Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — March 20

in Statewide/The Bay and the 'Burg by

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:

One of the most powerful figures in Florida history never even held public office. Legendary and controversial financier Ed Ball was born 127 years ago this weekend. Ball was a key figure in Florida’s so-called “Pork Chop Gang,” a group of conservative, rural north Florida political power brokers who virtually controlled the state from the 1930s to the 1960s. Ball took over the St. Joe Paper Company in 1935, and two years later purchased 4,000 acres around Wakulla Springs, one of the largest freshwater springs in the world. The state park there now bears his name.

Now, on to the ‘burn…

DAYS UNTIL Sine Die: 43; the 2015 Election: 229; Florida’s presidential primary: 361 the 2016 Election: 599

MARCO RUBIO JUMPS TO “TOP TIER” IN PRESIDENTIAL RACE via Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

After his failed efforts to propose an immigration reform package, Rubio took some hits in his quest to become the Republican nominee for president in 2016 – particularly from Tea Party groups.

But Rubio not only has recovered but is beginning to pick up steam once again, according to Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball … moved the Miami Republican from being a second-tier contender for the White House, to the first tier with former Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. That is partly due to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s struggles to hold onto his one-time status as a top tier challenger.

“Rubio, who seems to be positioning himself as the ‘ideas candidate,’ is viewed by many insiders as a strong alternative to Bush, and he has moved ahead of Christie in the establishment’s pecking order,” analysts Sabato, Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley wrote.

Rubio, who is also up for re-election in 2016, is still weighing whether he will run for president. Last night he told Sean Hannity on The Fox News Channel that he is “very close” to making a decision and “we’ll have an announcement soon.”

In the second tier of candidates, The Crystal Ball has Sen. Rand Paul … Ted Cruz … former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; retired surgeon Ben Carson; and former Sen. Rick Santorum. … Christie is now in a pack of former governors listed as third tier candidates. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal are also in that classification.

MARCO’S MOMENT? via Amy Walter of Cook Political Report

For the last couple of weeks, there’s been plenty of buzz about an imminent Marco Rubio “Moment.” As one non-affiliated GOP strategist remarked … “Rubio is simply the best natural athlete on the field.” He’s great on the stump, comfortable on the trail and confident around the press. But, with another bi-lingual, pro-immigration reform Floridian in the race as well as plenty of other Tea Party types to compete with, Rubio lacks an obvious “lane” to himself.

Jeb Bush is the strongest in the establishment space, while Rand Paul dominates the Libertarian column. The Tea Party, social conservative and internationalist slots are pretty crowded and lack an obvious frontrunner. … only Rubio and Scott Walker start out as suitable to the entire spectrum. Among the twelve GOP “constituencies” identified by the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, Walker and Rubio are the only candidates who rank high in all twelve. Walker ranks first among men, conservatives, Tea Party and Gun Rights voters. Rubio, meanwhile, comes in first among women, very conservative voters, independent/Dems, and those who supported Romney in 2012.

Yet, if Rubio’s got such obvious advantages, why is he stuck in the low single digits while Walker has become a “co-frontrunner” with Bush? First, don’t underestimate the power of Walker’s profile as a conservative governor of a blue state. Furthermore, for a party that’s ambivalent at best about the idea of the idea of a “legacy” candidate like Bush, Walker’s understated Midwestern-ism is appealing.

Rubio backers, however, aren’t worried about his low standing in the polls. If anything, they like where he sits today. Rubio gets to go about his work without the same level of scrutiny that Walker and Bush get. They also see Rubio as a candidate who can endure for the long-haul thanks to his natural political talent. Where Bush struggles on the stump, Rubio shines. Where Walker fails to engage, Rubio connects emotionally.

So, when can we expect to see Rubio’s poll numbers catch up with his potential? A high-profile stumble by Bush or Walker could give the Florida Senator an opening. The debates could be another place for Rubio to break out. His allies, meanwhile, aren’t convinced they need those things to happen for him to succeed. Instead, they say, he just needs to keep doing what he’s doing and the voters will catch on to his appeal.


U.S. Rep. Mark Takano apparently didn’t like Rubio’s op-ed in POLITICO this week explaining why he opposes the Obama administration’s decision to regulate the internet — an issue regulation supporters nicknamed “net neutrality.”

So Takano, a California Democrat and former schoolteacher, marked up the Florida Republican’s piece in red pen, gave him an “F” grade and posted it on Facebook. He’s done this before, with a letter written by his GOP colleagues on immigration.

