Headlines – Page 6 – Florida Politics

D.C. officials, Ted Deutch call Marco Rubio a hypocrite, phony for his D.C. gun bill

Washington D.C.’s mayor and representative to Congress, joined by Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch from Florida, called Florida’s Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio a hypocrite Tuesday because of his proposal to repeal gun laws in the District of Columbia while offering support for tighter gun laws in Florida.

Deutch, of Boca Raton whose district includes Parkland; U.S. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat from D.C.; Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser; and Coalition to Stop Gun Violence Executive Director Josh Horwitz contended in a telephone press conference Tuesday that Rubio’s Senate Bill 162, which would revoke all municipal gun laws in Washington, would fly in the face of statements he made about tighter gun restrictions following the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Bowser accused Rubio of hypocrisy. Deutch said of his colleague, with whom he stood at a post-Parkland town hall meeting attended by thousands of area residents in February, “It’s not courageous to say one thing and then to do another. It’s phony.”

Norton declared, “We want Sen. Rubio to withdraw his bill that would repeal all gun laws in the District of Columbia. We’re not going to let him take his stand as a senator who is trying to do something about gun violence and then systematically in every Congress put in a bill, the most extreme bill, that would wipe out gun laws in a district not his own!”

Rubio is not going to withdraw it, contending that the District of Columbia is under federal law, and he believes Congress, not the district council, should be left to address gun laws there.

“Senator Rubio’s bill will not be withdrawn,” a spokeswoman in Rubio’s office said in a statement. “The District of Columbia is a federal jurisdiction and this bill simply aligns D.C. firearms regulations with federal law. If federal law is changed, it would apply to D.C. as well.”

His bill also is not going anywhere, unless something unexpected happens.

Rubio first introduced it in 2015, and again last year. It has not received a single co-sponsor. Nor has it been heard by a single committee.

Rubio’s office said the bill grew from concern that he felt upon learning about the plight of an office employee, who wanted to bring two legally acquired handguns to D.C. to protect herself following a shooting near her building, only to find a very cumbersome regulatory process.

Norton accused Rubio of sponsoring the bill to upgrade and keep a good rating he received from the National Rifle Association after he first introduced it. She argued his continuing sponsorship, without ever getting a cosponsor or any movement, suggests his motive is only to have his name on the bill, saying it shows “a great deal of cynicism.”

“In order to keep that rating, it seems to me, is what he does is he keeps putting it in, knowing full well we’ll be able to stop it,” Norton said.

Deutch ripped into Rubio for listening to Parkland residents and responding with sympathy for requests for such things as a minimum age limit of 21 for the purchase of firearms, something D.C. already has, while promoting a bill that would remove such an age limit and other restrictions in Washington.

“The question is not is there some greater urgency to moving this bill now,” Deutch said. “The question is: why is it, a month after the Stoneman Douglas shooting, there is no urgency to move forward on any of the meaningful steps to help curb gun violence in our communities? That is the question, frankly, that Sen. Rubio ought to be asked as well.”

Ron DeSantis: Russia may be malevolent but no collusion with Trump campaign

Appearing on Fox News Tuesday morning, Republican Florida gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis defended the House Intelligence Committee’s Republican declaration Monday that it was ending its Russia probe after concluding there had been no collusion with Russia by the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

DeSantis, a congressman from Ponte Vedra Beach, said he thinks the Russians’ activities “are malevolent” but he charged that the Democrats politicized the investigation by making it about Trump, and said it is time to move on.

“There’s no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. We’ve got to move on to that,” DeSantis said. “Now, Russian activity, I think they are malevolent, and I think we should try to deal with that in one voice,” DeSantis said on Fox News’ “Happening Now” show.

DeSantis faces Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the Aug. 28 Republican primary, with the expected additional entry into the Republican race of Florida Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran.

“But I think the problem with this is since Trump was elected it was politicized and the Democrats tried to lump Trump in with some type of nefarious Russian activity. And there’s just no basis for that other than the Steele dossier, which is not verified. There has never been evidence put forward. They’ve been doing this for over a year. They made the right decision. It’s time to move on.”

DeSantis did not make any references to the ongoing independent investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, or the four members of Trump’s campaign team who have been indicted in Mueller’s Russia probe.

Backers push for Marsy’s Law—a crime victims’ ‘bill of rights’

Before the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) convened its final public hearing Tuesday in St. Petersburg, Gov. Rick Scott joined others to support Marsy’s Law for Florida

A proposed constitutional amendment would grant equal rights to defendants and convicted criminals, and to victims and their family members.

“It’s very important that Marsy’s Law becomes the law of the land,” Scott said.

Most states have taken steps to amend their constitutions to enumerate victims’ rights. Fifteen have not – including Florida. 

