Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – May 26

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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: The idea of transplants becoming governor is nothing new to Florida – it goes back to the first election after statehood, on this date in 1845. Long before non-natives like Rick Scott, Charlie Crist and Jeb Bush, Florida’s first elected governor was a former North Carolina state senator, William Dunn Moseley. Florida’s last election drew 5.95 million votes. The first one? A whopping 5,981 votes!

DAYS UNTIL Special Session 6; Gov. Scott’s Economic Growth Summit: 7; Sine Die: 29; Gina Herron & Chris Spencer’s wedding: 31; Independence Day: 38; Major League Baseball All-Star game: 49; First GOP presidential debate: 72; Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuts: 200; First Day of 2016 Legislative Session: 234; Iowa Caucuses: 254: Florida’s Presidential Primary: 276; Florida’s 2016 Primary Election: 465; Florida’s 2016 General Election: 535.


3 dead, 500 rescued at beaches in Brevard, Flagler and Volusia counties” via David Bodden of Bay News 9

Naked man rescued after getting stuck on Florida drawbridge” via the Associated Press

Police: Crowd assault Florida police officer making arrest” via the Associated Press

Police: 3 kids injured when waterspout uproots bounce house” via the Associated Press

Two hurt in fight at Conch House in St. Augustine” via Ben Becker of CBS/WJAX-TV

POLL DU JOUR via Rasmussen Reports: 62% of likely U.S voters consider Memorial Day the unofficial start of summer, as Americans have in annual surveys for years.


1. What does Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign roll-out look like? Bush may look like a candidate, sound like a candidate, and raise money like a candidate, but technically, he still hasn’t announced that he is running for preisdent. A roll-out is imminent, right? But what will that look like? Can he top the soaring rhetoric of Marco Rubio’s announcement? Or does he go low-key like Hillary Clinton did? Right now, with Bush struggling to answer questions about the Iraq war and his relationship with his brother the former president, the expectations for Jeb to perfectly execute his campaign announcement could not be higher.

2. Can Rubio remain in the top-tier of presidential candidates? Currently, Rubio is leading or at least in the top three of several national polls of the GOP presidential primary. But can he stay there? It’s likely but only if he the scrum of candidates behind him don’t make him so much of a target that he gets dragged down with the rest of them. He’ll also need to post a strong first fundraising report.

3. Is Florida ready for Hillary. As soon as this week, Clinton will be fundraising in the Sunshine State. Will she be able to turn Florida into an ATM card like Barack Obama and Bill Clinton were able to? Because she really doesn’t have to focus on Iowa and New Hampshire like Bush, Rubio, and the other presidential contenders have to, she can start running a general election campaign in Florida as early as she wants.

4. What will the field for Rubio’s U.S. Senate seat look like coming Labor Day? Republicans Ron DeSantis is in, Carlos Lopez-Cantera soon will be, and Jeff Miller may be, also. As for the Democrats, Patrick Murphy is building up steam, while Alan Grayson is acting, well, like Alan Grayson. Who else will throw their hat in the ring? Don Gaetz? David Jolly? Randy Fine?

5. With DeSantis and Miller likely to run for the U.S. Senate, their candidacies will set in motion a set of political dominoes that could impact as many as three dozen North Florida politicos — from congressional contenders to county commissioners and sheriffs. Who will run for what should be known by the end of Summer.

6. What does Rick Scott want? This really is the billion dollar question of Florida politics. As Steve Bousquet reported over Memorial Day Weekend, Scott is still in perpetual campaign mode, raising money and airing television ads. But to what end? A U.S. Senate campaign in 2018? He can launch one of those without playing hardball with the Legislature and the hospital industry. To be a player in 2016? We might have an answer for how much Scott wants to impact the GOP presidential primary at his economic summit June 2 where several presidential candidates are expected to attend.

7. How does the upcoming Special Session play out? Sure, the feds have given the state a dollar figure for the LIP program. But what makes anyone think the House and Senate will return to the heat of Tallahassee and sing Kumbaya? The House ain’t gonna pass Medicaid expansion, err, FHIX, so how much pain will the Senate inflict in response. And we still don’t have allocations! And what’s to make anyone think Gov. Scott is going to play nice while any of this is going on?

8. Senate maps – The ticking time bomb of Florida politics. Talk to the consultants who really are in the know and they’ll tell you the courts throwing out the state Senate districts is a fait accompli. Some of these same consultants have suggested the lines will be thrown out as early as October. Tick, tick, tick.