“I only break out the red pen on special occasions. So when I saw Marco Rubio’s recent op-ed on Net Neutrality, you know I couldn’t resist. It is intentionally misleading, poorly researched, and littered with errors.

“Marco, please don’t draft essays on your return flight from Iowa. See me in my office and I’ll walk you through Net Neutrality.”

So much for backroom conversations among members of Congress.


Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, the presumptive establishment frontrunners for the 2016 presidential nomination, may be facing real problems within their parties

In a Bloomberg Politics-Purple Strategies focus groups convened this week in New Hampshire, even likely Democratic primary voters who are ardent Clinton supporters said they are closely following and are turned off by her handling of a controversy over her use of private rather than government e-mail while she served as secretary of state. And several said she should turn over her private e-mail server to a neutral third party for review.

And some underpinnings of Bush’s general election appeal — his family’s legacy of political service, a perceived openness to liberalizing immigration policy and support of Common Core education standards—have led several likely Republican primary voters to conclude they can’t support him, and that there’s probably nothing Bush can do to change their minds. None said they’d back Bush if they were voting today.

New Hampshire doesn’t carry many Electoral College votes, but its first-in-the-nation presidential primary is a key measure of campaign strength. Video of the focus groups will debut Thursday on With All Due Respect, airing at 5 p.m. Eastern and Pacific time on Bloomberg Television.

The two 90-minute sessions of 10 registered voters from each party, held … in Londonderry, N.H., aren’t large enough to constitute a scientific sample, but they could reflect the early emotional contours of the race. Participants on the Democratic side contradicted claims by Clinton’s team that voters aren’t worrying about her e-mails. They indicated while they still intend to support Clinton, her handling of the matter has disappointed them and made her more vulnerable to lost support from others. They also said she should allow a third party to examine her private e-mail server so that the issue doesn’t give Republicans ammunition going forward.

The Republican participants, meanwhile, reflected the intense skepticism felt in some party circles toward Bush, the former Florida governor who is a son and brother of U.S. presidents. That same skepticism and may embolden other Republicans jockeying in a field that could exceed a dozen candidates.


They didn’t arrive together, but Bush and rapper/actor Ludacris crossed paths in the Georgia Capitol … delivering similar messages to state lawmakers to focus on the state’s children.

Bush joked about the chance encounter with the 37-year-old musician, telling the Senate, “I actually came here because I heard Ludacris was gonna be here.”

Bush, speaking just a few minutes to both chambers, asking lawmakers to “be big and to be bold” by creating “child-centered” education systems that will ensure high school graduates are career and college ready.

Ludacris, a Georgia native, was recognized in the House for his work through the Ludacris Foundation, a non-profit that describes itself as “helping youth help themselves” The group has donated more than $1.5 million to youth organizations and more than 10,000 hours on service to youth across the nation.

When he took the rostrum, he picked up the gavel and hammered it down, claiming that he “always wanted to do that.”

“You all have a special responsibility to provide a voice for the voiceless and to help guide all the residents of Georgia to a better tomorrow,” Ludacris said.

Bush followed Ludacris on the House floor and quipped that he’d be brief. “I came to see Ludacris,” Bush said. “I’ve already done that.”

PIC DU JOUR captioned by @JebBush: “Never thought @Ludacris would be my opening act. His foundation does great work.” Photo here.


Jeb Bush often mentions his wife’s family, how he fell in love with her in nearby León, and her immigrant challenges coming to the United States. Only rarely — and critically — do the likely front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination or his aides mention his wife’s father, José Maria Garnica Rodríguez.

Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell reiterated … Columba Bush’s father abandoned his family. “Mrs. Bush did not have a relationship with her father after he left her mother and their family when Mrs. Bush was just a young teenager,” she said. And published accounts, including one in The New York Times recently, largely have taken that line, calling him a migrant worker and nonpresence in his daughter’s life. … But relatives here say it’s not true.

“He never abandoned her. She was the one who left with Jeb,” Antonia Morales Mendez, 65, Garnica Rodríguez’s second wife, told POLITICO this week in her small blue house 220 miles northwest of Mexico City. She told a similar story to London’s Daily Mail in January. “Once she left with this guy, she had no relationship at all with her father.”

Why didn’t Columba Bush speak to her father for the last 40 years of his life?

“Maybe the fame? The money?” she said, sitting on an old couch under a figurine of a bloodied, crucified Christ.

Antonio Garnica Rodríguez, 77, Columba Bush’s uncle, her father’s last living sibling, said it hurt his brother “a lot, in a big way, because they never allowed him to see his grandchildren.”

