Mitch Perry, Author at Florida Politics - Page 5 of 332

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.

Vern Buchanan tells Mitch McConnell to vote on hearing aid bill before August break

As the Senate is poised to vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act and eventually come up with some sort of alternative on Tuesday, Congressman Vern Buchanan has a message for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — have a vote on legislation that would make hearing aids more affordable for Americans.

The Sarasota Republican is a co-sponsor of the “Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act,” a bipartisan bill that would drive down costs by allowing people with mild-to-moderate hearing loss to purchase aids without a doctor’s prescription. The legislation was included in the “FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017” which passed the House earlier this month.

“Let’s help reopen the world to seniors who struggle to hear everyday conversations with their family and friends,” Buchanan writes to McConnell. “Before the Senate adjourns for its summer recess, I urge you to pass bipartisan legislation that will make hearing aids more affordable for our nation’s seniors.”

Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren and Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley are the co-sponsors of the Senate version.

In 2016, 3.65 million hearing aids were sold in the United States. Since the average price of a hearing aid pair is $4,700, with some prices climbing as high as $8,000, according to the Huffington Post. Medicare has never paid for hearing aids; following Medicare’s lead, private insurance companies have almost always refused to pay for hearing aids as well. This means that typically the patient alone must cover the cost of a hearing aid.

Read Buchanan’s letter below:

Dear Majority Leader McConnell:

Before the Senate adjourns for its August recess, I urge you to approve House-passed legislation to make hearing aids more affordable for millions of Americans.

Nearly 50 million people have some degree of hearing loss — more than diabetes, cancer or vision impairment. The impact of hearing loss, particularly among seniors, can lead to isolation and other health problems including anxiety and depression.

Buying a hearing aid is a complex and costly process. In most cases, consumers can only buy hearing aids from audiologists or licensed hearing aid sellers after a formal medical evaluation. Because the aids are not covered by Medicare or most private insurance plans, out-of-pocket costs for a pair of hearing aids average $5,400.

The U.S. House recently passed legislation I co-sponsored to reduce the cost of hearing aids by allowing people with mild to moderate hearing loss to purchase devices without a doctor’s prescription. The Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act, which was included in the FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017, could lower the cost of a pair of hearing aids from several thousand dollars to only a few hundred dollars, according to The New York Times.

Moreover, in a study published earlier this month, researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have found that hearing aids purchased over the counter perform essentially the same as prescription hearing aids.

Let’s help reopen the world to seniors and others who struggle to hear everyday conversations with their family and friends. Washington dysfunction must not get in the way of passing this life-improving proposal. I urge swift Senate approval of this important legislation.

Sincerely,

Vern Buchanan

Member of Congress

 

 

Kathy Castor likes Democrats new ‘A Better Deal’ slogan, agenda

The Democratic Party unveiled its new economic plan Monday, which includes the tagline: “A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future.”

Despite some on Twitter mocking the slogan as sounding a little too much like a Papa John’s ad, Tampa Congresswoman Kathy Castor digs it.

Among the policy proposals include focusing on lowering prescription drug prices, reforming corporate merger policies, pushing for a $15 an hour living wage, and creating jobs for 10 million Americans.

“These are the things that I talk about all the time,” Castor said Monday at an occasion celebrating the 52nd anniversary of Medicare held in the West Tampa building housing her district office. “We need better wages in the Tampa Bay area. We are still below the median wage when you compare us to other communities across the country,” she said, adding: “We can’t rely on tourism and real estate any longer. We have to support small business entrepreneurs that are often the pathway to better-paying jobs.”

As has been well-documented, the Democratic Party has been severely dismantled in both national and statewide elections around the country since 2010. The party has lost more than 1,030 seats in state legislatures, governor’s mansions and Congress during the Obama presidency, according to the AP.

As far as rebranding the party is concerned, Castor said it was “natural” to renew and refresh the Democratic message every few years.

“I think it encapsulates very well a lot of the policies that we’ve been working on,” she said, citing the push to lift wages to supporting students to attend college without getting hit by loft student loans.