Marys’s Law takes its namesake from Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas of California, who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983.

Later, Marsy’s brother and mother were confronted by the accused murderer in a grocery store. The two had not been told the ex-boyfriend had been released on bail.

The amendment includes the rights “to refuse an interview, deposition, or other … request by the defense,” “to be heard in any public proceeding involving pretrial or other release,” and to “full and timely restitution in every case.”

State Attorneys Katherine Rundle of the 11th Circuit and Andrew Warren of the 13th Circuit said Monday they were in favor of the proposal.

It’s also supported by Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat and child sexual abuse survivor who founded “Lauren’s Kids,” an organization to prevent childhood sexual abuse and help other survivors.

“Victims should be treated with respect and humanity,” she said Tuesday.

Now, the full CRC has to approve the proposal by no less than 22 votes out of its 37 members.

If cleared by the CRC, Marsy’s Law would be placed on the 2018 statewide ballot, where it needs 60 percent approval to become a part of the constitution.

The Commission meets every 20 years to review and propose changes to the Florida Constitution.

A link to the press conference video is here.

Alec Baldwin, Alyssa Milano raising money for Andrew Gillum

Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum heads to California this week to mingle with celebrities and Democratic activists at a high-profile fundraiser at the Santa Monica home of entertainment industry lawyer Skip Brittenham and his wife, actress and author Heather Thomas.

Tallahassee’s mayor is one of three Democratic candidates for governor in 2018 to be featured at the Thursday reception; Stacey Abrams of Georgia and David Garcia of Arizona are joining the event, which will also benefit Gillum’s associated PAC, Forward Florida. The three candidates also recently appeared at a forum where they received an endorsement from the ultra-liberal group People for the American Way.

Republicans control each of the three states, but a change in demographics gives Democrats hope they will become competitive in 2018.

Among those on the blockbuster host committee include actors Alec Baldwin, Alyssa Milano and Rashida Jones, Democratic consultant Van Jones, as well as producers Norman Lear (founder of People for the American Way), Susan Harris and Paul Junger Witt, who have been longtime Democratic supporters.

According to the invite, tickets the event start at $250 for “young progressives,” $500 for supporters and $1,000 for “friend.” A co-host spot is $5,000, and $10,000 to co-chair.

The backing of West Coast Democratic elite will serve as a big boost to Gillum, who faces former Tallahassee Congresswoman Gwen Graham, Winter Park businessman Chris King and former Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine in the race for the Democratic nomination for Florida governor.

Gillum has promoted himself as the only “true progressive” in the race.

Philip Levine launching new TV ads on gun violence

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine is launching new television commercials Tuesday addressing post-Parkland calls for assault weapon bans and universal background checks.

The 30-second spot “The Moment” is being released in both English and Spanish versions for English and Spanish television stations in all Florida television markets, part of a $1.3 million ad buy from his official gubernatorial campaign. His independent political committee All About Florida also has been spending millions of dollars on television commercials.

With video cutting from shots of Levine speaking to rallies following the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Levine begins by declaring, “This is one of those moments when we lose something so precious to us, there is nothing we won’t do to make it right.

“Now Floridians are standing up to gun violence, demanding universal background checks, bans on assault rifles, and protecting our schools,” he continues. “I’m Philip Levine, and I’m running for Governor because I’m a parent who will not stop at anything until we make our gun laws stronger and our children safe.”

Levine, the former Miami Beach mayor, is in a battle with former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Winter Park businessman Chris King for the Aug. 28 Democratic primary nomination to run for governor. The leading Republicans are U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

“While session has ended with a small step forward on gun reform, the calls for bold action demanded by the majority of Floridians were ignored by the governor and Legislature. It’s deeply frustrating that Republicans in Tallahassee were more focused on arming school personnel than taking military-style weapons off the streets. The new ad released today reiterates Mayor Levine’s commitment to take these issues directly to the people as Governor, and seize the moment to make our gun laws stronger and make sure our children are safe,” Christian Ulvert, senior advisor to Levine, stated in a news release.


Chris Smith proposes adding assault weapon ban to state constitution

Saying there’d been no effort to address assault weapons in the Florida Legislature Session that just ended, Democratic former state Sen. Chris Smith has offered an amendment to the Florida Constitution that would ban them.

Smith, the former Senate Democratic leader from Fort Lauderdale who is one of 37 members of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, has introduced an amendment to the commission’s Committee Substitute for Proposal 3. His amendment would essentially be a strike-all after the opening clause and would change the proposal from one about the purchase and ownership of real property to one about the purchase and ownership of assault weapons.

“Since the 2016 horrific shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, and especially after the Valentine’s Day tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High School, Floridians have signaled their support for an assault weapons ban,” Smith said. “Since the Legislature did not act, I wanted to give the people the power to decide for themselves.”