“He knew them only out of magazines, newspapers and TV,” Mendez said through tears. “He died really wanting to meet his grandchildren.”

After speaking with Jeb Bush and his wife, Campbell added to what she had said the day before: “Much of the story [the relatives have] offered is either inaccurate or incomplete. It’s not surprising Mrs. Bush wouldn’t want to maintain a relationship with the man who abandoned her mother and family.”

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Murphy mingled with party power brokers at a meet-and-greet event held at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the latest sign he is gearing up for a Senate run.

In a brief interview as he was exiting the event, Murphy told The Washington Post he was “still seriously considering” a Senate bid, but declined to say when he would announce a decision. Many have speculated an announcement could come as soon as Monday.

The event was held at Mott House, just blocks from the Capitol and adjacent to DSCC headquarters. The DSCC purchased the house in 2014.

According to an invitation provided to The Post by an invitee, Murphy, who has long been seen by many Democratic officials and strategists as a top recruit, was there for a 90-minute “meet and greet” organized by his campaign committee.

Murphy said no senators were there. As he left, he said he was headed back to his district.


In what has to be one of the best opening sequences of any Star Trek episode or movie, James T. Kirk somehow manages to win the unwinnable test. For those of you who consider such sci-fi schlock beneath your station, the Kobayashi Maru is a no-win training exercise which tests the character of the new cadet, while being disguised as a mock battle scene — one which cannot be won.

Kirk somehow manages to win the unwinnable test. … How did he do it? He reprogrammed the machine.

In 2012, Murphy was facing an uphill battle. Adorned with political newcomer status, Murphy was set to face-off against a seasoned veteran in former State Representative and popular term-limited Mayor of West Palm Beach, Lois Frankel.

By all accounts, he would lose. He was indeed facing his own Kobayashi Maru. … Then Murphy reprogrammed the machine.

He moved north and ran in a more competitive seat against Tea Party fave, Allen West.  Now keep in mind, at the time, this was seen as a turn–tail-and-run-for-the-border move and his odds of winning against one of the most prolific fundraisers in America meant he had his work cut out for him.

Most people had counted him out. … But Murphy squeaked it out, barely landing outside the automatic recount margin.

Fast forward to 2014, and somehow, in a GOP landslide year and in a seat where Republicans outnumbered Democrats, Patrick Murphy didn’t squeak out a victory. He kicked the crap out of his opponent earning nearly 60% of the vote. To put this in context, Frankel, in a safe Democratic, seat actually scored a point lower than Murphy.

This is a seat that uber-guru Charlie Cook used to score as a “Republican toss-up” but now is seen as “Likely Democratic” despite the fact the Republicans actually outnumber Democrats.

Why? … Because of the Kobayashi Maru. How did Murphy end up trouncing his GOP opponent in a GOP-leaning seat in a GOP-landslide year? He made damn sure he would face the weakest opponent in the general election. (Sorry Carl Domino, but you were.)


Vern Buchanan and Will Weatherford are both looking at the 2016 U.S. Senate seat likely to be vacated by Rubio but are in no rush to make a decision.

“Too soon to make a decision,” former House Speaker Weatherford said. “I am currently enjoying being home and focusing on family and my business.”

Buchanan said: “Being an open seat it’s something you have to consider. I’m going to take a look at it. Everywhere I turn people bring it up and say, ‘You should do it.’ “

Buchanan is the only Florida member on Ways & Means, and this week was put on the Budget Committee, filling the slot from disgraced Rep. Aaaron Schock of Illinois. Those key roles could make it hard to leave but Buchanan also said Ways & Means has already given him a statewide perspective, since he’s the go-to guy.

RICK SCOTT NO LONGER USES STATE EMAIL, AIDE SAYS via Scott Powers of the Orlando Sentinel

Gov. Scott has quit using any email for state business. … “The governor now only uses email to communicate with family,” his deputy communications director John Tupps said.

Scott ran into controversy last fall when The Associated Press revealed that, contrary to his previous statements, he was using a private email account to conduct state business and had failed to include some of those emails in the public record.

At that point, his office said he would stop using private email accounts for public business.

Now, Scott is not using any email for state-related business, Tupps said, though he was unsure exactly when the governor stopped.

Barbara Petersen, president of the Tallahassee-based First Amendment Foundation, expressed frustration over the governor’s decision.

“It certainly pre-empts any ability on our part to oversee the governor and what he’s been doing,” said Petersen, whose news-media-supported organization advocates for open government. … I don’t know how you effectively govern a state as complex and large as Florida without using any kind of electronic communications.”