9. Can the Florida Democratic Party get its act together and recruit quality candidates to challenge the GOP’s majorities in the Legislature? After the drubbing the Democrats took in last week’s elections in Jacksonville, I don’t even know why I am asking this question. But one or two savvy-enough looking candidates have already filed in battleground House districts. The Dems need a Steve Schale-like recruiter to find another dozen candidates.

10. What do we not know about Florida politics that we don’t know? “Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown.” In other words, the first nine questions addressed are about known-knowns. The wonder of Florida politics is that there is always another Rick Scott or Jeff Greene ready to come out of nowhere and disrupt the status quo. Or there could be a hurricane or an oil spill or … who knows.


Two of the heaviest hitters in national politics – including the @POTUS himself – will be barnstorming through Central and South Florida this week, while two of Florida’s best-known pols will be moving their bones at far flung locales around the country.

Barack Obama will attend two Democratic fundraisers in Miami Wednesday on his way to a public appearance at the National Hurricane Center at Florida International University on Thursday. His erstwhile primary opponent and 2016 White House hopeful Hillary Clinton will hold four fundraisers in Parkland, Miami and Orlando, set for Thursday and Friday.

Meanwhile Marco Rubio will celebrate his 44th birthday with political boosters in Las Vegas at a Thursday night event hosted by “Pawn Star” Rich Harrison of History Channel fame and Nevada Lt. Gov. and state campaign chairman Mark Hutchison. That’s slated to follow fundraisers in Chicago and Texas scheduled for earlier in the week.

Jeb Bush will be on the pre-campaign trail himself this week, addressing GOP groups in Michigan this Thursday before attending the Tennessee Republican Party’s annual Statesmen’s Dinner on Saturday.


Republicans have made no secret of their desire for a quick presidential primary fight aimed at rapidly producing a nominee to take on former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton … they almost certainly won’t see that wish granted — thanks to the greatly crowded GOP field and a drastically reshaped fundraising landscape …

At the moment, there are six announced candidates: Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio … at least nine others … such as Bush and Scott Walker … who will be in the race by this summer. … There is no strong front-runner a la George W. Bush in 1999, and so every GOP pol who has ever looked in the mirror and thought “Hello Mr./Mrs. President” is getting in.

But it’s also become a winning business proposition for many second-tier (or lower) candidates to run for president. Think back to 2008. No one knew who Huckabee was before that race. By the time it ended, he was one of the hottest commodities in Republican politics — and cashed in (TV show, radio show, speeches, books) accordingly. Winning the nomination isn’t the true goal for some of the 2016 candidates; upping their speaking fees and visibility is.

Then there is the rise of the ever-present super PAC. Virtually every candidate — from the Jeb Bushes of the world on down — has an “independent” organization aligned with their campaign. And that super PAC can collect checks for unlimited amounts — meaning that a single donor or two could finance millions of dollars’ worth of ads for a candidate who might not be able to raise that sort of money in the $2,700 increments allowed by federal law.

Now, rather than just a handful of candidates with a well-funded super PAC, we could be looking at a dozen or more who have a setup similar to Gingrich’s in 2012. And, although Bush’s super PAC, which reportedly will have raised $100 million by the end of this month, gets all the attention, it’s actually super PACs for the Fiorinas and Rick Perrys of the world that will prolong this race.

Now, though, your aligned super PAC can function as a sort of campaign life support — keeping candidates alive for as long as wealthy donors want them to be around.


For weeks, Rick Santorum has tried to shake every last hand in Iowa and New Hampshire. Lindsey Graham has been shuttling up to New Hampshire almost every other weekend to meet with small groups of voters. Fiorina and Perry have been getting rave reviews from their crowds in a number of the early states. But all four may miss out on the first Republican presidential debate in August because they haven’t spent enough time on national TV.

It’s an ungainly consequence of new debate rules handed down by the cable … networks in their effort to manage a candidate field that could swell to as many as 19 … With national polling averages serving as a key determinant for inclusion in the Aug. 6 [GOP] debate in Cleveland, candidates with higher name ID have the advantage – even if it was built by working the network green rooms rather than the grass roots. ‘It’s the [Donald] Trump problem,’ said Florida GOP strategist Rick Wilson. …

According to the criteria released by Fox News, which will host the Aug. 6 debate, the 10 candidates [or more, in case of a tie] who make the stage will be determined by an average of five recent national polls … [Polls suggest Trump would] be one of the 10. …

Huckabee … Ben Carson … currently … sixth and seventh in the national polls … would qualify… But … Ohio Gov. John Kasich, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Fiorina – the only woman in the field – would not … A number of campaigns … are unhappy that the [RNC], which decided to insert itself into the debate process early on by limiting the number of debates and spacing them out, appears to have kicked to the networks the more difficult and consequential issue of who participates.

