Sunburn for 7/11 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

Today’s Rise and Shine Fact-iversary is brought to you by Sachs Media Group, the state’s dominant public affairs PR firm: This is the 80th anniversary of the day in 1934 that President Franklin D. Roosevelt traveled through the Panama Canal, making him the first U.S. chief executive to ever make the journey. Today, the Canal is an essential route for trade to and from Florida. Did you know that Roosevelt was also the first president to fly in an airplane on official business?

Now, on to the ‘burn…


According to a recent survey, the most frequent daily cause of stress in Americans’ lives is “hearing about what the government or politicians are doing.”


The Florida Legislature illegally drew the state’s congressional districts to primarily benefit the Republican Party, a judge ruled Thursday as he ordered them redrawn.

Florida Circuit Judge Terry Lewis found that the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature broke the law when it drew up political maps in 2012. He rejected arguments from top legislative leaders that they had done nothing wrong.

The ruling is not expected to disrupt this year’s elections because the Legislature is expected to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court. But ultimately the changes could affect the political careers of Florida’s congressional delegation.

A spokesman for House Speaker Will Weatherford said Thursday night that the House was reviewing the decision.

Voters in 2010 overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment that said legislators could no longer draw up districts to favor incumbents or a political party, a practice known as “gerrymandering.”

A coalition of groups, including the League of Women Voters, sued and contended that legislators used a “shadow” process to conceal the role of GOP consultants who helped craft the final maps adopted two years ago.

Lewis ruled that two districts violated the new standards: a sprawling district held by U.S. Rep. Corinne Brown that runs from Jacksonville to Orlando and a central Florida district held by U.S. Rep. Dan Webster. Brown is a Democrat, while Webster is a Republican.

In his ruling Lewis stated that evidence presented during a nearly two-week trial showed that outside GOP political consultants engaged in a “conspiracy to influence and manipulate the Legislature into a violation of its constitutional duty.”

The evidence included testimony that a top House aide shared maps with a Republican consultant before they were made public. Another map, which resembled one put together by a consultant, was submitted in the name of a college student who said under oath he had nothing to do with it. The groups also questioned why legislators and legislative staff deleted emails even though they knew a lawsuit was likely.

House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz testified during the trial that outside GOP consultants were told early on that they would have no role in the process. They both denied that the Legislature deliberately drew up maps to favor Republicans. Attorneys for the Legislature repeatedly pointed out during the trial that several Republican incumbents, including U.S. Rep. Allen West, lost their re-election bids in 2012.

Attorneys and legislators also called the deletion of emails routine.

Even though there are more registered Democrats in the state, Republicans currently hold a 17-to-10 majority in Florida’s congressional delegation. President Barack Obama also won the state in the last two presidential elections, although Republicans have won the last four gubernatorial races.

TWEET, TWEET: @fineout: Lewis in his ruling states that evidence heard in secret involving consultants showed that there was a “conspiracy” to manipulate process

TWEET, TWEET: @MaryEllenKlas: What kind of a system do we have when a court issues a ruling but posts nothing electronically, no one can access it? #redistricting


GOP U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a key player in the House on immigration, just met with the House GOP leadership to make one final plea that Republicans act on immigration reform in the face of the current crisis. He was told that it is dead for the year.

In an interview, Diaz-Balart confirmed the meeting, and said he is “very disappointed” in his party’s decision not to move forward. Crucially, he cast the GOP leadership’s refusal to move forward as the key obstacle to reform. He said he had legislation ready to go, and that his conversations convinced him that a solid number of Republicans and Democrats would have supported it.

Diaz-Balart also broke with his party on immigration in two key ways. He said that the current crisis at the border is an argument for reform, not against it. And he dismissed the argument made by many Republicans — that the proper response to the current crisis is to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Obama’s program to defer the deportation of the DREAMers.

“I’m seriously disappointed,” Diaz-Balart said. “We have a historic opportunity to fix a system everyone knows is broken. We’re squandering that opportunity. The bottom line is, we have a bill that is ready to go. We had bipartisan support. And yet I’ve been told we’re not going to move forward this year.”

The bill Diaz-Balart is talking about has not been released publicly, but reporting by this blog and others indicates that it would probably offer some sort of legal status to the 11 million, packaged with concurrent border security triggers that would have to be met for the process to continue moving forward — the basic outlines of the solution that everyone knows would form the basis for compromise on this issue, if Republican leaders would allow it to move forward.

