Circuit Judge KarenGievers had found that the three proposals – including a measure that would ban offshore oil drilling and ban vaping in workplaces – improperly “bundled” unrelated issues.
Why not, Agarwal suggested, since the Framers did the same thing.
“Our constitutional history is replete with examples of situations in which voters have been asked to vote up or down on bundled provisions addressing distinct rights and issues—including the ratification of the Constitution and the First Amendment,” he said.
A challenge by retired Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead, and fellow plaintiff RobertBarnas, a former state elections commissioner, argued that such bundling would violate the First Amendment rights of voters, who could have conflicting views of issues in single ballot proposals.
But Anstead offers no “manageable standard for determining how ‘unrelated’ two provisions must be to trigger the First Amendment right he asks this Court to recognize for the first time in the history of American jurisprudence,” Agarwal wrote.
The 2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) this spring approved placing the three measures on the ballot. All proposed changes to the state’s governing document require a minimum of 60 percent approval for passage.
“Even if the First Amendment included the right (they) assert, the CRC had a rational basis for bundling some of the amendments for inclusion on the 2018 General Election ballot,” he said.
“(L)ong ballots often discourage citizens from voting at all, and if the CRC had listed all the proposed amendments separately, there would appear (25) questions on the ballot this fall, rather than (15).
“In other words, the CRC acted reasonably and with the proper intention of minimizing ballot fatigue when it decided to bundle proposed constitutional amendments.”
Along with the proposal on drilling and vaping, Gievers struck from the ballot a measure that deals with governance of the state-college system and death benefits for survivors of first responders and military members.
Also, she struck a measure that would remove constitutional language that prohibits “aliens ineligible for citizenship” from owning property and would revise language to make clear the repeal of criminal statutes does not affect the prosecution of crimes committed before the repeal.
The Supreme Court already has ruled on legal challenges to four other proposed amendments placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission. Justices upheld three of the proposals, including a proposed ban on dog racing, though they blocked a controversial education measure.
Anstead’s answer brief is due next, “no later than (noon on) Friday, Sept. 21,” and the state’s reply brief is expected “no later than (noon on) Monday, Sept. 24.”
As Florida Politics was preparing to release the results of our final post-primary, statewide survey focusing on the nexus of 2018 elections and medical marijuana, POLITICO Florida published a story putting Ron DeSantis, Ashley Moody and Matt Caldwell squarely on the wrong side of public opinion when it comes to Florida’s popular medical marijuana law.
The three top-of-ticket Republicans each offered varying degrees of incoherence as they staked out positions in support of Tallahasee’s quixotic crusade against allowing Florida patients to smoke medical marijuana.
DeSantis: “I want to see what happens with [the appeal].”
Moody: “…the litigation to clarify the amendment’s scope is reasonable…”
Caldwell: “…smoking is not a medicinal delivery system…[the smoking lawsuit] is just a fig leaf for full recreational use…”
Meanwhile, in the real world, voters believe — by a whopping 66-24 margin — that medical marijuana patients be allowed to smoke marijuana under the law.
These numbers come from Florida Politics’ polling partnership with medical marijuana advocacy org Empowering Wellness. What began as Wellness Week has now stretched over almost two weeks, and we’ve released results from four surveys over the last 10 days. In tomorrow morning’s SunBurn we’ll roll out the fifth and final poll, looking at the race for Attorney General.
ICYM the Sean Shaw-Moody horse race numbers,I’ll give you some hints:
—It’s tiggggght (duh);
—Medical marijuana is a winner for Shaw, and a loser for Moody.
Just like the three previous St. Pete Polls statewide surveys that we commissioned as part of Wellness Week(s), Floridians strongly support the state’s medical marijuana law, in numbers consistent with the 71 percent it received on the 2016 ballot. Also in line with the previous surveys, people aren’t happy with the Tallahasee status quo when it comes to the application of that law.
By a 42-23 margin, respondents disapproved of the way outgoing AG Pam Bondi has handled medical marijuana during her tenure. Those figures are squarely aligned with the prior results, where we asked if folks approved of Gov. Rick Scott’s handling (nope, by 45-30), and the Legislature’s handling (uh uh, by 48-29) of medical marijuana implementation.
Even in the survey we conducted among Republican primary voters in the uber-conservative 1st Congressional District (held by medical marijuana-supporting Republican, Matt Gaetz), Panhandle Republicans would rather keep the Florida medical marijuana law in place, versus repealing it, by a 53-34 margin.
DeSantis, Moody and Caldwell are simply out of step with the electorate on this issue, and all indications are that Democrats are going to continue weaponizing it to their electoral advantage.
Though he won’t be on a Florida ballot — at least not for the foreseeable future — George P. Bush will be raising money in the Sunshine State this month for his campaign for another term as Texas Land Commissioner.
The fundraising reception will get underway at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 25 at the American Social. 601 S Harbour Island, in Tampa. The invitation lists a minimum contribution of $100 to attend, though those looking to provide more help to former Gov. Jeb Bush’s son can chip in $500 to become a co-chair for the event or $1,000 to become a chair.
Those who RSVP with Ally Schmeiser, either with an email to Ally@SentinelStrategic.comor by calling 202-748-7600, will get to rub elbows with a number of Florida politicians who are marked down as event hosts, including Attorney General Pam Bondi, former House Speaker Will Weatherford.
Weatherford’s brother, business partner and former FSU quarterback Drew Weatherford will also attend, as will lobbyist Slayter Bayliss of the Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners, Franklin Sreet COO Tyler Cathey and attorney Andy Gazitua.
