Scott Powers, Author at Florida Politics - Page 6 of 162

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at

Aramis Ayala takes herself completely out of death penalty decisions

Having lost her fight in the Florida Supreme Court to prevent death penalty prosecutions in her circuit, Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala vowed Friday to remove herself  completely from the decision process.

Ayala said her new policy of turning all potential death-penalty cases over to a panel of assistant state attorneys in the 9th Judicial Circuit will include the edict that their decision is final, that she would not influence or overrule what they chose to do with first-degree murder cases

“It is my expectation that going forward all first-degree murder cases that are in my jurisdiction, in the 9th Judicial Circuit, will remain in my office to be evaluated and prosecuted accordingly,” she said. “Just as we ask jurors in order to seek death, this panel will notify me that it is their unanimous decision that a death penalty is to be sought. This panel will begin immediately.”

She described the seven assistant state attorneys she appointed to the panel as all having no personal qualms about the death penalty, and said many of them have worked death penalty prosecutions.

The decision is a complete capitulation of her March 16 declaration that she had deemed Florida’s capital punishment law not just for anyone, and would not use it for murder suspects in Orange and Osceola Counties.

That had led Gov. Rick Scott to strip murder cases away from her and reassign them to State Attorney Brad King in the neighboring Florida’s 5th Judicial Circuit. She challenged his power to do so and lost Thursday in a Florida Supreme Court Ruling that clearly stated Ayala’s policy was in violation of state law.

In a news conference on the steps of the Orange County Courthouse Friday morning, her first since her momentous March 16 press conference, Ayala played the dutiful legal servant, willingly accepting the court’s ruling and moving on.

She said her March 16 declaration was based on her interpretation of Florida law, and now that the Supreme Court ruled her wrong, she would not acknowledge any regrets.

Ayala also ended any interest in re-obtaining the 29 murder cases that Scott reassigned to King. She said moving forward, she excepted the governor would have no reason to take any more cases, but said she would not seek to get back the other 29.

“Although I do believe that, with the implementation of this death-penalty review board, legally, I can request those back from his office. However, I don’t believe it is in the best interest of families of homicide victims or their cases at this point. There is a difference between giving up and letting go. At this time I believe the most compassionate and human response is to allow them to remain with the current prosecutor.”

Late Thursday Scott released a statement that he would not recognize Ayala had changed her position and agreed to take death penalty cases unless and until she completely refuted her ban. On Friday she did so.


Andrew Gillum says an end to DACA would be ‘moral stain’

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum joined the call to save the program allowing young, undocumented immigrants to stay in America, charging that President Donald Trump‘s anticipated repeal of DACA would be a “moral stain.”

Anticipating Trump will end the Deferred Action for Children Arrivals begun by former President Barack Obama, Democrats have been pushing for weeks to raise awareness of young adults who were brought without visas to America as young children, or who have overstayed their visas while growing up, and the program that allows them to stay under certain conditions.

The Florida Democratic Party also issued a pro-DACA statement Thursday.

The pro-DACA efforts have included numerous meetings this month between Democratic lawmakers and local immigrants who are enrolled in or eligible for the program.

Fox News is reporting Thursday that Trump is expected to repeal the program any day.

Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, promised on Thursday that as governor he would do everything he could to protect those called “DREAMers,” named after the “Development Relief And Education For Alien Minors” bills filed several times by pro-immigration members of Congress in recent years.

“If they follow through, the White House’s decision to end DACA is a moral stain on this country,” Gillum declared in a statement issued Thursday by his campaign.

“These Dreamers have only ever called one country home: the United States of America. They are our family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers,” Gillum continued. “They represent a vibrant thread of our nation’s patchwork, and forcing more than 800,000 of them to leave the country, including more than 100,000 Floridians, will be a moral stain this Administration cannot erase. I promise to do everything I can to continue protecting these young Americans here in Florida.”

