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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – March 13

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

Today’s SachsFact is brought to you by the public affairs, integrated marketing and reputation management experts at Sachs Media Group: With speculation rampant about 2016, you’d think statewide officeholders would have the advantage. But Florida voters don’t often send familiar faces to the U.S. Senate – even from the highest state office. Consider that since the Civil War, only four men have served as both Florida governor and U.S. senator: Park Trammell, Spessard Holland, Bob Graham and Lawton Chiles. Still, those four were certainly luckier than Napolean Broward. The former governor was elected to the Senate in 1910, but died before ever getting to take his new office. At least he got a county named after him!

Now, on to the ‘burn…

Days until Sine Die: 50; Days until the 2015 Election: 235; Days until the 2016 Election: 606

INSIDER BUZZ GROWS FOR MARCO RUBIO via Eliana Johnson of the National Review

Everybody’s talking about Rubio. … So says a top Republican operative who’s been in touch with nearly every potential presidential campaign, as well as with several top donors.

Jeb Bush’s announcement in December launched both a fundraising juggernaut and an aggressive hiring spree, and Scott Walker’s speech in Iowa the following month lifted Walker to the top of national polls.

But a little more than a month later … “The Jeb boom is over and people are having second thoughts about Walker.”  The beneficiary in terms of buzz is Marco Rubio, who now has many of the party’s top donors looking at him in a way they weren’t even a month ago.

Though Rubio hasn’t made as much noise as his competitors as the 2016 campaign has gotten underway in earnest, his knowledgeable presentations and obvious political talent are nonetheless turning heads or, at least, enough of them. Rubio hasn’t made a big splash, neither building a “shock and awe” campaign like Bush nor delivering a marquee speech like Walker (who afterward seemed almost to be caught off guard by his rapid ascent).

Instead, Rubio appears to be gambling on the idea that, in what is sure to be a long primary with a crowded field, a slow-and-steady approach will prevail.  The buzz about Rubio comes on the heels of a successful but nonetheless low-profile book tour that took him through the early-primary states of Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada, and New Hampshire, and as the frenetic motion around Bush and Walker has begun to subside.  Bush’s announcement left many conservatives searching for an alternative to the establishment candidate, and Walker has at times looked like he could fill that space. But he has stumbled a couple of times before the press and displayed some shakiness on policy issues.

RUBIO LANDS ANOTHER TOP ROMNEY AIDE, RICH BEESON via Phillip Rucker and Robert Costa of the Washington Post

Rubio has recruited Rich Beeson, a veteran political operative and senior official on Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign … according to two Republicans with knowledge of the move.

Beeson is on tap to have a portfolio that includes political and field operations, and may serve as Rubio’s deputy campaign manager should the Florida senator move forward officially with his widely expected bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, said the sources, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

Beeson did not respond to a request for comment, and a Rubio spokesman declined to comment.

As Romney’s national political director in 2012, Beeson was credited with the campaign’s primary state field efforts that helped Romney secure the nomination as well as the general election get-out-the-vote operations. He drew criticism for ORCA, the Romney campaign’s voter data system that had serious technical problems on Election Day.

Prior to the Romney campaign, Beeson — who has deep roots in the presidential swing state of Colorado — served as the Republican National Committee’s political director, and was a founder of FLS Connect, a voter contact firm.


The two breakout stars in the early going GOP presidential sweepstakes — Bush and Walker — go to New Hampshire this weekend, site of the nation’s first primary election some 10 months from now.

For Bush, it will be his first political visit to the Granite State in 15 years. They’re not the only 2016 hopefuls who’ll be making the rounds: Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and current U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz are also either in New Hampshire or will be soon.

Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz says that both Bush and Perry are “pretending” to be new men, or in Jeb’s case, his own man. “But all they’re really trying to do is distance themselves from either a previous failed campaign — oops — or their failed record,” she said on a conference call. … Wasserman Schultz dropped her sarcasm when asked to respond.

One Republican not mentioned was Rubio … “He’s not a leader, he’s a follower,” Wasserman Schultz sniffed about the Florida senator, referring to how he backed away from the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill that he co-sponsored. “He is exactly from the mold of the recent Republicans that have repeatedly embraced taking care of people who are already doing well and to heck with people simply trying to make a better way of life for themselves and reach the middle class.”

Bush’s itinerary in New Hampshire includes meeting with the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce and attend a house party in Dover. He’ll also headline closed-door fundraisers for two GOP lawmakers … and also meet privately with potential supporters.


Bush is set to name finance expert Justin Muzinich as policy director … Muzinich comes from the finance industry, having worked first at the Morgan Stanley mergers and acquisitions division, and later at EMS Capital. Currently, he serves as vice-chair of New York-based investment firm Muzinich & Co.

Muzinich, with an MBA from Harvard and law degree from Yale, has a history of endorsing novel policy recommendations, such as cutting foreign aid and replacing it with tax credits to companies that expand internationally.

He also advocates expanding the power of the Federal Reserve, something opposed by many in the Republican Party.

BUSH’S EMAILS DETAIL COMMUNICATIONS WITH TOP DONORS via Ronnie Greene and Steve Peoples of the Associated Press

Among the many thousands of emails Bush received as governor are a string of notes from campaign donors asking for favors and making suggestions.

