Joe Henderson, Author at Florida Politics - Page 2 of 12

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. I covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also including hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. I also was the City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. I served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. I have numerous local, state and national writing awards. I have been married to my wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and have two grown sons – Ben and Patrick.

Joe Henderson: Separation of powers there to keep legislators from running amok

Politicians have long been outraged – OUTRAGED, I tell you – about so-called “activist judges” who make them follow that pesky thing known as the law.

I guess it’s logical, therefore, for frustrated lawmakers to try and beat judges at their own game.

FloridaPolitics.com reported that State Rep. Julio Gonzalez, a Republican from Venice, filed two bills to address this issue. If passed, voters would be asked to approve a constitutional amendment to basically allow the state to thumb its collective nose if a judge just says no.

If enacted, it would allow the Legislature to over-ride rulings by a two-thirds vote within five years of the ruling.

Interesting gambit.

The bills by Gonzalez take aim at both state and federal judges who, in the words of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, are the best example “of people putting power above principle …”

“We need judges who respect the Constitution and the separation of powers; who will reject the temptation to turn themselves into some unelected, super-legislature,” Corcoran said during a speech at his swearing-in ceremony.

“The problem with holding the same office for, in essence, life, is you start to think that the office is far, far, far less important than the person in it — which is why we need 12-year term limits on judges, so we can have a healthy judicial branch.”

Well, hold that thought for a moment, Mr. Speaker.

The separation of powers Corcoran embraces was never designed to be a judicial rubber stamp for lawmakers. It’s in there so judges can keep lawmakers from running amok – kind of the way Florida has done with its gerrymandered congressional boundaries and state House and Senate districts.

That was done against the will of voters, by the way. They approved separate constitutional amendments in 2010 that ordered districts “may not be drawn to favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party.”

And then, Republicans drew new districts that favored, well, Republicans. There was lawsuit by the League of Women Voters, which led to a ruling by Circuit Judge Terry Lewis that the boundaries of two districts broke the law.

To me, that is the textbook example of the separation of powers.

The same was true when the state Supreme Court ruled Florida’s death penalty law was unconstitutional. Note, the court didn’t say capital punishment itself was unconstitutional – only that the law saying only 10 of 12 jurors had to vote for death didn’t meet the legal standard.

That may be annoying to prosecutors and lawmakers who like to brag they’re tough on crime, but forcing them to work harder before sentencing a murderer to death is not unconstitutional.

Yes, judges sometimes make wacky rulings. Legislators also sometimes propose wacky bills that can become law.

When that happens, the only recourse is in the courts. Crying foul about “activist judges” who don’t see it their way is a weak argument from lawmakers who probably were trying to pull a fast one.

Even if these bills pass through the Legislature and makes their way to the governor’s desk for his signature though, opponents shouldn’t worry too much. They can probably get them overturned by appealing to one of those activist judges.

Can we just get 2016 over with, please?

When the news came on Christmas Day that singer George Michael had died, well … can we get this year completed, please?

Just this month alone, we have lost actor Alan Thicke, astronaut/hero John Glenn, actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, former Florida Lieutenant Gov. Jim Williams, broadcaster Craig Sager and musician Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake and Palmer fame. This was after Keith Emerson of the same band died in March.

We had to say goodbye this year to former first lady Nancy Reagan, a classy dame if there ever was one. We lost Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Prince, David Bowie, Gene Wilder, Garry Shandling, Patty Duke, Abe Vigoda, Leon Russell, Pete Fountain, Merle Haggard, Glenn Frey … so many others.

Make it stop!

I mention all this because it’s customary at this point on the calendar to look back upon the nearly finished year, hoping to gain some perspective about what we went through and what might be about to come.

If it’s OK with you, though, I think 2016 has been filled with so many things we would like to forget (and I’m not even talking about Donald Trump … yet) that we should cut this year short. It has been an unwelcome guest for 51 weeks, and it needs to go away.

That has been particularly true in Florida.

We learned that terrorism can happen close to home when 49 people were murdered at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

We had the Zika virus. There was green ooze from the Lake Okeechobee algae bloom, fouling nostrils along the East Coast. We had a massive sinkhole in Polk County that polluted the aquifer.