The Democrats statement read: “The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program embodies the best of America. Our country is stronger when hardworking families and young people can make meaningful contributions to our economy and society. America is the only home these young immigrants know. Ending DACA without an appropriate legislative solution would devastate Florida’s economy and the thousands of DREAMers who live, work, and study here. This would be a cruel and reckless decision by Donald Trump. Rather than tear families apart to score political points, the White House should work to implement bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform.”

High court backs Rick Scott, Aramis Ayala vows new policy

Gov. Rick Scott has the authority to transfer murder cases away from the office of Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala because she refuses to pursue capital punishments, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

Ayala greeted the ruling by declaring she was changing her policy, and would set up a special panel to review the death penalty  appropriateness of each potential capital case. She would not be directly involved.

“I respect the decision and appreciate that the Supreme Court of Florida has responded and provided clarification,” Ayala said in a written statement. “The Supreme Court of Florida ruled today that a case-specific determination must be made on first degree murder cases. To ensure today’s Court’s decision is heeded, I have organized a Death Penalty Review Panel comprised of seven well-versed and experienced assistant state attorneys. This panel will evaluate each first-degree murder case in the 9th Judicial Circuit.”

“With implementation of this Panel, it is my expectation that going forward all first-degree murder cases that occur in my jurisdiction will remain in my office and be evaluated and prosecuted accordingly,” she added.

The case decided Thursday by the Florida Supreme Court had far-reaching ramifications – not just whether Ayala can decide to not pursue death penalties, or what happens to murder cases in her 9th Judicial Circuit. The court decided the governor has the power to strip cases if he has reason to believe the state attorney is not going to follow the law.

“Today’s ruling is a great victory for the many victims and families whose lives have been forever changed by ruthless, evil acts of crime,” Scott declared in a statement issued by his office. “I absolutely disagreed with State Attorney Ayala’s shortsighted decision to not fight for justice. That’s why I’ve used my executive authority to reassign nearly 30 cases to State Attorney Brad King. These horrific cases include Markeith Loyd, an accused cop killer who murdered his pregnant ex-girlfriend and Orlando Police Department Lt. Debra Clayton; Everett Glenn Miller, another alleged cop killer who is accused of ambushing and murdering two Kissimmee Police Officers, Officer Matthew Baxter and Sgt. Sam Howard; and Callene Marcia Barton and Lakesha Chantell Lewis, who are accused of killing a helpless toddler.

“Crimes like these are pure evil and deserve the absolute full consideration of punishment – something that State Attorney Ayala completely ruled out,” he added. “She unilaterally decided to not stand on the side of victims and their families, which is completely sickening. In Florida, we hold criminals fully accountable for the crimes they commit – especially those that attack our law enforcement community and innocent children.”

Ayala’s attorney, Roy L. Austin Jr., said he respected the ruling and suggested that Ayala’s new policy should return cases to the 9th Judicial Circuit.

“State Attorney Ayala has always intended to follow the guidance she was given by the Florida Supreme Court. To ensure that she is doing so, she has set up a panel of experienced attorneys in her Office to review all death-penalty eligible cases. By setting this up, State Attorney Ayala’s action is well within the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling and all cases should be returned to her and no further cases should be removed from her,” Austin said in a written statement. “This gives the governor the opportunity to return the cases to the people of Orange and Osceola Counties.”

The issue might not be totally resolved. Ayala and Austin also filed suit in U.S. District Court, and that case was put on hold while the Florida case was considered and decided.

Numerous outside groups entered the case including the Florida House of Representatives, led by Speaker Richard Corcoran, arguing it had legal and civil rights ramifications.

