Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 2.21.17 – Hot takes galore; the Speaker’s olive branch; Bill Nelson undaunted; Beth Matuga signing up with Gwen?; the 19 year-old-House candidate

in Peter/Top Headlines by

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.


Here’s something you might not know about We have a lot of opinions around here.

OK, you probably did know that. But, did you know some of the state’s top opinion writers call home? Over the last few years, we’ve taken pride in building relationships with well-known opinion writers throughout the state, giving them a place to sound off on the issues at hand — and giving Floridians a one-stop site to check them out.

Looking for a good read? Martin Dyckman, the Tampa Bay Times’ retired editorial writer, has a piece up on how the Brits seems to be doing this ‘democratic government’ thing better than we are.

If comparisons to the U.K. aren’t your jam, check out Adam Weinstein’s latest. An expert Trump provocateur on Twitter, Weinstein writes on The Donald as “high priest of the American id.” Sticking on the Donald Trump train, our publisher, Peter Schorschexplores the possibility of the president as a Russian mole.

Darryl Paulson, always the wisest guy in the room talking state politics, is using his space to give a unique take on the firing of National Security adviser Mike Flynn; while Florence Snyder, our own recovering attorney (admit it, everyone knows one) opines sharply on how Florida deals with political refugees.

And remember Joe Henderson, the metro columnist for the Tampa Tribune? When the dearly departed Tampa paper closed up shop last year, Henderson joined our ranks. And this week, Henderson notes how the Enterprise Florida logo uncomfortably reminds him of the one for Enron, the failed energy behemoth.

And if you want to hear more about Enterprise Florida, you can also find Gov. Rick Scott’s latest op-ed slamming the Florida House over its plan to kill Enterprise Florida and a slew of other economic incentive programs.

Want more? Just click on the “Opinions” link at the top of the homepage.

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IN OP-ED, RICK SCOTT STILL SWINGING AGAINST GOP OPPOSITION TO INCENTIVES via Florida Politics – “They say that they don’t want government intrusion in the free market. Of course, there is government financing in the areas of health care, transportation, education, housing and social services. But, they have decided to try to totally eliminate funding for the one area where we can easily show a major return on the investment of your tax dollars – jobs are being created by more companies moving to our state and our tourism industry has recruited a record-breaking number of visitors over the last few years. Even more absurd, the politicians in the Florida House who already voted for this bill say they don’t necessarily want to abolish these programs but instead want to advance a “conversation” …meaning they voted for something they don’t support. This is hypocrisy at its best and these are the kind of games I came to Tallahassee to change.”

POLITIFACT FLORIDA: SCOTT’S DEFENSE OF AGENCIES OFF THE MARK via Allison Graves of the Tampa Bay Times – At a stop of the “Fighting for Florida’s Jobs” tour in Flagler Beach, Scott targeted the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Paul Renner … “Your politicians in Tallahassee today are saying, in your area, that they don’t need any more jobs,” Scott said Feb. 13 to business leaders and constituents at Vessel Sandwich Co. “That is exactly what Rep. Paul Renner said.” His attack against Renner misrepresents Renner’s view. There is no record of Renner saying exactly that his area doesn’t need more jobs. Renner doesn’t see the legislation as a crusade against jobs. He jokingly offered $100 to anyone who heard those words come out of his mouth.

RICHARD CORCORAN’S OFFER: KEEP VISIT FLORIDA, SLASH BUDGET TO $25 MILLION, END BONUSES, FREEZE BENEFITS, CUT TRAVEL via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Scott‘s office responded by calling a “67 percent cut to tourism marketing” unacceptable, and said: “More than a million Florida families rely on jobs in our tourism industry and are threatened with this massive cut.” Scott’s office said he supports transparency and accountability at Visit Florida and has proved it with “changes (and) new leadership at Visit Florida.” A Corcoran-crafted amendment to an incentives bill (HB 7005) to be offered by Rep. Renner in the House Appropriations Committee would require Visit Florida to agree to a series of restrictions as conditions for getting a $25 million a year from the Legislature.