Diaz-Balart dismissed the idea — pushed by many Republicans — that the deferral of deportations of DREAMers has caused the current crisis. Many have called for an end to DACA — casting it as a magnet for newly arriving kids — which is functionally a call to deport the DREAMers.

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CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTION OF THE DAY@davelevinthal: The Orlando, Fla.-based “Benghazi Truth PAC” received one reportable cash contribution during Q2


Gwen Graham, the Democratic candidate in Florida’s 2nd Congressional District, Thursday pledged not to accept Congressional perks like health care subsidies and use of the House gym if elected in November.

Graham is challenging two-term Republican Rep. Steve Southerland of Panama City.

Graham focused her pledge-signing media event on Southerland’s role in last year’s shutdown of the federal government over a dispute about healthcare policy. While siding with those who wanted to take away an insurance subsidy for Congress and its staff, Southerland used the subsidy to purchase insurance when the shutdown maneuver failed.

Graham’s pledge includes a refusal to take a salary for missing a vote without registering an official absence with the Clerk of the House; refusal to take any special taxpayer subsidy for healthcare not available to the public and a vote to end wasteful perks including taxpayer funded first class flights, private jets, car leases and the taxpayer-funded (House) gym.

Graham also pledged to bring North Florida’s commonsense approach to ending this blatantly wasteful spending.


Sunburn reported Wednesday that former Rep. Connie Mack was lobbying for Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands. Well, Public Campaign noted that his ex-wife Rep. Mary Bono is lobbying on the other side of the same issue: online gaming. She tried to get Adelson’s business and then ultimately started working for the pro-online gaming coalition. More on that backstory here.


Despite winning one of the closest congressional races in 2012, Patrick Murphy is increasingly in the clear for 2014 from Republicans as events clearly show.

After beating Allen West by a slim margin, Murphy was supposed to be a top target for the GOP. Republicans have a slight edge in the district and, on paper, the right candidate could win back the seat for the GOP, especially in a nonpresidential year.

But the right candidate never quite materialized, even as six candidates still run for the Republican nomination. West closed the door on a rematch with Murphy and threw his support to Ellen Andel, who promptly pulled out after she couldn’t raise enough money. Republicans pleaded for Adam Hasner to move into the district but they never could lure him to run against Murphy.

This left the likes of Carl Domino, Beverly Hires, Brian Lara, Alan Schlesinger, Calvin Turnquest and Nick Wukoson in the Republican primary. Domino is probably the best known of the candidates from his time in the Florida House, but he’s coming off two consecutive losses in a state Senate primary in 2010 and a state House primary in 2012. Hires and Turnquest did even worse than Domino in the state House race in 2012. Schlesinger is better known for his career in Connecticut politics while Lara and Wukoson are political novices, not exactly a bad thing to be in Florida as recent Republican primaries have shown. While the second quarter fundraising figures aren’t in yet, most of the Republicans have been relying on their own money to compete and none of them is close to catching Murphy in the money chase.

With seven weeks to go until the primary, the Republican candidates will try their best to turn things around. But with the GOP starting to tune out at the national and local level, this is increasingly becoming a missed opportunity.


Justin Lamar Sternad, a hotel worker and father of five, just wanted to be somebody in the eyes of his family. So he set his sights on a seat in Congress.

“I wanted my wife, children and family to be proud of me,” Sternad, 37, told a judge in Miami federal court.

Despite his good intentions, Sternad admitted in so many words that he allowed GOP campaign consultant Ana Alliegro and her close friend, then-U.S. Rep. David Rivera to recruit him as a straw candidate to challenge Rivera’s political enemy, Joe Garcia, in the 2012 Democratic primary. Garcia went on to beat Rivera in the final election.

“I hate to admit that I was naive,” Sternad told U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga. “I hate to admit that Ana Alliegro and David Rivera were able to take advantage of me.”

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A retired Broward County law enforcement officer filed an elections complaint saying Scott broke the law when using on-duty law enforcement as part of political campaign events.

The grievance also claims Scott enlisted the officers’ help under false pretenses.