Invariably, Bush responded quickly. Sometimes, he appointed a person a donor had recommended for a position. Other times, he rejected advice about a piece of legislation.

It’s an insight into Bush’s work as governor that’s possible only because his emails are open for review, something not yet available for those sent and received by Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state. Like Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, Bush used a personal email address and private server. But, positioning himself as a transparent candidate if he runs for the Republican nomination, he has posted online more than 275,000 emails from his two terms in office.

A review … found that prominent donors to Bush and his family regularly urged him to appoint certain candidates for judgeships, public boards and other committees.

Bush spokesperson Kristy Campbell said it was not uncommon for the public to make such suggestions to Bush and the recommendations were routed “through appropriate channels.”

Did fundraisers carry special influence? “No. Absolutely not,” Campbell said. She did not respond to AP’s questions about specific emails involving two fundraisers, but one of them, Mark Guzzetta, said Bush denied his requests just as frequently as he granted them.

“We always joked it would be better to be a stranger with no connection,” Guzzetta said. “He was so deliberate because he wanted to make sure we received no special favors.”


Meredith O’Rourke, chief fundraiser for Rick Scott, is set to join the growing America Leads political committee as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his allies staff up for a 2016 White House bid.

There the well-thought-of O’Rourke will join the likes of longtime GOP staffers like former Republican Governors Association executive director Phil Cox, who will lead the super PAC, and communications director Brian Jones, who has exhibited an exemplary nose for the ball so to speak, having advised the last three Republican nominees in a row.

O’Rourke will serve the pro-Christie super PAC as a fundraising consultant.

The Washington Post calls O’Rourke “a leading Republican fundraising operative in Florida” and who could disagree – she aided Scott in raising a colossal $100 million for his re-election

Mind you, this is the Meredith O’Rourke the somewhat Scott-averse Steve Bousquet calls “an effective fundraiser with a wide network of connections to donors” and “the unseen and well-paid mastermind of Let’s Get to Work,” the key pillar to a sitting major-state governor’s unlikely electoral success.

But … since there’s so much political talent native to Scottworld, why isn’t it staying in Florida? If O’Rourke can win with Charlie Crist and then drub him in the money race with Scott, certainly there would seem to be a place for her in the pre-campaigns of Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio (#Jebio, if you will).

From his “Louisiana Mafia” to, well, insert New Jersey joke here, it seems the Governor’s practice of importing and exporting talent out-of-state continues apace.

“The Christie campaign is very lucky to have Meredith. She’s one of the countries best fundraisers,” said lobbyist Brian Ballard, who was Mitt Romney’s Florida finance chair in 2009 as well as national finance co-chair for John McCain. “It’s a shame we can’t work together this time but I’m delighted for her.”


Sarah Bascom of Bascom Communications has officially launched the search for communications director and press secretary for the Republican Party of Florida, continuing in her capacity as interim Communications Director.

Applicants should understand that this job will be a high-profile position, with a national spotlight on the RPOF because at least one of its favorite sons will likely be running for president. But it is a prime opportunity for GOP press flacks.

Of course, interviewing with Chairman Blaise Ingoglia, David Johnson, Sarah Bascom and Lyndsey Cruley for the posts won’t be for the faint of heart or ill-qualified. No doubt that quartet will be asking the toughest of questions and looking for the best of the best to arm the RPOF press team for 2016.

I would hate to be Bascom’s email inbox as this posting is pushed around the state.

TOP COLUMN — CHARLIE CRIST FOR SENATE? NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel

So, Charlie Crist is now talking about running for the U.S. Senate … about as good of an idea as running face-first into a buzz saw. Both would result in bloody endings. Of a human life. And of the viability of Florida’s Democratic Party … which is already on life support.

You simply can’t take a guy who has lost his last two elections and tell people: Yep, this is the best we got.

I know why Charlie is running: He has a campaign problem. … Some people are addicted to the bottle. Others to pills. Charlie needs to mainline attention.

He’s got the campaign night sweats, longing for the kind of high that only a spotlight and personal electric fan can deliver. The man is jonesing to deliver a stump speech.

I honestly think Charlie Crist is a decent man — a nice guy with good intentions. A man who loves this state and desperately wants to be loved, as well. But I also think he’s done.

He squandered a 10-point lead last year, losing to the one of the most unpopular governors in America. Yet that loss looks impressive compared to the 30-point lead Crist surrendered the last time he ran for the Senate vs. Rubio.

SURE YOU WANT TO RUN AGAIN, CHARLIE? via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News

Crist’s career as a highway billboard was embarrassing enough. But running for a U.S. Senate seat he already lost twice? Five months after he came up empty in the Florida governor’s race?

This time Charlie’s ego is really crusin’ for a bruisin’.

Nevertheless, as I’m sure you know by now, the Pinellas County Democrat hasn’t wasted any time hoisting his trial balloon. When Orlando Sentinel reporter Scott Powers asked him during a telephone interview this week if he is running for U.S. Senate in 2016, Charlie replied, “Well, I have been encouraged to.” Encouraged. Either somebody’s playing a joke on him, kissing up to him or hasn’t thought their advice through.

Yes, 2016 is a presidential election year, when Democrats get their biggest numbers in Florida. But look what Charlie Crist faces: Even if Marco Rubio does give up his Senate seat to run for president, Charlie first will have to wade through a field of giants like U.S. Reps. Wasserman Schultz and Alan Grayson. And don’t count out perhaps the Democrats’ brightest rising star, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy. In this primary, Charlie won’t get away with dodging a debate, either.

