Mitch Perry, Author at Florida Politics

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

National Dems ask if Ileana Ros-Lehtinen supports new petition to repeal ACA

No one knows when President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans will make another attempt at repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Some hard-line GOP lawmakers want to force a repeal-only bill back onto the floor, once again putting several House Republicans on the spot.

On Friday, Alabama Republican Mo Brooks, part of the House Freedom Caucus, filed a full ACA repeal.

However, Brooks says he must wait 30 days until he begins collecting signatures for a discharge petition, POLITICO reports.

That’s compelling the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to single out Miami Republican Illeana Ros-Lehtinen, who last week said she would not support the American Health Care Act because “millions of people would lose their coverage.”

However, like her GOP brethren, Ros-Lehtinen frequently sided with them when voting on bills to repeal the ACA over the past six years. According to the DCCC, Ros-Lehtinen voted 12 times to repeal the ACA. But since there’s not an alternative at the moment, Democrats are questioning whether she’d support the Brooks petition.

But since there’s not an option at the moment, Democrats are wondering whether she’d support the Brooks request.

“Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has voted repeatedly to recklessly tear health care away from millions of Americans with absolutely no plan to replace it,” said DCCC spokesperson Cole Leiter. “House Republicans should be focused on improving the Affordable Care Act, but instead are again pursuing full repeal without a replacement, and Ros-Lehtinen’s constituents deserve to know where she stands on this petition.”

Ros-Lehtinen has represented parts of Miami in Congress since 1988. She defeated Democrat Scott Fuhrman last fall 55 to 45 percent.

Regarding another crack at health care, House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters Tuesday that “we want to get it right.”

 “We’re going to keep talking to each other until we get it right,” he said. “I’m not going to put a timeline on it because this is too important to not get right and to put an artificial timeline on it.”

Poll shows support for open primary elections in Florida

A majority of Florida voters believe open primaries in elections is a good idea.

Robopolling released Tuesday from a coalition of groups that advocate creating an open primary system in Florida found strong support from voters having such an initiative on the ballot next year.

The survey was conducted on behalf of three groups seeking an open primary system in Florida: Open Primaries, Tim Canova‘s Progress For All and Florida Fair and Open Primaries. It found 73 percent of respondents saying taxpayer-funded primaries should be open to all voters. Also, 72 percent support a ballot initiative to restore voting rights to individuals who have completed their sentences for nonviolent criminal offenses.

Public Policy Polling conducted the survey of 735 registered Florida from March 12-14.

Currently, Florida’s primary elections are run as “closed” primaries, meaning only registered Republican can vote in a Republican primary election, and only registered Democrats can vote in a Democratic primary election.

“Open primaries are good for democracy because they encourage full citizen participation in our elections,” Canova said in a statement. “Both major political parties should support this reform. Since both Democrats and Republicans often need independent voters to win at the general election stage, they should stop making it so difficult for such voters to join the electoral process. They should welcome open primaries, which will allow each party to address the issues that matter to all the voters.”

“If the Constitution Revision Commission is listening to Florida voters, they will put a referendum on the 2018 ballot for open primaries,” said John Opdycke, president of Open Primaries. “The big question is will they listen. There is a growing sense among voters in Florida and across the country that no one is really listening.”

Florida one of only nine states that hold completely closed primary elections, according to National Conference on State Legislatures. Fifteen states have true “open” primary elections, with the other states falling somewhere in between.

The poll also found that 74 percent of Floridians want independent voters — 27 percent of the Florida electorate — included in primary elections.

Seventy-three percent of Floridians — including supermajorities of Republican, Democrat and independent voters — want the Constitution Revision Commission, which begins public hearings Wednesday, to put an open primaries initiative before the electorate.

Details of the poll can be found at ProgressForAll.com

Senate Judiciary Committee gives big win for ridesharing regulation

Momentum remains strong in Tallahassee for the first bill in Florida to regulate ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft.

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the proposal (SB 340) unanimously without debate.

The bill, sponsored by St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes, would require ride-sharing companies to carry $100,000 of insurance for bodily injury or death and $25,000 for property damage while a driver is logged onto their app but hasn’t secured a passenger. While with a rider, drivers would be required to have $1 million worth of coverage.

It also requires transportation network companies to have third parties conduct local and national criminal background checks on drivers.