Retired Police Lieutenant Jeff Marano of Hollywood, a 30-year veteran of Broward County law enforcement and former Corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps, filed a complaint on Thursday under Florida Elections Statutes 104.31 F.S. and 106.15(3).

On June 16 and July 7, the governor’s office asked on-duty police officers to attend events to provide security. They were surprised to learn that the events were, in fact, political campaign events.

“They deserve better than to be used by Rick Scott as props in his political campaign,” Marano said. “They deserve nothing less than his utmost respect.”

Under Florida law, no “officer or employee of the state,” shall “[d]irectly or indirectly coerce” a state employee to participate in a political organization, because “employees “of the state or any political subdivision may not participate in any political campaign for an elective office while on duty.”

In addition, candidates “may not, in the furtherance of his or her candidacy for nomination or election to public office in any election, use the services of any state, county, municipal, or district officer or employee during working hours.”

SOME IN FLORIDA GOP WORRIED OVER SCOTT’S MISSTEPS via Brendan Farrington and Gary Fineout of the Associated Press

Gov. Scott is a multimillionaire and flies in a private jet, yet his campaign decided to criticize Charlie Crist as an elitist for wearing a Rolex watch.

Polls show the two candidates are roughly tied ahead of November’s general election. But the missteps have been noticed by the people Scott will need in a tight re-election: The activists and the donors who help propel a campaign.

Among the notable misfires by Scott’s office and his campaign:

– Scott bashed Crist for saying he backs in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants when he previously opposed it. Scott himself also flip-flopped on the issue.

– Scott repeatedly said Crist is bad for education. The state Republican Party tried proving the point with a list of bills Crist vetoed, including a college tuition increase and cuts for public schools – actions Crist took to help education.

– Scott relentlessly attacked Crist for supporting President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. But when staff from the governor’s office set up a round table to discuss it in heavily Democratic Palm Beach County, the gathered seniors praised the plan.


A new poll shows Florida can expect a close gubernatorial contest in November with independents starting to break Gov. Scott’s way.

The poll of likely voters from WFLA and Survey USA finds Scott with a small lead over former Crist.

Scott takes 45 percent in the poll of likely voters while Crist takes 43 percent. While 7 percent back other candidates, 5 percent remain undecided. A Survey USA poll released on June 24 had Scott with 43 percent and Crist at 42 percent.

The poll shows a slight gender gap starting to form in the race. Men go Scott’s way, with the governor taking 47 percent, while 40 percent of them back Crist. Women lean in Crist’s direction, with 46 percent supporting the newly minted Democrat while 43 percent back Scott.

Crist holds a solid lead over Scott with Hispanics. Almost half — 49 percent — of Hispanics surveyed support Crist while 41 percent back Scott.

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“First, I want to be clear on a critical point: the All Aboard Florida proposal is a private sector venture to construct, operate and maintain a passenger rail system. There will be no state subsidies for this project.” – Governor Rick Scott, in letter to All Aboard Florida executives on 6/19/2014.

“The State has no involvement in this project.” – Governor Rick Scott, in canned email response to opponents of All Aboard Florida.

Both of the blatantly false statements above are direct quotes from Gov. Scott about his alleged lack of involvement in “All Aboard Florida,” the beleaguered for-profit rail project unquestionably championed by Scott’s chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth.

The Governor’s statements are in direct opposition to a growing body of evidence that someone in the Governor’s Office has fast-tracked the for-profit All Aboard Florida project. Now that the controversy is growing, Scott has issued those statements in a bid to distance himself from the scandal, but it may be too late.

Last weekend, news broke that Scott chief-of-staff Adam Hollingsworth helped to arrange secret meetings between AAF and the governor and key advisors, in direct violation of a voluntary ban Hollingsworth signed prohibiting him from lobbying the governor or his staff on behalf of outside interests.

Hollingsworth told Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times and Matt Dixon of the Naples Daily News that he signed a “firewall letter” prohibiting him from participating in meetings, discussions or decisions relating to the for-profit rail project. But despite signing the letter, Hollingsworth has nevertheless constructed a network of trusted cronies to circumvent the so-called “firewall” and form a direct information pipeline from All Aboard Florida straight into the Governor’s Office.


In politics, optics matter. Gov. Scott, who will spend the next few months fending off familiar criticism of the health care fraud at his former hospital company, had a chance to put more money into fighting health care fraud in Florida.