“Today is a victory for victims and their families, and I congratulate the Florida Supreme Court for such an unequivocal stand for the rule of law,” Corcoran said in a written statement. “I also commend Governor Scott for his courageous action in this case. The people of the state of Florida support the death penalty as a punishment for the most evil among us and those sworn to uphold the law and enforce the law need to remember that the people have spoken. I hope this message resonates loud and clear with all government officials who think they have the power to ignore or override the will of the people. When it comes to the most evil among us the people demand justice and today they got it. ”

“This is a deeply disappointing decision,” declared Melba Pearson, deputy director of the ACLU of Florida. “Florida law gives independently elected State Attorneys broad discretion to determine how best to seek justice in the cases they are responsible for prosecuting. Florida State Attorneys answer to the voters they represent, not to the governor. Governor Scott’s intervention in State Attorney Ayala’s cases dangerously undermines the independence of our state’s prosecutors, and the Supreme Court’s regrettable decision today opens the door to further politicizing of our justice system.”

Said the Florida Sheriff’s Association: “Today, the Supreme Court affirmed that Governor Scott acted in the best interests of Floridians in reassigning more than 30 death penalty cases from State Attorney Ayala in the Ninth Judicial Circuit to Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Brad King. As a representative of the law, Ayala was not serving to the best of her ability when she announced she would not consider the death penalty in any of those cases.”

State Rep. Bob Cortes has renewed his call for her dismissal Thursday.

Cortes, a Republican from Altamonte Springs, sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott declaring “Now that the Supreme Court has affirmed that you are well within your legal rights as governor to reassign her cases, I respectfully request again that you suspend State Attorney Ayala from her position.”

Miriam Aroni Krinsky, founder and executive director of Fair and Just Prosecution, a group that submitted a brief signed by “dozens of former prosecutors and judges, including four former Florida Supreme Court justices and two former U.S. solicitors general,” held firm to the notion that local prosecutors must be left to decide what is right in their circuits.

“Legislatures establish the crimes that can be prosecuted and the range of punishments sought,” she wrote. “But it is the locally elected prosecutors who must decide which prosecutions and punishments to pursue. These decisions are an inherent part of the independent exercise of prosecutorial autonomy.”

The issue might not be totally resolved. Ayala and Austin also filed suit in U.S. District Court, and that case was put on hold while the Florida case was considered and decided.

The main question before the Florida Supreme Court was whether Scott could reassign murder cases to the 5th Judicial Circuit, where King has no issues with pursuing death penalty prosecutions. Scott has done so with more than two dozen murder cases in Ayala’s circuit, including two he reassigned on Wednesday.

The main question before the court was whether Scott could reassign murder cases to the 5th Judicial Circuit, where King has no issues with pursuing death penalty prosecutions. Scott has done so with more than two dozen murder cases in Ayala’s circuit, including two he reassigned on Wednesday.

Yes, the court concluded, by a 5-2 decision written by Justice C. Alan Lawson, with Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and Justices  Charles Canady, Ricky Polston and R. Fred Lewis concurring, and with Justices Barbara J. Pariente and Peggy A. Quince dissenting.

“Applying this well-established standard of review to the facts of this case, the executive orders reassigning the death-penalty eligible cases in the Ninth Circuit to King fall well “within the bounds” of the Governor’s “broad authority,” the decision analysis stated.

“The executive orders reassigning death-penalty eligible cases in the Ninth Circuit to King do not exceed the Governor’s authority on the facts of this case. Therefore, we deny Ayala’s petition,” the court’s decision, led by Labarga, read.

Ayala and her allies in court had argued that the very independence of elected state attorneys – prosecutors for their circuits – was at stake from what Scott had done. The ramifications raised questions about whether state attorneys could be politically pressured by an all-powerful governor to make decisions on how to prosecute.

The court granted that Scott has the power to reassign cases when he concludes the state’s laws are not being followed, but it stopped short of suggesting that he or any governor could tell a state attorney what to do.

The issue, the court concluded, was that Ayala’s blanket decision, announced March 16, to not pursue death penalties was not an exercise of prosecutorial discretion, but a decision to not exercise discretion, and therefore a refusal to follow Florida law.