On the other side of the primary, there’s Marco, if he stays home. Marco handily beat Charlie the independent for the office in 2010; in 2016, he would tear Charlie the Democrat apart like a terrier on a piece of beef.

And without Rubio, there are still the Republican leading lights — Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, former House Speaker Will Weatherford, and U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan. (I’m not even counting popular Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Putnam is the likeliest — though not necessarily the only — GOP candidate for governor on the 2018 horizon.)

Yes, Charlie does have name recognition. But I submit it’s a Chinese-meal kind of recognition among voters — sweet and sour and largely unsatisfying.

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Gov. Scott and all three Cabinet members have assembled an army of legal firepower at taxpayer expense to defend themselves against charges they violated Florida’s Sunshine law.

Forced to defend the removal of state-law enforcement commissioner Gerald Bailey with no public vote, the four officials have retained nearly a dozen lawyers charging up to $400 an hour each. That will put taxpayers on the hook for potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees for a controversy in which Scott has said, “I could have handled it better.”

And if Scott and the Cabinet lose, taxpayers also would have to pay all the fees and costs for the sole lawyer who sued them on behalf of First Amendment groups and news outlets, including the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald.

By law, Scott and Cabinet members have in-house counsel. But they can also hire outside counsel at taxpayer expense when sued for actions made in the course of duty.

The attorney representing media groups, Andrea Flynn Mogensen of Sarasota, accuses lawyers for Scott and Cabinet members of using legal tactics to delay the first big step in the case: taking Bailey’s sworn deposition.

Beside Scott, the defendants are Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. All four are Republicans.

Atwater is a likely candidate for U.S. Senate next year if Sen. Marco Rubio does not seek a second term, and Putnam is a likely candidate for governor in 2018.

SCOTT: CALIFORNIA, HERE I COME via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

Following a corporate hunting trip to Pennsylvania last month, Gov. Rick Scott is heading west next month to another Democratic-led state — California.

Scott … put out a “Dear Shipping Industry Professional” letter that looks to capitalize on California’s recently settled labor standoff.

“Florida ports are undoubtedly a solution to this problem,” Scott wrote.

The Republican governor also takes a shot at Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, saying he’s running a “tax and spend administration.”

“Now is a great time to give Florida and our ports an opportunity to improve the efficiency, resiliency and reliability of your supply chain,” Scott wrote. “We’ve made job creation a priority while Gov. Brown idly watches businesses flee California.”

Scott plans to lead a Florida delegation to California on April 12-13.


Florida added 15,500 private-sector jobs in February, a 7.6 percent improvement from the previous month.

The data … by human resources firm and payroll processor ADP and by economists at Moody’s Analytics Inc. showed that, of those February jobs, 13,300 were with service-producing businesses and 2,100 were in goods-producing industries (ADP said the sum of components don’t equal the total because of some rounding).

The leading job sector was trade, transportation and utilities, with 3,900 positions, followed closely by professional and business services, with 3,500 new positions … construction industry, together with natural resources and mining, added 2,100 jobs.

By ADP’s yardstick, there were no new manufacturing jobs.

The South, as a whole, added 95,000 jobs in February, the most of any area of the nation, ADP reported. Florida was behind only Texas, with 27,400 new position, in that region.


Secretary of State John Kerry said … elected officials who ban the words “climate change” are unwilling to face the facts, a non-so-subtle dig at … Gov. Scott’s administration.

Kerry, a longtime champion of combatting climate change, said the officials were ignoring the scientific facts.

“Now folks, we literally do not have the time to waste debating whether we can say ‘climate change,'” Kerry said during a speech at The Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank. “Because no matter how much people want to bury their heads in the sand, it will not alter the fact that 97 percent of peer-reviewed climate studies confirm that climate change is happening and that human activity is largely responsible.”

Kerry did not refer to Scott by name but said that he had read in the last “couple of days” reports about the ban.

TWEET, TWEET: @RepTedDeutch: Message for @FLGovScott: #DontCensorScience Retweet or tweet your pic to tell the Guv to stop silencing scientists.

THE WARMING THAT DARE NOT SPEAK ITS NAME via Mark Lane of the Daytona Beach News-Journal

Gov. Scott is considered by some environmentalists to be about the worst environmental governor since Napoleon Bonaparte Broward.

For those who never had to take Florida history in school because it’s not on a test, that’s the 19th century governor who felt draining the Everglades was both doable and desirable and set about doing it.

It’s a reputation Scott shows no sign of shaking … now that his administration has banned even the vocabulary of environmental protection from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting reported this week that DEP workers have been told not to use terms like “sustainability,” “climate change,” “sea-level rise” or “global warming” in reports and studies.

This was an unwritten policy so it doesn’t turn up in any official memo. Just something people told reporters they were quietly warned not to say. … The governor’s office has strongly denied this report.

“We can, too, use the S-word and phrases like, er … lobalgay armingway,” said a governor’s representative. … Hah, hah, just kidding. Nobody does Pig Latin anymore. But the governor’s office is strongly denying this.

When he first ran for governor, Scott said flatly that he didn’t believe in global warming. He’s since refined this to say, “I’m not a scientist.” … True enough. But as a great man once said, “You don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows.” Or the sea rises.