George P. Bush, the grandson of President George H. W. Bush and nephew of President George W. Bush, recently scored a resounding victory in the Republican primary. Per Claire Allbright of the Texas Tribune, he earned over 58 percent of the vote in the four-way race, with the second-place finisher, former Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, earning just under 30 percent.
Bush will face Democrat Miguel Suazo, an energy and natural resources attorney, in the November general election. In the 2014 cycle, Bush defeated Democratic nominee John Cook 61-35 percent with Libertarian Justin Knight and Green Party candidate Valerie Alessi splitting the remainder.
In 2017 the Florida Legislature acknowledged and apologized for one of Florida’s ugliest recorded events of 20th-century racism. Yet barring a late surprise it would be left to the next state government to address the Groveland Four, and all four Democratic Florida Cabinet nominees pledged they would move swiftly, if elected, to issue long-sought pardons.
On Tuesday the Florida Board of Clemency will meet. As with the previous five times the board has met since the Florida Legislature urged Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet to issue posthumous pardons for “grave injustices perpetrated against Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd, and Ernest Thomas,” such pardons are not on the agenda.
The offices of Scott and the other Cabinet members, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, have never publicly said whether they have any intention of considering the pardons demanded by the Legislature and families of the four men whose lives were destroyed in 1949 after what now are recognized as false rape accusations and a series of racism-fueled injustices.
That silence continued through the end of last week, despite fresh inquiries from Florida Politics and others. On Friday, Scott’s office provided essentially the same response it did twice earlier, last October and in April, saying only that he is keeping his options open. The statement did not say what those options might be, or if the options include not acting at all.
Now, all four Democratic Florida Cabinet nominees including gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum are making it clear that they would act swiftly, if elected, on behalf of the Groveland Four. The Republican nominees each declined opportunities to comment on the pardons.
The Democrats also are declaring shame on Scott, Bondi, Putnam and Patronis for doing and saying nothing so far.
There is only one more scheduled meeting of the Clemency Board under Scott and the current Florida Cabinet, set for Dec. 5.
“It makes me incensed that the Cabinet would just ignore the will of a bipartisan Legislature,” said Democratic chief financial officer nominee Jeremy Ring, a former state senator. “This was [Republican House Speaker] Richard Corcoran and [Democratic state Sen.] Gary Farmer coming together, right? This was a unanimous decision. … But more than just absurd that they would ignore the Legislature, it’s unconscionable and mean that they would ignore the families.”
“The total silence from the Governor and Florida Cabinet on expediting the pardons of the Groveland Four speaks volumes about why we so desperately need new leadership in Tallahassee,” Democratic agriculture commissioner nominee Nikki Fried said in a written statement. “As ag commissioner, and a member of the cabinet, I would not hesitate to move the clemency review process, and these long-deserved pardons, forward quickly. The Groveland Four, and their families, deserve to finally realize the justice they were never able to in their lifetimes. And Florida deserves a Cabinet that will actually act in the spirit of fairness and compassion when it comes to the clemency review process.”
“Justice for Ernest Thomas, Charles Greenlee, Samuel Shepherd and Walter Irvin is seven decades overdue,” Democratic attorney general nominee Sean Shaw said in written statement. “I will do everything within my power to bring closure for these families if this is not resolved by my first Clemency Board meeting as attorney general.”
Gillum declined to comment, though his campaign staff and his running mate made it clear he, too, is ready to issue pardons.
“The mistreatment suffered by these young men should trouble every law-abiding citizen and posthumous pardons from Gov. Scott are long overdue,” Democratic lieutenant governor nominee Chris King said in a written statement.
Records released by the FBI and evidence and testimony gathered by Civil Rights crusaiders including Thurgood Marshall, the future Supreme Court justice, laid a powerful case that the four were falsely accused of raping a white woman in a rural area of Lake County outside Groveland in 1949. The story of racism and justice gone awry, and the individual stories of nightmares-come-true of the Groveland Four, were first comprehensively detailed in Gary Corsair‘s 2012 book “Legal Lynching: The Sad Saga of the Groveland Four” and then internationally exposed in Gilbert King‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning, 2013 best seller “Devil in the Grove.”
Shepherd and Thomas were killed in custody. Greenlee and Irvin were convicted and imprisoned. They since have died.
“We hereby acknowledge that Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd, and Ernest Thomas, the Groveland Four, were the victims of gross injustices and that their abhorrent treatment by the criminal justice system is a shameful chapter in this state’s history,” the Florida Legislature declared in the resolution.
The resolution also extended the Florida Legislature’s “heartfelt apology to the families … for the enduring sorrow caused by the criminal justice system’s failure.”
The desperate familes, watching aging loved ones who are contemporaries of the Groveland Four move into the twilights of their lives, have gone from joyful to angry as time has slipped by since that resolution was published, Ap;ril 28, 2017, without any word of formal considerations of such pardons from the Florida Cabinet.
They’re now assisted by a loosely-defined group that is getting pro-bono help from the firm Edelman Orlando for a more organized push for the pardons. The nameless group includes several family members and several others who’ve been involved in the effort for years, such as King and Josh Venkataraman, the young activist who brought the matter to the attentions of Farmer, then-state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, state Rep. Bobby DuBose and the Legislature. The group has been writing to the Cabinet members urging action, and seeking more media attention. So far they’ve not heard anything from Florida Cabinet officials either.
“It’s like the Legislature vote did not happen,” said Greenlee’s daughter, Carol Greenlee.
Among survivors is Henrietta Irvin, sister of Walter Irvin.