Gov. Scott’s chief of emergency management, Bryan Koon, testifying before the Legislature, had a half-dozen chances to use the term “climate change.”… but he would not say the C-words.

Scott denied news reports that employees of the Department of Environmental Protection were barred from saying “climate change,” “global warming” and “sustainability,” but he has declined to discuss the subject in detail.

In a televised hearing before a Senate budget subcommittee, Koon was talking about his agency’s request for federal funds to improve emergency life safety notifications for residents and visitors in advance of floods, tornadoes and hurricanes in Florida. Sen. Jeff Clemens asked Koon if it’s true that states need to have “climate change plans” to qualify for that federal money.

Yes, Koon replied, referring to “language to that effect.”

“I used ‘climate change,'” Clemens said, “but I’m suggesting that maybe as a state, we use the term ‘atmospheric reemployment.’ That might be something that the governor could get behind.”

Senators roared with laughter, and the chair, Sen. Jack Latvala almost literally fell out of his chair.


The Federal Emergency Management Agency is making it tougher for governors to deny man-made climate change. Starting next year, the agency will approve disaster preparedness funds only for states whose governors approve hazard mitigation plans that address climate change.

This may put several Republican governors who maintain the earth isn’t warming due to human activities, or prefer to do nothing about it, into a political bind. Their position may block their states’ access to hundreds of millions of dollars in FEMA funds. Over the past five years, the agency has awarded an average $1 billion a year in grants to states and territories for taking steps to mitigate the effects of disasters.

The policy doesn’t affect federal money for relief after a hurricane, flood or other disaster. Specifically, beginning in March 2016, states seeking preparedness money will have to assess how climate change threatens their communities. Governors will have to sign off on hazard mitigation plans. While some states, including New York, have already started incorporating climate risks in their plans, most haven’t because FEMA’s old 2008 guidelines didn’t require it.


Climate change activists say they will submit a public records request and petition to Gov. Scott … following reports that state workers were told not to discuss climate change.

The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting earlier this month reported that there was an unwritten policy at Florida Department of Environmental Protection banning workers from discussing climate change and global warming.

Florida State University students will deliver to Scott’s office a public records request along with more than 38,000 signatures on a petition requesting that the DEP inspector general investigate the policy issue, according to event organizers.

Groups involved in the event include Progress Florida, Forecast the Facts, Environmental Action, and, according to an event notice.

“We do not have a policy banning the use of climate change,” DEP spokeswoman Lauren Engel said in response to the planned event.

Christopher T. Byrd, a former DEP lawyer, said he is available for interviews connected with the event. Byrd said in 2013 he was forced out of the department in 2013 for seeking to enforce state environmental laws and offering legal opinions contrary to DEP policy initiatives.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will attend the ribbon cutting of Full Sail University’s new digital entertainment studio, REBL HQ. Event begins 10 a.m. at Full Sail University Building 4D, 517 South Semoran Blvd. in Winter Park.


An administrative law judge has scheduled a hearing for April 14 on a rule challenge for the state’s Charlotte’s Web law. Judge Elisabeth W. McArthur has scheduled the hearing for 9:30 a.m at the DeSoto Building in Tallahassee.

It is the second legal challenge filed against the Department of Health over proposed regulations to grow marijuana and dispense medicinal cannabis oil. In preparation for the hearing, DOH is beefing up its legal team. The Department has informed McArthur that Tallahassee attorneys W. Robert Vezina, Megan Reynolds and Eduardo Lombard will be representing it in the case.

Earlier this month the family of a child with brain cancer filed a challenge to the propose rule. In court documents, attorney Ian Christensen charged the proposed regulations are arbitrary and capricious, were written by insiders and would result in “the politically connected not the best qualified” being awarded licenses to grow marijuana and dispense medicinal oil.

It could take as long as 90 days for the case to be resolved and it remains unclear when regulations for Charlotte’s Web will be finalized. Last fall DOH officials explained to the judge who invalidated a lottery to award licenses to cultivate marijuana it is difficult to come up with a challenge-proof rule for an industry when there is more interest than opportunity.

The lottery scheme was to avoid a challenge to a scoring system to award the five licenses authorized. Christensen’s challenge noted the proposed scoring system lacks a minimum standard.

His challenge, as Sen. Aaron Bean noted, “Really took the air out of the room.” Stakeholders have until March 24 to file additional challenges.