“We’ve been waiting for the president, who said we’re going to do infrastructure, but there’s been no conversation about that,” she lamented.

Meanwhile, members of the House of Representatives are poised to vote Tuesday on a bill that punishes Russia for interfering in the U.S. election, as well as the 2014 annexation of Crimea and its ongoing military activity in eastern Ukraine.

The Senate passed its version, 97-2, earlier this year, but the House had dithered for months on bringing up the bill, reportedly because of resistance by President Donald Trump.

“There was no rational reason to delay or postpone it, and I was disheartened that there was pressure by the White House to stall it,” she said. “But the reports are now that even the president is likely to sign the Russians sanctions bill. This is important. This is a response to Russian meddling in our election and people are asking me about it. They’re asking me about health care, but they also want to know how is the U.S. going to respond to the Russian meddling, and this is one important step.”

 

Michael Gongora now says he always had ‘serious doubts’ about World OutGames

Miami Beach Commission candidate Michael Gongora now has “serious doubts” about the financial viability of the World OutGames.

The OutGames, a premier LGBTQ sporting event that was scheduled to take place this spring in Miami Beach, was canceled just hours before kickoff in May because of serious financial problems. This has led to a fraud investigation.

“The reason that I left the board of directors when I did was that I had serious doubts about their ability to pull off the games,” Gongora told members of the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club at a June 6 meeting at Puerto Sagua restaurant in Miami Beach.

That comment would seem to contradict a comment Gongora made last month when he told the Miami Herald that during the time he served on the board it had only met a few times and that “no financials were provided whatsoever.”

World OutGames organizers in Miami raised more than $1 million for the scheduled 10-day event. But just hours before the competition was set to start May 26, organizers informed the thousands of registered athletes (who had flown into Miami from around the globe) that they didn’t have the money to put on the games.

Since then, government agencies have opened investigations into the event, one of the world’s largest high-profile competitions for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender athletes.

Miami Beach had waived municipal fees and provided $200,000 in cash to sponsor the event, and is now demanding an audit of OutGames’ books.

Gongora served on the Miami Beach City Commission between 2006 to 2013, before losing a mayoral bid to Philip Levine. He came up short in the Democratic primary for state Senate District 38 in Miami Beach last August. He’s now running to return to the Commission against attorney Zachary Eisner and restaurant owner Adrian Gonzalez, who has seized on the controversy surrounding the World OutGames.

“It’s all about accountability and transparency,” Gonzalez said Monday. “The bottom line is he knew they were in trouble, he knew they were sinking, yet he did nothing to advise the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community or more importantly, the city of Miami Beach, which, at the end of the day, is the one that took the biggest financial hit in this thing.”

When first questioned about his involvement with the World OutGames, Gongora had said that he left its board in 2015. The Miami Herald reported last week that it was actually in 2016 after the Gonzalez campaign unearthed a video of Gongora identifying himself as a member of the OutGames board.

Now feeling the political heat over his involvement, Gongora wrote last week to Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales to inquire when funds from Miami Beach began to be allocated for the World OutGames.

“Since I am now being dragged into World OutGames politically, I have an easy public records request,” Gongora wrote Thursday. “Can you please advise when the monies were paid from the City of MB to World OutGames?  It’s my understanding that the first portion was given in October 2016 which would be after I resigned from the board.”

Morales wrote back that the first $100,000 check for the games was dated May 1, 2014, “and deposited intact by the nonprofit organization.”

Gongora now says his time on the board was limited to between eight and a half months between 2015 and 2016.

The first openly elected gay politician in Miami Beach, Gongora traveled to Antwerp, Belgium with more than a dozen other local officials in 2013 to recruit organizers of the World OutGames to come to Miami Beach in 2017.