“There’s an 84-year-old woman in Miami with crippled hands that no longer work, who can no longer bathe herself or brush her hair, who spends her days in bed, wasting away because she has no appetite – a divorcee who raised children, worked long hours at a hospital, buried two daughters, took care of a mentally disabled brother for decades, who has nurtured the hope that her wrongfully-convicted brother, Walter Lee Irvin, would one day be exonerated,” Corsair wrote in an email to Florida Politics. “I believe only one thing is keeping this praiseworthy woman alive – a fading hope that the state of Florida will right a terrible wrong and restore Walter Lee Irvin’s to nullify his criminal record and restore his reputation to law-abiding citizen.”
The response from Scott’s office, from his press secretary Ashley Cook, did not provide any specific reason for Irvin or others involved to hope that a resolution is forthcoming.
“Governor Scott is aware of the Groveland Four case and is strongly against any form of racial injustice or discrimination. Currently, the families of Walter Irvin and Charles Greenlee have applications pending with the Commission on Offender Review which, on behalf of the state of Florida, conducts clemency investigations per standard procedure and the Florida Constitution. After the Commission concludes clemency investigation, their findings are presented to the four-member Board of Executive Clemency,” Cook said in a written statement. “We continue to review all of our options.”
Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor, is ready to pursue pardons “following the will of the Legislature,” if he is elected governor, according to his spokesman. “The Groveland Four and their families deserve closure,” said Geoff Burgan.
Sean Shaw is making some bold promises in his campaign to be Florida’s next Attorney General, threatening to file or join multiple lawsuits against President Donald Trump and his administration.
“There is no room for corruption in the state of Florida,” Shaw said, speaking outside a Trump condo building in Sunny Isles Beach.
“The hundreds of millions of dollars in Russian shell company money that has been reportedly pumped into Trump properties in the past 20 years raises troubling questions about how the President is conducting his business.”
Shaw is referring to reports that Russians paid millions in cash for these properties. The area was even dubbed “Little Moscow” or “Little Russia” due to the amount of Russian buyers ready to pony up for space in these buildings.
Reports say some of those cash deals may have been done to funnel dirty money, though no wrongdoing has been found.
“Ashley Moody has promised to be an extension of Pam Bondi. Is that really what the people of the state of Florida need more of? No.”
Moody’s camp responded with a statement regarding her focus should she be elected.
“Ashley Moody will continue to speak to the issues important to Floridians, like supporting our law enforcement, addressing the opioid crisis and elder abuse,” said Nick Catroppo, Moody’s campaign manager.
“Floridians do not need to be distracted by partisan political rhetoric at a time when voters want someone who they can trust to defend the rule of law.”
“President Trump is using the office of the presidency to personally enrich himself and those around him. This is unacceptable and potentially a crime,” Shaw argued.
“As Attorneys General are quickly realizing, we are the last line of defense against public corruption. Unlike [special counsel Robert] Mueller or members of the Department of Justice, the President can’t fire me.
“I only answer [to] and work for the people of the state of Florida. And they demand action and accountability.”
Shaw was asked whether he would wait for the Mueller investigation to conclude before using his power to sue the President. Shaw says he’ll be ready on his first day in office to challenge Trump.
“These are parallel investigations. The only thing I’m waiting on is to get elected. The minute we do, we’re going to start these investigations and join that lawsuit.”
After months of scrapping and the field narrowing from four candidates to two, former Circuit Court Judge Ashley Moody and Pensacola state Rep. Frank White faced off Tuesday in the Republican primary for Attorney General.
With the ballots counted, Moody defied recent polls and emerged from the bruising primary with a 13-point victory over White who, just two years after he first won elected office, dumped a lot of his own cash betting big on a statewide race.
The race to replace current Attorney General Pam Bondi, who could not run for re-election because of term limits, started humming more than a year ago, when Jacksonville Republican Rep. Jay Fant became the first-in candidate for the statewide seat in May 2017.
Moody followed the next month and quickly took a dominating lead in fundraising — her inaugural finance report saw her bring in more than $600,000 between her campaign and committee, while Fant didn’t manage to scrape together even half that much given double the time.
The two-way race chugged along for months, with Fant desperately attacking Moody, and at one point he even challenged her to a debate. When she declined, he went on with the one-man “debate” by his lonesome.
In early June, White had already announced a $1 million TV buy, and he kept those ads rolling through primary season. As of Aug. 23, he had pumped $3.5 million of his own money into his bid and received more than $500,000 in additional support through his father-in-law, car dealership magnate Sandy Sansing.
Including the self-funding and the family money, White brought in nearly $5.85 million for his run and has spent nearly every dime, including more than $4.3 million in hard money for media buys and a substantial amount more for direct mailers bashing Moody for accepting public matching funds for her campaign — a program used by most statewide candidates, including both Republican gubernatorial hopefuls.
Moody, for her part, had brought in $4.65 million by the time pencils down was called in the money race and has spent about $2.92 million on media buys. And she gave White her fair share of flack via mailers and a website highlighting the questionable source of his self-funding dollars and hammering him for never having prosecuted a case or much at all as an attorney — he spent a couple years in private practice and has since worked as the general counsel to his father-in-law’s car dealership empire.
But only one poll matters: The primary election results.
Now that Moody has secured the Republican nomination, and handily at that, she’ll need to restock her campaign and committee accounts as she moves on to face Tampa state Rep. Sean Shaw in the general election. Though he hasn’t raised near as much money, his primary was far less bruising, leaving him some cash to spend now that both nominees will have to pivot and pitch themselves to all voters rather than the party faithful.
There’s a new hit job showing up in Pinellas County mailboxes painting House District 66 candidate Nick DiCeglie as a “lifelong Democrat” who has contributed to “pro-amnesty liberals like Charlie Crist.”