“Ayala and her amici urge this Court to invalidate the reassignment orders by viewing this case as a power struggle over prosecutorial discretion. We decline the invitation because by effectively banning the death penalty in the Ninth Circuit—as opposed to making case-specific determinations as to whether the facts of each death-penalty eligible case justify seeking the death penalty—Ayala has exercised no discretion at all. As New York’s high court cogently explained, ‘adopting a ‘blanket policy’ ‘ against the imposition of the death penalty is ‘in effect refusing to exercise discretion’ and tantamount to a ‘functional veto’ of state law,” and therefore something Scott could step in to remedy, the court wrote.

“Ayala’s blanket prohibition against the death penalty provided the Governor with ‘good and sufficient reason’ to reassign the cases at issue to King, also important to our holding is that the Governor did not attempt to decide which cases are deserving of the death penalty,” the court wrote.

Pariente offered a dissenting opinion, with Quince concurring, that Ayala acted within bounds of Florida law.

“When State Attorney Ayala announced that her office would not seek the death penalty in capital prosecutions, she acted well within the bounds of Florida law regarding the death penalty,” the decision’s analysis stated. “She did not announce a refusal to prosecute the guilt of defendants charged with first-degree murder. Rather, State Attorney Ayala announced that she would not seek a sentence that produces years of appeals and endless constitutional challenges and implicates decades of significant jurisprudential developments, many of which have emanated over the years from the United States Supreme Court. Despite assertions to the contrary, State Attorney Ayala did not make her decision based on personal opposition to the death penalty or ’emotion.’

“State Attorney Ayala’s decision was well within the scheme created by the Legislature and within the scope of decisions State Attorneys make every day on how to allocate their offices’ limited resources. Because State Attorney Ayala’s decision was within the bounds of the law and her discretion, Governor Scott did not have ‘good and sufficient reason’ to remove her from these cases,” the dissenting opinion continued.

“The Governor’s decision in this case fundamentally undermines the constitutional role of duly elected State Attorneys,” Pariente concluded.

Pride Fund endorses Anna Eskamani in HD 47 race

The Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, a national organization inspired as response to the 2016 massacre at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, announced Thursday it is endorsing Democratic Anna Eskamani in the race for Florida House District 47.

The Pride Fund combines advocacies for gay rights and for gun law reforms, and provides both endorsements and financial backing to candidates that support both of those positions.

“Anna has been a consistent and strong advocate for the disenfranchised, and has spent her career doing the right thing for Floridians,” Jason Lindsay, Pride Fund executive director, stated in a news release. “Gun violence in America is a public health crisis that Orlando is all too familiar with since last June’s tragedy at Pulse nightclub. Anna supports legislation requiring background checks for gun sales, and will support legislation prohibiting discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in education, employment, housing, and public accommodations.”

Eskamani, an Orlando executive with Planned Parenthood, faces Republican businessman Stockton Reeves of Winter Park, seeking to succeed incumbent Republican state Rep. Mike Miller, who is running for Congress in Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

“Receiving the endorsement of the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence is both an honor and a reminder of purpose,” Eskamani stated in the release. “Pulse Nightclub sits in House District 47 and each day I honor those who are no longer with us through action. My commitment to the LGBTQ community and gun safety policy is unwavering, and you can trust me to fight for equality while also pursuing strategic ways to reduce and prevent gun violence.”

Last year the Pride Fund endorsed Miller’s opponent, Democrat Beth Tuura. The Pride Fund also has endorsed the incumbent in the CD 7, Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, who would be Miller’s opponent in the 2018 election if Miller wins a Republican primary against Stanford businessman Scott Sturgill.

In the release, The Pride Fund did not address Reeves or Sturgill, but did criticize Miller for his support for open-carry gun law proposals in Florida, and for a proposal to allow guns on college campuses.