Environmental groups hoping the Florida Senate would do better than the House in respecting the intent of Amendment 1 were disappointed … The Senate’s appropriations subcommittee on general government, chaired by Sen. Al Hays … released its $4 billion spending plan for next year. It includes the Senate’s plan on following the new constitutional amendment, passed overwhelmingly by voters in November, that requires 33 percent of documentary stamp revenues be spent to buy, restore, improve and manage conservation lands.

The Senate proposes spending $714.2 million on Amendment 1, which is about $58 million less than what the House proposed and $43 million less than what Gov. Scott set aside for it.

The Senate’s proposed budget includes just $2 million to fund land acquisition under Florida Forever, an 84 percent cut from this year’s budget, which passed before Amendment 1 was approved.

Florida Forever was created in 1999 to allocate funds for public land acquisition and was initially authorized to spend $300 million a year. … since the recession, it has struggled. In 2011, it was funded at all. In this year’s budget, lawmakers set aside $17 million, of which $5 million went to deals with private landowners.

Yet this year’s proposal of $2 million, just months after Amendment 1 passed, is an affront, said Will Abberger, chair of the Amendment 1 sponsor committee.

“The intent of the 4.2 million voters who voted Yes for Amendment 1 was clear: fund the Land Acquisition Trust Fund for the acquisition of parks and natural areas,” Abberger said. “The Senate’s budget proposal appears to ignore the very reason that Florida voters approved Amendment 1.”

SENATE PANEL DEALS SECOND BLOW TO U.S. SUGAR BUY via Isadora Rangel of Political Fix Florida

A Senate proposal on how to spend Amendment 1 dollars … funds springs, Everglades and beach restoration. But the item Treasure Coast officials and several environmental groups hoped would be there is missing: money to buy 46,800 acres from U.S. Sugar Corp. to move Lake Okeechobee water south and help reduce discharges into the St. Lucie River.

There was little expectation lawmakers would include the purchase in their plan after leaders, such as House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, said they oppose the purchase and U.S. Sugar said it would be a “waste” of taxpayers’ money. A House proposal … doesn’t buy the land either.

Also missing in the $714.1 million proposal unveiled by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government is increased money for preservation land acquisition under the Florida Forever program, which received only $2 million, an 84 percent cut from last year, said Will Abberger, campaign manager for Florida’s Water and Land Legacy, a coalition of environmental and civic groups that sponsored Amendment 1. Another $20 million buys land for Kissimmee River restoration.

Sen. Thad Altman, a committee member who represents northern Indian River County said the Senate plan contradicts what 75 percent of voters had in mind when they approved the constitutional amendment last year.


The House and Senate are $5 billion apart on Medicaid spending but they appear poised to give an additional $2.6 million to the state Agency for Health Care Administration to hire more attorneys.

Both the House and Senate budgets contain $2.73 million to hire outside legal counsel in lawsuits. It was exactly what the agency requested. Budget documents show AHCA requested the money to cover an increase in expenses associated with the pediatric and dental lawsuit challenging Medicaid reimbursement rates as well as administrative challenges.

The lawsuit was one in a list of 14 lawsuits AHCA included in it “litigation inventory” it submitted along with the budget. In addition to covering civil cases the increased money

Longtime consumer advocate and Director of the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy Karen Woodall was surprised that the issue was agreed to so early then added “they could use that money to increase reimbursement rates and they wouldn’t have the lawsuits.”

In addition to funding to fight the pediatric lawsuit, the Senate budget also includes $3 million for the pediatric fee increases. The House budget does not include funding to address the litigation. A federal judge in January ruled that the Medicaid rates were set low level causing pediatricians and dentists to stop participating.

The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee released its proposed spending plan … The budget contains money for Medicaid expansion program being pushed in the Senate as well as supplemental Medicaid dollars  called Low Income Pool. The LIP money is used to fund hospitals, HMOs, federally qualified health centers and graduate medical education.


A measure aimed at improving conditions inside Florida’s troubled prisons is finally poised for its debut in the House — but is lacking an independent oversight commission pushed by the Senate and many reform advocates.

House Democrats supporting the changes said … they have been assured that House committees will begin work next week on legislation that includes many of the provisions outlined by the Senate.

But it doesn’t contain the Senate’s push for an independent oversight commission designed to probe allegations of inmate abuse and poor health care, said Rep. Randolph Bracy of Ocoee. Bracy is the ranking Democrat on the Criminal Justice Subcommittee, which has begun crafting the House proposal.

Bracy said House Republican leaders viewed the oversight commission as amounting to a “bad tag” on the Department of Corrections.