If that’s the case, the Republican Party of Pinellas County has a problem on its hands — DiCeglie is the chair.
But it’s not the case. Far from it.
DiCeglie did give to Charlie Crist, when he ran for U.S. Senate in 2010. That was long before Crist, a lifelong Republican from Pinellas County, switched his allegiance to the Democratic Party. Also of note: DiCeglie gave to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio later on in that election cycle.
All of his contributions since then have been to Republican candidates and committees: former Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Young, former Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly, the Republican Party of Florida — and those are just his federal contributions.
At the state level, he’s donated exclusively to Republican politicians: Attorney General Pam Bondi, state Rep. Kathleen Peters, former state Sen. Jack Latvala, Gov. Rick Scott and future House Speaker Chris Sprowls.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Nick DiCeglie is obviously a Republican. But that’s not the only troubling thing about the mailer. It also partially “doxxes” the candidate by listing his personal cell phone number.
That’s low. Blasting that information out to the public with a mailer pushing false and inflammatory information isn’t just irresponsible, it’s a recipe for someone to get harassed and possibly physically assaulted. As anyone who has had their information put out knows, it rarely stops at phone calls.
DiCeglie is running for the seat currently held by term-limited Rep. Larry Ahern. He faces Seminole attorney Berny Jacques in the Republican primary. Heading into the final five days of the election, DiCeglie surpassed Jacques in both total fundraising and cash on hand — he had $46,605 in the bank, much of it loans, while Jacques had less than $500 in his two accounts.
It is unclear whether the mailer attacking DiCeglie was sent by the Jacques campaign as the flipside of the document was not provided to Florida Politics. Still, campaign finance reports show Jacques spent more than $18,000 on direct mail campaigns over the last couple weeks.
Recent polls show DiCeglie with a firm lead heading into the primary election. An Aug. 13 survey of likely Republican primary voters in the coastal Pinellas district showed DiCeglie with a 44-30 percent lead over Jacques. That edge expanded to 51-34 percent among the voters who said they’d already sent in their primary ballot.
The winner of Tuesday’s election will move on to face Democratic nominee Alex Heeren in November.
HD 66 covers part of Clearwater and numerous other communities, including Belleair Bluffs, Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores and Seminole.
The district has a Republican lean — Ahern has held the seat since it was redrawn in 2012, when he won re-election by 6 points. His next two re-election bids ended in double-digit wins, and President Donald Trump had similar success in 2016, when he carried the district 55-41.
The mailer is below. Florida Politics has edited the picture in order to not disclose DiCeglie’s cell phone number.
The family of U.S. Sen. John McCain, Arizona’s senior senator and the 2008 Republican nominee for president, announced his death after a lengthy battle with cancer.
Florida’s political leaders remembered the longtime Senate leader.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, elected in 2010, issued a statement mourning McCain.
“John McCain’s sacrifices to his country are immeasurable. With his passing today, America has lost more than a leader and more than a senator. We have lost a true American hero. As a colleague in the Senate and a friend, I drew personal inspiration from his leadership, intellect and moral courage. He set the standard for what we should expect from our soldiers and from our public servants of all levels. In this time of grief, I hope John’s family finds comfort in knowing that this extraordinary man touched countless lives, and his memory will continue to set the standard of leadership and moral resolve for future generations.”
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat elected to the Senate in 2000, called McCain a friend a hero.
“John McCain was my friend and one of my heroes. He devoted his life to duty, honor and country. He shall always be a role model for me.”
John McCain was my friend and one of my heroes. He devoted his life to duty, honor and country. He shall always be a role model for me.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is running against Nelson this year, noted McCain’s military service.
“John McCain was a true American hero. As a Navy man myself, I’ve always had immense respect for Senator McCain. A lot of folks talk tough, but he was the real deal. From one Navy family to another, we extend our sincerest gratitude for his strength and perseverance. John will always be a beacon of hope and perseverance for America. He was a true fighter and fought every day for this country. We will miss him dearly but take comfort in knowing his legacy will live on forever.”
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi sent prayers to McCain’s family.
“US Senator John McCain was a war hero, a public servant and a great American. Our country is better for his service. My heart breaks, and my prayers are with Cindy, Meghan and the entire McCain family.”
US Senator John McCain was a war hero, a public servant and a great American. Our country is better for his service. My heart breaks, and my prayers are with Cindy, Meghan and the entire McCain family. pic.twitter.com/RZEpaXvfzR
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a Republican candidate for governor, celebrated all stages of McCain’s service. “America lost one of her bravest defenders today. In a cockpit, an enemy prison, or the Senate chamber, John McCain fought for our nation’s values and freedoms, and sacrificed much in the journey. May God welcome him home and give comfort to his family.”
America lost one of her bravest defenders today. In a cockpit, an enemy prison, or the Senate chamber, John McCain fought for our nation’s values and freedoms, and sacrificed much in the journey. May God welcome him home and give comfort to his family.
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis remembered his interaction with McCain during the 2008 presidential campaign.
“Katie, Theo and I had the honor to meet Senator McCain during his 2008 campaign for President. My family appreciates his sacrifices for our country and pray for strength for the McCain Family.”
Katie, Theo and I had the honor to meet Senator McCain during his 2008 campaign for President. My family appreciates his sacrifices for our country and pray for strength for the McCain Family. #rippic.twitter.com/Ubu5DLHiHd
Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, a Democratic candidate for governor, spoke of the relationship between McCain and her father, former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham. “Dad and @SenJohnMcCain formed a friendship serving together because John McCain was one of the rare statesman who could place public service before partisanship. He was a warrior and maverick all the way to the end. May he rest in peace.”