‘A TOUGH SPOT’: 20 MORE HOUSE REPUBLICANS HAVE TO CHOOSE BETWEEN SCOTT AND CORCORAN via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – It’s robo-call time for 20 … GOP members of the House Appropriations Committee who are set to vote on one of Corcoran‘s top priorities: a bill dismantling Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida (HB 7005). Eleven of the 20 GOP members on Appropriations are from South Florida or Tampa Bay, including Reps. George MoraitisHolly RascheinLarry Ahern; Rep. Carlos Trujillo; and Jose Felix “Pepi” Diaz, who said [the] vote will simply keep the debate going. “We’re not even in session,” Diaz said. “For somebody to vote in the affirmative does not mean that they support the bill wholeheartedly. It just means that they want to continue the conversation, and I don’t think anyone has ever lost an election for continuing a conversation.”

CAROL DOVER STILL FIGHTING FOR TOURISM MARKETING MONEY via Florida Politics – When it comes to supporting the state’s hospitality industry, Dover won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Despite the House’s opposition to spending money on tourism marketing in the state budget, her Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association is seeking $1 million to do just that. And the funding request is being sponsored by GOP state Rep. Jay Trumbull of Panama City, who already voted for a bill to kill VISIT FLORIDA, the public-private tourism marketing agency.

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DECLARE OPIOID CRISIS A PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY, SENATE DEMOCRATS TELL GOV via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – “No longer confined to small urban enclaves, heroin and fentanyl have become the scourge of communities throughout Florida, wreaking widespread devastation not only from the ravages of addiction, but the resurgence of deadly diseases associated with drug abuse,” Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon, of Miami Gardens, wrote in a letter to Scott. “There is no family, no race, no ethnicity, no income level this epidemic cannot touch — and no effective state bulwark in place to stop it,” Braynon added.

CLUSTER OF GUN BILLS FACE SCRUTINY FROM MOMS ACROSS STATE via Emerald Morrow of WTSP – A  series of gun bills proposed in the Florida legislature designed to make it easier for firearm owners to carry weapons in places where there are current restrictions has drawn ire from activists who urge lawmakers to take a more “common sense” approach to gun laws. Volunteers with the group “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America” will take their concerns to the Capitol at 11 a.m., hoping legislators will support their cause. State Senator Greg Steube has worked on many of these bills, and says, “Those who have gone through the necessary background checks for concealed carry permits should be able to protect themselves regardless of where they are. Those with Moms Demand Action strongly disagree.

HOUSE TRIUMPH PROPOSAL NOT POPULAR WITH LOCAL LEADERS via Tom McLaughlin of the Northwest Florida Daily News – Senate President Don Gaetz sponsored a bill in 2011 designed to create an entity untethered by political entanglements that could focus solely on spending Northwest Florida’s share of BP legal settlement dollars on regional economic development. A newly drafted state House proposal for overseeing and controlling how the $300 million first installment of the so-called Triumph money is spent appears to do exactly the opposite of that. It proposes requiring any projects conceived by the Triumph Gulf Coast Board of Directors board to be approved not only by the governor, but by a committee made up of state senators and House members, and seems to ignore the concept of economic development. “The House bill removes all references to economic development. I’m concerned about that,” said former Florida House Speaker Allan Bense, who will chair the five-member Triumph Gulf Coast board when it is funded.