We had two reminders from Mother Nature that she is still in charge. Hurricane Hermine helped flood St. Petersburg’s streets with untreated sewage, followed by Hurricane Matthew that scraped its way up the East Coast.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, trying for a 13th term in Congress, got a double whammy – a federal indictment alleging she had misused money earmarked for charity, and then she was beaten in the November election in her redrawn district.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was humiliated when he lost the Florida Primary by a wide margin to Trump. But Rubio, who had vowed not to seek re-election because he was frustrated in the Senate, ran anyway and won.

We couldn’t even turn to sports for escape.

After winning a gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Rio, U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte embarrassed himself as his country by making up a story about being robbed. The former University of Florida star lost millions in endorsement contracts after his fib was exposed.

The Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins were terrible, and the season ended in tragedy when Marlins star pitcher Jose Fernandez died in a boating accident. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were teasingly good until they figured out what they were doing right and corrected it.

The federal government basically ground to a halt, and the election was the nastiest anyone can remember as Trump and Hillary Clinton drove Americans to drink. When it was done, the nation had elected a man who has never held public office and believes in government by tweet, wants to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and has hinted that we should expand our nuclear arsenal.

What possibly could go wrong?

With that in mind, you know that thing I said about needing 2016 to hurry and finish? Maybe we can coax this year into sticking around a little longer. As they say, things could always be worse.

Push is on to decriminalize minor youth offenses

Let’s say you’re a teenager and you do something stupid. I know, hard to believe, right?

Maybe you get caught with a small amount of pot, or you’re in the wrong place when a fight breaks out. Maybe you’re out with the guys and ended up someplace you shouldn’t, or you committed a petty theft.

You’ve never broken the law before, but someone called the cops and soon you’re handcuffed in the back of a squad car with a record that will stick to you like gum on the bottom of your shoe. Potential employers, college admissions officers and just everyone else will want to know what happened the night you went stupid.

That’s why it’s encouraging that Senate President Joe Negron is aggressively trying to decriminalize these minor transgressions. Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican, has filed Senate Bill 196 as part of the effort to back up Negron’s plea to “not criminalize adolescence.”

Negron isn’t talking about letting teens who commit serious crimes off the hook. He is talking nickel-and-dime stuff, like the time when George H.W. Bush was running against Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination for president. Negron slipped over to Bush’s home on Jupiter Island and put Reagan stickers on his mailbox.

Instead of arresting him, the cops told him to go back and clean up the box. But then came the push for zero tolerance for any infraction and things that in the past would have earned the youthful offender a stern talking-to started resulting in the kind of punishment that never really goes away.

The Southern Poverty Law Center reported in 2015 that Florida prosecuted more than 10,000 minors in a five-year period – the highest total in the nation. It told how juveniles are often housed with adult inmates, leading to abuse and injuries.

The SPLC’s reported added that the “Justice Policy Institute found that it costs as much as $55,407 a year to lock up a young person in Florida, although the Department of Juvenile Justice’s budget suggests the cost could be twice that amount. These policies also fail to make us safer. An adult court conviction diminishes opportunities for education and future employment. And children become more likely to reoffend, not less.”

That’s why getting someone with Negron’s power behind this push is essential. Turning certain misdemeanors into a citation instead of a police record is smart and overdue. Hopefully, his colleagues in Tallahassee agree.

Will Weatherford’s decision enhances, not removes, future options

I think Will Weatherford’s just-announced decision not to run for governor in 2018 merely delays the inevitable. I believe he will be Florida’s governor eventually, and that will be a good thing.

Weatherford, the Land O’Lakes Republican, is a smart, articulate, center-right conservative in the Jeb Bush tradition. He has a strong legislative resume, including a turn as House Speaker. At age 37, he also is young enough that he can afford to wait eight years, which is another way of saying “Merry Christmas, Adam Putnam.”

The sea certainly does seem to be parting among Republicans for Putnam to make his move on the governor’s mansion. Florida CFO Jeff Atwater has shown no appetite for the job. Attorney General Pam Bondi is more likely targeted for a job in Washington.

Weatherford would have been a formidable challenger, but says his top concern right now is family.