But to the disappointment of a key Republican lawmaker, he said no. One of Scott’s little-noticed line item vetoes in the new $77 billion budget would have set aside more money to investigate fraud in the Medicaid program. Scott gave no reason for the veto at the time he signed the budget.

The push for the money came from Scott’s fellow Republicans in the Senate Criminal & Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, chaired by Sen. Rob Bradley, a Republican from Fleming Island.

Scott vetoed line item No. 1347: “$1,500,000 in nonrecurring general revenue is provided for the continuation and expansion of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit’s data mining initiative. Funds shall accelerate and grow the project’s predictive analytic analysis and data integration.”

An internal Senate budget worksheet provided the “why” for the request: “Fight criminal rings robbing Florida’s Medicaid system.”

Because the data-mining project is a joint federal-state program with the feds paying 75 percent, the $1.5 million would have brought $4.5 million from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in Washington, the Senate said. The veto left that federal money on the table.


Citizens Property Insurance Corp. expects to move about 300,000 policies now carried by the carrier to private markets, according to the President and Chief Executive Officer Barry Gilway.

This move will be in contrast to the past two years; where there was a “mad dash” to move nearly 500,000 policies from the state-backed insurer to lessen Florida’s financial exposure. Gilway says future efforts will be gradual, moving about 100,000 policies every year.

Gilway predicts the number of Citizens’ policies to drop from the current 928,546 to about 850,000 by the end of the year. The goal is to bring the total number of policies to around 650,000 policies by the end of 2017.

“We think about 650,000, 625,000, is about as low as you’re ever going to get,” Gilway said after a speech to the Economic Club of Florida at the Florida State University Alumni Center.

Citizens’ policies are down from 1.26 million as of May 31, 2013. The year before, the number was 1.43 million policies.

To bring the number down to 600,000, Gilway believes the “grossly inadequate rates” on coastal accounts should be closer to the rates offered by private insurers.

FLA. HAS AMONG LOWEST RATES OF STEM WORKERS via Mike Schneider of the Associated Press

About 1 in 5 Florida workers are in science and engineering or related fields, placing the Sunshine State near the bottom of the list of states whose workforce is made up of STEM jobs.

New figures released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau show that almost 9 percent of Florida workers between ages 25 and 64 worked in science, technology, engineering and math jobs, also known as STEM jobs. Another 12 percent were in related fields, like architecture or health care management.

Florida had more than 450,000 workers in STEM or STEM-related jobs.

Only four other states had lower rates of workers in science and technology or related fields than Florida.

State officials in recent years have made efforts to bring high-tech science businesses to Palm Beach County and Orlando.

STUDY: 1 OUT OF 5 FLORIDIANS STILL LACK HEALTH INSURANCE via Donna Gehrke-White of the South Florida Sun Sentinel

Nearly one out of five Floridians still lack health insurance, despite people being able to sign up this year for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, according to a new study released Wednesday.

However, Obamacare reduced the state’s uninsured rate by 5 percentage points in one year as those lacking health insurance had been at 24.7 percent in 2013, said, using its own analysis and a study from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The website’s report found nearly a million Floridians signed up for private health insurance plans under Obamacare.

Another 240,232 people in the state enrolled in Medicaid between last summer and  April. Some 21 percent of  Floridians under 64 are now on Medicaid.


Central Florida is supposed to turn the page and begin a new chapter in the scandal-filled history of its toll-road agency.

The Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority and it’s “culture of corruption” have been abolished.

But unless local leaders do things differently, the replacement board — the Central Florida Expressway Authority (which meets for the first time) — could be headed down the same, sordid path.

To help address that, leaders of this new agency need to move to adopt some of the strictest ethics and lobbying laws of the land. Every contractor, lobbyist and attorney doing business before the board must be registered. All meetings and contacts with board and staff members must be documented. And there needs to be serious penalties for those who violate the rules.

The same thing goes for conflicts of interest. They must be documented and enforced.

After all, when it comes to public business and public dollars, everything should be done in the sunshine.

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Florida Medical Association PAC, the largest supporter of pro-medicine candidates statewide, endorses four incumbents to return to the Florida legislature.

