authority; Jacksonville Port Authority; Jacksonville University; Longleaf Energy Group, Inc.;  Mylan Specialty L.P.; St. Johns County; Teach for America, Inc.; World Golf Hall of Fame & Museum

Michael Fischer, Redfish Consulting: National Merit Scholarship Corporation

Nick Iarossi, Jennifer Gaviria, Christopher Schoonover: Capital City Consulting: Johnson & Johnson Services

IN LOVING REMEMBRANCE OF GUS HARWELL via Florence Snyder of Florida Politics

By the time reporters like the Miami Herald‘s Mike Sallah and Carol Marbin Miller and Kimberly Miller of The Palm Beach Post took starter jobs at the Boca Raton News, 1960s-era Publisher Gus Harwell was long-gone to bigger jobs at Knight Newspapers. But his legacy as a reporter’s publisher continued to attract top young talent for years after he moved on to the Tallahassee Democrat and a corporate vice-presidency before retiring in 1995.

Harwell, who died last Friday in Port Orange at age 85, came to the News when Boca Raton had just become home to Florida Atlantic University.  The sleepy little town was about to explode, and three much bigger south Florida newspapers were looking to scraf up subscribers and advertisers.

Harwell and his editor, journalism legend Buzz Merritt, faced the better-funded competition with a simple strategy: Hire exceptional staff, treat them exceptionally well, and cover the living daylights out of Boca Raton.

“If it didn’t happen in Boca Raton, it didn’t happen,” Harwell would say. And if it did happen in Boca Raton, the News was going to be first and best with the story.

“Gus was hands-on,” said Skip Sheffield, who worked for the News from 1969 until it folded in 2009. “He got his hands dirty in the composing room, pasting up the paper.”


On Context Florida: Florida Republican legislators are waving the white flag, says Bob Sparks. After two insurrections against Republican National Committee (RNC) mandates covering presidential primary dates, the Florida House and Senate are poised to make a wise decision to cease hostilities. Florida’s newest Critical Wildlife Area, a tiny bird island in the Indian River Lagoon near Sewall’s Point, has survived erosion, hurricanes and the curiosity of boaters and fishermen. Sally Swartz writes that is now facing a challenge – again – from an early dumping of Lake Okeechobee’s murky water. End-of-life issues are among our most emotionally and religiously charged community concerns, says Marc Yacht. The primary justification for assisted suicide should the dignified death of the terminally ill, he adds, and patients should have choice for this request. As an immigrant and first-generation college student, Vu Tran has overcome many challenges throughout her life that was difficult to share with others. It was not until Tran entered college and matured did she realize that being different was not only acceptable, but also admirable.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

‘FROZEN’ CHARACTERS HEAT UP FLORIDA’S ECONOMY via Eric Morath of the Wall Street Journal

Call it the Olaf effect? Characters from the Disney movie “Frozen” are (in part) boosting Florida’s economy.

“We’re experiencing our equivalent of the shale-oil boom and that’s the new characters at the theme parks,” said Sean Snaith, director of the Institute for Economic Competitiveness at the University of Central Florida. He spoke … at the National Association for Business Economics conference in Washington.

Visitors sliding into Walt Disney World to see Frozen princesses Anna and Elsa or flying to Universal Studios for a dose of Harry Potter magic are helping lift the entire state’s economy, he said.

Mr. Snaith projects economic and employment growth in Florida will exceed broader U.S. growth this year. That should mean that after mostly exceeding that national level since the recession, Florida’s unemployment rate will dip below the U.S. level.

The state’s tourism industry has performed surprisingly well during the expansion, Mr. Snaith said. There was an expected bounce back in 2010, after many families canceled trips to theme parks and beaches during the recession. But he said the state’s attractions have mostly sustained that high level.

Florida has other positives going for it. A strong run in the stock market has boosted the spending power of retirees living off of their 401(k) accounts. And an aging population is supporting expansion in Florida’s health-care sector, Mr. Snaith said.

But he said the “Frozen” effect is undeniable.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to reporters Steve Bousquet and Allison Nielsen, smart guy Brian Franklin, top lobbyist Frank Mayernick and Senator Alan Hays.

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.

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