Dad and @SenJohnMcCain formed a friendship serving together because John McCain was one of the rare statesman who could place public service before partisanship.
He was a warrior and maverick all the way to the end. May he rest in peace.
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democratic candidate for governor, praised McCain’s character. “We’ve lost a truly courageous leader tonight. John McCain’s integrity and love for our country was boundless. He led with a passion and purpose that we all aspire to. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends this difficult evening.”
We’ve lost a truly courageous leader tonight. John McCain’s integrity and love for our country was boundless. He led with a passion and purpose that we all aspire to. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends this difficult evening.
Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, a Democratic candidate for governor, also remembered McCain. “His patriotism is beyond measure, his heroism beyond question, and his character is a role model for a life beautifully lived.”
Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw, a Democrat, also posted a picture of McCain with another president, former opponent Barack Obama.
Senator John McCain was an American patriot and military hero. I respected his dedication to public service for this country and he will be missed. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/CWRuy85jgI
Agriculture Commissioner candidate Baxter Troutman, a Republican, was among those mentioning McCain’s maverick reputation.
The streets of heaven just had a maverick walk through its gates. Senator John McCain embodied the American Dream everyday he walked this earth. His long service to our Nation will never be forgotten. Becky and I send our prayers & condolences to Cindy & the entire McCain family
Chief Financial Officer candidate Jeremy Ring, a Democrat, called McCain a true patriot.
“So sad to hear of the passing of a true American Patriot and Hero @SenJohnMcCain . My prayers are with his family at this time as well as all the people he has touched throughout his eighty-one years. Senator McCain, THANK YOU for your service to the American people.”
So sad to hear of the passing of a true American Patriot and Hero @SenJohnMcCain . My prayers are with his family at this time as well as all the people he has touched throughout his eighty-one years. Senator McCain, THANK YOU for your service to the American people.
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Republican, added his tribute to McCain. “John McCain was a true American patriot who sacrificed much for his country. He was a man of tremendous courage and will be missed.”
John McCain was a true American patriot who sacrificed much for his country. He was a man of tremendous courage and will be missed.
U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, a Republican, released the following statement: “I am saddened at the passing of a true American hero, Senator John McCain. Senator McCain was a devoted family man, a passionate leader, and a dedicated public servant. He always put his country first, and as such he leaves behind an impressive legacy of service and sacrifice. The Bilirakis family was fortunate to call him a friend for many years. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. May his memory be eternal!”
U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Democrat, also put out a statement: “”I was so incredibly saddened to hear the news of Senator John McCain’s passing. He was a classic Patriot and served our nation with honor and distinction. May his family find the peace that they need in this difficult time, and know that his legacy will forever endure. Throughout Senator McCain’s years of distinguished service, we all saw firsthand his integrity, humility, courage and grace. My thoughts and prayers are with his entire family. Senator McCain inspired a nation and will be dearly missed.”
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, shared a picture of herself with McCain and a message for his family. “An American hero passed away but his legacy will endure. A fighter through and through, @SenJohnMcCain was a patriot and a true American hero. Dexter and I were proud to know him.”
An American hero passed away but his legacy will endure. A fighter through and through, @SenJohnMcCain was a patriot and a true American hero. Dexter and I were proud to know him. pic.twitter.com/Zebv1kd0No
U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Republican, said he felt honored to have served in Washington with McCain. “@SenJohnMcCain was a true hero. Honored to have known him and served in Washington with him. Thinking of the McCain family and all who loved him tonight. Rest in peace Maverick.”
.@SenJohnMcCain was a true hero. Honored to have known him and served in Washington with him. Thinking of the McCain family and all who loved him tonight. Rest in peace Maverick.
U.S. Rep. John Rutherford was among those celebrating McCain’s military contributions. “I am saddened by the passing of Senator John McCain and thank him for his service to our nation both in the Navy and in Congress. For decades, his dedication to his country, his family, and his principles have served as an example to us all.”
I am saddened by the passing of Senator John McCain and thank him for his service to our nation both in the Navy and in Congress. For decades, his dedication to his country, his family, and his principles have served as an example to us all. https://t.co/dBMN5Ol3ol
U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, a Democrat, said he was incredibly saddened to hear of McCain’s death. “He embodied true patriotism and was a man of unflinching integrity, who went above and beyond the call of duty in service to our country. This is a profound loss for our nation.”
I'm incredibly sadden to learn of the passing Senator John McCain this evening.
He embodied true patriotism and was a man of unflinching integrity, who went above and beyond the call of duty in service to our country. This is a profound loss for our nation. #JohnMcCainpic.twitter.com/fI4yOn8ddQ
U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Democrat, recalled a diplomatic trip the two lawmakers took together to Vietnam. “Patriot. Hero. Public Servant. Maverick. Senator McCain will be missed by this nation. As a Vietnamese refugee, I will treasure the memory of visiting Vietnam with @SenJohnMcCain talking about our deep and mutual love for America. Rest In Peace, Senator. Your legacy lives on.”
Patriot. Hero. Public Servant. Maverick. Senator McCain will be missed by this nation. As a Vietnamese refugee, I will treasure the memory of visiting Vietnam with @SenJohnMcCain talking about our deep and mutual love for America. Rest In Peace, Senator. Your legacy lives on. pic.twitter.com/xO0PQzR2GU
U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, a Republican, said McCain exemplified the best of the United States. “Sen. John McCain dedicated his entire life to serving our nation. As a Navy Veteran, a war hero, and later through his service in Congress, he exemplified the best this country has to offer as a statesman. My prayers are with the McCain family during this difficult time.