There’s that sound again: people around the country laughing at Florida.

“So the Florida Department of Environmental Protection can’t use the term ‘climate change’?” comic Larry Wilmore asked on “The Nightly Show” … “That’s like telling Rudy Giuliani he can’t use the word ‘9-11.’ …Can’t we just ban the term ‘Rick Scott’?”

Comics, cartoonists and columnists have all jumped on the story, originally broken by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, in which DEP ex-employees said no one at the state agency was allowed to speak the words “climate change,” “global warming” or “sustainability.”

“First rule of climate change in Florida: Don’t mention climate change,” smirked the website Mashable. A follow-up story by the FCIR said the ban extended beyond DEP to other state agencies as well, beginning with Gov. Rick Scott’s election as governor in 2010.

Except for a flat denial that he banned the term, Scott has refused to discuss the issue … at an event at Port Manatee, Scott said he had “talked to people on both sides of the issue. What I’ve focused on is how do we get things done.”

When he first ran for office, Scott expressed strong doubts about climate change. When he ran for re-election last year, all he would say about it is, “I’m not a scientist.” ‘

As a result, five Florida scientists met with Scott last fall to try to convince him that climate change is both real and a threat to Florida, the flattest state in the Union and one that’s surrounded on three sides by rising waters. Scott remained noncommittal … one of those scientists, Eckerd College professor David Hastings, said of the news of a ban on the term “climate change”: “It’s discouraging.”

ACTUAL HEADLINE: “Death Mermaid, other protesters urge water managers to buy U.S. Sugar land


Rep. John Wood told House subcommittee members … that he doesn’t consider carbon dioxide to be a pollutant and if they think it is, “then everybody zip up their mouths and don’t exhale the rest of the meeting.”

Wood, a Republican from Winter Haven, was answering questions on his bill that would require legislative ratification of a possible plan by the state to reduce carbon emission from power plants in response to proposed federal rules.

Rep. Dwight Dudley of St. Petersburg, the ranking Democrat on the House Energy & Utilities Subcommittee, questioned Wood about the cost of health care resulting from air pollution when Wood responded.

“But CO2 (carbon dioxide) in my opinion is not a pollutant,” Wood said. “God gave us CO2 to grow plants, for us to exhale — everything else.”

Carbon dioxide does occur naturally in the environment and is produced by microorganisms, plants and animals. But the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency says human activities since the industrial revolution have altered the balance of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.


The Democratic sponsor of a Senate bill that would ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, said … that local governments were creating a groundswell of support for the legislation.

Fracking can involve using water, sand and chemicals to force oil and gas from underground rock. Environmentalists have raised concerns that the process is a threat to drinking water, especially in Florida with its reliance on aquifers for its water supply.

Hydraulic fracturing would be banned under SB 166, by Sen. Darren Soto … and HB 169 by Rep. Evan Jenne. Neither bill has been heard in a committee so their chances of passing do not look good.

This week, Tallahassee and Leon County adopted resolutions supporting a statewide ban. They joined Coconut Beach and Alachua, Hamilton, Madison, Miami-Dade and Union counties in opposition to fracking, according to Food & Water Watch and ReThink Energy Florida.

“These are counties all across the political spectrum,” Soto said Thursday. “But they all understand conservation shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It needs to be an issue all Floridians support.”

Meanwhile, bills have been filed in the House and Senate establishing regulatory requirements for “high-pressure well stimulation,” which would include forms of fracking that don’t use chemicals. In addition, HB 1209 would provide for an exemption from public records law for the same practice.

The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2010 launched a study of the environmental effects of fracking and the study is due out this year. But Inside Climate News reported that the study won’t be able to answer the central question because the oil and gas industry refused to cooperate in the study.

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The mother of a four-year old afflicted with an inoperable brain tumor has challenged the proposed rule for the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014. Moriah Barnhart’s Jacksonville attorney filed the paperwork Wednesday with the Division of Administration Hearings.

Ian Christensen attacked, among other things, the makeup of a negotiated rulemaking panel DOH had assembled in an attempt to reach consensus on a regulatory structure for a medicinal marijuana industry.

The document reveals he intends to argue before an administrative law judge that the rule is an invalidated exercise of delegated legislative authority because of a flawed selection process for licenses, a lack of minimum standards to evaluate license applicants and failure to state regulatory costs and their impact on patients.

The negotiated rule-making session came after a judge threw out the first proposal in part because it lacked measurable criteria for evaluating applicants. DOH had defended the original proposal saying any such criteria would be challenged as arbitrary and capricious.

Christensen not only used those magical bureaucratic words to describe what is proposed but also threw in “overly complicated” and “no reasonable justification” for DOH’s selection process to award five licenses to grow marijuana and dispense a medicinal oil.


Class size limits could be eased for Florida’s schools under a bill now moving in the Florida Legislature. … A House committee approved the measure.

A 2002 state constitutional amendment limits classes in core subjects to 18 students in kindergarten through third grade, 22 in fourth through eighth grade and 25 in high school.

The state now penalizes districts for every class over those limits. The bill (HB 665) would impose penalties only if a school’s average class size violates the limits.

That’s the way the penalties were applied during a phase-in period from 2006 through 2010.

Since 2003 the state has spent nearly $30 billion on class size requirements. Most of that money has been used to hire additional teachers.

