Sunburn for 7/3 – 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: On this day in 1971, former Florida State University student Jim Morrison broke on through to the other side, tragically passing away at age 27. The lead singer for the rock band The Doors was found dead in his Paris apartment, the victim of heart failure caused by excessive drinking. His burial site is one of Paris’ most visited tourist attractions. What would Jim Morrison look like if he were still alive today?

Now, on to the burn…


President Barack Obama is the worst president since World War II, 33 percent of American voters say in a Quinnipiac University National Poll released Wednesday. Another 28 percent pick President George W. Bush.

Ronald Reagan is the best president since WWII, 35 percent of voters say, with 18 percent for Bill Clinton, 15 percent for John F. Kennedy and 8 percent for Obama, Quinnipiac University poll finds. Among Democrats, 34 percent say Clinton is the best president, with 18 percent each for Obama and Kennedy.

Obama has been a better president than George W. Bush, 39 percent of voters say, while 40 percent say he is worse. Men say 43 – 36 percent that Obama is worse than Bush while women say 42 – 38 percent he is better. Obama is worse, Republicans say 79 – 7 percent and independent voters say 41 – 31 percent. Democrats say 78 – 4 percent that he is better.

Voters say by a narrow 37 – 34 percent that Obama is better for the economy than Bush. America would be better off if Republican Mitt Romney had won the 2012 presidential election, 45 percent of voters say, while 38 percent say the country would be worse off.

Missing Mitt are Republicans 84 – 5 percent and independent voters 47 – 33 percent, while Democrats say 74 – 10 percent that the U.S. would be worse off with Romney.

“Over the span of 69 years of American history and 12 presidencies, President Barack Obama finds himself with President George W. Bush at the bottom of the popularity barrel,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “Would Mitt have been a better fit? More voters in hindsight say yes.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY“I’ve never been a big fan of polling. … Common sense dictates if you’re under 35 and you have a stationary phone, what’s wrong with you?” – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who prompted his pollster, Mark Mellman, to tweet that he learned long ago it’s “not personal.”

MARCO RUBIO AND THE PARTY OF IDEAS via Sam Tenenhaus of The New York Times

On Jan. 8, … Marco Rubio … announced a plan to create a “revenue-neutral flex fund” that would disburse federal funds to the states to spend as they wished on antipoverty programs. … The plan wouldn’t save a dime in the short run – in fact, it would most likely increase costs – but it met the bigger ideological goal of “incentivizing” work, a pet theme on the right since the days of [Irving] Kristol and his liberal ally Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

The originator of Rubio’s plan was Oren Cass, a top adviser on the Romney campaign, whom Rubio contacted after Cass originally proposed the idea in National Review. When I met Rubio at his office, … he brought out his iPad and tapped on a file in Dropbox labeled “Upward Mobility.”… Not even the most hardened Republican opposes a better-skilled work force. What sets Rubio’s thinking apart is his enthusiasm for a different approach to educating and training the young. …

“Our debt isn’t driven by discretionary spending on poverty programs,” Rubio said. “We’re not going to balance the budget by saving money on safety-net programs.”

It is hard to imagine the Republican candidate who will say this in a closely contested Red State primary in 2014 or during a presidential race in 2016.


Florida’s economy relies heavily on agriculture and construction, industries that depend on a stable workforce, many of them taken from nearly 3.5 million immigrants living in the Sunshine State.

Often, companies rely on the national immigrant visa system to provide a steady stream of laborers authorized to work in the U.S. An improved immigration system, they believe, would help both Florida and businesses in the state that are looking for qualified individuals to fill open positions.

In a telephone press conference on Wednesday, members of Florida’s farming, construction, and IT industries joined congressional representatives, calling on Congress to address immigration-visa reform.

Rick Watson, legal counsel for the Associated Builders & Contractors of Florida, says he would like Congress to enact a temporary guest worker program, as a way to “relieve the pressure” on companies that use immigrant labor.

Adding to Florida’s immigrant labor woes, especially in agriculture, is the crisis of citrus greening. As one of the biggest threats in generations to Florida’s $9 billion citrus industry, greening has also had an effect on Florida’s immigrant labor pool.

On the other hand, as devastating as the problem is, greening does offer one bright spot for companies dealing with the legal immigrant shortage.

“Greening has actually helped the situation,” he adds, “because we have less to pick.”

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Break out the rainbow flags and wedding bands, say gay marriage advocates: As this year’s term ends, they now predict that they’ll be celebrating a Supreme Court decision at the end of the next one — or at latest, 2016’s — fully legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

Their optimism marks a sharp turn from two years ago, when many LGBT advocates were wary of rushing to the Supreme Court with a gay marriage legalization case, worried that they’d get there too quickly, get ruled against, and set the movement back years.