While all indications are the bill will get through the Legislature this spring, opposition from certain groups continues.

Former state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, now a lobbyist for the Florida Taxi Association, said the bill would tie the hands of local governments from regulating their own communities. Bogdanoff referenced problems with “exorbitant” numbers of cars circling around Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Port Everglades. She said issues that had been resolved between local governments and Uber and Lyft would be removed from the books, and also acknowledged the cold hard reality of the political calculus this session.

“I realize the train has left the station, or the car has left the Port, or whatever you want to call it,” she said.

Megan Samples, with the Florida League of Cities, again called the bill a pre-emption on local governments, particularly decrying what she said would be looser background checks for ride-sharing drivers.

Rich Templin, representing the Florida AFL-CIO, testified on behalf of the Amalgamated Transit Union. He said he was hoping to draft an amendment before the next stop for the bill that would address additional safety guidelines in the bill, considering that more public transit agencies are working with Uber and Lyft on options like first-mile last mile and paratransit options. He said he was worried the Brandes bill would undue guidelines already in place.

Immediately after the bill’s passage in committee, spokespersons for Uber and Lyft immediately issued statements praising the vote.

“Lyft applauds Chairman Greg Steube and sponsor Sen. Jeff Brandes for guiding SB 340 to approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee,” said Chelsea Harrison, communications manager for Lyft.

“This is important legislation that brings Florida one step closer to a consistent statewide framework for innovative services like Lyft,” Harrison added. “Floridians want access to ridesharing, and we look forward to providing the state’s residents and visitors with a safe, reliable transportation option for many years to come.”

“Today’s unanimous vote on Senate Bill 340 by the Senate Committee on Judiciary is a positive indication that Florida lawmakers support the safety, economic, and mobility benefits that come from ridesharing services like Uber,” said Stephanie Smith, Uber’s senior manager for public policy. “We are grateful to all of the Senators who voted ‘yes’ on the bill, with special thanks to Sen. Jeff Brandes … who continues to be a champion for modern transportation options.”

During the past two sessions, the House had pushed similar bills, but the issue tangled up in the Senate, where former President Andy Gardiner wanted to address more narrow issues such as insurance requirements for ridesharing drivers. After Gardiner left office last fall, the way eased a bit in the Legislature’s upper body.

Safety Harbor Republican Chris Sprowls and Tampa Republican Jamie Grant are sponsoring the companion bill moving in the House (CS/HB 221).

House advances bill allowing FPL to charge customers for out-of-state speculative investments

State lawmakers advanced a proposal Tuesday to allow Florida Power & Light to charge customers for speculative oil and gas investments.

After two and a half hours of debate, the Florida House Subcommittee on Energy and Utilities approved HB 1043, sponsored by Sanford Republican Jason Brodeur. The measure would authorize the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) to approve utilities with at least 65 percent natural gas-fueled generation to charge customers for “prudent” investments in gas reserves and associated expenses.

Brodeur’s proposal arrives nearly a year after the Florida Supreme Court reversed a PSC decision allowing the utility to charge ratepayers for a fracking venture in Oklahoma.

Sam Forest, vice president of energy marketing and trading at FPL, said it was an extraction process, not an exploratory process. He added that it was definitely not “cost-recovery,” the controversial 2006 law that allowed utilities to charge in advance to pay for nuclear power plants, even though some of those never came online.

“All of the expenses that we would put out for a natural gas reserves investment would be recovered as the gas begins to flow or as it’s used,” said Forest.

Eric Eisnaugle, the vice-chair of the committee who was running the meeting, challenged Forest on that point. “Are you saying that FPL wouldn’t be able to charge ratepayers until the gas is actually flowing into their homes?” he asked.

“We do earn a little bit upfront in terms of the investment that we have made,” Forest admitted. “But the vast majority of the costs don’t occur until the gas is actually flowing.”

Eisnaugle later voted against the bill.

It would also be the first time in the nation that a utility company would be allowed to shift the risk of an exploratory drilling to customers, instead of shareholders, without determining whether the investment is prudent.

Susan Glickman with the Southeast Alliance for Clean Energy asked if consumers should have to fund the drilling operation and also pay for the fuel, or just buy the fuel?

Environmental groups weren’t the only people opposing the bill.

“There’s no guarantee that this gas will always come back to Florida, and we’re the ones paying for it,” said Melissa Rhamba with the Florida Retail Federation.