“The Republican leadership felt the Department of Corrections shouldn’t be penalized without a proper opportunity to be fully funded,” Bracy said.

He characterized House Speaker Steve Crisafulli’s leadership team as viewing DOC this way:

“If they are understaffed and overworked, how about we consider providing the staff to help them improve the environment within the prison system, before we penalize them with the oversight commission,” Bracy said.


For years, people trying to get to and from Tallahassee have had to cope with a lack of reliable air service. Delta’s in-state flights to the capital of the third-largest state go through Atlanta and most carriers’ flights are costly and are on cramped commuter planes.

Tired of the problem, two Pinellas lawmakers … offered possible solutions to a problem that Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, blamed on the federal government. Latvala said airline officials have told him that the FAA’s training requirements for pilots who fly small commuter planes are the same as for pilots who fly larger jets.

Latvala proposed a new pilot training program between Broward College and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, but he embraced an idea by Sen. Jeff Brandes … to provide student loans for pilots to cover their flight school costs if they agree to work for a Florida-based carrier. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development, chaired by Latvala, voted to set aside $1 million for such a program, which would still need approval from the full Senate, House and Gov. Scott.

Sen. Nancy Detert … complained about Silver Airways selling tickets to flights that never fly. “What are you selling tickets for planes that do not take off?” Detert asked. “We’ve all had that bad experience.”

Latvala noted that a state subsidy to AirTran didn’t solve the problem, and that he long ago gave up flying from Tampa Bay to Tallahassee and travels only by car. Some South Florida lawmakers fly Southwest to Jacksonville and then drive the rest of the way to Tallahassee.

DEMOCRATS SEEN, NOT HEARD, IN FLORIDA HOUSE via Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times

Elections matter. Just ask the 39 House Democrats who must contend with a Republican Leadership backed by a super-majority of 80 (soon to be 81) members.

Even though their numbers give them a third of the seats in the House, the Democrats are marginalized even further because of the super-majority that Republicans secured in November by flipping six seats.

That’s best represented by the number of bills Democrats are getting heard in committees.

According to the office of Democratic Policy Chair Rep. Evan Jenne … only 41 Democratic bills have had a hearing, or 8.9 percent of the total 462 bills through the third week. Republicans have had 406 bills heard, or 87.9 percent. About 3.2 percent, or 15 of the bills, have been bi-partisan.

Only one Democrat, Rep. Lori Berman of Lantana, has had any real success. Her bill, HB 283, which would create legal custodianship, in an adult or appropriate institution, of property that would otherwise transfer directly to the minor, has passed three committees.

It now awaits a vote on the House floor. That’s it. No other Democratic bill has made it that far.

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Brett Doster announced that Frank Terraferma has joined Front Line Strategies.

Terraferma most recently served as director of House Campaigns for Speaker Steve Crisafulli.

“Few strategists are more respected in this business than Frank Terraferma. His deep knowledge of Florida politics and his command of effective messaging have caused political leaders at every level to seek his advice for more than a decade,” said Doster, President and founder of Front Line Strategies.

“Frank and I began working together twenty years ago, and I have always been impressed with his work ethic, political insight, and conservative principles. We cannot be more pleased to have him join this team.”

Terraferma has a long and impressive resume, including multiple stints as Director of House Campaigns for the Republican Party of Florida, serving under Speakers Webster, Thrasher, Feeney, Byrd, Bense, Cretul, Cannon, Weatherford, and Crisafulli. Terraferma first began in House Campaigns in 1994 and implemented the historic rise of the Republican majority in the Florida House, which increased from a two-seat majority in 1996 to a 42-seat majority today.

“I’m excited about this opportunity to work with my friends at Front Line Strategies,” said Terraferma. “I’ve watched this firm deliver effective, winning messages throughout Florida and look forward to helping deliver the next round of victories.”

Terraferma also served as Director of the House Majority Office under then Majority Leader Andy Gardiner and has been principal of his own consulting business.