His proposed amendment, were it to be adopted by the commission and voted favorably by 60 percent of Florida voters next fall, would ban such purchases.

“The sale or transfer of assault weapons, as defined in this subsection, is prohibited. The legislature may enact legislation consistent with this subsection, and may provide exceptions to the prohibition on the transfer of assault weapons legally possessed prior to the effective date of this subsection,” part of the amendment reads.

It could come up for commission consideration as early as Tuesday’s CRC meeting in St. Petersburg. Or not.

At a CRC meeting in Melbourne three weeks ago, dozens of public commenters requested that the CRC propose a constitutional amendment that might ban assault weapons. CRC Chairman Carlos Beruff offered no interest at all in re-opening what has been an eight-month process that came up with the 37 active proposals on the commission’s table, and none of them had anything to do with guns.

Smith said things have changed, and he’s convinced such an amendment would be immediately topical and well in keeping with the commission’s mission.

“Sometimes you have to react to things people want done. This is a way for the commission to say, ‘OK, this is an issue that didn’t come up, but it can be brought in now,'” Smith said.

Poll: Voters want school board term limits, unsure of other CRC proposals

Florida voters want term limits for school board seats, but aren’t as enthusiastic about public money heading to churches or open primary races according to a new poll on proposals being considered by the Constitution Revision Commission.

Polling outfit Clearview Research surveyed voters on three CRC proposals –  Proposal 4, Proposal 11 and Proposal 43 – and only found Prop 43 with healthy support.

“It is important to recognize that most ballot items begin at their highest point and tend to have a downward trajectory as opponents’ messages most often have more ‘stickiness’ than supporters’ messages. Further, it is vital to remind readers that these items must score above 60% in the general election in order to be amended to the Florida Constitution,” said Clearview Research president Steven Vancore.

Prop 43, which would give school board seats the same 8-year term limits faced by Florida lawmakers, scored 68 percent support among those polled, with 44 percent saying they would “definitely vote yes” and another 24 percent saying they were leaning toward supporting the measure.

Only 11 percent said they would definitely vote against the proposal if it were on the ballot, while another 13 said they were a soft no.

Support for Prop 11 came in at 58 percent.

The proposal would open up primary elections if all the candidates for an office have the same party affiliation and the winner will be opposed only by write-ins. Primary elections where the winner would be opposed by a candidate of a different political party or a candidate running without a party affiliation would remain closed.

Most of the 58 percent of likely voters in favor of the measure only gave soft support, though 28 percent said they were firmly in favor of such an amendment.

The definitely and probably no camps each accounted for 13 percent, while 16 percent of those polled said they were unsure.

While behind the threshold for passage, Clearview said Prop 11’s starting position was “relatively solid.”

Prop 4 would remove the section of the Florida constitution barring the use of public money in aid of any church, sect, religious denomination, or religious institution.

It was the only measure in the survey that came in underwater.

“We toyed with wording it in the affirmative (“allows government to use public money in aid…”) however, we chose to take a more conservative approach and stick to the actual language as proposed and in review of the CRC staff analysis,” Clearview said.

All told, 41 percent of voters said they would vote for the measure, with 26 percent saying they were firm supporters, while 51 percent said they were against the proposal, including 18 percent who said they would definitely vote no.

Just 8 percent said they were unsure.

Clearview said, as worded, Prop 4 stands “virtually no chance of attaining the 60 percent threshold.”

The Clearview Research poll contacted 750 likely Florida between March 1 and March 7 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.58 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.

As in the firm’s survey of the Rick Scott v. Bill Nelson U.S. Senate race, the poll estimates 41 percent of voters in November will be registered Republicans and 39 percent will be Democrats.

Two state attorneys come out in support of Marsy’s Law

State Attorneys Katherine Rundle of the 11th Circuit and Andrew Warren of the 13th Circuit said Monday they were in favor of a Constitution Revision Commission proposal that would put a victims’ bill of rights in the state constitution.

Known as “Marsy’s Law,” Proposal 96 would require victims to be told about their rights as well as services available to them, and would add updates on criminal proceedings, meetings with state attorneys before plea deals are handed out, and the ability to be attend and speak during court proceedings to the list of rights crime victims have.

The proposal is named after MarsaleeMarsyNicholas of California who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983.

“Those things found in our state constitution speak to the values of Florida. Elevating rights for victims of crime to a constitutional level, the same level where those accused and convicted of crimes find their rights, is something we should all support,” Rundle said, who has been a State Attorney since 1993.

“I respect the constitutional rights that exist for those accused of crimes. At the same time, the prosecutors and staff in my office deal with tens of thousands of victims every year, none of whom ask to be thrust into the criminal justice process. The victims are all aware that there are many constitutional rights for the person accused of a crime, and it’s about time here in Florida that victims know that they are protected with constitutional rights of their own,” she continued.