In his comments to the Breakfast Club, Gongora speculated that the reason that the Miami City Commission and Mayor Levine funded the event was that they didn’t want to be perceived as being anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

“Why did the Commissioner give them the money?” he asked. “I’ll say it since I’m gay and they’re not. I think that the commissioners don’t want to vote against anything that’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. I think it came up and they were like, ‘Oh we don’t want to be perceived as being anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.’ So, they gave them money.”

When contacted by FloridaPolitics.com, Gongora initially responded that he didn’t have much to say since he briefly served as a volunteer on the OutGames board “which seldom met.”

“I left the board 8.5 months prior to the games,” he wrote in an email Sunday. “During the short time of my tenure, OutGames received no public money nor was I privy to their finances. There is really nothing else to say.  Unfortunately, a political opponent is trying to tie me into a story where there is none.”

“I haven’t accused him of anything,” Gonzalez responds. “I’m a taxpayer. I’m a resident on the Beach. He wants to blame me for putting the spot on the obvious? So be it.”

Tampa local officials bemoan expected expansion of Florida homestead exemption

While it won’t go into effect for another year and a half, the expected passage of a Florida constitutional amendment expanding the homestead exemption is already giving local officials severe headaches.

On the 2018 ballot, Amendment 1 asks voters to approve an expansion of the homestead exemption from $50,000 to $75,000 of the first $100,000 of a home’s taxable value.

State lawmakers who supported it said the average homeowner would save about $275 per year, based on the statewide average home value of $220,000 and an average tax rate of 10 mills ($10 for every $1,000 of taxable property value).

Local government officials statewide are already assuming taxpayers will support the measure and are already beginning to budget accordingly.

In calling for an increase in the city of Tampa’s millage rate for the first time in 29 years on Thursday, Mayor Bob Buckhorn attributed part of the reason to the fact that passage of the amendment would reduce approximately $6 million in revenue to his city’s budget.

Tampa City Councilman Harry Cohen acknowledges that while that reduction may appear modest in a proposed $974 million budget, it will cut funding that would otherwise be used to expend on sidewalks, fixing potholes, making stormwater improvements and funding parks and recreation.

“I think it’s very important as we evaluate these tax policies, that we understand that the money for these things that we want has to come from somewhere,” Cohen told a Tampa Tiger Bay Club audience gathered at the Ferguson Law School School on Friday. “We’re all sensitive to the tax burden, but local government does have to be paying for the things that people expect of us.”

“If the citizens want fewer services,” Polk County Commissioner Robert Braswell groused, “then we’ll provide fewer services.”

“It will be a litmus test for what kinds of things should government do, and how much,” said Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill.

Merrill added that if the amendment passes, Hillsborough would have its budget reduced by $30 million in its first year. That would be on top of the fact — like most local governments in Florida — the county is still contending with the aftermath of the Great Recession starting in 2007, which began bringing in dramatically lower property tax revenues.

Merrill said that the size of his county’s government is 25 percent smaller than it was a decade ago, still down $100 million in general revenues.

Robert E. Weissert, the executive vice president and counsel to the president and CEO for Florida TaxWatch, also doesn’t support Amendment 1, because of the inequity it creates. Though that sentiment might surprise those who assume TaxWatch is an anti-tax organization, Weissert says it shouldn’t.

“It’s just a tax shift,” he said, with local governments shifting from owner-occupied homes to businesses and non-homestead properties, such as vacation homes and apartment complexes. He also noted that the higher exemption would protect the state’s 29 poorest counties from losing any more property tax revenue.

Local government officials have complained for months about maneuvers by the Florida Legislature which they call an assault on home-rule. Add to that sources of income like the communications services tax which have dried up significantly over the past decade as fewer people use landline telephones, and Cohen said cities are becoming like “discount airlines.”

“We’re basically making it so that we live on a cheap carrier, where you can’t get peanuts, you can’t check a bag, and you have three inches left on your seat,” quipped the Tampa Council member. “Eventually it’s going to become very, very uncomfortable for the people who live here because we are degrading the quality of our lives.”