Sen. John McCain dedicated his entire life to serving our nation. As a Navy Veteran, a war hero, and later through his service in Congress, he exemplified the best this country has to offer as a statesman. My prayers are with the McCain family during this difficult time.
U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican, issued a lengthy statement celebrating McCain’s life from the military to his Senate service. “Generations to come will benefit from his selfless dedication to duty and country.”
Florida Senate President Joe Negron celebrated McCain’s military record. “We are keeping the McCain family in our prayers as they grieve this incredible loss. Senator McCain was an American hero who served the cause of freedom throughout his entire life. He endured suffering most of us cannot imagine. We are so grateful for his service and sacrifice.”
We are keeping the McCain family in our prayers as they grieve this incredible loss. Senator McCain was an American hero who served the cause of freedom throughout his entire life. He endured suffering most of us cannot imagine. We are so grateful for his service and sacrifice.
State Rep. Shevrin Jones demonstrated the bipartisan affection for the senator, saying McCain “was an example of what courage, strength, and civility in the process looked like. Today, let us honor him for showing the world that it can be done. To a true American legend and hero, Rest In Peace.”
@SenJohnMcCain was an example of what courage, strength, and civility in the process looked like. Today, let us honor him for showing the world that it can be done.
Miami Beach City Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, a Democratic candidate for Congress in South Florida, released the following statement: “It is a sad day today for all Americans. I may not have always agreed with Sen. John McCain, but I always respected him. He was a true American hero who fought for what he believed in — both in war and in Washington — and was a true representative of his people, not special interests. He was a warrior, a statesman, a model for us all. His death Saturday can be mourned by both Republicans and Democrats because Sen. McCain wasn’t afraid to cross the aisle, or challenge his own party and its leaders, when he felt he had to. Twice, he refused to support GOP legislation to end the Affordable Healthcare Act. His example and his leadership will be missed.”
Jesse Phillips, Seminole County Republican state committeeman, mentioned McCain sometimes upset his base but always inspired respect. “Love him or hate him, the maverick @SenJohnMcCain embodied so much of what makes America great.”
Christian Whitfield, Jacksonville City Council candidate, honored McCain’s service record. “Elizabeth and I would like to send our condolences to the #McCain family and to our fellow #vet and shipmate #johnmcain sleep in peace sir, we have the watch.”
The work of the Constitution Revision Commission is under attack in the courts.
And that’s fair, according to BrechtHeuchan, who led the CRC’s drafting process.
“I’m not mad about the lawsuits,” he told us. “That’s what people do when they feel aggrieved.”
But a new effort spawned this week encouraging Floridians to opt for a blanket ‘no’ to the eight amendments set forth by the CRC isn’t as well received by the panel’s former Style and Drafting Committee chair.
“I’m struggling with charges that the ‘sky is falling’ — when it’s not falling,” Heuchan said in reference to Save My Constitution, which is also seeking to reform or even abolish the CRC in the near future.
It asserted that the panel wasn’t held accountable, and that it ‘logrolled’ amendments by bundling issues together.
While not held directly accountable to voters, he added, commissioners don’t have to fret about upsetting special interests or winning the next election. In a sense, members of the panel enjoyed a “free and liberated” niche.
On bundling, which has drawn hefty criticism, Heuchan pointed to precedence and pragmatism.
Proposals from two prior CRCs similarly lumped several issues together, he noted. In 1968, a completely new constitution went before voters in just three amendments.
Ballot fatigue is real, he added, and if the CRC opted not to bundle, voters would’ve had more than 20 amendments to review.
With lawsuits abounding, judges seem split on the practice.
A Tallahassee judge earlier this month rejected the idea that bundling is deceitful. But retired Supreme Court Justice HarryLeeAnstead challenged six of the eight CRC proposals on that issue alone.
One thing’s sure: Come November, the CRC’s actions — assuming they’re on the ballot — have to be “validated and embraced” by no less than 60 percent of voters, Heuchan said. Given that, he isn’t losing any sleep.
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Danny McAuliffe, Drew Wilson, Jim Rosica, MichaelMoline, A.G. Gancarski, and Peter Schorsch.
But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
Judge rules against education amendment — Circuit Judge JohnCooper this week ordered Amendment 8 be removed from the ballot, opining that it “fails to inform voters of the chief purpose and effect of this proposal.” The ruling sided with a challenge brought by the League of Women Voters of Florida, alleging the education proposal is “misleading” because it did not inform voters of the impact it would have on charter schools. The provision at issue in the proposal’s ballot summary reads: “The amendment maintains a school board’s duties to public schools it establishes, but permits the state to operate, control, and supervise public schools not established by the school board.” The state quickly appealed the ruling, and the case passed through to the Supreme Court, which said it would hear the case soon.
FIU bridge dispute moves to feds — A federal judge will take over a case on whether the Miami Herald should have access to state records about a bridge that collapsed March 15 at Florida International University, killing six. A circuit judge sided with the Herald earlier this week and ordered the Florida Department of Transportation to release the records. But Senior U.S. District Judge WilliamStafford placed a stay on the ruling two days later after an attorney representing the National Transportation Safety Board moved the case to federal court. The NTSB is still conducting an investigation into the bridge collapse. FDOT cited federal law that prevented the state agency from releasing records related to NTSB’s investigation. The government is expected to file a motion Monday to quash the state ruling. Attorneys for the Herald will fight to have the case remanded back to state court.