“It’s time the Orlando community is represented in the state legislature by leaders who will keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people and stand up against the ugly face of hate,” Lindsay stated. “We are proud to have played a pivotal role in Rep. Stephanie Murphy’s 2016 election, and we intend to ensure that this community that suffered such a tremendous tragedy is served by representatives who will keep them safe from gun violence and discrimination.”

Republican Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera joins HD 27 race

Educator and human rights advocate Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera announced Thursday she is running for Congress, seeking the Republican nomination to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Florida’s 27th Congressional District.

Aguilera, of Brickell, is a former Doral vice-mayor, and also that city’s first economic development director.

She joins a crowded field in the 2018 race for CD 27, with Republicans state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, Maria Piero, and Bruno Barreiro, and Democrats state Rep. David Richardson, Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, Michael Hepburn, and Mark Anthony Person.

The district covers Miami Beach, south Miami, Kendall, and southeast Miami-Dade County.

“South Floridians want a government that listens to them and lives up to its promises. The government should not regulate our lives; it should foster opportunities – opportunities for more and better jobs and better quality of life,” Aguilera stated in a news release issued by her campaign.

“Building on my record of creating economic opportunity and tackling some of the South Florida’s toughest challenges, I will put people before politics and focus on job growth, improving education, supporting small business and defending human rights. I believe in a stronger future for all South Floridians and that is why I am running for Congress, to break through Washington’s bureaucracy and fight for the people of the 27th Congressional district,” she added.

Rick Scott reassigns two more murder cases from Aramis Ayala

Two more Orange County murder cases, including one dating to the early 1990s and one from this spring, are being stripped from Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala, with Gov. Rick Scott reassigning the prosecutions to State Attorney Brad King of Ocala.

Scott signed two executive orders late Wednesday, reassigning the murder cases of Jermaine A. Foster, convicted of two counts of first-degree murder in 1994, and of  Robert Joseph Cardin, indicted in two first-degree murder charges in the deaths of his mother and brother in May.

Scott has now reassigned more than two dozen murder cases away from Ayala because the 9th Judicial Circuit state attorney declared in March that she would not pursue death penalty prosecutions.

Everyone is awaiting a decision on whether Scott’s executive orders are legal. Ayala challenged his authority to reassign cases without her consent, and the Florida Supreme Court is set to make a decision on that anytime.

Foster’s case returns because he filed a motion seeking post-conviction relief based on the fact that the laws under which he had been sentenced have been overturned.

He was convicted of murders, and attempted murder on a third victim, after essentially executing two men and attempting to kill a woman during a robbery in 1993.

Cardin’s case involves the slayings of his mother and brother in May. He was arrested in New York.

Democrats hit Congressional Republicans on health care on Facebook

Washington Democrats have begun an early attack on Republican members of Congress who voted for the American Health Care Act, with a Facebook ad campaigning targeting a those in a handful in relatively competitive districts, including five in Florida.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee this week is launching Facebook ads against U.S. Reps. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach, Vern Buchanan of Longboat Key, Brian Mast of Palm City, Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami, and Carlos Curbelo of Kendall.

As promised by Democrats during this year’s health care fights, the ads go after Republicans on their efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

The Facebook ads are targeting older adults with comments about the so-called “age tax” written into the House Republican’s health care bill, which would have allowed insurance agencies to charge higher premiums to older adults. The House passed House Resolution 1628 by a 217-213 vote, but the Senate killed it.

The campaign marks a continuation of the “early start” the DCCC had pledged in this election cycle, seeking to soften up potentially vulnerable Republicans more than a year before the 2018 election. DCCC has drawn up a list of 80 Republican members of Congress nationally for the early campaign, including six in Florida, though one of them, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami, has decided to retire. [And she voted against HR 1628.]

The ad, citing the DCCC as the sponsor, declares in Facebook post text, “The Republicans’ health care bill would add an age tax to older Americans, allowing them to be charged five times more than younger people. And [name of the targeted Republican] supported it.” The ad includes a picture of an older woman in a hospital bed, being comforted by her husband, with meme text declaring “[name of targeted Republican] & Speaker Ryan: Hands off our health care.”