Lester Abberger: United Way of Florida
Paul Bradshaw, Brian Bautista, Laura Boehmer, David Browning, Christopher Dudley, Mercer Fearington, James H. McFaddin, David Shepp, James C. Smith, Southern Strategy Group: 1-800 Contacts, Inc.; Renovate America; Florida Association of Community Transportation Systems; Save Crystal River
Patrick Bell, Capitol Solutions: City of Chattahoochee
Karen Bowling, Christian Caballero, Jonathan Kilman, Paul Lowell, Jon Yapo, Foley & Lardner: Florida Emergency Care Alliance
H. French Brown, IV, Hopping Green & Sams: Reedy Creek Improvement District
Charles Dixon Dees: Waste Management, Inc. of Florida
Edgar Fernandez, Anfield Consulting: American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network; Indian River County Board of County Commissioners;
Allison Hunt, Hunt-Watters: LeadingAge Florida
Michael Ketchum: Central Florida Partnership
Kelly Mallette: Association of Credit Counseling Professionals; Banyan Health Systems; Palm Beach County
M. Dal Milita, CAS Governmental Services: Waste Management Inc. of Florida
Lonny Taylor Powell: Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association
David Ramba, Keith Hetrick, Ramba Consulting Group: Florida Society of Ambulatory Surgical Centers; Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, Inc.
Jon Brooks Rawlson, Armory Hill Advocates: AnazaoHealth Corporation; Physician Specialty Compounding
Michael Resnick: Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association, Inc.
Manuel Reyes, Gomez Barker Associates: Village of Pinecrest
Kellie Scott, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart PA: NorthStar Contracting Group
Linda Loomis Shelley, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Florida Recyclers Association
Dan Sinnott: Gallup, Inc.

***Today’s SUNBURN is sponsored by Corcoran & Johnston Government Relations. One of Florida’s top lobbying firms, Corcoran & Johnston has demonstrated the ability to navigate government and successfully deliver results for clients, time and again. To learn more visit***

ACTUAL POST FROM A TALLAHASSEE DEMOCRAT REPORTER: “My heart is so full. Once again my coverage of Tallahassee is being recognized since I’ve been named this year’s Community Person of the Year by the Alpha Upsilon Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority. There were several nominees. I’m told my coverage of the city’s homeless, which has led to the construction of a modern homeless shelter, is what put me over the top. Make no mistake, being a reporter is no easy task. But these kinds of accolades help put me a little more pep in my step. The award ceremony takes place March 29 at the Capital City Country Club.”


On Context FloridaPeter Schorsch discusses the Florida Senate race, ‘Star Trek’ and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy. James T. Kirk somehow manages to win the Kobayashi Maru, an unwinnable test. In 2014, a GOP landslide year and in a seat where Republicans outnumbered Democrats, Murphy didn’t squeak out a victory. He kicked the crap out of his opponent, earning nearly 60 percent of the vote. Funny thing about the “will of the people” in Florida, says Daniel Tilson. Even when expressed via an overwhelming majority “Yes” vote on a constitutional amendment, the Legislature can and does subvert it. Bob Sparks points out the odd relationship between climate change and bananas. As president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Julio Fuentes heads the only statewide economic development organization serving the needs of the Hispanic community. Hispanic entrepreneurs and small business owners have long played an important role in the American economy, but as our role in the business community grows so does our voice. Tax reform is one issue where our voice needs to be heard.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


The mystery of Rick Wilson’s “con artist” has been solved.

Over the past 24 hours, political Twitter has been glued to the rantings of Wilson, a Florida-based Republican strategist known for his quotable zingers, as he threatened to expose a “con artist” who, he says, “stole” $10,000 from him.

“Hey … scumbag con artist. You missed your deadline. As expected,” Wilson’s Twitter attack began … Over the next 24-odd hours, Wilson tweeted more than 50 times about his anonymous adversary.

“Very soon now, #TeamWilson is going to expose a person once close to us who turned put [sic] to be a con artist, felon, and scumbag,” another read.

“You didn’t understand we could build out the network of every lie you told, every dollar you stole, everyone you f***** over,” another read.

Wilson began revealing information about the unnamed person … at one point saying she is “a part of Florida conservative Twitter” and alleging that she had used multiple social media profiles to scam others. … On Friday at 2:44 p.m. eastern time, a woman named Melissa Moore identified herself as the person on the other side of the dispute.

“It will come as little surprise to most of you that I am the person at the center of @rickwilson’s conversation of the past 24 hours,” Moore tweeted.


On the next episode of The Rotunda podcast with Trimmel Gomes, State Rep. Michelle Rehwinkle Vasilinda explains why now is the right time to share her story of using a gun to prevent rape while in college and why she thinks other students should be able to do the same.

As controversy grows over Florida’s ban on the terms “climate change” and “global warming,” Florida State University Oceanography professor, Jeff Chanton discusses why Gov. Scott’s position is evolving, albeit slowly. Florida Director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy Susan Glickman adds that the governor should stop denying the inevitable and come up with a plan.