A RUBIO 2016 BLUEPRINT, FOR ALL TO SEE via Dan Balz of the Washington Post

It isn’t often that a presidential campaign blueprint comes packaged between covers and available in bookstores and online for all to see. But that’s the inescapable conclusion from looking through the pages of the book entitled, “2016 and Beyond,” by Republican pollster Whit Ayres.

Ayres is one of his party’s leading analysts. He also happens to be the pollster for Rubio … The new book is subtitled, “How Republicans Can Elect a President in the New America.” If not exactly the strategy memo for a Rubio campaign, it’s a good proxy.

Ayres’s demographic analysis looks at the issue of a changing United States from the perspective of the growing minority population (and his party’s weaknesses there) and the majority white population (and his party’s strengths and limitations there). His argument is straightforward: To win the White House, Republicans must systematically improve their performance among minorities while maintaining or even improving their support among white voters.

In an electorate in which the white share of the vote was 72 percent, President Obama won reelection in 2012 despite losing the white vote by a bigger margin than any winning Democrat in the past. The white share of the electorate in 2016 will be a point or two smaller.

Based on estimates of the composition of the 2016 electorate, if the next GOP nominee wins the same share of the white vote as Mitt Romney won in 2012 (59 percent), he or she would need to win 30 percent of the nonwhite vote. Set against recent history, that is a daunting obstacle. Romney won only 17 percent of nonwhite voters in 2012. John McCain won 19 percent in 2008. George W. Bush won 26 percent in 2004.

Put another way, if the 2016 nominee gets no better than Romney’s 17 percent of the nonwhite vote, he or she would need 65 percent of the white vote to win, a level achieved in modern times only by Ronald Reagan in his 1984 landslide. Bush’s 2004 winning formula — 26 percent of the nonwhite vote and 58 percent of the white vote — would be a losing formula in 2016, given population changes.

— “Why the ‘Pawn Stars’ host is backing Marco Rubio via Alex Leary” of the Tampa Bay Times

SPOTTED on the cover of the latest issue of the New Yorker: Bush, Rubio, and 5 other GOP presidential contenders. H/t to the Tampa Bay Times‘ Ron Brackett.

STORY YOU WON’T READ IN SUNBURN: “7 Ways To Avoid Making The Same Financial Mistake As Marco Rubio” by Forbes’ Erik Carter

TOP OP-ED — PROJECT 29: THE ROAD TO THE WHITE HOUSE via Blaise Ignoglia for The Tampa Tribune

At our recent spring quarterly meeting, I introduced our plan for 2016: Project 29. Our first goal of Project 29 will be to fully engage with all communities, Hispanics and African-Americans, seniors and millennials, students and taxpayers, to talk about the issues facing our nation.

… Our Party will accomplish these goals by being present and embedded in communities where we have been absent in the past. We plan to engage with churches and faith leaders, local community leaders and organizations. We plan to have one-on-one conversations about the future of our economy and discuss your concerns and ideas for the future of our country.


With almost a year and a half until the next election on Nov. 8, 2016, there are 25 proposed amendments vying for a slot on the ballot … Only a few amendments may get before voters, but that doesn’t mean backers won’t try. In 2012, there were 11 ballot questions; last year there were only three.

Florida allows state lawmakers or citizens, through the initiative, to submit constitutional changes to a vote. Amendments need 60 percent approval to pass.

John Morgan … behind last year’s failed medical marijuana amendment, refiled a new one in January for the 2016 election.

And two more appeared … on the state Division of Elections website. One would require Florida companies with five or more employees to offer paid sick time … another would set the state’s minimum wage at no less than $10 an hour.

Now comes the hard part: Getting the nearly 700,000 valid signatures for an amendment to get on the ballot. Signatures must be verified by Feb. 1 and are good for only two years.