Forest criticized opponents for using terms like “speculative” regarding the legislation, saying it reflects “a serious lack of understanding of the bill itself and the science behind it.”

However, that’s the phrase used by Florida Supreme Court Justice Ricky Polston in the court’s 6-1 ruling against FLP last June. “Treating these activities as a hedge requires FPL’s end-user consumers to guarantee the capital investment and operations of a speculative oil and gas venture without the Florida Legislature’s authority,” Polston wrote.

The Office of Public Counsel went to court to challenge the project. J.R. Kelly, from the Office of Public Counsel, said that there is always risk involved in such endeavors that FPL is requesting. “That was an issue that we raised quite vehemently three years ago to the Supreme Court.”

But at the end of the hearing, FPL won the day.

Sarasota Republican Joe Gruters was conflicted on whether to support the bill, but he said he was won over by the fact that FPL has lowered rates over the past decade.

Jacksonville Republican Jason Fisher, who used to work at FPL, said that with many of his constituents on fixed incomes, he thought the proposal was a good one since he believed it would bring rates down.

I don’t want to do anything that is speculative, especially with those on fixed incomes,” countered Boynton Beach Democrat Lori Berman in opposing the bill.

Fernandina Republican Aaron Bean is sponsoring the companion in the bill (SB 1238) in the Senate.

 

After judge tosses Miami Beach living wage ordinance, Phil Levine may pursue constitutional amendment

The City of Miami Beach lost the first round of a battle to raise the minimum living wage to $13.31 an hour.

Nevertheless, Mayor Philip Levine vows he will fight back, possibly with a constitutional amendment to get the law through.

After Levine signed the law last June to gradually raise Miami Beach’s minimum wage from the state’s $8.10 to $13.31 by 2021, a number of business groups filed suit.

On Monday, Miami-Dade County Circuit Judge Peter R. Lopez ruled the ordinance was not valid under the 2003 Florida law, which prohibits any local municipality from establishing a minimum-wage law. Even though Florida voters approved a minimum-wage increase in 2004, the judge ruled it did not change the 2003 statute.

In response, Levine says he always expected the case would go to the Florida Supreme Court.

“(I)t’s a sad day when tax dollars are being used to fight against efforts that put working Floridians on a path to economic stability,” Levine said. “The legal bills being racked up by the state, in conjunction with the Tallahassee insiders, will only add to the over $200 million already wasted on legal battles that pitted the government against the people.”

Miami Beach’s lead counsel Robert Rosenwald, said the city will file an immediate appeal, saying that the 2004 constitutional amendment rejected the 2003 state law.

According to Rosenwald:

“The court simply got it wrong. It ignored controlling Florida Supreme Court precedent holding that when a prior statute conflicts with the will of the people expressed in a constitutional amendment, it is the people’s judgment that controls. The decision not only ignores the policy enacted by the people and the authority of the Florida Supreme Court but also ignores the opinion of Florida’s leading constitutional scholars who filed a legal brief agreeing that the legislature’s ban is unlawful. This is a heartbreaking loss for all of us and for the people of the State of Florida but ultimately the policy of the people allowing higher local minimum wages will stand.”

After Miami Beach approved an ordinance last year raising its minimum wage, Levine predicted the state would challenge the proposal in court.

The Florida Retail Federation, Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association and the Florida Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit in December challenging the ordinance, and were joined by the state of Florida last month.

Levine, who is testing the waters for a possible run for governor next year, also suggests he may back an effort to put the issue before voters as a constitutional amendment in 2018.

“I am committed to seeing this issue through and will take it to the people through a referendum because we know Florida families cannot survive on today’s minimum wage,” he says.

Miami Beach enacted its minimum wage ordinance in June 2016 based on evidence and testimony demonstrating that the city’s workers simply could not make ends meet on the state’s $8.10 minimum wage (just $16,200 a year for a full-time worker). The city has one of Florida’s highest costs of living.

“The court’s ruling invalidating Miami Beach’s minimum wage ordinance — and upholding the legislature’s ban on cities’ addressing local needs for higher wages — is unfortunate and will hurt communities across the state,” said Christine Owens with the National Employment Law Project. “It also flies in the face of the opinion of leading constitutional experts, who filed a legal brief agreeing that the legislature’s ban was illegal.”

