Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — March 27

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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: Though Florida may be the stuff of frozen Northerners’ dreams, no one appreciates the Sunshine State quite like those of us who live here. Though it’s easy to pick up and live wherever you want, an analysis of census data by the New York Times found that three out of four native Floridians still choose to call our state home. The rest? Most of those who left Florida remained in the South, with only one in eight heading to the Northeast, Midwest and West. You just can’t beat our slice of paradise.

Now, on to the ‘burn…

DAYS UNTIL Sine Die – 36; Special Election in SD 6, HD 17 & 24 – 10; Special Election in  HD 64 – 25: Jacksonville’s Mayoral Election – 53; Florida’s Presidential Primary: 354; Florida’s 2016 Primary Election: 522; Florida’s 2016 General Election: 592.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to one of the best, lobbyist Bob Levy.


Voting in the first round of TallyMadness – the online competition to determine Florida’s best lobbyist.

Here’s a preview of the first-round matchups.

Former House Speaker Dean Cannon, a former journalism student at University of Florida, will face off against Brady Benford of Gunster, Yoakley & Stewart, a Florida State alum, in the first round. Neither team made the NCAA Tournament this year, so this will be one of several proxy battles for Florida bragging rights.

Click here to vote in Tally Madness.

NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer faces off against Marc Reichenfelder in an early matchup of heavy-hitting Capitol fixtures. Whether Hammer can get more voters to pull the lever for her over Reichenfelder, the consummate operator, remains to be seen.

Jennifer Green, head of Liberty Partners of Tallahassee and former chair of the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists was a #9 seed back in 2013 and moves up to a #6 seed this year, as she faces off in a first-round battle vs #11 seed John Holley, in-house lobbyist for the powerful Florida Power & Light Company, who hopes to generate enough TallyMadness to pull off the upset.

#1 seed Brian Ballard will face #16 seed and Jon Hamm look-alike Jon Costello. Though most bets are likely to be placed on Ballard, this is the end of March: anything can happen, in the Process or in TallyMadness.

#1 seed Nick Iarossi of Capital City Consulting gets plenty of street cred in this tournament for his Tally-centric practice, but there’s no counting out his first-round opponent, Steve Uhlfelder, whose campaign could be bolstered by some of his media friends at the Florida Press Association.

Cast your vote today for Tally Madness 2015! Just click here.

An intriguing 8- vs. 9-seed matchup is shaping up between Gaston Cantens and Brecht Heuchan, respectively. Heuchan, whose ContributionLink is reported expanding into Ohio, hopes he can tap into Ohio State’s first-round upset over slight favorite VCU in his opening clash with the prominent sugar lobbyist.

Bill Rubin also commands a #1 seed this year, but his burgeoning Rubin Group practice is no guarantee of first-round victory against Ballard Partners consultant Monica Rodriguez. Rodriguez will hope to tap into her clients in early childhood education to attain a “head start” over the favorite.

A favorite in the first round of action, Rhett O’Doski of Advantage Consulting Team, hopes to leverage his early advantage into a W. But anyone who has seen #9 seed Sean Pittman cheer on his Dallas Cowboys knows he can certainly get excited about the prospect of advancing in a playoff.

#5 seed Jeff Hartley‘s Twitter account will turn one year old, and it will be put to the test when whipping votes against his opponent in the first round of TallyMadness, the 12th-seeded Adam Babington, who may just bring some Disney magic with him from Orlando and re-enact a Cinderella story.

#5 seed Ron LaFace, who cruised to victory over the lower-seeded Patrick Bell to advance to the round of 32 back in 2013 will need more of the same competitive instinct to take on #12 seed Lori Killinger, who looks to emulate her friend Majority Leader Dana Young and leapfrog a few men on her to TallyMadness greatness.

Voting for Tally Madness is now open! Click here.

Corocoran & Johnston’s Tallahassee managing partner #5 seed Jeff Johnston will take on 12th-seeded Richard Coates in the first round of TallyMadness. Coates, of the Tidewater Consulting Group, hopes his chances will be buoyed by the same friendly currents that lead University of Virginia to its early success this season.

The fourth-seeded Paul Bradshaw isn’t as great a favorite over #13 seed Monesia Brown as his old friend Jeb Bush is over Marco Rubio in 2016, but it might be close. Though Brown could always employ her Wal-Mart informed economies of scale to get the word out to vote for her fast and furiously.

#4 seed and Gator alum (and U. of Florida Foundation lobbyist) Matt Bryan takes on #13 seed Bill Peebles, who represents the City of Gainesville among his extensive portfolio of localities. The Battle for Gaines Vegas will rage on throughout the first round of TallyMadness. Both are hoping to channel their inner Tim Tebow and “just win.”