HAPPENING TODAY – COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — The House Governmental Accountability Committee is scheduled to take up several high-profile issues, including money for sports facilities and a bill to regulate ride-sharing companies, during its meeting at 10 a.m. in 17 House Office Building. The panel is scheduled to take up a bill (HB 77) by Rep. Bryan Avila, which would, among other things, prohibit professional sports franchises from building or renovating stadiums on leased public land. It will also hear a bill (HB 221) by Rep. Chris Sprowls that would set statewide regulations for ride-hailing companies, like Uber and Lyft. The House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to discuss a bill (HB 7005) that would eliminate Enterprise Florida, Visit Florida and a slew of other economic incentive program during its meeting. The meeting kicks off at 1 p.m. in 212 Knott, but you might want to get there early if you want to grab a seat. Over in the Senate, the Senate Agriculture Committee is scheduled to get a presentation about the state of Florida’s citrus industry and the Department of Citrus during its meeting in 301 Senate Office Building. Kickball (and tug of war, hopscotch and tag) will be the topic du jour when the Senate Education Committee discusses a bill during its 9 a.m. meeting in 412 Knott. The bill (SB 78), sponsored by Sen. Anitere Flores, requires schools to have 20 minutes of recess each day. At 12:30 p.m., the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee will discuss a series of bills, including a proposal (SB 420) by Sen. Jeff Brandes, requiring the Florida Commission on Hurricane Loss Projection Methodology to revise flood loss-projection models at least once every four years.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and the Everytown Survivor Network will hold a press conference at 11 a.m. in the Florida Capitol Rotunda to urge lawmakers to oppose a series of gun bills.


HAPPENING TODAY — HOUSE MAJORITY HOSTS FUNDRAISERS FOR HOUSE MEMBERS — The House Majority, the fundraising arm for House Republicans, will host a fundraiser for Reps. Chuck Clemons and Bobby Payne at noon at The Governor’s Inn, 209 S. Adams Street. At 5 p.m., there is a fundraiser for Reps. Danny BurgessBob Rommel, and Erin Grall at The Edison, 470 Suwannee Street. Across town, there is a fundraiser for Rep. MaryLynn Magar at 5:30 p.m. at The Florida Realtors, 200 S. Monroe Street.

HAPPENING THURSDAY – Polk County Commissioner Melony Bell will hold a campaign kick-off announcement in front of Fort Meade City Hall at 4:30 pm. Bell served as both a commissioner and Mayor for the City of Fort Meade before being elected to two terms as a County Commissioner.  At the kick-off, Bell will touch on a few of the key issues she will campaign on for House District 56 in the upcoming 2018 election.

BILL NELSON SEEMS UNDAUNTED BY PROSPECT OF PRIMARY CHALLENGERS via Florida Politics – Is Nelson up for a contested Democratic primary in his re-election bid next year? “You want to do a contest on pullups or pushups?” Nelson replied to a reporter … News reports have mentioned Tim Canova, who tried and failed to replace Debbie Wasserman Schultz in Congress, former U.S. Senate candidate Pam Keith, and state Sen. Randolph Bracy as primary challengers to Nelson, 74, widely seen as a moderate at a time when his party is enflamed by anti-Donald Trump fervor. Nelson pointed to 2000, when Republicans lured state House Democratic leader Willie Logan into an independent race, hoping to divert enough African-American votes to throw the election to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Connie Mack to their candidate. “With about five candidates in the race, he got something like 1 percent of the vote,” Nelson said.

RUMOR DU JOUR #1: Gwen Graham is giving serious consideration to hiring Beth Matuga to run her expected gubernatorial campaign.

RUMOR DU JOUR #2: Winter Park businessman Chris King‘s gubernatorial campaign will be helmed by Zack Lerner.

HAPPENING TOMORROW: U.S. Congressmen Brian Mast and Tom Rooney will attend an event with Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II interactive cockpit demonstrator beginning 1 p.m. at the Pratt & Whitney West Palm Beach Engine Center, 17900 Bee Line Highway in Jupiter.

ADAM PUTNAM’S PAC ADDS ANOTHER $500K IN FEBRUARY via Florida Politics – The committee, Florida Grown, brought in about $200,000 of its $538,000 haul from the Associated Industries of Florida and one of its related political committees. Another $100,000 came from Vero Beach businessman Robert Stork, and Disney chipped in another $50,000 Feb. 1. February’s running total has already eclipsed January’s numbers, which saw the Polk County Republican add just over $400,000 to its coffers. Those numbers were boosted by a $250,000 check from Florida Power and Light and $100,000 from Disney.