He has four children – the oldest is 8, the youngest is 2. Last year he and his brothers Drew and Sam launched Weatherford Partners, a venture capital group, and serves as managing partner. Tellingly, he did not fall into the Republican conga line in the presidential race. He said he did not vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

His decision to sit out the governor’s race this time removes a lot of drama, for sure. Weatherford and Putnam are pals, but so were Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and we saw how that went.

If Weatherford had gotten into the race, it could have gotten bloody for Republicans. Having two candidates as strong and well-known as Putnam and Weatherford could have split the party, but what this does is increase the likelihood of a Putnam coronation for the nomination.

It allows Putnam to stay low-key for the next year or so, stockpiling cash and support while waiting for the Democrat slugfest between Gwen Graham (assuming her husband’s prostate cancer doesn’t worsen) and possibly Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

Weatherford can campaign now for Putnam, and wouldn’t a photo of the two of them together on a platform make for a mighty fine poster for Republicans?

Weatherford will need to find a way to stay in the public eye. As he saw with Jeb Bush, sitting on the sidelines for too long in politics means someone else is getting all the headlines. A cabinet job or gubernatorial appointment to a public post could both keep him in the news and allow him to tend to family matters.

Deciding for now to wait doesn’t remove Weatherford’s options. If anything, it enhances them. If his aim is to one day sit in the governor’s chair – and, really, why wouldn’t it be – then stepping back now doesn’t hurt his chances one bit.

Rick Scott wants it both ways: cut taxes, fund services. Can it be done?

Last April, in a news release by his office after signing HB-7099, Gov. Rick Scott bragged, “Over the past two years, Florida has cut more than $1 billion in taxes.”

What a happy day that must have been for the governor.

He has never met a tax he wouldn’t cut or gut, and that bill was a continuation of the theme. It included the permanent elimination of the sales tax on manufacturing machinery and a three-day sales tax holiday for back-to-school stuff.

Scott wants to keep cutting taxes, too.

It stands to reason, though, when there is less money coming in something has to lose. We got a hint of that right here in a story last week on FloridaPolitics.com. It included a quote from state budget chair Jack Latvala about what could be a hotly contested fight for dollars when the Legislature gets together next year.

“To do any increases, we’re going to have to find areas to cut. That’s a certainty,” Latvala said. “Just my luck to be chairman in a year like that.”

But where can the hunt to “find areas to cut” lead when the governor and House Speaker Richard Corcoran want to keep chopping taxes, while Senate President Joe Negron wants to increase funding for higher education?

The Florida Policy Institute reported that more about 70 percent of Florida’s $82.2 billion budget for 2016-17 was allocated to education (29 percent) and “human services” (41 percent). Nearly 18 percent went to natural resources, growth management and transportation.

FPI also noted that despite spending increases in that budget for service areas, “they fail to fund state services at a level that keeps pace with population growth and inflation, and do not improve Florida’s national standing in the provision of these services.”

More ominously, projections are for the state to face a $1.3 billion deficit a year from now, ballooning to $1.9 billion the year after that. Since Republicans control the governor’s mansion and both chambers of the Legislature, they can’t blame Democrats for fiscal irresponsibility. That leaves them with two choices: spend less, or bring in more.

It’s the acid test of the Republican (and Libertarian) ideal that growth comes through lower taxes. It’s the mantra they’ve preached for decades. We see it playing out now in Washington with the corporate tax cuts president-elect Donald Trump has planned.

Lower corporate taxes, they argue, will lead to job creation and expansion. Workers with a healthy regular paycheck will buy more things and that will sustain the government.

Well, that might be sort of true – provided government goes on a diet. That sounds fine in theory. In application, though, it gets trickier.

You also have to look at the complete picture. To coax businesses from other states to move here, Scott has touted Florida’s reputation as a low-tax state. Florida is one of just seven states without a state income tax, for instance.

Wallethub.com also sized up the bevy of state and local taxes and concluded Florida’s bite on median-income residents this year will be $4,868 – 10th lowest in the nation. That’s nearly 16 percent under the national average.

Scott probably wouldn’t be satisfied until Florida is No. 1. He seems driven to prove this state really can have it both ways – cutting taxes, cutting spending while keeping services and education adequately funded for a rapidly growing state.

Logic says that can’t be done. Latvala’s challenge is to prove it can be.