Getting the homestead exemption expansion on the 2018 ballot was a top priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran during the 2017 legislative session. When asked to justify the amendment while speaking in Tampa last month, Corcoran said: ” I care more about the people of this state than I do the governments of this state.”

And Corcoran dismissed what he seemed to say were crocodile tears by local government officials.

“The concept that you can give somebody a $25,000 homestead exemption and put in on the ballot, and the result is this: that local governments have only two choices — they have to raise taxes, or cut essential services that really benefit their local community, is absolute crap,” he said.

Corcoran’s drive to get the measure on the ballot was noted Friday, and not positively.

“I think the motivation behind this was Richard Corcoran running for governor,” Braswell said.

“I have no comment on that,” Merrill followed up.

Richard Corcoran proud of Trump’s efforts to crack down on undocumented immigrants

House Speaker Richard Corcoran is proud to hear the Trump administration is escalating crack down on undocumented immigrants is only going to crank up in the coming months, and he says the Legislature will attempt to do their part in 2018.

The Pasco County Republican, still very much contemplating a run for governor next year, issued a statement on Friday in response to comments made earlier this week by Thomas Homan, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), who said that illegal border crossings have dropped by almost 70 percent this year, allowing ICE agents to now target the more than 300-plus sanctuary cities and counties that have ignored ICE requests that they detail criminal undocumented immigrants for ICE arrest and deportation proceedings.

“The idea that a city decides what laws it will follow and what laws it will ignore should offend every American,” Corcoran said. “Politicians who believe they are above the law by adopting ‘sanctuary’ policies are violating their oath to uphold and defend the Constitution.”

Corcoran notes that the Florida House passed Groveland Republican Larry Metz‘ “Rule of Law Adherence Act in the past legislative session. That bill would have required state and local governments and law enforcement agencies to assist and cooperate in the enforcement of federal immigration laws. It died in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Testifying before Congress last month, Homan said that no illegal immigrant is safe from deportation, though the administration is prioritizing criminals, fugitives, threats to national security and those who illegally re-entered the U.S.

He went on to say that arresting any undocumented person is a good thing: “Most of the criminal aliens we find in the interior United States, they entered as a noncriminal. If we wait for them to violate yet another law against the citizens of this country, it’s late. We shouldn’t wait.”

Standing up against illegal immigration is popular among Republicans, especially those who vote in primary elections. If he were to enter the GOP gubernatorial primary for governor next year, it’s clear that Corcoran would take a tougher stance on the issue that either Adam Putnam or Jack Latvala, who was one of 21 co-sponsors of a sponsored a measure several years ago to offer in-state tuition rates to undocumented immigrants.

Ryan Torrens, political outsider running for Attorney General, says he’s what Florida Democrats need

Consumer protection attorney Ryan Torrens is quite aware that he’s not an established political presence, but he says that should be an argument for his fledgling candidacy to become Florida’s next Attorney General.

“Look, I get it,” the 32-year-old told an audience who gathered Friday morning at Tampa’s Oxford Exchange to hear the Hillsborough County resident speak as part of the Cafe Con Tampa lecture series.

“I’m young. First-time candidate. A lot of people look at me and think, ‘Can he really win this thing? He’s never run for office before. He’s been practicing for five years? Come on.””

The answers are hard to dispute.

“In the Democratic Party in Florida, what we’ve been doing the last 20 years isn’t working.”

Torrens says he’s offering something different. Energy, passion, new ideas and the fact that he is decidedly not a politician, which he has surmised during his brief time as a statewide candidate is something that voters are hungry for.

A fifth generation Tampa native with Cuban roots, Torrens became the first (and still only) Democrat to file for Attorney General two months ago. Former Hillsborough County judge Ashley Moody and Jacksonville state Representative Jay Fant have filed to run in the GOP primary.

Under previous AG’s like Charlie Crist and Bob Butterworth, the position as Florida’s top cop was about being a consumer advocate for the people, something that Torrens says has been missing under Pam Bondi’s direction.