ANDREW GILLUM ON 2018: NO ‘SUICIDE MISSION’ via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat – Gillum, in an interview with Ebony Magazine … talked about his #DefendLocal initiative and the broader battle between GOP governors and Democratic mayors. He also took a question about the possibility he’ll run for governor. “We’ve obviously had folks raising the prospect of a statewide run,” he told the magazine. “I believe in being courageous, but I don’t believe in suicide missions. I think there has to be a relevant place to make a difference and a pathway to get there.” Gillum noted a petition that surfaced last year by college students trying to recruit him to run. “And I have responded to them by appreciating them for the thought and admitting that I am considering what 2018 looks like,” he said. “I have a lot of considerations that have to be made.”

19-YEAR-OLD DEVIN PEREZ FILES FOR HOUSE 28 AS DEMOCRAT via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Saying he is deeply concerned about social inequality … Perez has filed to run in 2018 as a Democrat for a seat which is opening up with the term-limiting of Republican incumbent state Rep. Jason Brodeur. “There’s no room right now for social inequality,” he said. “We’re being lied to. We need to establish a level equal playing field for everyone. And I feel like the best way to bring about that change is to be the change.” Perez, who lives in Oviedo, is an online student at the University of Florida studying criminology and pre-law. He was raised in Miami, with Puerto Rican and Vietnamese ancestry.

DID FLORIDA’S POT CZAR PAD HIS RESUME? via Bob Norman of Local 10 News – When Gov. Scott appointed Christian Bax as Florida’s “Pot Czar” — the director of the Office of Compassionate Use, which is now overseeing what is expected to soon be a $2 billion medical cannabis industry — a state-issued news release touted the business experience Bax had dealing with medical cannabis. “Previously Bax co-founded CBK Consulting, a company with expertise navigating medical marijuana regulations in Nevada and Washington,” the Department of Health proclaimed of Bax. The company, according to Bax’s resume, had been in business for three years, had locations in three cities and secured six medical-cannabis licenses for its clients “despite an extremely competitive bid process.” There are, however, problems with the claims of Bax and the state in its news release: for one, the CBK Consulting firm never officially existed. A check of numerous states’ corporate records shows that CBK Consulting was never incorporated as a business, meaning it didn’t exist in an official capacity.

LOTTERY SAYS IT’S GENERATED $1 BILLION FOR EDUCATION THIS YEAR via Florida Politics – The Florida Lottery, now being sued by House Speaker Corcoran, Monday said it had reached “another record – $1 billion in contributions to education for the 15th consecutive year.” On Friday, Corcoran – a Land O’ Lakes Republican – filed suit against the state agency for “wasteful and improper spending” for signing a multiyear, $700 million deal for new equipment. The Lottery reports to Gov. Scott. … It said it had “reached the $1 billion mark for this fiscal year earlier than any other year in Florida Lottery history. This brings the Lottery’s life-to-date education contributions to more than $31 billion.” The state’s fiscal year runs July 1-June 30. Lottery proceeds go into the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, which helps pay for public education.

PROSECUTORS CAN SEEK DEATH PENALTY DESPITE QUESTIONS via The Associated Press – Florida prosecutors can seek the death penalty in ongoing cases despite a state Supreme Court ruling that found a new death penalty law unconstitutional. The court ruled that the death penalty can be applied as long as there is a unanimous jury recommendation. It ruled October that a new state law requiring at least a 10-2 jury recommendation is unconstitutional. But justices said other aspects of the law are constitutional and prosecutors can proceed in capital punishment cases. Prosecutors had been in limbo wondering whether the death penalty could be applied. Attorney General Pam Bondi asked the court to clarify.