Richard Corcoran battle over Pitbull, Visit Florida contract sets the right tone

There has been a lot to like about the tone new House Speaker Richard Corcoran has set in Tallahassee. There is a new emphasis on ethics and disclosure of how the people’s representatives do their business — and more importantly who they do it for.

We all benefit from that.

That includes, especially, Corcoran’s insistence this week that details of the $1 million promotional contract between Visit Florida, the state’s tourism promotion arm, and rapper Pitbull be made public.

Pitbull’s production company, PDR Productions, balked, claiming the details were a trade secret and disclosing them would be a third-degree felony. Visit Florida officials also argued that letting the world know details of that contract would the state’s tourism industry at a disadvantage.

That’s not a little deal, of course. In 2015, tourists generated $89.1 billion for the economy here.

It’s ironic, though, that the marketing arm of the Sunshine State would want to keep business in the dark.

That’s why Corcoran sued Pitbull’s company to force details of the contract into the sunlight. Pitbull, whose real name is Armando Christian Pérez, released the contract himself after the issue became a big story.

So all is well and a teapot-sized tempest is stilled, right?

Not yet. Hopefully, it’s just the beginning. This was Corcoran’s latest way of letting everyone know that things are going to change in Tallahassee.

It was never about the contract itself or the wisdom of using Pitbull to promote the state. The cost, frankly, seems reasonable and fair considering the potential return on investment. Pitbull is a fine ambassador for Florida in the highly competitive fight for tourism dollars.

But there was that slippery slope his company and Visit Florida tried to use as a defense, claiming Florida could be hurt if other states knew details of what we’re up to here.

Maybe so.

If other states want to operate in the dark, though, that’s their problem. Florida once had the strongest sunshine law in the country, and despite the efforts of legislators over the years to chip away at it, the law remains a bedrock principle of how the public’s business should be done.

I don’t think there is any question that this contract likely would have remained secret under many other Speakers. It would have been easy for Corcoran to keep the details hidden under that “trade secrets” argument. Besides, it’s only $1 million, right?

What Corcoran said instead, and backed up with his actions, is that there is no “only” when it comes to doing the right thing.

Refreshing.

By asking for more Pier money, Rick Kriseman misreads political mood

If we have learned anything from the just-completed election, it is this: People are fed up with the political status quo. I mean, isn’t that obvious?

Apparently not to St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.

He wants to shift an additional $14 million into his city’s Pier project, which could bring the overall cost to $80 million. Kriesman’s logic is exactly the reason millions of people voted for Donald Trump.

“I’m looking at, if we invest some more money, we can have a world-class Pier,” Kriseman said in the Tampa Bay Times. “It’s more taking the elements that would exist in the current budget and taking them up another notch.”

Oh dear.

Grab hold of your wallets when mayors and other elected officials start using words like “invest” and “world-class” because it usually means they’re investing in a world-class monument to themselves.

The money would come from a special tax increment financing plan, or TIF district. That sounds good because it doesn’t sock taxpayers directly, but as city council members pointed out some of the TIF money could be directed to other more pressing projects that aren’t as glamorous as the Pier.

Even giving the good mayor the benefit of the doubt on that one, he surely must know that those words “invest” and “world class” are etched on the tombstones of politicians whose careers died because they wanted to take things “up another notch.”

The more prudent approach would be to take the city’s crumbling sewer system “up another notch” – well, a lot more notches, because no one has forgotten the stench in the streets in September after Hurricane Hermine overpowered the wastewater system and sent ca-ca flowing into the streets.

That is a public safety issue.

The Pier is not.

Whatever happened to holding the line on costs?

This doggone Pier was originally supposed to cost $46 million. Google, a wonderful invention, popped up a Times story from about five years ago, that reported if the city would just throw in a few million more the Pier would be a whole lot better.

Sound familiar?

That same story included a promise from officials that they absolutely, positively were going to cap costs at $50 million. It included a great quote from then-Mayor Bill Foster: “For $50 million, people will get a Pier.”

Oh darn.

Well, it’s already at $66 million and now Kriseman wants more. I suspect he is misreading the mood of the voters on this one. I also imagine they will explain that to him at the appropriate time.