BILL OFFERS FSU $1 MILLION TO HELP CHARTER SCHOOLS via Sean Rossman of the Tallahassee Democrat

Florida State University would get a million dollars next year to help charter school start-ups and teachers if a House bill that cleared a committee becomes law.

Rep. Manny Diaz … added an amendment to HB 7037 that would earmark $1 million in recurring revenue to the Florida Institute for Charter School Innovation at FSU beginning this year. The institute’s mission would be to research policy related to charter school accountability, instruction, finance management and operations, part of a broader effort to cultivate better Florida charter schools.

New charter school creators could get help from the institute in writing their charter applications plus tap into financial and operational knowledge for their schools. The goal is to create better charter school pitches and weed out bad proposals.

The House Education Appropriations Subcommittee unanimously approved Diaz’s amendment and the bill, which needs to get the final say from the Education Committee before moving to the full House.

Rep. Robert Cortes … said the institute was “perhaps the most exciting provision” of the bill. Cortes said the institute would not need new facilities. It would have a director, appointed by FSU President John Thrasher, and between three and five staff members, a structure based on a Colorado model.

FSU fully supports the measure as does the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Consortium for Public Charter Schools and the Foundation for Florida’s Future, an organization launched by Jeb Bush in 1995.

SCHOOL UNIFORM PROPOSAL ADVANCES via Kathleen McGrory of the Miami Herald

Florida lawmakers want to help kids across the state with an age-old quandary: what to wear to school.

A House panel … gave its approval to a plan that would encourage school districts to adopt a standard attire policy for students in grades K-8. The bill includes a cash incentive — $10 per student —for school districts that comply.

That could mean as much as $1.4 million for the Broward district, and $2.25 million for Miami-Dade. The money would be earmarked for school safety initiatives.

“We think this would streamline morning activities for moms and dads, and help improve the climate at schools across the state,” House K-12 Education Committee Chairwoman Janet Adkins said.

Neither Miami-Dade nor Broward has a district-wide school uniform policy. Both districts let individual schools decide.

“It’s a decision that involves the teachers, students and parents,” Broward schools representative Nadine Drew said. “So it varies from school to school, and community to community.”

The proposal under consideration (HB 7043) would give families the ability to opt out of a mandatory uniform policy for religious reasons or because of a disability. It calls for a total of $10 million to go to school systems that adopt district-wide policies.

>>>Reading between the lines, this school uniform proposal is, quietly, a top, top, top priority for Speaker Steve Crisafulli.


House Health & Human Services Committee Chair Rep. Jason Brodeur will be unveiling proposals to redesign the state group health insurance plan, including bringing more options of health plan coverage for employees to choose from.

Brodeur said he wants the state group plan, which covers more than 361,000 people, to more closely resemble a large group health plan, in both what is offered to employees and what employees pay.

One glaring difference between the state group plan and plans offered by other large employers or “on the open market,” Brodeur says, is the costs. State employees similar premiums whether they join an HMO or a PPO.

“In the open market, those two products are priced differently for the value benefits we get,” Brodeur said. “So I think right pricing will be one of the components we look at.”

Also, state employees have not had any increases in their insurance premiums since 2005-06. As the costs of the coverage have gone up the state has absorbed the increases. That has not occurred in the open market where employees costs have risen.

Another concern for Brodeur is the paltry participation in the high- deductible plans the state offers. both is insignificant, with 695 enrollees and 1,743 enrollees, respectively. That’s just .0067 percent of participation.


A House health care panel approved a telehealth bill … but there were warnings that the measure isn’t “floor ready.”

The reason? The bill, HB 545, has no requirement that government or third parties to reimburse doctors and health care providers for rendering telehealth services.

“I’m concerned the bill says nothing about reimbursement and holds no third party (accountable),” House Health Quality Subcommittee member Julio Gonzalez, an orthopedic surgeon said, adding, “I will tell you, I don’t think it’s ready for the Floor.”

Rep. Mia Jones, who is co-sponsoring the bill along with Rep. Travis Cummings, agreed with Gonzalez.

“I would agree with you,” she told Gonzalez. “We still have work to do.”

Nevertheless, lobbyists representing medical doctors and other health care professions supported the bill at its first committee stop in the House, as did the managed care industry. Before being voted out of committee unanimously, legislators agreed to tack onto the bill a strike-all amendment. Sponsored by Cummings, the amendment makes clear that telehealth products are not discount medical plans.


Hospitals that treat many poor and uninsured patients were expected to face tough financial times in states that did not expand Medicaid under the federal law known as Obamacare.

That’s because they would get less Medicare and Medicaid funding under the Affordable Care Act, while still having to provide high levels of charity care.

But in some of the largest states that did not expand Medicaid, many safety-net hospitals fared pretty well last year — even better than in 2013 in many cases, according to their financial documents. KHN looked at the performance of about a dozen such hospitals in Florida, Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Virginia and Kansas, which released their 2014 financial results.

An improving economy was the single, biggest reason shared by all of the strongly performing hospitals because it helped reduce the number of patients who couldn’t pay their bills and increased local property and sales tax revenues earmarked for publicly supported hospitals.

Another factor for some hospitals was the increase in insured patients who bought coverage through the health law’s insurance exchanges. For instance, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Broward Health saw a 30 percent drop in charity care, which officials attributed to seeing more insured patients.