Five proposed amendments are backed by St. Petersburg’s Justice-2-Jesus, political gadfly Brian Pitts’ organization, and would bolster government ethics and “integrity” provisions, records show … Another filed earlier this year would mandate that “all health insurance policies sold in Florida will provide coverage that includes chiropractic, acupuncture and massage therapy.”

Yet another amendment would reinstate the automatic restoration of voting rights to felons after they serve their time, including any probation … sponsored by Floridians for a Fair Democracy.

— “Randy Fine Not a Bad Longshot Bet for Senate Race via Jeff Henderson of the Sunshine State News


Dan Bongino, a former Secret Service agent who was a Republican nominee for Senate and House in Democrat-leaning Maryland, is moving to Palm City and considering a run for the open congressional seat of Rep. Patrick Murphy.

“It’s definitely an option I’m looking at,” Bongino said … he’s in no rush to decide and could make a decision by the end of summer. Bongino … left the Secret Service in 2011 to run for Senate in Maryland … won a crowded 2012 GOP primary but lost to incumbent Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin. In 2014, he narrowly lost a bid to unseat incumbent Democratic Rep. John Delaney.

Bongino authored a book about his Secret Service experiences, Life Inside The Bubble, and is a frequent TV and radio guest.

Three Republicans have opened 2016 campaigns for the District 18 seat … Martin County school board member Rebecca Negron, St. Lucie County Commissioner Tod Mowery and former state Rep. and 2014 GOP nominee Carl Domino. Democratic Palm Beach County Commissioners Priscilla Taylor and Melissa McKinlay are also running, as is Democrat John (Juan) Xuna.

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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham will hold her next workday working alongside Apalachicola Bay’s oystermen starting at 10 a.m., at First Baptist Church, 501 East Pine Ave., St. George Island. The workday will be followed by a press conference at Lynn’s Quality Oysters in East Point, at noon.


Scott’s office considered pulling the “Freedom of Speech” provision from rules that govern the use of state buildings, according to a draft document considered by administration attorneys.

The consideration came as a group was pushing for the second year in a row to set up a controversial “satanic Temple” display next to other Capitol holiday displays.

The rule, which ultimately was not changed, includes language that allows for the “freedom of expression consistent with the first and fourteenth amendments of the United States Constitution.” It applies to public spaces like the first floor of the Capitol or the rotunda area on the fourth floor, both frequent venues for news conferences and protesters.

In the proposed rule change that was considered by the Scott administration, the existing free-speech language had a black line drawn through it and the section was renamed “peaceable assembly.”

The proposal removed any of the “freedom of speech” protections outlined in the rule and replaced them with language that simply referred to a portion of the rule that requires people who want to use the Capitol to submit a request three days in advance. That section also included a proposed change that would lengthen from 3 to 30 days the amount of time in advance a group would need to request use of a public building.


DEP Secretary Jon Steverson says he has never fired anyone for enforcing the law. Yet his fingerprints – or at least tacit backing – are all over the ouster of top staff at the St. Johns River Water Management District.

The resignations of Executive Director Hans Tanzler and four top staff members at the district, based in Palatka, has prompted criticism from environmentalists and newspaper editorial writers about political interference from Tallahassee.

[T]he departures prompted concerns that Gov. Scott and his administration may be working to further limit the agency’s power and authority. Former water district board member Richard Hamann said the moves were part of a pattern by Scott’s administration.

But John Miklos, agency chairman and Orlando consultant for developers on environmental matters, described the departures as a common trend when a new executive director arrives … “To act like it’s some kind of conspiracy is asinine …”


In a memo sent to senators, Gardiner outlined the timeline that he plans on following during the session showing that the chamber will focus on healthcare access the first day. He will “likely” plan budget conferences with the House the weekend of June 5-7.

“So you should plan on staying in Tallahassee,” Gardiner told members of the first weekend.

The memo also laid out the financial impact of the federal government’s tentative decision this week to allow $1 billion Low Income Pool program for the 2015-16 year and a $600 million program for the following year. The $1 billion figure is less than half of what is currently authorized and, in short, the announcement could have a $1.2 billion impact on the entire budget, based on decisions the Legislature makes regarding hospital Medicaid rates. The impact on the budget could balloon to $1.4 billion in 2016-17, he said in the memo.

“Consequently, yesterday’s announcement will have a ripple effect throughout our entire budget, providing a renewed and elevated importance to the discussion of a Florida solution to coverage for the uninsured as we head into Special Session.”