“With Republicans in control of Congress, our healthcare is constantly at risk,” DCCC spokesperson Cole Leiter said in a written statement. “From voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act dozens of times, to their heartless repeal bill, it’s clear that kicking millions of Americans off their health insurance, increasing costs, slapping an age tax on older Americans and destroying protections for those with pre-existing conditions is the House Republican game plan. This digital ad campaign will educate voters in our battlefield about the morally bankrupt age tax and remind people what is at stake in the midterms.”


Draft investigation report: Tri-Rail did not follow rules in $511 million, one-bid deal

When the public agency that runs the Tri-Rail commuter trains in South Florida dumped five less-expensive proposals and awarded a ten-year, $511 million, operations and maintenance contract last winter, the agency followed rules spelled out in that particular proposal but they conflicted with the agency’s standing internal procurement rules, a draft state investigation report concludes.

The transportation authority’s action last January boiled into major controversy spilling into the 2017 Florida Legislature Session. Gov. Rick Scott and key lawmakers, notably Sen. Jeff Brandes, expressed outrage that the agency essentially awarded a one-bid, ten-year contract worth a half-billion dollars, while five other train companies were crying foul. Brandes called for the state investigation.

Six months later, Florida Department of Transportation Inspector General Robert Clift concluded, [according to a report that is only in a draft stage but has been shared with other agencies in Florida,] that the transportation authority’s actions may have followed rules set forth for that specific project, but did not follow the agency’s standing procurement rules, which were different from what was outlined in the request for proposals. The agency’s rules would have required all six proposals to be evaluated by a selection committee, and that did not happen, Clift observed.

Clift did not make any recommendations that would affect the Herzog contract, but he did recommend several more state controls, including a call for a new state law requiring all state transportation authorities to adhere more closely to state procedures for bid protests, requiring bidding procedures to be stopped, and for disputes to go to the Florida Department of Administrative Hearings for final orders.

POLITICO Florida first reported on the inspector general’s draft report and Clift’s observations earlier Wednesday.

In his draft report, Clift also observed that the authority’s own rules would have required it to follow a “competitive negotiated procurement process,” but that never happened either.

Clift also cited Gerry O’Reilly, the FDOT District Four secretary who is a member of the SFRTA Board who voted against the contract in January, as saying that the new ten-year contract for Tri-Rail operating and maintenance appeared to be almost $10 million a year more than the transportation authority previously had been paying for the same services. O’Reilly raised concerns with Clift that the authority could not afford to pay that much more without seeking more revenue, though SFRTA officials told Clift they saw efficiency opportunities to make ends meet.

Clift sent a copy of the draft report to the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority on Aug. 8, and obtained a copy as a public record Wednesday. The final report, which would include the SFRTA’s response and other addenda, is not set to be completed until October.

A spokeswoman for the transportation authority said the agency would not comment on the inspector general’s observations and recommendations until the final report is out.

On Jan. 27 the SFRTA Board voted 6-2 to award a contract based on the only bid presented to the board, from Herzog Transit Services. Five other proposals, from Amtrak, Bombardier, First Transit, Inc., SNC-Lavalin, and Transdev Services, Inc., all had been rejected by staff weeks earlier for what staff had said were “qualified” pricing proposals, which the companies later denied. All the other bids reportedly were lower, as low as $396 million, but those proposals were never reviewed. Three of those companies went to court to try to force the board to consider their proposals, but lost in court, based on the requirements spelled out in the request for proposals.

Scott; Brandes, who chairs of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development; state Sen. George Gainer, who chairs of the Senate Transportation Committee; and the Florida Department of Transportation all raised strong criticisms of the deal and threatening to cut Tri-Rail’s $42.1 million in state money if the agency did not rescind the Herzog deal and rebid the contract. However, they backed down in favor of a new law, House Bill 695, which tightened state control over the agency.