Bill to deregulate vacation rentals advances in House Committee

A bill to repeal all local ordinances and regulations on vacation rental homes, rolling them back to 2011 levels, advanced Tuesday in the House Careers and Competition Subcommittee.

The proposal, by St. Cloud Republican Mike LaRosa (HB 425), would require local governments in Florida to treat vacation rental homes like any other home in any given neighborhood.

In discussing the legislation, LaRosa fumed against what he called “an obscene” amount of local ordinances around the state against vacation homes.

“We’ve seen ordinances as much as $20,000 fines applied against vacation homes,” he said. “We’ve seen restrictions on the number of occupants inside vacation homes. We’ve seen licenses suspended for over 180 days, not allowing someone to use their property, for that purpose, for that amount of time.”

The issue was posed as pitting property rights versus local residents and families who resent commercial enterprises in residential areas. But it’s also become another example of local lawmakers blasting Tallahassee for taking away the power of home rule.

La Rosa’s proposal is similar to a Florida law signed in 2011, but much of that deregulation was rolled back in 2014 after cities and counties complained. That law allowed local regulations as long as they didn’t require a minimum stay or prohibit vacation rentals.

Palm Bay Republican Randy Fine said he thought the issue should be regulated through zoning. He said the losers were the people who lived in residential neighborhoods. He proposed an amendment that said that would make a homeowner who often rents his or her home out to be a commercial property, which would have to be regulated by local zoning restrictions. He later withdrew that amendment, but voted against the bill.

In recent years, single-home vacation rentals have proliferated in Florida through Airbnb and HomeAway; in some cities, there’s been significant pushback by those governments.

Last Thursday, the Miami City Commission supported reaffirming zoning regulations prohibiting short-term rentals of single-family homes in Miami’s residential areas. Mayor Tomas Regalado has said that short-term rentals create nuisances throughout Miami’s communities.

“We view this as an attack on home rule,” said Miami assistant city attorney Kerri McNulty. “We would like to be able to have these businesses operate in our city, but we need to be able to regulate them, identify them, have them get their business tax receipts, their certificate of use so we can inspect them for fire safety and other code compliance issues, and that’s all that we’re asking for here.”

Miami Airbnb host Marcie Mascaro attended last Thursday’s public hearing at the City Commission. She said she was one of the hundreds who opposed what Regalado is doing, and supports LaRosa’s bill. “The sharing economy is the ultimate example of freedom and democracy,” she said. “Effective online rental platforms come with self-regulated measures to protect host guesthouse, neighborhoods, communities and economies.”

“We are not opposed to vacation rentals, and we do not stifle tourism,” said Anna Maria Island resident Ruth Uecker. “We do not overly regulate usage, not interfere with property rights, but we do want to remain the tools we have to solve local problems.”

Republican Greg Steube (SB 188) is sponsoring the Senate companion. It has yet to be heard in committee.

‘Policy wonk’ John Johnson plans listening tour for St. Pete City Council bid

John Johnson, a research administrator at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, is the latest candidate to file in the crowded St. Petersburg City Council District 6 contest.

The 46-year-old native Ohio resident calls himself a policy wonk, not a politician. 

“My background is education, so I’m a strong believer in education, and what it can do at all levels,” he said in an interview on Monday. “If we can improve primary education, if we can partner with some of the colleges and universities that are here, which we do some now, if we can do more of that, more mentoring, more stuff like that, I think that’s really the way to change people’s lives.”

Johnson has worked his entire professional career in higher education, having served in the New York University system for more than 22 years. A regular visitor to St. Petersburg for over a decade, he and his husband decided five years ago to leave Brooklyn and come to the ‘Berg, even though he didn’t have a firm job offer in hand (they had been regularly visiting the area to take care of an ill parent). He found work relatively quickly at Eckerd College and then moved to USFSP when his current position became available.

Johnson’s Master’s Degree is in public policy, and says he’s always had an interest in politics but “as a gay man, I never really thought that I would be able to get into it, but times have changed.”

In fact, the current Council has three members from the LGBT community: Chair Darden Rice, Steve Kornell and Amy Foster.

In a statement, Johnson says he was angry after last year’s president election but was revitalized after attending the women’s march in St. Petersburg on January 21. “Up to that point I was feeling angry and powerless given what was going on in the country and in my life,” he says. “Seeing the diverse group of people coming together in a positive progressive manner really inspired me to think about what I can do to make a change.”