With a reiterated commitment to developing a Florida solution to the uninsured problem, Gardiner said the Senate’s proposal to expand access to health care for 800,000 people, called the FHIX plan, will be filed by state Sen. Aaron Bean before the start of the session and will be heard in the Committee on Health Policy on June 1. It will be heard the following day in the Appropriations and will be heard by the full Senate on June 3.

HOUSE RELEASES SPECIAL SESSION CALENDAR via Matt Dixon of the Political Fix Florida

Monday, June 1 … 1:00 p.m. Special Session convenes … 3:00 p.m. Workshop on the substance of CS/SB 7044 (2015) … All members will be invited to this workshop hosted by the House Health and Human Services Committee.

Tuesday, June 2 … 9:00 a.m. Finance and Tax Committee hearing on PCB tax package. Wednesday, June 3 … TBD Rules Committee meeting to set the Special Order Thursday, June 4 … TBD The House will be in Session. Friday, June 5 … TBD Joint Conference Committee kickoff … TBD The House will be in Session.

Saturday, June 6 … TBD Budget Conference Meetings. Sunday, June 7 … TBD Budget Conference Meetings. Monday, June 8 … TBD The House will be in Session; TBD Budget Conference Meetings. Tuesday, June 9 … TBD Budget Conference Meetings; TBD Health Innovation Subcommittee meeting

Wednesday, June 10 … TBD Budget Conference Meetings; TBD Health and Human Service Committee meeting; TBD Rules Committee meeting to set the Special Order Calendar. Thursday, June 11 … TBD The House will be in Session. Friday, June 12 … TBD The House will be in Session.

Monday, June 15 … TBD The House will be in Session. Thursday, June 18 … TBD The House will be in Session. Friday, June 19 … TBD The House will be in Session.


The Florida Senate is not really a place for ideologues. Arguably, no one is a better example of that than state Sen. Joe Negron.

That hasn’t tended to make him popular with some conservative colleagues on issues. But over his 15 years in the Florida Legislature (2000-06 in the House; since 2009 in the Senate), the Stuart Republican largely has garnered a reputation for being a fiscal hawk who’s tough but practical in his approach to legislation.

It is likely that — and a penchant for deal-making — is why he remains a strong candidate to become Senate president once Sen. Andy Gardiner finishes his term.

This past regular session, he was successful pushing the pause button on the proliferation of baccalaureate degrees offered by community colleges, but not in getting $500 million in Amendment 1 money to purchase U.S. Sugar land for a reservoir to hold excess lake water and send it south to Everglades National Park rather than to the St. Lucie River, where the water causes widespread environmental damage.

NEGRON … The state is doing everything it can to reduce the need for discharges from Lake Okeechobee. The Legislature appropriated $230 million for projects that will directly address this issue. For me, it all comes down to two key facts: First, we must fund and purchase additional storage capacity so we can treat, store and send water south of Lake O. Second, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cannot be the sole agency responsible for discharge decisions.

The Corps is currently sending toxic, polluted water into our community when there is zero danger to the Hoover Dike right now. Why would they do that?

— “Lessons of special session past should help Florida lawmakers avoid a crisis” via Matt Dixon of the Naples Daily News

— “‘Panacea’ for what’s gone wrong at the Capitol via Steve Bousquet” of the Tampa Bay Times


Tampa Bay area state legislators Tom Lee and Daryl Rouson took center court at …Tampa Tiger Bay Club meeting, where again the Legislature’s divide on health care drove the debate.

The pair (dubbed “Ebony and Ivory” by Lee) return with the rest of their legislative colleagues to Tallahassee next month to come up with a plan to balance the state’s budget by the end of the month, or see the state run out of funds and go into a government shutdown, something that would be much more embarrassing than the negative fallout they’ve already received for aborting the session abruptly last month.

Representing Democrats throughout the state, Rouson argued passionately why he was fighting to help provide Medicaid expansion to more than 800,000 Floridians, the source of so much dissension in the state Capitol this spring. “My district wants it. 800,000 people in the state want it. The Chambers want it. The hospitals want it. And I don’t think all of them are wearing Gucci loafers.”

But while the Legislature has been talking (in circles) about providing more health care coverage for other people, the tables were turned when Tiger Bay member Al McCray asked the two men about a “rumor” that lawmakers only pay $9 a month for their own coverage.