“A lot of people think it’s like the state attorney prosecuting murders and things like that,” he says of the AG’s job description.”That’s really not what the Attorney General does. If I’m Attorney General, I’m supposed to fight for all the people of Florida, and not simply take big contribution checks from companies and give them a pass.”

Working on the opioid epidemic he says will be a top priority in his administration, and if elected, he says he’ll sue the pharmaceutical companies for their role in perpetuating the crisis.

“They need to be held liable,” he says, “and we could use those proceeds from a settlement or a verdict to help get treatment from those who are currently suffering.”

That’s not such a radical idea, as attorneys general in Ohio and Mississippi have already done so.

Torrens recently outed himself as being a recovering alcoholic, and said that experience allows him to identify with  Floridians working through their own addictions.

Referring to the controversy over the recent “school of hope” education bill, he talked about the state constitution, which says that the state must adequately fund public schools.

“I would like to see if the AG could possibly file a lawsuit against the Legislature, for not adequately funding the public schools, and fulfilling its constitutional obligation,” he said.

Torrens also says he’ll go after predatory student lenders and abusive debt collectors. But he insists that he’s not some “left-wing radical” who wants to pick on Wall Street.

“When I talk all over the state with Democrats and Republicans they want the same thing, which is, they need to follow the same rules.”

A political science major at the University of Tampa, Torrens sounds like an analyst when he told the crowd he understands that it’s been the Democratic party’s arrogance that led to the election of Donald Trump last November.

“They feel that the Democrats are not speaking to them. That we make promises that we’re going to fight for working class people, but we’re a bunch of hypocrites because we get into office and we don’t really fight for them,” he said, adding that “we have a  tendency sometimes to talk down to working class people and they feel like we’re trying to dictate to them how they need to live their lives.”

Torrens will certainly be an underdog to the Republican nominee if makes it that far next year when it comes to fundraising. He announced that he had raised a little more than $22,000 after two months on the campaign trail recently.

Fant raised over $79,000, and Moody more than $600,000 between her own campaign and her political committee.

Dennis Ross blasts GOP Senate in wake of ACA debacle

A day after an attempt by Senate Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act crashed and burned, Lakeland GOP Congressman Dennis Ross blasted members of his own party, saying he’s “sick of the excuses.”

“The Senate has failed the American people and abandoned voters who were promised that they would repeal and replace the disastrous Obamacare. The House did its job. We honored our pledge and passed legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare in early May. There is no need to sugar coat this: I’m very upset with the Senate,” Ross said Wednesday.

Referring to the fact that Congress has been in session for nearly seven months with little to show for their efforts, Ross said both he and the American people “are sick of the excuses from Senators.”

Like Rand Paul, Ross says he doesn’t understand why 52 GOP Senators were willing to vote on a bill to straight up and repeal the ACA in 2015, but now suffer from cold feet now that they know Barack Obama isn’t going to veto that bill.

Regarding the upcoming August summer break, Ross says that the Senate should stay in the nation’s capital for “all of August, September, October and however long it takes to pass legislation that repeals and replaces Obamacare.”

“If they don’t repeal and replace Obamacare, like they promised and were voted to do, they are going back on their word and have some serious explaining to do when they go back home and face those who sent them to Washington to protect and help them. They will be held accountable,” Ross vowed. “When premiums and deductibles continue to skyrocket, when more and more insurers flee the exchange, when increased health care taxes and mandates shut down local businesses and leave Americans with nothing to keep their families afloat, the Senate will be taking the blame. Not the House, and not the President.”

POLITICO reported Wednesday that Texas businessman Doug Deason, a backer of President Donald Trump, said he and other major GOP donors were warming to the idea of funding primary challenges to senators who had opposed the health care bill.

In a text message referring to three senators who played a role in sinking the bill — Susan Collins, Jeff Flake and Shelley Moore Capito — Deason ripped “the spineless Republican members from Maine, Arizona and West Virginia who seem to believe that Obamacare is actually succeeding.”