When SaintPetersBlog hears “Hayden Dempsey,” we are reminded of Gov. Hayden Burns and state Sen. Dempsey Barron, the great Florida politicos. #13 seed Chris Flack‘s name evokes, well, a lobbyist. Everyone knows the lobbyists win battles against public officials all the time in Tallahassee, so Flack’s chances of advancing are quite real.

#6 seed Claudia Devant represents major business interests in both Jacksonville and Tallahassee, as does #11 seed Martin Fiorentino. The two will duke it out along I-10 eastbound as the votes pour in over the weekend and Fiorentino likely makes his way back to Duval — maybe while listening to his recent appearance on the Scripps Political Fix’s new podcast.

Agree? Disagree? Now is the time to be heard! Just click here.

#11 seed Frank Mayernick said back in 2013 that his success in TallyMadness was the first success he’d ever had without the backing of his wife Tracey, who was also in the running. Well this year they’ll work together as he alone pulls the sled for the Mayernick Group, facing off against #6 seed Frank Karlinsky, an insurance industry lobbyist you can bet is doubly indemnified against a first-round upset.

Lobbyist for 1-800-Contacts and #11 seed Richard Heffley is hoping his supporters won’t give in to the myopia of waiting to cast their votes on in his bid against #6 seed Gary Rutledge, founding partner of the Rutledge Ecenia. Perhaps in turn the favorite might call in a favor from the Florida Cable Telecommunications Association to get his bid for TallyMadness champion some primetime exposure.

#3 seed Mark Delegal of white-shoe Florida law firm Holland & Knight hopes his feet won’t fail him now, as he takes on 14th-seeded underdog Albert Balido of Anfield Consulting. Balido’s Auburn Tigers lost to Delegal’s Gators in basketball this year, but TallyMadness will provide the re-match.

Third-seeded Charlie Dudley of Floridian Partners takes on #14 seed Will McKinley. Dudley represents Associated Industries of Florida while McKinley’s client lists includes some industries that favor the Florida Chamber. One of many the proxy battles in the Round of 64 will two Tallahassee staples in Dudley and McKinley.

#3 seed Travis Blanton hopes his clients Florida Crystals and Florida Dentists and stop arguing among themselves to successfully take on #14 seed Scott Ross, whose relationship with Las Vegas Sands Corps and the Criminal Defense Attorneys means any weekend can get more than interesting enough for an upset.

#3 seed Robert Coker‘s interest in citrus would go pretty well with #14 seed Teye Reeves‘ perks with the Bonefish & Trout Trust, but first the two will face off in first-round TallyMadness action.

Tally Madness voting is now through March 31. Don’t miss out, cast your ballot today by clicking here.

#7 seed and 2011 TallyMadness championship contender Gus Corbella will take on #10 seed Chris Carmody, whose Orlando City soccer clients are hungry for the first Orange County championship in any major sport — lobbying, the ultimate bloodsport, would do just fine.

The matchup between #7 Tim Meenan and #10 Missy Timmins is one between Capitol heavyweights who have hung out their own shingles. Timmins may have to call up her clients with the Teamsters Joint Council for some backup muscle in her quest for a first-round upset.

#7 Slater Bayliss, a native Iowan who sports one of the influence-dense slates of clients in the business, will face off in the first round of TallyMadness against #10 Brewster Bevis, senior vice president of state and federal affairs for Associated Industries of Florida and 9th-generation Floridian.

Katie Webb, a #7 seed in this year’s TallyMadness may not have the name recognition of her 10th-seeded first-round foe Mac Stipanovich, but she does have the magical kingdom of Disney on her side. Stipanovich, for his part, represents Universal Orlando. It’s a small world, after all.

The second-seeded Jon Johnson will face off against #15 seed Andy Palmer, an underdog for sure but yet another of our TallyMadness contenders with constituents on Space Mountain. The magic might come through for Palmer against Johnson & Blanton co-founder, but it remains to be seen so far.

Who makes it to the top? Be heard with your Tally Madness 2015 ballot today!

#2 seed Chris Dudley of Southern Strategy Group will square off against #15 seed Richard Reeves, who lobbies for the relatively new Capitol Insights, setting up a matchup with implications not just in the TallyMadness playoffs, but in the broader Process. An intriguing early-round battle to be sure.

#2 seed David Ramba, whose high-flying personal style typifies to many the Platonic ideal of the Capitol lobbyist, will square off in the Round of 64 against #15 seed Jim Magill, a fellow Governors Club denizen and Adams Street court-holder. Whoever wins here has a Tallahassee feather in their cap to show for it.

This deceptively lopsided-seeming battle is closer than it may appear, as two fellow co-founders of major Tallahassee influence institutions will face one another early on in this year’s TallyMadness: #2 seed Michael Corcoran and #15 seed Steven Metz.

First-round voting ends at midnight on March 31. Click here now to vote in Tally Madness.

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National Journal is asking readers to join the cast of candidates running the ultimate race of American politics with Travel Tracker, an interactive map showing the number of visits potential presidential candidates have made to different U.S. cities on the campaign trail.