Florida Democrats in Congress call for Florida special session to replace statue

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz now has gotten the other ten Florida Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives to join her call for a one-day Florida Legislature special session to replace Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith‘s statue in the U.S. Capitol.

“We must denounce symbols of what supremacy and stand up for love and compassion – not just with words, but with our deeds,” state letters from the 11 Florida Democratic members of Congress to Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran. “As the third largest state, and easily one of the most diverse in our nation, Florida has an opportunity to send a defining message.”

Wasserman Schultz first called for such a special session on her own, on Aug. 15.

The issue involves one of Florida’s two state representation statues in the U.S. Capitol. In 2016 the Florida Legislature voted to replace the Smith statute, but in 2017 was unable to agree on a replacement, so the statue remains.

The new congressional letter calls for Scott, Negron and Corcoran to act immediately, “in the shadow of Charlottesville,” to “stand at a crucial moment when leaders and institutions must confront hate and violence without ambiguity.”

A spokesman for Scott’s office expressed confidence that the legislature would take care of the matter as soon as possible. In January. When the regular 2018 Legislative Session convenes.

“In 2016, Governor Scott signed a bill that replaced this statue at the U.S. Capitol. A committee was quickly convened, public input was gathered and three names were submitted to the Legislature for consideration for a replacement. It is now up to the Legislature to decide how to resolve this issue and Governor Scott hopes they do so when they convene in January,” McKinley Lewis said in a statement.

The offices of Negron and Corcoran did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the letter.

When Wasserman Schultz first made her call two weeks ago, Corcoran responded by accusing her of being out of touch and grandstanding, noting that the Florida Legislature already had voted to replace Smith’s statue and was working on picking a replacement.

The latest letter was signed by the 11 Democrats Florida has elected to the U.S. House, Wasserman Schultz of Weston, Kathy Castor of Tampa, Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg, Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, Alcee Hastings of Miramar, Darren Soto of Orlando, Frederica Wilson Miami Gardens, Val Demings of Orlando, Al Lawson of Tallahassee, Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach, and Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park.

“The legislature’s inaction leaves in place of honor, a symbol that represents a painful and horrific period in American history for so many Floridians and Americans,” the letter states.

“No family visiting our nation’s Capital should have to explain to their child that the statue representing our state honors someone who fought for a philosophy built on hatred, inequality and oppression.

“We urge you to take immediate action by calling a one-day special session during the Florida House and Senate’s upcoming interim committee meetings that already are scheduled in Tallahassee and finish this important and historic work.”

Buddy Dyer joining Anna Eskamani in HD 47 campaign event

Democratic candidate Anna Eskamani announced she’ll be joined by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer next week for a special announcement in the House District 47 race, a move most likely to reveal Dyer’s endorsement, something that was not a certainty, even among Democrats.

Dyer’s a Democrat but he endorsed the Republican in last year’s HD 47 race, backing incumbent state Rep. Mike Miller over Democrat Beth Tuura, who, like Eskamani, was further toward the progressive wing of the party than Dyer.

Miller beat Tuura 53-47 in the Nov. 8, 2016, general election, but now is running for Congress, opening the seat that represents central Orange County, including downtown Orlando and Dyer’s neighborhood in the College Park community.

Eskamani, an executive with Planned Parenthood, faces Republican Stockton Reeves, a Winter Park businessman with long and deep ties in the Republican Party at all levels.

While it offered no explicit indications that she has won Dyer’s endorsement, Eskamani’s campaign advisory on next Tuesday’s 11:15 a.m. event at Orlando City Hall declares, “Anna will join Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer at the steps of City Hall for a special announcement about her campaign and candidacy. They will be joined by Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan, along with supporters and constituents from across Florida House District 47.

The campaign advisory also stated that it has raised “nearly $100,000” in campaign donations since she kicked off her campaign in June.

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