Sixty Days — A prime-time look at the 2019 Legislative Session
The Last 24
Good Thursday evening. How do elections officials know which ex-cons to allow as registered voters? Well, they don’t. That’s what an expert panel told a special joint hearing of the House’s Judiciary Committee and Criminal Justice Subcommittee. Prosecutors, court clerks, elections supervisors, and others are now looking to the Legislature for clarification of the recently-passed state constitutional amendment restoring voting rights to felons. Yipes: Sixty Days wouldn’t want to be them this Session. Here’s your nightly rundown.
Remembering Parkland: In a somber ceremony outside the Capitol, a bell rang 17 times for each of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School victims. Thursday marked one year since the mass shooting.
Quiet reflection: Floridians stopped what they were doing at 3 p.m. to observe a moment of silence on Parkland, requested by Gov. Ron DeSantis in a proclamation.
Who’s on first? Among the many questions on felons’ voting rights restoration: When does one “complete” a sentence if it includes, say, restitution?
Dan Daley, please come to the House: The Coral Springs Commissioner was the only candidate to qualify for House District 97, so he won by default.
Getting ready for hemp: Two bills have now been filed to set up the state’s hemp program, the latest by Senate Agriculture Chairman Ben Albritton. Another one had been filed yesterday by Appropriations chair Rob Bradley.
Quote of the Day
“It’s kind of terrifying to think that one year ago was the last day before our lives were torn apart. It feels separate, far away. Like a dream, I can’t escape to. It hurts.” — Delaney Tarr, a survivor of the Feb. 14, 2018, school shooting in Parkland.
Bill Day’s Latest
Gun violence can happen at home, too. That’s why two Democrats are filing bills that would try to keep firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers. State Rep. Anna Eskamani says she and Sen. Lori Berman will soon file measures that seek to require any person convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor to turn in guns and ammunition. We caught up with Eskamani, of Orlando, to talk about the legislation.
FP: Why file this bill?
Eskamani: According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, the United States is the most dangerous country in the developed world for gun violence against women. Women here are 16 times more likely to be killed with a gun than women in other high-income countries.
Federal gun laws via the Lautenberg Amendment already protect women from domestic abusers by prohibiting gun possession for people convicted of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” or subject to a final domestic violence restraining order. But dangerous gaps and weaknesses in the system remain at the state level and if we hope to reduce gun violence for all Florida families — and especially women — than we need to close those gaps.
FP: What would you say to a critic who thinks this legislation goes too far for someone only convicted of a misdemeanor?
Eskamani: When it comes to domestic violence, I would never associate the word “only.” Any act of domestic violence is unacceptable, and if you’ve been convicted of a misdemeanor you are already limited at a federal level when it comes to gun ownership. Our bill would require a person convicted of a misdemeanor offense of domestic violence to surrender all firearms and ammunition in his or her possession to law enforcement. We are also working to ensure that we close the “boyfriend loophole.”
The Lautenberg Amendment only keeps guns out of the hands of convicted domestic abusers who are currently — or were at one time — married to their victim, live with their victim, have a child with their victim, or are a parent or guardian of their victim. That means stalkers and current or former boyfriends or dating partners can still buy and own a gun, even if they’ve been convicted of a domestic violence crime. Research has repeatedly shown that domestic abusers with guns inflict a disproportionate amount of lethal violence on their spouses and partners. It’s about time we do something about it.
Q: How do you get this idea moving through the Republican-controlled Legislature?
Eskamani: Facts and stories, You don’t have to look that far for examples of gun violence where the perpetrator had a history of abuse and/or was targeting women. In fact, the man who opened fire at a yoga studio in Tallahassee late last year made numerous racist and misogynistic comments before his attack, and the most recent shooter at the SunTrust Bank in Sebring murdered all five women execution-style. The Pulse nightclub shooter had a history of abuse, too.
The more facts we use and the more personal stories we share will help legislation like this move forward.
From slow vote counts to the specter of foreign interference, election integrity has been a top issue in both Florida and national politics.
According to Verified Voting, a nonpartisan group that promotes accuracy, transparency and verifiability of elections, Florida has a “generally good” election integrity record, but it does have fall short in some key areas.
For starters, Florida’s ballot return policies for military and overseas voters are lacking, the state could stand to improve its postelection audits, and electronic voting machines don’t provide a voter-verified paper audit trail.
After the nail biters in November, few are likely to disagree.
Verified Voting has signed on with the team at Dean Mead — Angela Bonds, H. French Brown, Michael Dobson, Martha Edenfield, Brittany Finkbeiner, Cari Roth and Jennifer Ungru — to advocate for some changes that could help the Sunshine State boost its rating from “generally good” to stellar.
The group’s gripes with Florida’s audit law is that it “is not binding on official results, does not lead to a full recount, and audits only one randomly-selected election contest, selected separately in each county.”
As far as the 2019 Legislative Session is concerned, several bills seek to make changes to the state’s election laws.
One by Miami Sen. Manny Diaz (SB 582) would standardize recount rules and require manual recounts be done by hand. Another by Sen. Audrey Gibson (SB 460) would bar elections supervisors from rejecting ballots over signature mismatches, which a contentious issue last fall.
The Next 24
The Education Estimating Conference will address public-school enrollment at 9 a.m., 117 Knott Building.
The Revenue Estimating Conference will hold an “impact” conference, which typically involves estimating the potential costs of pieces of legislation, at 1:30 p.m., 117 Knott Building.
Republican former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will speak during the Collier County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln-Reagan Dinner. That’s at 6 p.m., Naples Hilton, 5111 Tamiami Trail North, Naples.