Still, the biggest fiscal challenges lie just ahead — with significant Medicaid funding cuts starting late next year under the Affordable Care Act. The health law’s drafters anticipated the number of uninsured Americans to decrease dramatically, in part because they expected a nationwide expansion of Medicaid. Therefore, beginning in October, 2016, the law calls for cuts to special Medicaid funding for hospitals that typically see a disproportionate share of the poor. In addition, other Medicaid funding that supports indigent care in certain states (and that predates the 2010 health law) is slated to expire in Florida in June and in Texas, next year.

LAWMAKERS TACKLE GROWTH MANAGEMENT PROCESS via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Even as Florida’s economy revs back up, one type of development that has been conspicuously absent across the state is the mega-project … nearly a decade since a large new housing or commercial project that falls under Florida’s Development of Regional Impact, or DRI, law has been reviewed by state planning officials, a development industry lobbyist told state senators this week.

While some might blame the absence of such developments on the lingering impacts of the Great Recession, the building industry and key lawmakers point to the DRI law itself as an impediment, saying it is too costly and time consuming and should be repealed.

A bill that advanced in the state Senate this week would do away with the DRI process, one of the last vestiges of the state’s once comprehensive growth management regulations.

“This is a layer of government that does not need to exist any longer,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Wilton Simpson.

Simpson’s bill cruised through the Senate Community Affairs Committee with unanimous approval. It is strongly backed by developers and opposed by environmental groups and associations for city and county governments.

Developers have long complained about the DRI process, saying it is onerous and actually encourages bad planning because projects are often broken into smaller pieces to come under the DRI threshold.

OUTSIDE GROUP TARGETS DETERT IN NEW MAILINGS via Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Americans for Prosperity launched (an) attack mailer against Sen. Nancy Detert … Just days after Detert’s bill to revamp the tax credit program passed a key committee … a campaign-style mailer criticizing her on the move.

“HOLLYWOOD TYCOONS are making off with MILLIONS in Florida tax dollars thanks to Senator Nancy Detert,” the mail pieces state.

AFP officials say Florida should not offer any tax credits to filmmaking or for sports stadiums.

“Our mailers are just the latest effort to hold accountable the politicians who support corporate welfare,” said Chris Hudson, Florida state director of Americans for Prosperity.

Detert says she is not even going to respond to the attacks because AFP doesn’t deserve the attention.

Detert told the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee that her bill is about job creation. In four years, the $296 million in tax credits handed out created almost 170,000 jobs in Florida and resulted in $1.5 billion of spending in the state, according to the Florida Office of Film and Entertainment.

TIMESHARE BILL DRAWS CRITICS via Sandra Pedicini of the Orlando Sentinel

A bill making its way through the Florida Legislature that would loosen a cap on timeshare assessment fees and make it tougher for buyers to get out of contracts has drawn criticism from time-share owners’ attorneys and advocates.

Rep. Eric Eisnaugle … and Sen. Kelli Stargel … are sponsoring the legislation, which makes a number of technical changes to the Florida Vacation Plan and Timesharing Act.

The lawmakers and the industry’s trade association, the American Resort Development Association, described the legislation as a bill that modernizes state law. Gregory Crist, chair and CEO of the National Timeshare Owners Association, sees it otherwise.

“This is a developer-sponsored bill that strips away at consumer-protection mechanisms,” Crist said.

The House version of the bill (HB 453) passed the government operations appropriations subcommittee; the Senate version (SB 932) passed the regulated industries committee.

The American Resort Development Association, donated a little under $500,000 in Florida for the 2014 election cycle, records show. That included $5,000 to Eisnaugle’s Committee for Justice and Economic Freedom PAC, more than $300,000 to the Republican Party of Florida and about $150,000 to the state’s Democratic party. Eisnaugle’s PAC also received $10,000 from Orange Lake Resort Alliance last year gave $10,000 to Eisnaugle’s committee. Orange Lake Resorts is a timeshare company that operates under the Holiday Inn brand.

Eisnaugle said the updates provide protections for consumers, including giving owners more control by allowing them to terminate or extend a timeshare plan on a 60 percent vote. … The legislation would remove property taxes and certain types of common-area expenses from a current 125 percent cap on annual increases in assessment fees that consumers pay.

IF CAPTION OBVIOUS WROTE HEADLINES: “Odds are gambling will be hot topic at state Capitol” via the Sun Sentinel

***The Fiorentino Group is a full service government relations and business development firm providing a broad range of consulting services to clients looking to influence public policy and create new business opportunities. The Fiorentino Group’s team of advocates is one of the largest in the state and has decades of experience in state, local and federal government relations and new business development.***

ACTUAL FUNDRAISING EMAIL via Ted Deutch: “Wanted to make sure you received my email about my shaving my head for cancer research tomorrow at the St. Baldrick’s event in Delray.”


No group has appeared more bothered by the prospect of a constitutional amendment giving Floridians the opportunity to install rooftop solar energy in their homes than Americans for Prosperity … Koch Brothers-funded libertarian group has been feuding with Conservatives for Energy Freedom, who have been spearheading the effort to get that measure the 2016 ballot.

AFP has been saying that Floridians for Solar Choice, the political committee formed to get the measure on the ballot, was simply a “front” for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), the progressive environmental group that has been pushing for more solar power options in Florida for years.