Travel Tracker covers trips current and potential presidential candidates made outside of their home states after Nov. 4, 2014. The database is compiled from press releases and news articles.

Users can scroll to see where candidates have been, and narrow the search by date and state.


A new Suffolk University poll in New Hampshire finds Jeb Bush leading the GOP presidential field with 19%, followed by Scott Walker at 14%, Rand Paul at 7%, Donald Trump at 6%, Ted Cruz at 5% and Chris Christie at 5%.


Jeb Bush has stockpiled tens of millions of dollars in the past three months, donors say, raising expectations that he will outgun all of his likely rivals for the Republican nomination.

But before the former Florida governor announces his haul, possibly in April, opponents are trying to turn his fundraising prowess and political pedigree into liabilities.

“I didn’t inherit fame or fortune from my family,” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who boasts of using coupons to buy a sweater for $1, says frequently.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina mocked Mr. Bush’s pricey fundraisers last week, saying: “Jeb couldn’t be here today, and you better be glad, ’cause it would have been 10,000-a-plate.”

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said … Bush aims to raise $100 million and “is going to shatter every fundraising record that’s ever been set,” though Mr. Bush has denied setting a goal. “My guess is he blows past that goal, he ends up raising way more than $100 million, but elections are actually decided by real live people,” Mr. Cruz told ABC News.

The quips are intended to cast Mr. Bush as a member of a privileged establishment unpopular with the grass-roots conservatives who will be a potent force in the early nominating contests.

The jabs at Mr. Bush’s fundraising are starting months earlier than in the 2012 campaign, when Mitt Romney, a wealthy former corporate executive, was derided as a “rich guy” and described as a “Wall Street financier” by his GOP opponents.


A likely Republican presidential candidate has introduced a bill that would ban local elected officials in the nation’s capital from enacting gun-control laws.

The bill introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio would essentially leave the District of Columbia governed only by federal gun laws.

Rubio says in a statement that District leaders have infringed on residents’ second-amendment rights and left them “vulnerable to criminals.” The city requires that handguns be registered, and residents must show a reason for obtaining a concealed-carry permit.

The bill was co-introduced by Rep. Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican.

The only announced GOP presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, introduced resolutions last week disapproving of two District laws. Those laws would bar private groups from discriminating for religious reasons.

TED CRUZ REACHES OUT TO RICK SCOTT via Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Days after declaring his candidacy for the White House, Texas Senator Ted Cruz took time on Thursday to reach out to Gov. Scott.

Cruz was scheduled to speak with Scott, also a Republican, this morning for about 15 minutes, according to Scott’s official schedule for the day.

While it is not clear what the two discussed, Cruz becomes the second potential presidential contender in as many weeks to dial Scott up. Last week Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal held a 15-minute phone conversation with Scott.

And back in January at Scott’s inauguration, both Texas Gov. Rick Perry and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had front row seats. Besides both being governors, both are also preparing to run for president in 2016.

Scott and Perry have had a growing relationship over the last few years. In Sarasota in November, the two talked about their playfully competitive relationship over the time both have been governors.


Nelson is speaking out against policies that would prohibit government employees from discussing climate change and offered a budget amendment to prevent federal legislation from doing that.

“We have all read news reports at the state level, the local level, maybe even at the federal level,” Nelson said. “Indeed some folks are trying to muzzle scientists from speaking about the science involved in oceans, atmosphere, climate and the weather.”

Nelson was making a veiled reference on the state level to news reports that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection under Gov. Scott had an unwritten policy against using terms such as climate change and sea level rise.

Scott and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection both deny there was such a policy. The group Forecast the Facts has asked the DEP inspector general to determine whether there was such a policy.

Nelson sponsored a Senate budget amendment to block legislation that would prohibit federal agency scientists from using terms related to atmospheric, climate, weather or oceanic processes, including climate change.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will announce February’s jobs numbers at a press conference beginning 10:00 a.m. at Norris Sports Group, 9130 Galleria Court in Naples.


A hospice care group is facing imminent revocation of their license to administer services in Florida on a technicality, despite concerns over the interruption of care administered to terminally ill patients who rely on their delicate work.

The state Agency for Health Care Administration has reportedly denied Compassionate Care Hospice’s motion to stay a disruption in payment to the group pending appeal, though AHCA has the discretion to continue to allow the group to operate without interruption under state law.

The crux of AHCA’s rejection of CCH’s renewal paperwork is that they believe the firm submitted it after a agency deadline, though the hospice group says it has credible evidence the forms were timely filed. “How many times has the US Mail lost letters or have large organizations lost letters in their mail centers?” one source close to CCH wondered aloud on Thursday.

In the meantime, CCH has continued to serve its 250 patients in Highlands, Polk and Hardee counties, despite having no assurances from the state that its work with the elderly and terminally ill will be reimbursed.