Ross was an enthusiastic supporter of the American Health Care Act, the GOP House bill to repeal the ACA which was not very popular with the public. As Senior Deputy Majority Whip, his job was to corral the votes to support the measure, which was no easy feat. “If we don’t pass this out of the House, this is the beginning of the end for us as a Republican Party,” Ross told the Tampa Bay Times Alex Leary back in May.

The Lakeland Republican has not faced a serious challenge in his Polk/Hillsborough/Lake County seat since being elected in the Tea Party-wave election of 2010. Five Democrats and one Republican have filed to run against him in 2018.

Alcee Hastings wants FBI investigation of Ivanka Trump security clearance

A group of House Democrats is asking the FBI to review whether first daughter and White House Adviser Ivanka Trump omitted information from her security clearance application when she joined the administration as an unpaid White House adviser.

Broward/Palm Beach Representative Alcee Hastings is among the 22 signers of a letter to acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe.

Democrats want McCabe to investigate whether Ivanka Trump was truthful in her filling out an FS-86 application for a top-level security clearance. The document requires applicants disclose foreign contacts, meetings, and business interests by the clearance holder in addition to those of their spouse and siblings.

The issue refers to Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner, who had been making continuous revisions to his own FS-86, omitting key meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey KislyackSergey Gorkov, head of state-run Vnesheconombank and most recently, Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who met with Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. in June 2006.

“We are concerned that Ivanka Trump may have engaged in similar deception,” the letter states. “The high standard to which we hold public servants, particularly senior advisers to the President of the United States, requires that these questions be raised, and promptly answered.”

Hastings is not the only Florida Democrat to try to block a Trump family member’s security clearance. Last week Debbie Wasserman Schultz introduced two amendments into a spending bill that would have revoked the security clearance of Kushner, a White House adviser and the president’s son-in-law.

One of the amendments to the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill would bar funds from being used “to issue, renew, or maintain a security clearance for any individual in a position in the Executive Office of the President who is under a criminal investigation by a Federal law enforcement agency for aiding a foreign government.”

The amendment failed by a 30-22 vote.

A second amendment sought to revoke the security clearance of White House staffers who deliberately fail to disclose meetings with foreign nationals or governments on their questionnaire for national security positions. It also failed on a 30-22 vote.

Ralph Wright Jr. becomes twenty-seventh death row prisoner in Florida to be exonerated

Florida death row inmate Ralph Wright Jr. was released from state prison Tuesday, two months after the state Supreme Court exonerated him in the 2007 killings of his ex-girlfriend and their baby boy.

The release of the former Air Force Sergeant makes him Florida’s 27th exonerated death row survivor, and the 159th person exonerated from death row since 1973, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Anti-death penalty groups in Florida hailed his release, arguing that it epitomizes the unfairness inherent in administrating the ultimate sanction by the government.

“If an Air Force Sergeant and former Orange County Deputy Sheriff with no criminal record can be wrongfully convicted and sent to death row, it can happen to anyone,” said Mark Elliot, executive director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

“Ralph Wright, Jr.’s exoneration is the most recent reminder that Florida’s death penalty system not only devalues life but also imperils innocent lives too,” added Brian Empric with Florida Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty.

Alluding to Wright becoming the 27th person to be released from Florida’s death row after being wrongly convicted, Empric says that the state’s death penalty system “is still afflicted with other issues, including rising costs, its failure to offer victims’ families the justice they deserve, and its inability to protect society, which is why many conservatives are increasingly opposing Florida’s broken death penalty program.”

In August 2014, Wright was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder; the jury recommended a death sentence.

In their unanimous opinion, the Florida Supreme Court justices wrote: “there is no fingerprint, footprint, blood, fiber pattern impression or other physical evidence tying Wright to the crime scene.  There is no cell tower evidence placing him in the vicinity of the crime scene. There is no murder weapon. The only evidence presented by the state to prove that Wright was the murder is the fact that he had motive and opportunity.”