Make what you will of the term “front,” but the fact is that the drive to get the 683,149 signatures on the ballot next year is relying primarily on funding from SACE in the early going.

According to a filing posted on the state Division of Elections website, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s Action Fund has provided more than $263,000 in monetary and in-kind donations. The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy … provided more than $100,000. The PAC has raised a total of $370,458. Floridians for Solar Choice spent $123,286 in February, with almost all of that going to petition printing, signature gathering or signature validation.

BRIAN HODGERS LAUNCHES BID FOR HD 52 via Ryan Ray of Florida Politics

Melbourne businessman Brian Hodgers will run for House District 52 next November, according the Florida Division of Elections.

In a statement, Hodgers voiced his commitment to the conservative tenets which are dominant in today’s Florida House.

“I am committed to making sure Florida’s economy remains strong, and the best way to do that is to make sure government stays out of the way,” said Hodgers in an announcement. “Eliminating government red tape and cutting wasteful spending are essential to making sure entrepreneurs and employees alike are able to flourish.”

Hodgers will face fellow Republican Robert “Fritz” VanVolkenburgh, an auditor for the Brevard County Clerk of Court’s office.


Erika Alba, Karen Bowling, Christian Caballero, Robert Hosay, Jonathan Kilman, Paul Lowell, Jon Yapo, Foley & Lardner: Union Security Insurance Company

Michael Anway, Holland & Knight: The Jacksonville Historic Naval Ship Association

Dean Cannon, Capitol Insight: Gannett Fleming, Inc.

Martha Cleaver: Florida Association of Property Appraisers

Stephen Dyal, Dyal Consulting: Protective Life Insurance Company

Christopher Lepore: Johnson & Johnson Services, Inc.

Douglas Mang, Gary Sumner, Mang & Santurri: First American Title Insurance Company; Florida Surplus Lines Association

Amanda Prater: Daniel Gutierrez, P.A.

Gary Rutledge, Jonathan Costello, Rutledge Ecenia: Florida Independent Liquor Co-op

Joseph Schuebert: Security Finance Company

Nancy Black Stewart, Nancy Black Stewart PA: The Auto Club South

Robert Stuart, GrayRobinson: Florida Distillers Guild

Derek Whitis, Whitis Consulting: The Schools of McKeel Academy

TODAY’S 4TH FLOOR FILES talks with rising star Taylor Patrick Biehl, a fan of both Bruce Springsteen and Abraham Lincoln.  Last year, Biehl and Dr. Jeffry Sharkey created the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida.

Biehl has served as the director of governmental affairs for the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association, as an associate with Uhlfelder & Associates, P.A. and on the staff of the Senate Community Affairs Committee.

Biehl credits a former history professor with his interest in Florida policy making, former Senate President Mike Haridopolos, for whom he once worked as a special assistant.

Biehl’s roster of clients includes the PGA Tour, Margaritaville Holdings and Elon Musk’s outfits Tesla Motors and Space X.

Here’s the file on Taylor Patrick Biehl.

TWEET, TWEET: @ChrisDorworth: My favorite Uber driver in Tallahassee is Hattie, who drives at night so she can provide for her kids.  Her daughter just got in to Harvard.

***Conversa is a women- and minority-owned, full-service public affairs, public relations, design and research firm, specializing in the development of campaigns that help you listen, understand, engage, and interact with local and global audiences. We’ve helped organizations ranging from Fortune 500 clients and national non-profits to small businesses and international associations define messages, protect interests, influence opinion leaders, and create the conditions necessary for social change. To learn more about how we get people talking, visit***


Those who follow politics obsessively would be forgiven for thinking Rick Wilson is some kind of oracle. He’s everywhere these days, happy to offer an opinion on every angle of the not-yet race.

“The Clintons are on the back foot,” he declares in POLITICO, assessing Hillary’s handling of the controversy involving her e-mail account. “She’s blowing it.”

In the Boston Globe, he assures that GOP candidates need not fret about the same-sex marriage issue: “You’re not going to un-ring this bell.” In the New York Daily News, he observes that the donor class sang “freaking hallelujah” when Jeb Bush moved toward entering the race, and in this very paper, he declares that the electorate has no interest in foreign entanglements “until somebody punches us in the face.”

From what flows this man’s authority?

As a Florida-based consultant with four potential presidential candidates living in his state (yes, not just Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio but also Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson currently consider the Sunshine State home), Wilson is in high demand these days. We’ve come to that point in an election cycle where there still are no actual campaigns, yet the appetite for campaign stories has grown insatiable. Enter the quotable people who may or may not know what’s going on, but who can speak as experts for political stories.

Wilson is a dream for a reporter on deadline. He has worked in politics since 1988 (he was the Florida field director for George H.W. Bush back then), knows both Jeb Bush and Rubio well, and grasps the state’s political dynamics. More important, he’ll fill your good-quote quota. (For a profile I wrote last year about Charlie Crist, Wilson told me the former governor had the “intellectual horsepower of yogurt.”).

SPOTTED in POLITICO: INFLUENCE Magazine. Blurb here.