“In just this short time since the disruption of service we have noticed Mom’s attitude and health has declined,” wrote Timothy McKenna, the son of one patient affected by the interruption to Tina Braungardt, program director at CCF. “It is a shame that an administrative error has negative affected the lives of so many elders, including my mother’s. Please expedite in correcting this mistake so our mother as well as many other moms and dads get back to the great care you previously provided.”

For now, CCH and its 150 Florida-based employees play the waiting game while the state health care bureaucracy decides where it stands on an issue with the fate of hundreds of patients in the balance.


Scott’s political committee “Let’s Get to Work” was able to take in more than $700,000 this month, according to figures provided by the PAC website.

“Work” raised $710,000 through March 20, including a combined $250,000 from the Florida Chamber of Commerce and its associated Florida Jobs PAC. DEX Imaging CEO Dan Doyle Jr. gave $100,000.

The Scott committee also received $50,000 each from Voice of Florida Business Political Action Committee and Floridians for A Stronger Democracy, a committee linked to the Associated Industries of Florida.

Among the other top contributions: $25,000 from the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association and $20,000 from The Villages of Central Florida.

“Work” was instrumental in Scott’s 2014 re-election victory, and has been busy after the election. In March, the organization financed a series of television ads, with about $411,000 in advertising expenditures, promoting the governor’s record and his push for additional tax cuts.


A new Public Policy Polling survey shows that 58 percent of Florida voters want Medicaid expansion. Independents support it by 57 percent, while there is a 12-point difference among Republicans (33/45). Despite those numbers, the Florida House still refuses to work with the state Senate on a hybrid expansion plan. Such a program would allow the state to draw down federal funding to provide health care coverage for up to a million Floridians now without coverage.

Sen. Jeff Brandes proposed a medical marijuana bill for this legislative session, but the odds of that becoming law look don’t look promising. Organizers with Amendment 2, the constitutional amendment that fell just short of the 60 percent needed to pass last year, are working on collecting signatures for a similar measure for the 2016 ballot. PPP shows that 58 percent now support the measure, the same percentage that favored it at the polls in 2014. But PPP predicts the the odds are good that if it makes it to the ballot next year, it will be successful.

“With a younger and more progressive presidential year electorate it seems like it would have a pretty good chance at hitting 60 percent support on the second go around,” the pollsters write.

Same-sex marriage became the law of the land in Florida in early January, the protestations of social conservatives such as John Stemberger notwithstanding. Eighty-one percent of Floridians tell PPP that it’s either had a positive effect on their lives or no effect at all, with just 20 percent saying it has affected them negatively.

Despite his re-election last fall, Gov. Scott continues to be underwater when it comes to his personal approval rankings. Public Policy Polling reports that 42 percent of likely voters approve of his job performance, while 46 percent disapprove. If he were to run against Bill Nelson for U.S. Senate in 2018, Nelson right now has a slight lead, 47-43 percent.

***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***


Bills are dying.

Substantive House committees held their last rounds of meetings this week and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli said on Thursday he doesn’t plan on allowing them to meet in the second half of the session.

The exception, Crisafulli said, could be the House Civil Justice Subcommittee which he will consider allowing to meet to address settled local claims bills.

That means that bills that haven’t cleared those subcommittees are in deep trouble. Or worse.

“That would be very fair to say,” Crisafulli said when asked if the bills are dead for the session.

Some of the bills that haven’t cleared their first committee of reference include measures that :

  • Restrict or repeal nuclear cost recovery (HB 67, HB 473)
  • Champion pay equality t (HB 25)
  • Limit insurers and health plans ability to limit access to medications (HB 863)
  • Require eighth and 11th grade students to watch the film America: Imagine the World Without Her, a film that according to the hardback knocks down “every important accusation made by Progressives” against America (HB 77)
  • Establish $50,000 as the minimum salary for public school teachers in Florida (HB 261)
  • Regulate or ban oil and gas hydraulic fracturing (HB 1205, HB 169)
  • Allow local governments to establish pilot programs regulating the use of plastic shopping bas (HB 661)
  • Require approval by the Legislature of any plan submitted by the state to the federal government to control carbon emissions (HB 849)
  • Ban most abortions (HB 247)

CRISAFULLI: DON’T LOOK FOR A HOUSE REPUBLICAN HEALTH PLAN via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics

House Republicans are not working on a Medicaid expansion plan.

And they are not working on a health care bill that would impact commercial offerings outside of Medicaid, House Speaker Crisafulli told reporters in a media availability after the full House adjourned.

“We are focused on the position we are on and we are consistent with that,” Crisafulli said when asked if the House Republicans were offering a Medicaid expansion model. “At this time the House is still in the position we’ve been since Day 1.”