FMA PAC announced on Thursday its support of State Sen. Geraldine Thompson in her bid for Senate District 12, Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto for Senate District 30, Sen. John Thrasher for Senate District 6, and state Rep. Jamie Grant for House District 64.

“The Florida Medical Association is proud to support Senator Geraldine Thompson in her re-election campaign,” said FMA PAC President Dr. Ralph Nobo. “She has made health care a priority, and we look forward to working with her on solutions to improve access to health care in Florida.”

“We are proud to stand with Lizbeth Benacquisto, who consistently protects the relationship between doctors and their patients,” Nobo said, adding that she “understands the complexities surrounding access to quality healthcare through her work on the Cancer Treatment Fairness Act.”

Nobo also recognized Thrasher for his two decades as FMA’s General Counsel, saying he has a “deep understanding of the obstacles patients and health care providers face as they navigate our current health care system.”

As for Grant, Nobo said the Tampa Republican “understands that we have to look to the future to set good health care policy.”


State Sen. Joe Negron picked up the endorsements Thursday from both the National Rifle Association and Unified Sportsmen of Florida for his re-election bid for Florida Senate District 32.

Both organizations gave the Treasure Coast Republican high marks, including an A+ rating from the NRA, the highest possible.

“Joe Negron is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, self-defense and anti-crime issues as a member of the Florida Senate,” said past NRA president Marion Hammer, who is also executive director of Unified Sportsmen of Florida.

“His active support of issues that are important to firearms owners, as well as his pro-sportsmen, pro-Second Amendment, pro-freedom record has earned him not only our endorsement, but our gratitude as well,” she added.

“The foundation of our country was built upon certain fundamental rights, including the right to bear arms, which is something I take very seriously,” Negron responded in a statement. “If re-elected to serve Senate District 32, I pledge to uphold the Second Amendment and protect this constitutional right for all Floridians.”


Sean Shaw campaign for House District 61 announced the endorsements of five Democratic state lawmakers from the Tampa Bay area: State Reps. Janet Cruz, Mark Danish, Dwight Dudley, Amanda Murphy and Daryl Rouson.

The Tampa attorney faces fellow Democrats Tatiana Denson, Sharon Carter and Ed Narain in the race to replace term-limited Rep. Betty Reed. HD 61 is a heavily Democratic district covering the Tampa neighborhoods of Seminole Heights, East Tampa, Ybor City and parts of West Tampa.


The latest ad from HD 40 candidate John Shannon here.

The latest ad from HD 74 candidate Richard DeNapoli here.


In an increasingly crowded inbox, fundraising solicitations need to be catchy and grab your attention. POLITICO Influence explains why here.

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APPOINTEDRafael Echarri and Kathleen Krak to the Electrical Contractors Licensing Board.

REAPPOINTED: Dr. William Kochenour to the Board of Dentistry.


Kelly Cohen, managing partner of Southern Strategy Group, one of the largest lobbying firms in the nation, is featured in Orlando Magazine‘s annual “50 Most Powerful People in Orlando.”

For the fifth consecutive year, Cohen has been included with the most influential city leaders, including Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, President of Walt Disney World George Kalogridis, attorney John Morgan, state Senate President Andy Gardiner and U.S. Senator Bill Nelson.

“Attend a major downtown civic or cultural event and chances are you’ll bump into Kelly Cohen,” says Barry Glenn and Jim Leusner, authors of this year’s list. “For nine years, she has been the network maven running Southern Strategy Group’s Orlando office, lobbying, planning and marketing some of the region’s top political figures, businesses and start-ups.”

The magazine noted Cohen for her work as a top adviser to Mayor Buddy Dyer, Democratic fundraiser and a major downtown booster, as well as her role on the team that helped Orlando City Soccer in winning both city and county support for a Major League Soccer stadium.

Cohen has also been involved in a number of high-profile Orlando projects, such as SunRail, the planned Creative Village and convenience store giant Wawa’s push into Florida.

“No surprise, Kelly continues to climb in the power ranking each year,” said Southern Strategy Group’s founder Paul Bradshaw. “At this rate, she’ll be #1 by 2019. She probably deserves it now. We’re very proud to be on her team.”


Since 2003, the number of full-time reporters covering state legislatures for daily newspapers has declined 35 percent, according to a new study published Thursday by the Pew Research Center. Less than one third of the 801 daily newspapers in the U.S. send a reporter — full-time or part-time — to state capitol buildings, Pew found, citing data from the Alliance of Audited Media.