They plan to use the same kind of coordinated legal and public relations strategy that’s led them to 16 out of 16 victories in lower courts, including Tuesday’s in Kentucky, where a district judge appointed by President George H.W. Bush struck down the state’s gay marriage ban.

Those decisions, along with movement in states that have legalized marriage legislatively, have created momentum. But they’ve also created an unusually pockmarked legal landscape that has different marriage laws state to state, even in the same region.

It’s the sort of situation, many believe, that just might motivate the Supreme Court to step in and establish one set law.

That, and not his own view on gay marriage, is what’s driving Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes to petition the court, explaining in a statement that he’s seeking “certainty and finality for all Utahns on such an important issue with a decision from the highest court.”

Meanwhile, advocates are counting on that certainty to take the form of a legalization ruling from the same five justices who struck down DOMA — and maybe even a legacy-minded Chief Justice John Roberts joining, too.

SIDES SQUARE OFF ON STATE’S GAY MARRIAGE BAN via Curt Anderson of the Associated Press

Attorneys for gay couples, the state of Florida and proponents of so-called traditional marriage squared off Wednesday in a lawsuit seeking to overturn a ban on same-sex marriage enshrined in the state constitution by voters in 2008.

Like similar cases filed across the country, the Florida gay couples’ lawsuit contends that the ban is discriminatory and violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. Attorney Jeffrey Cohen, representing the six same-sex couples who filed the lawsuit, asked Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel at a hearing to issue a ruling like those in 21 other cases nationwide declaring the ban unconstitutional.

Cohen noted that Florida allows gay people to adopt children but bars them from taking the final legal step to become a legitimate family in the eyes of the law.

“It’s the right of a person to choose who they love and who they make their future with,” Cohen said. “We should not make anyone a second-class citizen.”

Attorney General Bondi, whose office intervened in the case just last week, takes the position that U.S. Supreme Court rulings – including the one last year that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act – give states sole power to define marriage. Florida defined it as between one man and one woman in the 2008 voter referendum.

“It remains binding precedent,” said Deputy Solicitor General Adam Tanenbaum.

Zabel did not immediately rule and gave no indication when she would. She took notice, however, of the numerous state and federal rulings striking down gay marriage bans in other states – including one in Kentucky on Tuesday – since the Supreme Court’s ruling on the federal marriage act.

“What about the flood of cases that has been coming down?” Zabel asked a lawyer for groups supporting the current ban.

The hearing drew a packed crowd into a main courtroom and a spillover room, many of them proponents of gay marriage sporting pictures of adopted children and snapping photos of what many viewed as a historic occasion. There were also those favoring the ban, some wearing American-flag stickers that read “Respect My Vote,” while others prayed and quietly sang hymns. There were also groups of chanting protesters outside the courthouse.

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The White House has a Medicaid expansion argument for Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Republicans: It creates jobs.

A state-by-state report to be released Wednesday (an advance copy was provided to the Tampa Bay Times) estimates that Florida would generate 63,800 jobs, mainly in health care, from 2014-2017. That’s the three years that the federal government would have paid the entire cost of providing health care to 848,000 people.

The study by the Council of Economic Advisers — titled “Missed Opportunities” — is part of an ongoing push by the Obama administration on a central part of the Affordable Care Act. It makes a number of other claims evaluating states that have expanded and Florida and 23 others that have not.

It claims, for instance, that the number of Floridians experiencing depression would drop by 68,000. Or that 38,000 fewer people would see “catastrophic out-of-pocket costs in a typical year.” The report relies on the Urban Institute among other sources.

Scott, who emerged from obscurity in opposition to Obama’s health care law, initially rejected the expansion then, in February 2013, reversed himself. “While the federal government is committed to pay 100 percent of the cost, I cannot, in good conscience, deny Floridians the needed access to health care,” Scott said, talking about helping the “poorest and weakest” Floridians.

Yet he did not push the Republican-controlled House, which may not have budged anyway for the neophyte Scott. Federal money has enticed the Florida GOP before — the stimulus bailed out the state budget during the recession — but the opposition to the health care law has been intense.


Once there was a businessman who wanted to be governor.

He talked about a lot of things on the campaign trail, but there were two issues that came up with rigid regularity.

One was health care. The other was jobs.

Rick Scott, as a candidate, liked to link the two together. The Affordable Care Act, he insisted, was a horrendous idea that would kill jobs. If you listened to Scott long enough, you got the feeling Obamacare would lead to the end of Western Civilization.

Rick Scott, as a governor, has been less inclined to talk about health care. And he almost never links it to the state’s workforce. If you follow Scott around enough, you might think he is completely happy with health care in Florida.

Why the change in tenor?

I ask only because the opposition is beginning to speak up. The Council of Economic Advisers released a study on Wednesday that suggested Florida’s refusal to expand Medicaid — a key component of the president’s health care plan — is actually costing the state more than 63,000 jobs in the next three years.