When asked if “at this time” was qualifying Crisafulli said, “I can only speak for where we are today. I never try to project the future of think of what the future looks like but certainly the House is focused on the work that we currently have in front of us. I’ll just say we are not looking at expanding Medicaid.”

Crisafulli said the House Republican Caucus has educated members on Medicaid expansion especially, for the new group of members who needed to understand the issue.

The House, meanwhile, has been working on a bevy of health care bills–from measures that would allow advanced registered nurse practitioners to work independently from physicians to a measure that would allow individuals and employers to sign contracts with physicians to provide “direct primary care.”

But Crisafulli said there is no Republican health care plan in the works.


There may be hope this year for Medicaid expansion in the Florida House of Representatives.

House Minority Leader Mark Pafford said at a press conference that he believes Crisafulli may agree to a health care plan that would tap into federal Medicaid dollars to craft a plan for Florida.


“I think we all need to be optimists. I think there is a way we can provide health care,” said Pafford. “I think there is a way we can remove emergency waiting rooms as a primary source of care. I think there’s a way to provide cancer screenings to save peoples’ lives. That’s what this is about.”

Pafford said that it didn’t need to be a partisan issue and that “it’s not that far of a distance” to work across the aisle.

“I think we have enough time to get something done,” he added.

Additionally, the House budget does not include any Medicaid supplemental “Low Income Pool” dollars. LIP is a $2 billion pot of money that is used to help fund hospitals, federally qualified health centers, HMOs and is used to help fund graduate medical education, also.

MAYBE ALL OF THAT IS WHY JACK LATVALA IS SAYING THIS via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

A visiting delegation of local business leaders from Pinellas County got insights … on where the 2015 session might be headed. The Pinellas Chambers Legislative Coalition heard Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater predict that a “vast gap” between the Senate and House over health care spending will force the session into overtime.

“My prediction is we won’t get done on time this year,” said Latvala. “I think the Senate is pretty committed to properly funding health care, and I think the House is pretty committed to their position of whatever we do has got to be done with just state funds.” He added: “I’m not making any plans for the month of May to do anything other than to be here.”

***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.***


The push to bring Las Vegas-resort-style casinos to South Florida is stalling again this year as the Florida Legislature remains divided over what type of gambling to allow in the state.

A major gambling bill sponsored by a top House Republican that includes the casino proposal has yet to be voted on – and it may not get its first vote until sometime in April. The 60-day session ends May 1.

A House panel held a four-hour workshop Thursday on gambling. It was clear that steep divisions remain between casino backers, dog-track and horse-track owners and business groups opposed to gambling. Three years ago, a bill allowing casinos was rejected.

Rep. Dana Young … sponsor of the casino bill, tried to downplay the lack of movement, suggesting “gaming bills never come up until the last couple of days of session.”

Young’s proposal would upend Florida’s entire gambling industry. It calls for allowing two massive casinos in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. But it would also let dog tracks end live greyhound racing and keep other types of gambling, including poker rooms. The legislation would allow slot machines to be installed at tracks located in Palm Beach and Lee counties.

Rep. Evan Jenne said that a large majority of House members oppose the sweeping bill. He said if it was put before the entire House right now, “it would be torn to shreds.”

The Senate, meanwhile, has not considered any major gambling bills.

TWEET, TWEET: @Fineout: Fla. House gambling workshop kicked off by @josefelixdiaz: “Welcome to 1 of the most anticipated non-events of the year.”

TWEET, TWEET: @TheDaraKam: @NickIarossi starts his pitch for Las Vegas Sands: “For those of you who haven’t watched me give the same presntation 4 the last 4 yrs..”

TWEET, TWEET: @JlrosicaTBO: Money note: Three quarters of parimutuel revenue is coming from betting on broadcasted races from other tracks and even other states

TWEET, TWEET: @MaryEllenKlas: Gulfstream lobbyist Marc Dunbar makes key point: Seminoles will ‘keep dealing blackjack’ even without compact but @JoseFelixDiaz cuts off Qs

TWEEET, TWEET: @SaintPetersblog: Bottom line from Rep. John Wood. If you’re an Indian tribe and you’re running TV ads, you “must be up to something.” #FlaPol

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BILL WILL PROVIDE MONEY FOR SCHOOL UNIFORMS via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of the Naples Daily News

A proposal making its way through the state Legislature could put an end to early morning battles over what to wear to school.

The measure (HB 7043), dubbed the Students Attired for Education (SAFE) Act, encourages school districts to create a uniform policy in at least kindergarten through eighth grade.

The measure provides additional funding to school boards that adopt a uniform policy, setting aside $10 million for districts is 2015-16.

“It’s not a mandate; it’s not a requirement,” said Rep. Janet Adkins … “School districts are free to set a policy or not set a policy.” She added: “We’re just … creating incentives and we believe, based on the testimony from school districts, that we’ll see positive results.”

The state House expects to vote on the proposal this week.