After dead veteran scandal, someone needs to say ‘you’re fired’ at Bay Pines VA

I was about to muse aloud why someone hasn’t been fired yet from the Bay Pines Veterans Affairs Health Care System when this statement came in from U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, who represents the district where the facility is located.

“Unsurprisingly, not a single VA employee has been fired following this incident, despite a clear lack of concern and respect for the Veteran. The men and women who sacrificed on behalf of our nation deserve better.”

Yep. Unsurprising.

That is the sad truth in the aftermath of the shocking report late last week that instead of transporting a deceased veteran from the hospice wing at the facility to the morgue, he was left unattended for nine hours, first in the hallway and then in the shower room.

That was bad enough.

But then, as a 24-page report first revealed by the Tampa Bay Times details, there was an attempt to cover up that incident from February before anyone found out. I can only imagine how that went down.

“Uh, what’s this body doing here?”

“I don’t know. Think we should tell someone?”

“Are you kidding? People don’t need to know this. We’ll just tidy things up and pretend this never happened. Let’s get some lunch and figure out a plan.”

That plan, according to the report, included falsifying records. That should be a firing offense right there.

Following this to its logical conclusion, though, it appears that covering your backside, in this case, was a lot more important than doing things right and treating a deceased veteran with the respect he deserved and promised as a quid pro quo for the service he gave to his country.

And hasn’t that been a problem in the VA for a long, long time now?

As Bilirakis says, “The report details a total failure on the part of the Department of Veterans Affairs and an urgent need for greater accountability.”

That “total failure” included numerous breakdowns in procedures for dealing with deceased veterans. There can be no excuse.

Bay Pines is far from the only Veterans Affairs facility to come under fire, and it appears to be a systemwide problem. Issues with the giant agency will be a stain on the legacy of President Obama as he prepares to leave office next month.

For now, as far as we know, no one lost their job at Bay Pines over this, even though it happened about 10 months ago. There apparently was a lot of finger-pointing, according to the report, and attempts to deflect blame, but somebody screwed up big time and needs to pay the price.

A spokesman for Bay Pines told the Times that, “We feel that we have taken strong, appropriate and expeditious steps to strengthen and improve our existing systems and processes within the unit.”

That’s a good thing.

This is one time, though, where it would be smart to borrow a line from incoming President Donald Trump. Whoever is responsible needs to hear those magic words: You’re fired.

Joe Henderson to the Palm Beach Post: Are you freaking crazy?

In 2003, then-Gov. Jeb Bush punished reporters from the Tallahassee bureau of the Palm Beach Post by canceling their invitation to his year-end interview session.

His staff cited the “unprofessional behavior” while dealing with some of Bush’s officials, but the paper suspected it was in retaliation for critical reporting on Bush’s pet school vouchers program. I’m betting on the latter.

As a career newspaper guy until my own paper, The Tampa Tribune, folded in May, I always admired the Post. At its peak, this award-winning newspaper was top-to-bottom one of the best in the land.

That is why I ask this question now to the owners and operators of the Post:

Are you freaking crazy?

That’s a rhetorical question, I know. But it seems apropos after last week’s announcement that the Post will close its Tallahassee bureau. We found out about that from the Facebook page of the Post’s Tally reporter, John Kennedy. He was announcing his own layoff.

“The paper’s future is local and digital, and coverage of the goings-on in the state Capitol don’t meld as well with this direction,” he wrote.

Those words could be on the tombstone of many newspapers that abandoned their own strengths in search of click-bait. Papers throughout the state have decided that all that complicated stuff coming out of Tallahassee is boring to the younger generation and doesn’t bring the digital bang for the buck that newspapers chase in the hope it will bring in enough cash to keep them going.

They’re screwing over readers they do have but declining circulation and readership numbers show they aren’t attracting new ones. Why do you think that is?

They keep trying to reinvent the wheel when what they ought to do is realize that nothing generates clicks like real news. We used to see it all the time at the Tribune on our digital site, TBO.com. If there was a big breaking news story, site traffic would spike and readers became engaged.

Whoever ultimately decides at papers like the Post to go without that news is chasing fool’s gold. They either don’t understand or don’t care that real stories happen because of dedicated and plugged-in reporters who find out stuff that governors and presidents would prefer they didn’t know.