DISABLED TEEN RAGES, POUNDS ON CELL DOOR AND CONFOUNDS FLORIDA JUVENILE JUSTICE via Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald – At least 13 times in the past six years, psychologists and psychiatrists have declared Keishan Ross too intellectually disabled or mentally ill to be judged for the one-child wrecking crew he has become. He’s 17 now, and reads at the level of a first- or second-grader. The doctors have consistently said that Keishan should not be incarcerated, but housed in a secure residential facility … But beds at residential facilities for children like Keishan can cost more than $130,000 each year, the state says. And Florida doesn’t have nearly enough of them. So Keishan is returned to the lockup, again and again and again and again. And he rages there. Juvenile lockups and correctional programs long ago became warehouses for children with developmental disabilities and mental illness, just as prisons are home to thousands of disabled adults. The “maladaptive behavior” that is a key symptom of mental retardation also can lead to delinquency at an early age.

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MARTY FIORENTINO HEADS TO D.C. via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union  Fiorentino is working in Washington as a consultant for new Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. Chao was appointed by Trump, and shortly after her Senate confirmation she asked Fiorentino to come to Washington for a meeting. He agreed to help her transition. The two are friends who met nearly three decades ago when he was working at the Federal Railroad Administration and she was deputy Secretary of Transportation. Fiorentino expects to spend a couple of months helping Chao in her new role before returning to his lobbying work in Florida.


Andrew Bolin, Beytin, McLaughlin, et al:  Florida Justice Reform Institute

Jim Boxold, Captial City Consulting: George Hackney, Inc d/b/a Trulieve; Majestic Realty Co.

Jon CostelloGary Rutledge, Rutledge Escenia PA: Professional Claimants Representation Association, Inc

Thomas Dukes, McEwan Martinez & Dukes: Florida Justice Reform Institute

Todd Josko, Ballard Partners: NAIOP Tampa Bay; TruGreen

Julia Juarez, JEJ & Associates: Leon County Board of County Commissioners

Stephanie Kunkel, Stephanie Kunkel: Florida Education Association

Nicholas Matthews, Becker & Poliakoff: Florida Association of Jewish Federations

Alex Miranda, Flagler Strategies: Retail Services & Systems, Inc

APPOINTEDAnthony Lopresto, Herman White and Frederick Barthlow to Florida Building Code Administrators and Inspectors Board. James SampeyMark Harden and Rocky McPherson to Florida is for Veterans, Inc.

— “Eric Eisnaugle applying for vacant judicial post” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

FPL TO BUILD 8 NEW FLORIDA SOLAR ENERGY PLANTS, ADD 2.5M PANELS BY 2018 via Florida Politics – FPL, currently the largest generator of solar energy in Florida, will build eight new universal solar power plants by early 2018 – boosting its production with more than 2.5 million solar panels. “We have been working hard to drive down the costs of adding solar,” said FPL President/CEO Eric Silagy, “so we can deliver even more zero-emissions energy to all of our customers.” Each of the planned eight new solar plants – located throughout Florida — will have a capacity of 74.5 megawatts, producing nearly 600 megawatts total – enough to power nearly 120,000 homes. The additional facilities will be in addition to the three previously announced locations in Alachua, Putnam and DeSoto counties.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Reps. Katie Edwards and Jay Trumbull and our friend Dorothy Famiano.

“TAKE THE T” TO LUNCH IN TALLAHASSEE – The City of Tallahassee has kicked off a free lunchtime trolley service with three routes from downtown to eateries in Midtown, Cascades Park and College Town. “The T” runs Monday through Friday from 11:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. All three routes connect in downtown; stops will be marked with custom route signs featuring a pop-art T. Trolleys will run in a continuous loop, coming to each stop every 20 minutes. Trolleys will be displayed in real time on the map, their location refreshed every 30 seconds. Riders are invited to enjoy the scenery — and free Wi-Fi. And for those seeking a little night life, the trolley also runs during evening hours on Fridays and Saturdays from 4:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. For more information and a map of the stops, visit up to date by liking the official Facebook page at

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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