Lawmakers took steps that could cancel a fifth of the specialty license plates available in Florida but also advanced 26 more designs for motorists to pre-order.

House and Senate committees backed higher thresholds for plates to qualify to be produced and for the current 122 tags to remain on the road.

At the same time, the Senate Transportation and House Economic Affairs committees moved a wide range of tags toward pre-sale for Panhellenic organizations, non-profits, environmental endeavors and professional sports teams.

However, sponsors of the legislation don’t expect many of the proposed plates to get near a new pre-sale requirement of 4,000 plates within two years, up from the current requirement of 1,000.

“The simple truth is most of these license plates will never see the road,” Senate Transportation Chairman Sen. Jeff Brandes … said after his committee meeting.

The proposal (SPB 7072 and HB 7079) also gives tags already on the road until July 1, 2020, to maintain annual sales of 4,000.

Rep. Keith Perry … said the proposal should eliminate about 25 tags, making the production of each design more cost efficient.

“If there is over 4,000, that is not going be cost-prohibitive for the state to manage,” Perry said.


There just wasn’t time … to hear the Senate counterpart to a bill by Rep. Frank Artiles … that would ban transgender people from using restrooms for the sex they identify as, unless it’s on their driver’s license.

But other bills that weren’t heard in this week’s Criminal Justice Committee meeting are scheduled for hearings next Monday by the panel, chaired by Sen. Greg Evers. … Among them: a plan to penalize sexting, which was inadvertently decriminalized.

Without a first committee hearing before the sixth of nine weeks in the legislative session, the Senate bathroom bill (SB 1464) by Sen. Charlie Dean … could be dead. Without a Senate version moving forward, so could Artiles’.

It’s worth noting that Dean’s bill doesn’t address gender, the main source of controversy surrounding the House proposal, which critics say would require transgender men and women to use the restroom they don’t identify with, possibly putting them at risk.

Instead, Dean’s bill would have banned entering “a public facility with the intent to harass or engage in harassment, lewd behavior, assault, battery, molestation, rape, or voyeurism. Now, though, he’s changed his tune on the matter.

“I feel we have adequate statutes covering issues of safety,” he said.


A quartet of Democratic lawmakers held a press conference to discuss issues  they say will help women in the workforce.

However, they are having a hard time getting those “equality” bills heard.

For five years, Rep. Janet Cruz has filed an equal pay for equal work bill. Dubbed the Helen Gordon Davis Fair Pay Protection Act after a long-serving Tampa senator, Cruz said she has been unable to get HB 25 heard in one committee this year.

“This is 2015. It is time to end this ridiculous disparity,” Cruz said, adding that women make up more than half of the workforce, but never will be able to understand the full power of the economy without access equal wage.

Nationally, women make 82 percent of the weekly earnings of men, Cruz said, citing statistics provided by the Women’s Bureau, which complies the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Florida women do slightly better earning 83.2 percent of men’s weekly earning.

“Why is this very important and very simple bill, equal pay for equal work, why has this bill not even been (placed on an agenda) in one committee?” Cruz said.

Another bill Democrats couldn’t persuade the Republican majority to place on a committee is HCR 8001, a resolution for Florida to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. It has been filed for the last five years by Rep. Lori Berman.

LAWMAKERS TACKLE HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETICS via Dan Sweeney of the South Florida Sun Sentine

High school athletes could become free agents if a bill that reforms the Florida High School Athletic Association passes through the legislature.

The bill would allow students whose schools have no team in a given sport to attend a different school in their county for athletic purposes only. The option would also apply to students who are home-schooled or attend virtual schools.

That has raised concerns that some marquee athletes may use the option – or be lured to use it — to be able attend a school with a premier sports program.

“The unintended consequence – or maybe the intended consequence – would be to create a few powerhouse schools in high school sports,” said Rep. Reggie Fullwood.

Written and approved by the House Education Committee, the bill would also: allow student athletes who are declared ineligible to continue playing pending an appeal; have a neutral third party selected by parents make the final resolution of a student’s eligibility; eligibility hearings would have to occur within 30 days of a student being declared ineligible, and could be conducted by teleconferencing.

It will also increase oversight of the association’s finances; require the association to sell single-day tickets to multi-day sporting events; allow schools to join the association for some sports, while competing under a different organization in others; give the state commissioner of education the ability to replace the association in 2017.


A proposed House committee bill being considered … would require state park managers to allow “low-impact agriculture” on parks and allow adjacent landowners to acquire state land.

The House State Affairs Committee … will consider proposed committee bill SAC 15-02.

In 2013, HB 33 by state Rep. Jimmie T. Smith, a Republican from Lecanto, also would have allowed an individual or corporate landowner to acquire state land by asking the Cabinet to approve a swap for a conservation easement on a portion of the private land.

A conservation easement usually restricts or prohibits development on the land. Under the bill, the landowner would keep possession of both his or her land and the state land with a conservation easement on both.