Legislators clash with Scott’s school safety shift — Gov. RickScott is asking the Legislature to redirect to school districts $58 million of unused funding from a statewide school guardian program, but top legislators in both chambers disagree. After Scott submitted a request via the Department of Education to disperse the leftover money to school districts to help offset the costs of funding armed guardians or officers at every school, incoming House Speaker JoseOliva and Senate President-designate BillGalvano rejected the idea, The Associated Press reported. Before the doubtful remarks from the prospective chamber leaders, Scott said he was “confident” the Legislature would choose to disperse the money.
Early voting site ruling too late for some counties — Following Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker’s order that the state stop barring early voting sites on colleges, some supervisors of elections have said they won’t be able to launch campus locations ahead of the November election. Leon County Supervisor of Elections MarkEarley, for instance, announced that early sites will not be set up at the area’s three higher-Ed schools: Florida State University, Florida A&M University and Tallahassee Community College. Likewise, Miami-Dade said it will not have early polls ready in time at Miami-Dade College and Florida International University. Meanwhile, Hillsborough, Alachua and Orange County will have early voting sites ready at the major universities in each county, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Ballots cast exceed 1.5 million — More than 1.5 million Floridians have cast ballots for Tuesday’s primary election, according to data published Friday morning by the Division of Elections. More than 1 million of those ballots were sent by mail, with Republicans returning 507,127 and Democrats casting 443,776. More than 400,000 Floridians went to the polls for early voting, with Republicans leading Democrats by more than 7,000 early voters. Nonparty affiliated voters make up about 160,000 of all ballots cast thus far. Early voting ends Saturday, although supervisors of elections have the option to offer an additional chance Sunday.
Scott adds money to battle red tide
The governor this week announced that an additional $3 million is on its way to communities on Florida’s Gulf Coast to help mitigate toxic red tide plaguing waterways.
The money is available through grants that were unlocked after Scott recently declared a state of emergency.
With the additional funding, the Department of Environmental Protection committed $750,000 to Manatee County, $190,000 to Collier County and nearly $100,000 to Sarasota County, according to Scott’s office.
“We will continue to do everything we can to support the communities and businesses impacted by red tide,” Scott said.
The Governor also highlighted coordinated efforts between the state’s tourism-marketing and jobs agencies to ensure local businesses don’t suffer economic losses as a result of this year’s red tide, which is being covered nationally.
Bondi: Close fentanyl ‘loophole’
Joining a bipartisan group of 51 other attorneys general, Attorney General PamBondi this week signed on to a letter pleading for congressional leadership to support the Stop Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues Act, or SOFA Act.
An analogue is a kind of “knockoff,” chemically similar to a drug such that it mimics its effects.
SOFA, according to Bondi’s office, “would eliminate the current loophole that keeps the federal controlled substance scheduling system ‘one step behind,’ by (using) catch-all language allowing the Drug Enforcement Administration to proactively schedule all newly-modified fentanyl analogues.”
Such substances are lethal when taken directly or in mixed doses. Attorneys general from every state in the union along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico signed onto the initiative, led by Wisconsin and Connecticut.
“There is little doubt that the nation’s ongoing battle against heroin and opiates is unlike any other public health emergency,” the letter reads. “It touches all corners of our society.
“States and localities are on the front line of this crisis and are a large part of winning the battle from both a law enforcement and public health perspective.”
The Week in Appointments
State Emergency Response Commission
Courtney Drummond, 49, of Havana, is a Chief Engineer for the Florida Department of Transportation. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning Aug. 20 and ending at the pleasure of the Governor. Steve McCoy, 43, of Tallahassee, is an Emergency Medical Services Administrator for the Department of Health. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning Aug. 20 and ending at the pleasure of the Governor. CourtneyBarker, 45, of Satellite Beach, is the City Manager. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending at the pleasure of the Governor. AmandaBowen, 32, of Tallahassee, is the Executive Director of the Manufacturers Association of Florida. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending at the pleasure of the Governor. Greg Blose II, 38, of Tallahassee, is the Board of Governors Program Director for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending at the pleasure of the Governor. BobBurleson, 69, of Tallahassee, is president of the Florida Transportation Builders’ Association. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending at the pleasure of the Governor.
Children’s Board of Hillsborough County
Scott reappointed MeganProulxDempsey and EdNarain. Dempsey, 42, of Tampa, is senior corporate counsel for TECO Services, Inc. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Tampa and her law degree from Stetson University. Dempsey is reappointed for a term ending Dec. 31, 2020. Narain, 41, of Tampa, is director of external affairs for AT&T. He is a former State Representative and serves on the Board of Trustees for Saint Leo University. Narain received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Saint Leo University and his law degree from Stetson University College of Law. He is reappointed for a term ending Dec. 31, 2020.
Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission
Scott made three reappointments and one appointment to the Commission. Chief Jeffrey Pearson, 49, of Satellite Beach, is the Chief of Police of the Satellite Beach Police Department. He is reappointed for a term ending Aug. 1, 2022. Sheriff TommyFord, 49, of Lynn Haven, is the sheriff of Bay County. He is reappointed for a term ending Aug. 1, 2022. WilliamHarriss, 67, of St. Augustine, is the former city manager of St. Augustine. He is reappointed for a term ending Aug. 1, 2021. Chief Cristian “Sean” Hemmingway, 50, of Cooper City, is the Police Chief of Bay Harbor Islands Police Department. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending Aug. 1, 2019.
DEP opens Franklin Co. boat ramp
The Indian Creek boat ramp is now open for public use, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced this week.
Stationed on Franklin County’s Indian Creek, the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees selected the ramp as a restoration project to help mend services injured or lost following the 2010 BP oil spill.
Engineering and construction costs that helped revitalize the existing ramp totaled approximately $629,000. New changes include a “deeper boat ramp, aluminum access gangway and floating dock, replacement of existing bulkhead with steel sheet piling and concrete cap, safety fencing, ADA parking space, and improved parking for vehicles and boat trailers,” according to DEP.