Instead of engaging the public with hard news, publishers push in their chips on dubious strategies like page redesigns and marketing slogans. To cut costs, they lay off reporters and decide, as Kennedy so aptly penned, “coverage of the goings-on in the state Capitol don’t meld” with the modern newspaper.

Then they call a staff meeting or send out a memo and moan about the “tough decisions” they had to make. What they should do is apologize to readers for shirking their responsibility to inform the public what the top elected officials in Florida are doing.

There are a few papers that still do it right. The Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald have combined forces in Tallahassee for several years. The Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville has been aggressive.

I was at the Tribune when bosses decided coverage in the state capital was a luxury (while maintaining two full-time reporters on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) – although, I can promise you that wasn’t the feeling in the newsroom. Top editors fought to regain our presence in Tallahassee by hiring Jim Rosica and, later, Jeff Schweers. But the overall trend isn’t good.

Besides the Post, FloridaPolitics.com reported Gatehouse Media, which owns the Sarasota Herald-Tribune among its nine daily newspapers in the state, closed its Tally bureau recently.

Reporters at that level are the firewall between citizens and politicians who don’t have the public’s best interests in mind. They are the one who make sure the pet projects from top leaders aren’t another effort to line someone’s pocket with public cash.

When newspapers decide that’s no longer important enough to have someone on the scene every day, the public isn’t the only loser. When you take the “news” out newspapers, all that’s left is a bird-cage liner.

Florida’s death penalty, a never-ending fight between state, opponents

Convicted murderer Ronald B. Smith reportedly coughed and heaved for 13 minutes Thursday night as the state of Alabama carried out its execution of the condemned murderer.

What does this have to do with Florida?

Maybe plenty.

Florida has applied the death penalty with enthusiasm since it was reinstated here in 1976. The state has executed 92 individuals, trailing only Texas, Oklahoma and Virginia. There are 384 people currently are on death row and awaiting their turn on the lethal injection gurney.

However, thanks to various legal challenges for how the state imposes the death penalty and its method of completing the task, the pace of executions has stalled here. The state has executed only three people in the last two years, its slowest pace since 1996-97 and far below the 15 men Florida sent to the great beyond in 2014-15.

No one can say with any reasonable certainty who will be next. The case in Alabama almost certainly will have an impact here, though, as opponents will use it as an example of what can go wrong.

Ken Faulk, who witnessed the procedure for Al.com, reported that Smith’s execution took 34 minutes to complete. Faulk wrote:

“During 13 minutes of the execution, from about 10:34 to 10:47, Smith appeared to be struggling for breath and heaved and coughed and clenched his left fist after apparently being administered the first drug in the three-drug combination. At times his left eye also appeared to be slightly open.

“A Department of Corrections captain performed two consciousness checks before they proceeded with administering the next two drugs to stop his breathing and heart.”

Smith’s attorneys had challenged the Alabama execution law, claiming the drugs used might not fully sedate a condemned inmate. The drugs used in Florida executions also have been challenged in court.

The News Service of Florida reported this week that the state has been stockpiling the drug etomidate, a sedative that has never has been used in executions. Attorney General Pam Bondi also is challenging a state Supreme Court decision that a portion of the reworked sentencing law is unconstitutional.

Alabama plans to perform an autopsy on Smith’s body to determine what happened during his execution. Its findings could spur more legal challenges that would keep Florida’s death row population stable for the foreseeable future.

All of this comes at a time when public support for the death penalty is declining. Pew Research reported in September that 49 percent of Americans favor capital punishment, its lowest level in about four decades and far below the high-water mark of 80 percent in 1994.

Lethal injection, once seen as a humane way to kill inmates compared to the electric chair and other forms of execution, now is under siege. In his book “Gruesome Spectacles: Botched Executions and America’s Death Penalty,” Amherst College professor Austin Sarat identified 75 flawed executions by lethal injection – 7.12 percent of all those carried out.

He specified the 2006 Florida execution of Angel Diaz, which took 34 minutes to complete after the needle inserted into his vein came out the other side. That prompted then-Gov. Jeb Bush to suspend executions.

Whatever the outcome of this latest misadventure with the death penalty, don’t expect things to change in Florida. The state will keep fighting to execute people, and opponents will keep fighting to stop it. That’s the only certainty here for capital punishment.

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