“It’s not $9 a month,” Rouson quickly correcting McCray. “But it is a rate sought by the majority of the taxpayers in the state of Florida. I concede that.” He also was quick to mention that the $29,000 annual salary that lawmakers (who are considered part-time legislators) make is hardly great money to raise a family.

In fact, House members and Gov. Scott had been paying just $8.34 a month for individual coverage and $30 a month for family coverage, according to the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, up until a few years ago. That abruptly changed however in 2013, after negative publicity surfaced about the low premiums lawmakers were paying. Now all legislators pay $50 a month in premiums for individual coverage and $180 a month for family coverage.

GOOD READ — WHY DON GAETZ IS TOUGH TO CARTOON via Andy Marlene of the Pensacola News Journal

In these days marked by mayors who only communicate via Upsidey emails and governors who can barely communicate by blinking, genuinely substantive leaders seem more endangered than Perdido Key beach mice.

It’s the difference between self-generated ideas and staff-generated memos and talking points. Agree with his politics or not, a conversation with Gaetz is revelatory of what elected leaders are supposed to be — what the word “statesman” is supposed to mean — and a cause for guarded optimism that there are still some grownups in charge of the government and working on behalf of Florida taxpayers.

Which all amounts to one slight problem for an editorial cartoonist: How do you draw Don Gaetz?

In the past I’ve drawn him as a legislative watchdog and an ethics-wielding exorcist. But the go-to goofball googly-eyes don’t ever seem to fit. He’s too forthcoming for a sweaty brow and five ‘o clock shadow. Dunce caps and Pinocchio noses don’t apply here. And he lacks the self-importance to earn a reflexively absurd caricature. Even his rhetoric is too rooted in logic, common sense and earnestness to translate into some snippy, snarky caption.

It’s a fascinating cartoon phenomenon — with Rick Scott’s Tallahassee looking increasingly like Toon Town, a guy like Gaetz stands out as strikingly un-cartoonish.

How do you draw Don Gaetz?

It’s tough. But if Rep. Jeff Miller takes his big shot at the U.S. Senate, maybe we can pencil Gaetz in as the next Representative of Florida’s first congressional district.


The obituaries for Helen Gordon Davis correctly recounted what one called her “trailblazing” career in the Florida Legislature, where in 1974 she became one of very few women – the first from Hillsborough County – in what a colleague famously called “the land of the Bubbas.”

She weathered the sexism and condescension and compiled a luminous record in what some refer to wistfully as the “Golden Age” of Florida politics. What the tributes didn’t mention, after her death May 18, was the ignoble, cynical way in which some of her colleagues conspired to sacrifice her career to their own political ambitions.

It’s a story whose ending has yet to be written.

Davis and fellow Democratic Sen. Jeanne Malchon of Pinellas County were two of the first victims of race-based gerrymandering in the Florida Legislature. What happened to them in 1992 set an example of chicanery throughout the South, contributing to the disproportionate power of the Republicans and the impotence of Democrats in Florida and elsewhere.

ICYMI: BILL TO LET CHILDREN SECRETLY TAKE THEIR RAPISTSvia Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press

Child rape victims have legal permission to secretly record their rapists under legislation signed by Gov. Scott … a response to the Florida Supreme Court ordering a new trial for Richard McDade, who was convicted of repeatedly raping his stepdaughter when she was between 10 and 16. A judge during the first trial allowed recordings of conversations McDade had with his stepdaughter that she secretly recorded with an MP3 player hidden in her shirt.

But the Supreme Court ruled the recording was illegal and ordered a new trial last December. Florida prohibits conversations to be recorded or otherwise intercepted without the consent of both parties. The new law makes an exception for children who are victims or potential victims of rape and other violent acts that record their attackers. The law takes effect July 1.

McDade, 68, walked free … after a Lee County jury that didn’t hear the recordings acquitted him. The Lee County state attorney’s office said the recordings wouldn’t have been allowed at the second trial even if the Legislature and Scott acted sooner because they were illegal at the time they were made.


[T]his session was a painful reminder … times certainly have changed. Danger may be lurking around any corner, or driving down any street. The simple summertime innocence of an ice cream truck is no longer promised … ice cream truck driver and Lee County resident Richard McDade was acquitted of child molestation charges and is now walking free … the last time McDade appeared in front of a judge and jury, he was found guilty of molesting his stepdaughter for years and handed two life sentences.