Johnson calls himself a “political novice,” never having run for office before. He says he’s just reaching out to people who work in politics to get a sense of what he’s in for.

On the issues, Johnson says he doesn’t believe there’s enough historical preservation happening in the city, joking that he doesn’t want to end up looking like Fort Lauderdale.

He’s heard some people question the need for a Pier given how much Beach Drive is thriving downtown. “I would like to see a new Pier there, and I am progressive in almost all of my policies, but there’s a bit of fiscal restraint in me where I want to understand how we’re doing this,” he says of the project’s escalating price tag.

Regarding the Tampa Bay Rays quest for a new ballpark, which could very well end up back in St. Petersburg, Johnson says he “has a problem with dumping a lot of city taxes to owners,” but is optimistic that any deal will be a positive one for city taxpayers.

Johnson is the fifth candidate to enter the race. Other announced candidates include Corey Givens Jr., Sharon Russ, Maria Scruggs and Akile Cainion.

Johnson lives in the Old Northeast, the most northern part of District 6. He says that his plan is to go to other areas of the district on a “listening tour” of sorts, to understand the needs of other communities in the district.

“If f I want to represent I need to represent the entire district, and that’s gong to take a lot of listening, and not coming in with some set ideas, about A, B, and C,” he says.

District 6 is considered one of the most diverse areas in St. Petersburg, running from the Old Northeast through downtown west to Midtown, then south to Bahama Shores. Karl Nurse has held the seat for the past nine years, after initially appointed by then-Mayor Rick Baker in 2008 and then winning an election on his own in 2009, becoming the first white man to win the district in 30 years. He easily won re-election in 2013.

Bill to exempt Florida credit unions from regulations advances in Senate

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee approved SB 1620 Monday, a bill filed by West Palm Beach Democrat Bobby Powell that would exempt credit unions from regulation under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.

However, there were also discussions about rolling back federal consumer protections by President Donald Trump, leading Fort Lauderdale Democrat Gary Farmer to attempt a late-filed amendment.

Farmer said common law fraud protects consumers only when someone makes an affirmative misrepresentation, and that recipient lies on that misrepresentation.

If no statement is made or no question is asked, something still unfair to a consumer would not be actionable under common law fraud rules, he said.

That’s what the Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act is all about.

Last month, Trump signed an executive order starting the process of rolling back consumer protections under the federal Dodd-Frank Act Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.  The order directs the Treasury Secretary to consult with regulators about what needs to be done to fix Dodd-Frank and report back.

Trump also called for a review of what is known as the fiduciary role, which requires investment brokers handling retirement funds to put their clients’ interests ahead of other factors, such as their compensation or company profits.

“There is a great concern now there will be a void at the federal level, and because of that void, the justification for exempting banks from the Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act,” Farmer said.

“Stated another way, federal law was providing a backstop to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive practices by banks,” he added. “That backstop is being taken away, and so I believe we should put banks and credit unions on the same footing but that footing, would be that they would both be they would be subject to unfair and deceptive trade practices act.”

After Powell had said he did not have enough time to review the proposal and called it an unfriendly amendment, Farmer withdrew it, adding that he hopes to consult further with Powell about it before it goes to its next committee.

A companion bill has been filed in the House by West Park Democrat Shevrin Jones (HB 1347).

New DCCC ad attacks Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart over GOP health care bill

Since the American Health Care Act was pulled last Friday, most members of Congress did not have to vote on the controversial bill.

Nevertheless, the legislation did quickly pass through three separate committees on its way to a potential floor vote.

And that hasn’t stopped the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) from criticizing Republicans for their support of the AHCA in the committee process.

Seizing the universal disdain for the aborted bill, the DCCC is now going after two Miami Republican who voted for the AHCA in committee — Carlos Curbelo, who voted for it in the House Ways and Means Committee, and Mario Diaz-Balart, who supported it in the Budget Committee.

The DCCC is beginning a five-figure digital ad buy beginning Monday. The spots will be on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram in Florida’s 25th Congressional District (Diaz-Balart) and District 26 (Curbelo). They’re targeted to swing voters 35 years and older, grassroots activists, and those that have engaged with the topic of “health care” on social media.