Among all states, there is an average of one reporter covering state legislatures for every 373,777 people, Pew said. In California, the ratio of reporters to population is one per every 866,371 people.

There is a paradox in the reality of American politics: The more local an office, the more of an impact it has on any given person’s daily life. Yet the more local an election, the lower the voter interest. Presidential elections drive turnout. State legislators, who decide funding levels for local transportation projects or school districts and who have more influence on the average person’s life than the president of the United States, do not. Now, there is less coverage of those legislators than ever before.

That, in turn, has given politicians, lobbyists and public relations professionals the opportunity to step into the vacuum. Whether via newsletters, YouTube, Facebook or other social media outlets, politicians are increasingly generating their own news, and interest groups are spinning their own stories.

The decline coincides with falling advertising revenue for newspapers challenged by the growing power of the Internet. The rapidly changing industry has meant cutbacks, more reliance on part-time reporters, young journalists working their first jobs for low pay, and even students: 14 percent of all statehouse reporters are still in school, the Pew survey found.

Pew based many of its numbers on American Journalism Review studies dating back to 1998. The most recent AJR survey, from 2009, found 355 newspaper staff reporters covering state capitals, down from 524 in 2003. In the six intervening years, the number of reporters covering capitals in 44 states declined, while just two — Rhode Island and Oregon — grew.

TWEET, TWEET: @bsfarrington: Congrats to @lucytimes for her induction into the Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame


Facing Florida with Mike Vasalinda: Susan Glickman

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Victor DiMaio, Nick Hansen, Molly Moorhead, Scott Farrell

Political Connections on Tampa Bay’s BayNews 9: Rep. Kathleen Peters

Political Connections on CF 13: Carol Platt

The Usual Suspects which airs on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Steve Vancore, Gary Yordon, Mary Ellen Klas and Sean Pittman.

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On Context FloridaGary Stein supports Amendment 2, in part, because he has “skin in the game,” a number of people — friends and family — who would benefit from medical marijuana. Like most people, Tom Cavanaugh uses online technology to reconnect and stay in touch with friends and family all across the world. However, he dreads the echo chamber of social media during election season. Bruce Ritchie wonders if it is time to rethink recycling. The future of recycling may involve less actual effort toward recycling but a need for individuals to have more understanding about what our communities are doing with waste. And whether it meets our own definition of recycling, something that is a lot more difficult than rinsing and sorting. The June 30 Harris v. Quinn ruling is what Daniel Tilson sees as another awful U.S. Supreme Court decision; a right-wing power play that, if allowed to continue after intermission, will likely climax with a dagger dug deep in the back of public employee unions, and all of American Labor.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

FREE SLURPEES FRIDAY FOR 7-ELEVEN DAY via Kelly Stefani of the Tampa Bay Times

The convenience store chain 7-Eleven is celebrating Friday’s date, 7/11, by giving away free 12-ounce Slurpees from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. But this year goes beyond Slurpees, with a texting feature that will give you daily specials through July 19; text “Free” to 711711 to get the specials sent to your phone. The 7-Eleven app, available on iPhone and Android devices, will also send free offers all week, from a free Big Gulp on Saturday to free Twinkies on Tuesday to free small Slurpees again on July 19. Find more information and a store near you at

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Anthony Bonna,  ’30 under 30′ star Matthew Leger, and the Tampa Bay Times‘ Aaron Sharockman.


The fantasy saga “Game of Thrones,” defying the Emmy Awards’ grudging respect for genre fare, emerged as the leader in the nominations announced Thursday with 19 bids, including best drama series.
The meth kingpin drama “Breaking Bad” was next in line with 16 bids for its final season, including best drama and best actor nod for star Bryan Cranston.
Other top nominees included a pair of ambitious miniseries, “Fargo,” with 18 bids, and “American Horror Story: Coven,” with 17. The AIDS drama “The Normal Heart” received 16 nominations, including best TV movie.

The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards will air Monday, Aug. 25, on NBC, with emcee Seth Meyers, the former “Saturday Night Live” player and new NBC late-night host. The ceremony, traditionally held on Sunday, was moved to avoid a conflict with NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” and with MTV’s Video Music Awards.

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.