What changed? A damning audio recording created by McDade’s victim (without his knowledge) was not allowed as evidence in the second trial, because the Florida Supreme Court ruled that its introduction the first time around had violated the state’s private recording laws.

Florida has righted that wrong with Gov. Scott’s signing of HB 7001, which crafts into law an exemption for child victims of sexual assault to the state’s existing private recording statutes … give kids who are victims of this unthinkable abuse the ability to use whatever recording devices they have handy – a cell phone, an mp3 player: the kinds of digital devices kids are glued to – to create a recording substantiating their claims. Essentially, the law has caught up with technology.

Child advocate Lauren Book … says this is a big step forward for Florida.

“It takes tremendous courage for a child to step forward and great resourcefulness to capture a conversation that proves his or her story,” Book says. “Because many young victims feel isolated and alone, and are afraid of not being believed, this step forward is critical for Florida’s children to be both heard and helped. It gives young people the power to seek justice, and to be the hero in their own story, even when others turn a blind eye.”

Book went on to praise Scott and the members of the Florida Legislature for helping child sexual abuse victims bring their abusers to justice and for giving children a voice in a statement released shortly after HB 7001 was signed into law.

As a parent, I share her thanks.


With a hat-tip to LobbyTools, here is latest on who is on and who is off the legislative staffing merry-go-round.

Off: Alexander Barrio has left his position as a Legislative Analyst with the Senate Minority Office.

Off: Dane Bennett has left his position as Legislative Assistant with Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto.

On: Mia Simon is now a Legislative Assistant with Sen. Benacquisto.

Off: Kassandra Timothe has left her position as Legislative Assistant with Sen. Arthenia Joyner.

Off: Laura Jimenez has left her position as Legislative Assistant with Sen. Maria Sachs.

Off: Gavin Beagle is no longer a senior attorney with the House Education Committee.

Off: Apryl Evans has left her position as District Secretary with Rep. Daphne Campell.

Off: Dylan Stearns has left his position as District Secretary with Rep. Katie Edwards.

Off: Sandra Livingston has left her position as District Secretary with Rep. Mike Hill.

Off: Jennifer Bautista has left her position as District Secretary with Rep. Rene Placensia.

On: Caroline Rucker is the new District Secretary for Rep. Hazel Rogers.


Brian Ballard, Ballard Partners: ACME Barricades

Kari Hicks: Florida for Care

Doug Manson: Nestle Waters North America, Inc.


Florida State University’s Center for Disaster Risk Policy made history in May by flying unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) — commonly known as drones — in an emergency response exercise to prepare for the Atlantic hurricane season.

The university calls the exercise “the first in the nation to integrate UAS.” Prior to this, industry officials, emergency managers and researchers had only discussed the possibility of incorporating drones into a major disaster-response exercise, according to an FSU press statement.

Every May, the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) conducts a statewide exercise to prepare for the Atlantic hurricane season. The exercise is designed to test the procedures and capabilities of state and county emergency managers, private sector and nonprofit disaster response partners, and federal response and recovery agencies. It provides a crucial opportunity to practice the coordination that would be required the next time Florida is hit by a major disaster.

The center’s research faculty worked for months to develop the procedures and coordination required to provide UAS capability directly to the state Emergency Response Team.

The exercise scenario involved a major hurricane striking Palm Beach County. To simulate the assigned mission, the center’s team conducted a drone flight inside FSU’s existing authorized UAS research area near Tallahassee. Using a small quad-copter with two mounted cameras, the team streamed live video into the Emergency Operations Center, providing a real-time look at the disaster impact area and allowing for better decision-making by emergency managers. The UAS also captured high-resolution photographs that would enable faster damage assessment of homes and businesses, as well as information on the extent of flooding.

SPOTTED at Marchand’s at the Vinoy Renaissance Resort: Political consultant Jim Rimes.

SPOTTED at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club: Top GOP elections lawyer Richard Coates.

WHAT MARC CAPUTO IS READING – “Police in Florida grapple with a cheap and dangerous new drug” via the New York Times. “I have never seen such a rash of cases, all associated with the same substance,” said James N. Hall, an epidemiologist at Nova Southeastern University who has studied the Florida drug market for decades. “It’s probably the worst I have seen since the peak of crack cocaine. Rather than a drug, it’s really a poison.”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent, Rep. Dane Eagle, the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Marian Johnson, Mike Fischer. Celebrating today is Sarasota GOP state committeeman Christian Ziegler.

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.