However the bill, which faced opposition from environmental groups, died after passing one committee while the Senate companion bill never was heard in committee.

The proposed committee bill this year is nearly identical to 2013 legislation, Eric Draper of Audubon Florida said Thursday. The bill also requires state land managers to consider low-impact agriculture, which is not defined in the bill, to be a land management goal.

“It’s objectionable to add agriculture uses as equivalent uses for parks with recreation and wildlife habitat,” Draper said. Sierra Club Florida also is opposing the bill.


Time ran short before the Senate Children and Families Committee could weigh in on whether to approve Samuel P. Verghese as the Secretary of the State Department of Elder Affairs.

Verghese, a New Jersey transplant, began his testimony by telling the committee that serving as secretary is about “serving others.”

“Plain and simple, it’s about public service. It’s about serving others,” Verghese said. “It’s about about serving a purpose that’s so much greater than myself: the elders of the state.”

Gov. Scott appointed Verghese as Secretary in December. Prior to that, Verghese served as external affairs director for Scott, chief of staff for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and staff director of the Majority Office in the Florida House of Representatives.

Verghese began his testimony by advising the committee members that the agency is  strengthening its partnership with the federal government and was the host state for the White House Conference on Aging.

Florida ranks first in the percentage of residents aged 60 and older. Additionally, there are more than 1.6 million people who are 75 and older. And the 85 year-old and older is the fastest growing group percentage wise in the state.

“When issues come up, we have a seat at the table,” Verghese said.

***Things will be great when you’re downtown at 101 RESTAURANT and MINT Lounge in Tallahassee. 101 Restaurant has been voted the best meal in the Capitol City featuring steaks, seafood, and specialty cocktails. We offer $8.99 lunch specials all week long that include pastas, pizzas, burgers, wraps and salads. Mint Lounge is upscale and classy, and it’s the best place to enjoy live music and a good vibe. — $8.99 lunch specials; If you are not served in 15 minutes or less, your meal is on us! — Double Happy Hour 4:00-7:00 p.m. & 10:30 p.m.- 12:30 a.m.***


The beautiful weather in Florida seems to be drawing more and more Americans, with the Sunshine State climbing the ranks of most populous states and fastest-growing cities.

New data released from the U.S. Census Bureau showed that The Villages, Florida, ranked as the nation’s fastest-growing metro area last year, with the city west of Orlando boasting a 5.4 percent increase in population between July 1, 2013, and July 1, 2014. This comes as Florida became the nation’s third most-populous state in December, taking over the spot once held by New York.

But it’s not just The Villages, which grew to a population of about 114,000, the Census Bureau said. The growth is driven by increases in the state’s metroplexes in areas such as central and southern Florida, Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson said. Six Florida metro areas were among the 20 fastest-growing: The Villages, Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton and Panama City.

Florida has been long known for retirees, beaches and vacationers. The influx of new residents was enough to offset the fact that there were more deaths than births in about half of the state’s counties, the Census Bureau said. Florida averaged 803 new residents each day between July 1, 2013, and July 1, 2014, growing by 293,000 to reach 19.9 million during that time period, census data released in December showed.

DEVELOPERS MOVING IN ON FLORIDA MOBILE HOME PARKS via Susan Taylor Martin of the Tampa Bay Times

Mobile homes remain the housing of choice, or necessity, for thousands of Floridians. They account for 25 percent of all housing units in Pasco, 21 percent in Hernando and 10 percent in Pinellas and Hillsborough. Over the past decade, the number of licensed Florida parks with 10 or more lots has remained steady at around 2,350.

The number of lots, though, has shrunk by at least 2,000 statewide, mostly in smaller parks that have closed. And due to ever-rising land costs there has been almost no new park development in 20 years.

For some lucky residents, their waterfront parks began rising in value just as the original park owners decided to get out of the business. Several mobile home communities, including Tampa’s Regency Cove with its wide-open views of Tampa Bay, were purchased by residents and rendered relatively immune from development pressures.

Many other large parks have stayed rental, though ownership is increasingly consolidated among a few companies. Chicago’s Equity Lifestyle Properties, which has a regional office in Tampa, is Florida’s biggest player with 87 parks and more than 37,000 home sites.

“For the most part, the goal is to build and maintain a park, but you get to the point where the community gets so old, it’s very difficult to start replacing homes and the infrastructure needs to be upgraded,” said Jim Ayotte, executive director of the Florida Manufactured Housing Association. “You’re talking about a large investment of dollars and sometimes the economics don’t work. We see it all over the place where you get these old mobile home parks built outside of town but with urban sprawl it’s now in a commercial zone and highly desirable.”

In Clearwater, the owner of 62-year-old Bayside Gardens trailer park on Old Tampa Bay served notice last month that all tenants must be out by Aug. 31. Up to 300 new condos will rise on the prime waterfront site convenient to Tampa and St. Petersburg.