All told, the DCCC is attacking 15 House Republicans in swing districts who supported the AHCA in committee. However, they’re going all out against Curbelo, saying the ad buy in CD 26 will be more than six times larger than in the other 14 districts.

“This targeted ad campaign makes clear that Representatives Curbelo and Diaz-Balart’s vote for this devastating Republican repeal bill will not be forgotten, said DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján. “Curbelo and Diaz-Balart knowingly voted for a bill to raise premiums and deductibles, slap an age tax on older folks, and rip insurance away from 24 million hardworking Americans. It’s critical that voters in South Florida know where Curbelo and Diaz-Balart stood on this harmful legislation.”

Although Curbelo did vote for the bill in committee, it was altered significantly to get more buy-in from conservative members of the House before last week’s vote. A spokesperson for Curbelo tells the Tampa Bay Times that the Miami Republican was undecided on the how he would have voted last week.

A spokeswoman for the National Republican Congress Committee (NRCC) responded late in the afternoon.

“Congressman Curbelo and Congressman Diaz-Balart promised to reform health care, and were committed to moving proposals forward to continue the debate,” said spokeswoman Maddie Anderson. “For his part, Curbelo never came out in support of the bill because he was working to secure changes would be made to in the Senate to protect his most vulnerable constituents, and that the Administration would rectify Obama’s disastrous funding cuts to Florida’s Low Income Pool.”

Bill that would increase penalties for undocumented violent offenders advances in Florida House

A bill that would increase the penalties for certain violent offenses if the defendant is an undocumented immigrant advanced in a Florida House Committee on Monday.

The legislation, sponsored by Cape Coral Republican Rep. Dane Eagle (HB 83), would upgrade penalties for five different violent crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, including sexual battery, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, murder, and the use of a destructive device such as a bomb.

Under the proposed legislation, a misdemeanor of the first degree would be reclassified as a felony in the third degree. A felony of the third degree is reclassified to a felony of the second degree. A felony of the second degrees is reclassified to a felony of the first degree. And a felony of the first degree would be reclassified as a life felony.

The proposal passed in the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee.

Miami Democrat Robert Ascencio questioned the constitutionality of the bill, saying that enhancement charges are generally connected to the crime itself, but “illegal status is not a connection to the crime itself.”

Eagle disputed that charge, saying that there have been enhancements added in the case of hate crimes.

Kara Gross with the Florida ACLU said the bill violates the supremacy clause in the U.S. Constitution by conflicting with the “exclusive federal authority to determine immigration status.” She also said that while the staff analysis says the added costs of the law were unquantifiable, she says it would definitely add costs to the state’s Dept. of Corrections budget.

“As a state, under this bill, we’re going to pay an additional $80,000 more to incarcerate an undocumented individual than a U.S. citizen, even though they committed the same first-degree misdemeanor offense,” said Gross.

Francesca Menes with the Florida Immigrant Coalition threatened legal action if the bill were to pass.

“There are many organizations that are getting ready that if this bill should move forward, we’re getting ready for lawsuits, and we’re getting ready to waste lots of taxpayers dollars,” she said.

Eagle said that there has been lots of speculation if the bill would be ruled unconstitutional by the courts.

“In my belief here we have something here that could be constitutional,” he said. “We will never know until the courts address it.”

Jacksonville Beach Republican Cord Byrd said that shortly after being elected last fall, he attended the funeral of slain Nassau County sheriff deputy Eric Oliver, who was killed by a passing car while chasing a man who ran from U.S. Border Patrol agents.

“It’s something that should not have happened,” Boyd said. “That person, that’s an illegal alien. And I use the word illegal alien, because that’s that what it is. They’re not undocumented aliens. They’re not here because they lack documents. They’re here because their first act in entering the country was to violate our laws.”

Mount Dora Republican Jennifer Sullivan questioned why anyone would oppose the proposal “I think that we have to ask ourselves where are loyalty is as this position,” she said. “Who do we represent?”

 The bill is one of seven bills being floated in the Legislature this spring that go after undocumented immigrants. Other bills include stripping five years of state funding for local governments that don’t comply with federal immigration authorities and fine them up to $5,000 a day; make re-entry into the U.S. by undocumented immigrants a third-degreee felony; increase background checks on refugees and to repeal 2014 legislation supported by Governor Rick Scott that gave in-state tuition to the children of undocumented immigrants.
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