I can appreciate the governor is in a sticky situation. He campaigned so hard against Obamacare in 2010; it would raise eyebrows if he actively campaigned for it in 2014.

Some might call that a flip-flop. I would suggest it is leadership.


In the everlasting battle between trial lawyers and the business lobby, not even a corporate outsider in the Governor’s Mansion changes Florida politics.

Four years ago this summer, Scott was a self-financed corporate executive bashing Florida’s closed-circuit world of sugar, insurers, utilities, developers and theme parks financing Republican primary foe Bill McCollum to the tune of $20 million.

Now those givers – U.S. Sugar Corp., Florida Power & Light, Florida Blue, the developers of The Villages, and Walt Disney World – are steering millions of dollars into the incumbent Republican governor’s war chest to try to sweep the legs out from Democratic rival Charlie Crist.

Scott’s single-biggest givers belong to the industry that made him a millionaire many times over: health-care companies, executives and employees have pumped $3.75 million into his re-election effort, led by Miami managed-care executive Mike Fernandez, Florida Blue, and oncology and prison health-contracting companies.

Meanwhile, Crist is expected to launch his first volley of advertising sometime after the Fourth of July holiday weekend. The Florida Democratic Party has started airing spots attacking Scott for education cuts and “pleading the Fifth’” in a civil lawsuit related to the Medicare fraud settlement involving his former company, HCA/Columbia.

Later this summer, Crist will be getting a helping hand from Florida taxpayers in public matching funds.

And Crist has already netted a whopping $5.3 million from law firms, judges and other law enforcement and justice system workers. After eight months as a gubernatorial candidate, he is off to the fastest fundraising start for a Democrat in Florida history.


Several players in Florida’s nursing home industry are backing Gov. Scott in his re-election bid.

Scott received more than $44,000 last month from nursing homes, business groups and affiliated companies according to the most recent finance report filings with the state Division of Elections.

The report shows a minimum of 26 separate contributions from nursing home industry associations, dated June 20, including one from a Florida Health Care Association PAC.

Scott and state lawmakers this year passed a compromise measure, supported by the Florida Health Care Association, for additional restrictions on lawsuits arising from suspected injuries to nursing home residents.


The shiny new Charlie Crist-sponsored racer in Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 NASCAR race at Daytona International Speedway has drawn the critical eye of the Republican Party of Florida. The GOP filed a formal complaint claiming the sponsorship’s market value far exceeds the $3,000 limit for an in-kind contribution to a statewide candidate.

“Nice try,” said a Crist campaign spokesman, Brendan Gilfillan, who said the GOP got its facts wrong: The sponsorship was an in-kind contribution to Crist’s political committee, Charlie Crist for Florida, which is not subject to the $3,000 limit. “We appreciate them drawing more attention to the car, though,” he said.

Driver Josh Wise’s No. 98 Ford will be covered with Crist for governor artwork during the nationally televised race on TNT.

Wise’s car is owned by Mike Curb, a musician and record company executive and former lieutenant governor of California (one of Crist’s friends, Mitch Bainwol, is a former Washington lobbyist for the Recording Industry Association of America). The complaint, filed by RPOF executive director Juston Johnson with the Florida Elections Commission, says a previous corporate sponsorship of a Josh Wise car cost $55,000. Johnson also quotes an online post by Wise in which the driver said, “We try to get 55-60K per race.”

It’s the fourth election-law complaint Republicans have filed against Crist.


Crist maintained on MSNBC Wednesday night that he does not intend to release his wife’s tax return, as Gov. Scott is demanding.

“They want your wife to release her taxes. Is that going to end and is it important, as you see it?” host Ed Schultz asked.

“It’s not important,” Crist replied. “You know, women have a right to choose, Ed. And my wife is included in that category. She has the right to choice. It’s her decision. We file separately.”

Crist, calling himself “Mr. Transparency,” boasted of releasing 10 years of tax returns. That’s not news. Crist has released the returns over the years as a political candidate and they have been on file with the state. As we reported, “The returns were reported on at the time and have been sitting in the files of the Commission on Ethics.”

Scott’s point is that Crist should release his wife’s returns.

EMAIL REMINDING ALL OF US HOW CLOSE THE ELECTION IS: “Ballot Mailing Schedule for August 26 Primary Election” via Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark

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Chris Gardner, chairman of the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp., was reappointed to a three-year term on the insurer’s Board of Governors.

House Speaker Will Weatherford made the appointment, pointing in part to efforts to shift policies from Citizens into the private insurance market.

“He has the experience and understanding of Florida’s insurance market necessary to continue leading Citizens through this period of transition, which is why I am proud to reappoint him for another term,” Weatherford said in a prepared statement.

Gardner is the managing shareholder of Kuykendall Gardner, LLC, a Winter Park-based insurance brokerage firm. Gardner was appointed chairman of the Citizens board in August 2013.