The key piece of evidence that prosecutors did have against Wright was a single black glove found at the scene of the crime. The glove was the same kind that had been issued to Wright’s military unit, but analysts who processed the gloves for DNA couldn’t find any that was a definitive match for Wright. It was also unclear whether the glove came from MacDill, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

At the time of his conviction in 2014, Florida did not require a unanimous jury recommendation for death. In Wright’s case, the jury voted 7-5, a bare majority, to recommend the death penalty. Since the U.S. Supreme Court declared Florida’s sentencing scheme for non-unanimous jury recommendations for death to be unconstitutional. Since then, the Legislature has passed a bill, signed by Gov. Rick Scott in March of this year to now require a unanimous jury recommendation in death penalty sentencing.

There have been 119 death row prisoners whose cases have been reviewed in light of the high court’s ruling, and 99 have had their death sentences reversed.

“The exonerations of twenty-seven innocent people on Florida’s Death Row demonstrate the catastrophic failure of a pretentious government program trying to play God,” said Elliot. “It’s time to pull the plug on this wasteful, mistake-ridden, and unnecessary big government program that puts blood on all our hands.”

 

Florida Democrats slam Adam Putnam for Facebook comment about anti-NRA protest in Tampa

The Florida Democratic Party is taking Adam Putnam to task a day after the Agricultural Commissioner and gubernatorial nominee mocked an anti-National Rifle Association protest held in Tampa.

“Classic progressive move,” Putnam wrote on his Facebook page on Monday. “Desperate attempt to limit our 2nd Amendment rights.”

Listed below his comment was a link to a story that Florida Politics reported about Sunday, when more than 80 citizens marched in downtown Tampa against a provocative NRA television ad featuring conservative commentator Dana Loesch which progressive activists claim is a call for violence.

“The NRA’s recruitment video with Dana Loesch was meant to provoke fear and stoke the flames of division,” said Florida Democratic Party spokeswoman Johanna Cervone in a statement. “The activists in Tampa Bay were right to denounce this video for what it is–a dangerous incitement of violence. If Adam Putnam is endorsing this video, he’s encouraging violence against fellow Americans.

Not satisfied with accusing Putnam of only that charge, Cervone then asserted that perhaps the comment was meant to curry favor with conservatives in the Republican Party of Florida who are still evaluating his candidacy.

“Could Putnam be more transparent in his pandering to the far right?” Cervone asks. “It’s clear Putnam is more than a little insecure about his credentials as a conservative.”

Also chiming in to ding Putnam was Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is running for the Democratic nomination for governor.

“Their ad was despicable and we know what its true intentions are – to tear us apart and divide us,” Gillum said.”But in a year after the Pulse Nightclub tragedy, and losing law enforcement officers in the line of duty in Orlando, we’ve stood together and become stronger. It’s a shameful day when someone who wants to lead our state stands behind such violent, divisive rhetoric, and against commonsense gun protections for Floridians.”

The protest on Sunday in Tampa was similar to other demonstrations which took place over the weekend in Washington D.C. and other U.S. cities that were organized by gun control groups.

As of noon on Tuesday, Putnam’s comment had generated 159 other comments on his Facebook page.

“It is well within these individuals rights to protest, regardless if we agree with them or not,” wrote Taylor Dupree Brewington. “I am a staunch 2nd amendment supporter—but Adam Putnam, remember that if you really want to be governor, these “progressives” are your constituents too, and it is your civic duty to represent them.”

But there were plenty of other people who cheered his comment.

“All these guys have left; is Classic Moves,” writes Victor Salichs. “It’s a constant barrage of the same obvious tactics; in order to make common sense into something meaningless. They are constantly feeding this to their followers; so that they will have a covey of people, who will simply do what they tell them, without question.”

Putnam is the only major Republican candidate currently running for governor at the moment, but the field could get more crowded in the coming months.

Clearwater state Senator Jack Latvala said over the weekend he would make an announcement regarding his potential candidacy on August 16, while House Speaker Richard Corcoran continues to raise funds for a potential run as well.

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