It may look a bit like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, but the new Florida Power & Light “smart grid” command center has one purpose: improving service reliability.

FPL, the state’s largest utility, unveiled its Power Delivery Diagnostic Center, designed to manage a complex electric system that serves more than 4.7 million Florida customers.

The goal of the Center, located in the FPL corporate offices in Jupiter, is to use advanced smart grid technology to provide reliable service, with features making it among the best in the nation. The Diagnostic Center applies predictive analysis and digital microprocessor technology to provide real-time data to identify and locate potential outages, as well as reduce the length of any power disruptions.

The Center is one of the developments as part of FPL’s smart grid modernization efforts, which began in 2010 with widespread installation of smart meters, funded in part by a $200 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. In the past five years, FPL spent nearly $600 million to install more than 12,000 smart devices and thousands of sensors and monitors on transformers, breakers and battery banks.

Smart grid technology and advanced electric meters also allow customers to monitor usage on what FPL calls an “Energy Dashboard,” an online tool that breaks down consumer energy consumption by the week, day and hour.


Brian Ballard, John Johnston, Ballard Partners: Radise International

Jerry Wayne Bertsch, Jr., Civility Management: Florida Home Builders Association; Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce

Andreina Figueroa, ADF Consulting: FIU Student Government Association

Richard Gentry, Gentry & Associates: Environmental Acquisition and Restoration

Marnie George, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Alain Jean, The August Company: Forever Family

Jeffrey Kottkamp, Jeff Kottkamp PA: Audible Media Group

Steve Parton, GrayRobinson: Non-Profit Insurance Services, Inc.

Ron Phillips: Animal Health Institute

David Rathke: Southwest Florida Water Management District

Missy Timmins, Timmins Consulting: Universal City Development Partners, d/b/a Universal Orlando

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ACTUAL PRESS RELEASE – “Bat maternity season starts April 15”


On Context FloridaAfter vowing to not only overturn Obamacare, but to repeal “every word” of it, U.S. Sen. Cruz is signing up his family for healthcare using the dreaded, socialist, competition-stifling, Affordable Care Act. However, Peter Schorsch explains why Cruz is not the real hypocrite in this case. Bob Sparks says that logic, passion and courage are what describes guns-on-campus debate. Although there are plausible arguments from both sides, the recent campus shooting at Florida State provided some impetus to the issue. While attending a college information program with my high school son recently, William Mattox heard an admissions officer say something every Florida legislator ought to hear. “The three most important letters in the college selection process aren’t S-A-T or A-C-T … The three most important letters are F-I-T.” While the work of Nancy Brinker, founder and chair of Global Strategy for Susan G. Komen, focuses on women’s breast cancer, her personal and professional experiences have inspired her to get involved with changing legislation to remove stigma and discrimination for others, especially when it can affect one’s ability to gain access to healthcare. That is why she is publicly voicing her personal support for passage of the Florida Competitive Workforce Act.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


Trimmel Gomes’ newest episode of The Rotunda features Uber, which takes center stage on both the Florida Legislature and streets of Tallahassee. State Rep. Matt Gaetz and Sen. Jeff Brandes explain why Uber is here to stay, while members of the Florida Taxi Cab Association and Florida Limousine Association say they are being thrown under the bus as they call for a level playing field.

Gomes catches up with Florida Times Union Bureau Chief Tia Mitchell as she talks about upcoming issues, such as Medicaid expansion and tax cuts.

Community members in Leon and Gadsden County tell Gomes who say they would like to see movement on bills by Sen. Dwight Bullard and Rep. Larry Lee that would help eliminate food desserts by providing access to healthy food options.

In Jacksonville the race for mayor, Gomes gets the scoop on who is getting money and endorsements going far beyond the city limits. Discussing the faceoff between Democratic Mayor Alvin Brown and Republican Challenger Lenny Curry are Jacksonville political journalist, A.G. Gancaraski and University of North Florida Political Science Professor Michael Binder.

The Rounda is available via iTunesStitcher or Soundcloud. Subscribers receive automatic downloads of episodes after they are released.


Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James  on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: Sarasota SingSation Music Festival preview with Rob Santori, Duane Freeman and Sharon Scott.

Facing Florida with Mike Vasilinda: Eric Draper discussing Amendment 1 implementation and author Daniel Harrison remembering the late Marshall Ledbetter.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Former Congressman Jim Davis, Senator Wilton Simpson, USF professor Dr. Susan MacManus and columnist Ernest Hooper.

Political Connections on Tampa Bay’s BayNews 9: Tory Perfetti from Floridians for Solar Choice.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Volusia County Chair Jason Davis.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Retiring Florida National Guard Major General Emmett Titshaw.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Gary Yordon, Steve Vancore, Sean Pittman and Peter Schorsch

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.