Gomes also chats with Charlie Crist adviser Kevin Cate about what is ahead for the former governor, now that 2016 is off the table. Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant and Florida political analyst Susan MacManus also discuss all the conjecture and possible changes in 2016. Former Florida House Speaker Allan Bense opens up about his health condition as he continues to recovery from Guillan-Barré syndrome, a rare disorder that causes muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis.

The Rounda is available every Friday via iTunesStitcher or Soundcloud. Subscribers receive free automatic downloads of episodes to devices.


Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James  on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: Discussion on recent events in Ferguson, Missouri with Lawrence Miller.

Facing Florida with Mike Vasilinda: Retrospective on the late state Sen. Ken Plante.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Tampa Bay Times editor Adam Smith, Pasco Republican Committeeman Bill Bunting, Susan Nilon of the Nilon Report and La Gaceta publisher Patrick Manteiga.

Political Connections on Tampa Bay’s BayNews 9: Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey, political analysts Lou Freyand Dick Batchelor

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Gary Yordon, Jeff Grad and Sean Pittman



Many have cheered President Obama’s Dec. 17, 2014 announcement calling for changes in our relationship with Cuba as a sort of victory. His administration will unilaterally provide concessions to the Castro regime in Havana and he subsequently called for lifting the embargo at his 2015 State of the Union speech. However, the facts paint a bleak picture.

While the Obama administration and its allies cast concessions as necessary to secure the release of wrongfully imprisoned USAID contractor Alan Gross, the unfortunate reality is that this negotiation … was akin to a mountain of presents under the Castro regime’s Christmas tree.

While some in Florida may be tempted by the Castros’ off-key siren song to take advantage of business opportunities … should keep this regime’s history in mind before taking the plunge. Lifting the embargo and extending credit to the Castros would only fuel the regime’s repressive apparatus and put businesses at a commercial risk, as there is already a mechanism in place for secure sales to Cuba.

So-called “cash-only” sales of agricultural products, where payment must be received in advance, have occurred from many states. These types of sales … ensured businesses are not fleeced by the notoriously debt-laden Castro regime. It also allowed for a safe-harbor for businesses in dealing with Cuba since, ironically, special rules … enacted so that American businesses could count on what is essentially a routine practice in commerce: a normal and dependable trade relationship where both parties hold up their end of the bargain.

It may be surprising to some but the Castros’ practice of placing an order and then forgetting their wallet is a time honored regime trick. While a cogent argument can be made regarding agricultural sales to the Castro regime on a cash-only basis, it is difficult to discern what doing business with a regime that regularly refuses to pay debts confers on Florida’s businesses.

Although some advocate for increased commerce with Cuba for commerce’s sake, that is, to not be left out of the marketplace, what merchant would wisely trade with a customer who is a notorious credit risk and expect a change in the customer’s paying habits? It may at times be commendable to “always look on the bright side of life” … but opening up American businesses to considerable risk for little to no return on commercial transactions with the Castro regime will most certainly ensure the last laugh will be on our business community.


Tallahassee failed to make a ranking of the top 50 college towns but Panama City did? And St. Augustine ranks No. 1?


A web site called posted the ranking this week.

I’m immediately attracted to any ranking of college towns. … After working as a news reporter in non-college town Montgomery, Ala., for four years, moving to Gainesville in 1988 was rejuvenating.

Then I spent 10 months in Boulder, Colo., in 1997 on an environmental journalism fellowship at the University of Colorado. Boulder ranked No. 42.

Now I have nothing against Panama City or St. Augustine. Actually, they both hold a special place in my heart.

St. Augustine is a great historic town, a wonderful place to visit.

But a college town? To me, the 2,800 students at Flagler don’t make it one.

And Panama City. Ah, I learned to love the Gulf Coast there. My wife and I went there for our honeymoon back before bungee rides took off.


You may see yellow taxis as virtually synonymous with New York City transportation, but you might have to reconsider that image before too long. New Taxi and Limousine Commission data shows that Uber cars now outnumber cabs on NYC streets, with 14,088 black and luxury vehicles versus 13,587 taxis.

It’s not hard to see why the ridesharing service has grown so quickly since its arrival in 2011, mind you. Uber drivers can earn much more in the right circumstances, and they don’t have to worry about fixed schedules, complicated licensing or cheapskates who don’t pay.

This milestone probably won’t thrill city officials, who are worried that Uber is both depriving them of tax revenue (since drivers don’t need medallion licenses) and playing fast and loose with regulations. However, it’s doubtful that there’s any going back now — Uber is huge enough in New York that commuters would notice if it went away.

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.