You know how Tampa came to be known as the “Cigar City,” right?

There used to be more than 150 cigar factories here, but that was a long time ago. Political events that include the U.S. trade restrictions with Cuba caused some to close. Changing public attitudes about tobacco caused others to lock their doors for good.

There is only one still in business, the J.C. Newman Cigar Co. on North 16th Street in Ybor City. The company dates back 119 years to when Julius C. Newman — he went by the initials J.C. — founded his cigar-making operation in Cleveland.

“We are the last of the Mohicans, so to speak,” company President Eric Newman said.

Proposed regulations from the Food and Drug Administration could end that, though. Essentially, the FDA proposes treating cigar manufacturers such as J.C. Newman the same as cigarette giants.

Among other things, it would require FDA approval before a company could add a new size, shape or brand. The company says the FDA estimates a manufacturer would spend about 5,000 hours testing each new product before it could even apply for approval.

The effect of those and other proposed restrictions could be to increase costs so much that Tampa’s last cigar factory would close.

So the company is fighting back, and it has some powerful bipartisan political allies in the battle to win an exemption from the proposed regulations.

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Speaker Weatherford announced he is endorsing Blaise Ingoglia for House District 35.

“Blaise Ingoglia’s commitment to conservative principles, his energy and passion, and his willingness to serve others are qualities we need in our elected officials. Blaise Ingoglia is a man of strong character and integrity and his open, honest and direct style is refreshing,” Weatherford said. “Blaise’s strong commitment to principle will guide him as he seeks to represent the people of Hernando County in our state capitol.”

Ingoglia faces Democratic former commissioner Rose Rocco for the seat covering much of Hernando County. Term-limited Republican Rep. Rob Schenck currently holds the seat.


The Florida Medical Association PAC (FMA PAC) endorsed State Rep. Ricardo Rangel in his re-election effort in State House District 43 and Paul Renner in his bid for House District 15.

“Representative Rangel deems health care as one of the top two most critical issues for Floridians, and the FMA is pleased to endorse him as he seeks to reclaim his seat in the Florida House,” said FMA PAC President Dr. Ralph Nobo.

“From his military service to prosecuting felons as assistant state attorney,” Nobo added, “Paul Renner has demonstrated his commitment to public service.”

House District 43 includes part of Osceola County; House District 15, held by term-limited Republican State Rep. Daniel Davis, includes part of Duval County.

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APPOINTED: Hector Castro and Jason Wolf to the Construction Industry Licensing Board.

APPOINTED:  John Williamson to the Southeast Compact Commission for Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management.


A Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm has scored $84,000 in the last year from the U.S. Soccer Foundation for lobbying the federal government.

McAllister & Quinn LLC, reported yesterday it received $21,000 for their lobbying during the second quarter of 2014, bringing their 12-month total to $84,000.

The U.S. Soccer Foundation pays the firm to lobby on World Cup-related requests; Urban Soccer Symposium; Capitol Hill Day; and the Capital Soccer Classic/Congressional Soccer Competition.

The McAllister & Quinn LLC lobbyists are Melissa Hampe and Cortney Watson.


Yesterday, July 2, is the exact halfway point of the year. To be specific, this midpoint fell at noon. The day is commemorated, by coincidence, with Flag Day in Curacao, Independence Day in Bahia, Police Day in Azerbaijan, and World UFO Day around the globe.

Why this latter observance? Because on July 2, 1947, sixty-seven years ago, a UFO supposedly crashed in Roswell.

Instead of recounting this widely known story, let’s look instead at some Florida-based extraterrestrial history.

First, we go to the Gulf Breeze UFO incident of 1987. On Nov. 11, news of high-quality UFO photos from Florida’s tiny town of Gulf Breeze were circulated worldwide. They became the topic of myriad newspaper articles and TV talk shows. While over 200 people came forward with related sightings, the man at the center of the Gulf Breeze incident — Ed Walters– is now assumed to have pulled a hoax. A model UFO was found in a house once owned by Walters, and a suspicious money trail leading to Walters was also uncovered.

About 20 years prior, in April 1966, Florida Gov. Haydon Burns was flying in his Convair when he saw unidentified lights trailing his plane after a campaign stop in Orlando. The UFOs were also witnessed by the two pilots, as well as a Florida Highway Patrol captain, six staffers, four newspaper reporters, and the governor’s wife. The lights were round and maintained their speed, following the governor’s plane for 40 miles. Burns ordered the pilots to chase the lights — and they did. The lights vanished when the plane turned to intercept them. Air traffic control was notified at Miami, who saw Burns’ plane but no other objects nearby it.

In 2011, a UFO came close to the ground in Key West, was spotted by a witness who snapped a picture. The image reveals a blurry object that is said to have vanished just after the image was taken.

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.