Warren echoed the same sentiments in a letter addressed to CRC Commissioner Timothy Cerio, who is sponsoring the proposal.

“Every year, more than half a million Floridians are victims of crime, with nearly one hundred thousand being victims of violent crime like murder, rape, and robbery,” Warren wrote. “The trauma of being a victim quietly extends beyond visible physical injuries or financial loss. Victims endure anxiety, fear, and perhaps most importantly, shaken confidence in both the goodness of humanity and society’s ability to protect them from harm. Because crime victims often endure life-changing events and continue to thrive despite these hardships, they are truly survivors.”

“We must affirm our commitment to supporting victims during their most vulnerable moments by enshrining their rights in Florida’s Constitution. The Constitution is our state’s most sacred document, identifying and preserving our most cherished principles, and victims’ rights deserve a place among our declared values. “

Victims rights are spelled out in all but 15 states, including Florida.

A poll conducted last year found 85 percent of Florida voters were in favor of adding victims’ rights to the state constitution.

Rick Scott leads Bill Nelson in new poll of possible U.S. Senate race

A new poll of the 2018 U.S. Senate race shows Gov. Rick Scott with a two-point lead over Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

The Clearview Research poll contacted 750 likely voters by phone between March 1 and March 7 and found Scott with a 43-41 advantage with 15 percent undecided.

Where the poll differs with other recent head-to-heads is the turnout model, which estimates Republicans will make up 41 percent of the electorate, while Democrats take a 39 percent share and no-party and third-party voters make up the rest.

“A few recent polls released to the media have shown samples that seem to anticipate more Democrats voting than Republicans,” said Steve Vancore of Clearview Research. “While that could possibly be the case, we see little evidence for it at this time.”

The poll shows Scott with a 50-36 lead among white voters and a 48-41 lead among Cuban Hispanic voters, while Nelson holds a dominating 72-12 lead among black voters and leads 40-32 among non-Cuban Hispanic voters.

Scott also holds the edge among voters aged 35 and older, while Nelson wins the 18-34 age bracket by 7 percentage points. The poll estimates the under-35 age group will make up about 13 percent of the electorate in November.

Scott’s edge falls well within the margin of error for poll, which is set at plus or minus 3.58 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

Still, the poll is one of a very few to show Scott with a lead over Nelson, who is running for his fourth term in the Senate.

Other polls have either shown the two in a dead heat, or shown Nelson with a slim lead.

Clearview says the two-point advantage for Republicans is consistent with the past few election cycles.

In 2016, Republicans outpaced Democrats at the polls by 0.6 points, a first in modern history for a presidential race, and in 2014 there was a four-point turnout margin on election day.

The 2014 election, also a midterm, is the most comparable to the 2018 election.

Other recent polls have given Democrats a better share of turnout.

“Historically, Republicans have enjoyed a turnout advantage in midterms, but with the current mood of the country, and a large number of Republican retirements, Democrats are optimistic about an impending blue wave,” said Michael Binder, faculty director of the Public Opinion Research Lab at UNF, in a February poll release.

Despite claims of a “blue wave” in 2018, and some evidence of its existence in special elections since 2016, Clearview also points to new voter registrations in the Sunshine State, which show more Republicans signing up to vote than Democrats.

The polls only matter if Scott files for the seat, which he’s remained coy about.

Scott said after the 2018 Legislative Session wrapped Sunday that it’ll be another few weeks before he announces his “future plans,” though most have had him penciled in for the contest for more than a year.

Count Nelson in that group. The incumbent lawmaker has been sending out campaign fundraising emails for months foretelling Scott’s candidacy, and in the post-Parkland CNN town hall, he dogged Scott’s non-appearance at every opportunity.

Here is the full polling document:

Results of Florida poll from Clearview Research by Peter Schorsch on Scribd

Democrats file in Denise Grimsley, Katie Edwards-Walpole districts

Democratic candidates have opened campaign accounts to try to succeed Sen. Denise Grimsley, a Sebring Republican, and Rep. Katie EdwardsWalpole, a Plantation Democrat, in November.

Lake Wales Democrat Catherine Price opened an account last week to run in Senate District 26, which includes DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands, Okeechobee and parts of Charlotte, Lee and Polk counties, according to the state Division of Elections website.

Grimsley is running this year for state agriculture commissioner.

The only other candidate in the race is Rep. Ben Albritton, a Wauchula Republican who had raised $142,600 as of Feb. 28, a finance report shows.

Meanwhile, with Edwards-Walpole’s recent announcement that she will not run for another term in Broward County’s House District 98, Plantation Democrat Louis Reinstein became the first candidate to open an account to try to win the seat.

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