On Context Florida: Tallahassee’s Red Hills Horse Trials isn’t the first thing that comes to mind for working-class people looking to spend a spring afternoon outdoors with the kids, says Florence Snyder. But the “suggested donation” of $15 is a whole lot less than a day at Disney, and the look on children’s faces as they sit on a family picnic blanket watching Olympic-level stadium jumping, cross-country and dressage is priceless. Maybe this is how they do it in Pensacola, says Shannon Nickinson. Most folks prefer their jobs announcements on the splashy side: Golden shovels, red ribbons, oversized scissors, the whole shebang. But some of Pensacola’s recent economic development news has been a tad more on the modest side. Catherine Durkin Robinson discusses choosing the right high school as her twins graduate from 8th grade. She wanted her kids to be safe, and wondered about tossing them into a crowd of 2,500 students, some of whom use weapons and curse words to express themselves, without doing some research. For 13 years, Florida’s death penalty process has been on thin ice at the U.S. Supreme Court, writes Martin Dyckman. The Legislature has pretended not to notice even though the state Supreme Court sent an early warning. Now, the ice is cracking, he adds.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


Conservatives say they are happier, but liberals show more cheer in smiles, word choice and even emoticon use, claims a new scientific study.

Other researchers found fault with the study, which looked at how Democrats and Republicans differ in positive language in speeches entered into the Congressional Record, photos in the congressional directory, tweets by followers of the two different political parties, LinkedIn photos associated with advocacy groups, and answers to psychological satisfaction-with-life surveys.

The scientists found Democrats in Congress and liberals in general used a statistically significant amount of more positive language and smiled more with their eyes in photographs, while conservatives self-reported more satisfaction with life, according to a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Science.

“We’re not saying liberals are happier, they behave happier,” said study co-author Peter Ditto, a professor of psychology at the University of California Irvine. “But conservatives report being happier.”

The researchers examined 18 years and 432 million words of speeches in the Congressional Record, concentrating on 2013. Democrats used 13.6 positive words for every negative and Republicans used 11.5 positive words per negative. That higher rate for liberals was apparent regardless of who controlled Congress or the White House, Ditto said.


Among the topics on the second episode of Trimmel Gomes weekly “The Rotunda” podcast are Florida’s ‘Guns in School’ bills with Richard Martinez, father of Christopher Michaels-Martinez, a 20-year-old killed in a shooting near the campus of UC. Santa Barbra. Martinez is calling on lawmakers to stop and think of people like himself, who have lost loved ones to gun violence.

Gomes also chats with some Florida Department of Corrections employees who say the chances of any real reform is “nearly impossible” when those responsible for corruption, are now in charge of cleaning things up. Former Florida Senator and syndicated columnist Paula Dockery gives her take on top issues facing the 2015 Legislative Session, and new media entrepreneur Peter Schorsch debuts his new project, Influence Magazine. Gomes will also attempt to find out why Bay News 9 reporter Troy Kinsey refuses to hang up his Charlie Crist impressions.

The Rotunda is a weekly podcast available via iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud. Subscribers receive automatic downloads of episodes to devices when released.


Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James  on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: David Foreman in a discussion about medical marijuana and the dangers of prescription painkillers.

Facing Florida with Mike Vasilinda: Senate President Andy Gardiner

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: RPOF Chair and Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, Rep. Daniel Raulerson, Rep. Dwight Dudley and Rep. Darryl Rouson

On Point with Shannon Ogden on WTLV/WJXX in Jacksonville: Mayoral candidate Omega Allen

Political Connections on Tampa Bay’s BayNews 9: St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Sen. Alan Hays of Umatilla

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Gary Yordon, Steve Vancore, Dara Kam

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Jason Fischer, David Mica, Kevin Doyle, Meredith Johnson, Keith Walter, Dr. David Heekin

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to veteran fundraiser Jeff Ryan. Celebrating today is Rep. Scott Plakon, Sachs Media Group whiz Ryan Cohn, Scott Maddox, Chris Mitchell, and Jennifer Wilson

PI DAY (SATURDAY) GETS A ONCE-A-CENTURY BOOST via Sharon Kennedy Wynne of the Tampa Bay Times

March 14, or Pi Day (get it? 3/14!), is the annual salute to our favorite irrational number, and 2015 means the squiggly Greek letter’s special day is especially geek-tastic: For the first time in a century, you can take it out five places.

You can hit 10 digits when you add the time to reach 3.141592653. Nerds may rejoice twice that day, but they will be quick to note that 10 places is but a tiny humble pi. The number goes into infinity, and that’s probably why we love it.

There are other math principles that are easier to understand, but this Greek letter has a beauty to it that seems to capture the imagination and even pop culture fame.

No matter how big or small a circle is, if you calculate the distance around it, divided by the distance across it, you will get pi. When people want to measure ripples emanating from a central point, they use pi.

It appears that the principle of pi was used to build the Great Pyramid of Giza and it shows itself in the Old Testament in the measure of King Solomon’s temple. It’s used in math, naturally, but also physics, engineering and even boosts the search for planets outside our solar system. (A short aside for geek talk: Since the volume of a planet is a percentage of pi times the radius, scientists can use the number to figure out if a planet is mostly gas like Jupiter or rocky like Mars.)

In pop culture, Pi pops up regularly on The Simpsons and on the T-shirts of teenagers (“Pi R squared? No! Pie R round! Cornbread R square”). The fashion house Givenchy named a cologne for men called pi that is “like the numeral … undefinable, mysterious, and endlessly fascinating.”

Pi is irrational and it goes on forever, like so much in life.

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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