DEP Secretary NoahValenstein said those changes should “provide increased public access and recreational opportunities” for Franklin County boaters. The agency partnered with the county to complete the project.
“The department is always looking for opportunities to partner with local communities on projects to enhance the use and enjoyment of Florida’s coastal resources,” Valenstein said.
Irma losses mount
Insured losses from Hurricane Irma have surpassed $10.4 billion, according to new data released by the Office of Insurance Regulation.
Florida insurers have fielded 997,237 residential and commercial policy claims, 91.7 percent of which have been closed.
Miami-Dade County produced the largest number of claims, at 126,994. Next was Collier County, with 91,980; Broward, with 82,251; Lee, with 81,933; and Orange, with 75,495.
The office plans to ask insurance companies to report loss data again Oct. 15, and will decide at that point whether to close the books on the storm, which hit Florida on Sept. 10 last year.
Irma costs add up for Cat Fund
Hurricane Irma-related claims against the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund could hit $2.5 billion, according to the latest estimate.
That’s up from $2.4 billion the last time the fund projected its losses.
AnneBert, the fund’s chief operating officer, released the update during a telephone conference call. The fund provides ‘reinsurance’ to Florida’s residential property insurers. Reinsurance is basically insurance for insurers, also called stop-loss insurance.
“This estimate will get updated as we receive additional loss reports from our participating company,” Bert told the fund’s advisory council. “Companies are reporting as they should, and all that is going very well.”
Irma had produced more than $9.7 billion in residential and commercial property insurance claims as of June 12, according to the Office of Insurance Regulation. The office is expected to update that figure based on responses from a data call it issued to insurance companies Aug. 10.
Tampa Electric Company’s (TECO) monthly residential customer bills will be reduced because of the Public Service Commission’s approval this week of savings from the U.S. Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017.
What TECO would have paid in corporate income taxes will instead be used to reduce rates, offsetting an expected increase resulting from previously incurred storm restoration costs.
The utility’s annual revenue requirement will be reduced by $102.7 million, or 9 percent. Residential customers will see a savings of “$6.50 per 1,000 kilowatt-hours,” the PSC said.
“We want customers to benefit from the federal tax reductions,” Commissioner JulieBrown said in a statement. “Our action today is truly monumental in nature, and with our approval, we’re glad TECO customers will see lower electric bills.”
Tampa Electric serves about 750,000 customers in west Central Florida.
Lineworker Appreciation Day
Florida Lineworker Appreciation Day is Sunday, and the Public Service Commission (PSC) wants to celebrate “the great men and women who work hard every day to construct, operate, and maintain the electric system that keeps Florida running.”
“We count on electricity, so when the power goes out, we want it restored as quickly as possible,” PSC Chairman ArtGraham said in a statement. “Lineworkers are invaluable, working all hours of the day, often in hazardous conditions, to restore power and return lives to normal.”
When needed, they “selflessly leave their families to travel to other parts of the country to help restore power to homes and businesses struggling after a storm.”
Even on average days, lineworkers work with high voltage electric lines as they dangle high above the ground in harnesses. Collectively, lineworkers maintain the nation’s more than 5.5 million miles of local distribution lines.
Lawmakers created Lineworker Appreciation Day in 2012. Follow @floridapsc to find PSC Commissioners’ #ThankALineman tweets.
Lawmakers honored for ‘home rule’ support
In the perennial legislative war over local control, there were three standouts in 2018: Sen. DebbieMayfield, Rep. BobbyDuBose and Rep. MelPonder.
The Florida League of Cities honored each with ‘Defender of Home Rule’ awards for their actions to maintain control at the local level and fight against pre-emptive measures, which kick decision-making powers up to the state.
The League advocates for local control, or home rule, and reserves its Defender of Home Rule designations for legislators “who consistently voted and advocated on behalf of Florida’s cities and the right to local self-government.”
“I truly believe the government closest to the people should make the decisions that affect the quality of life in the community they represent,” said Sen. Mayfield, a Rockledge Republican, in accepting the honor.
Dubose, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat and former city commissioner, cited his local government experience in accepting the award. “I understand the importance of Home Rule and will continue to fight for it,” Dubose said.
“I put great value on Home Rule,” Ponder, a Fort Walton Beach Republican and former city mayor, said. “I personally believe that every city and community has significance, and honoring that heritage is very important to me.”
Florida the ‘freest’ state
After free-market think tank CATO Institute ranked Florida the freest state in the union, the like-minded group Americans for Prosperity-Florida said it won’t rest on its laurels with the good news.
“We will continue advocating policies that will make Florida the best place to live, work and raise a family,” AFP-FL state director ChrisHudson said in a statement. “This study should serve as our collective challenge to preserve our freedom in Florida and push back on policy threats that might knock us off.”
The CATO rankings put the Sunshine State 1st in overall freedom, as well as 1st in fiscal policy, and economic freedom and 2nd in education policy.
AFP-FL said that the rankings could not have come without cooperation from state lawmakers who’ve championed and passed free-market policies.
“A special recognition goes out to Florida lawmakers that have put policy over politics, improving lives over the status quo, and for their commitment to preserving and expanding our freedoms in the Sunshine State,” Hudson said.
Florida 2030 drafts a path
Florida 2030, an ongoing three-year research project, released preliminary recommendations to improve the quality of life and places as Florida continues to grow.
Among the recommendations: Florida needs to add 1.7 million net new jobs by 2030; prepare its workforce to take advantage of global consumer demand; and adapt to shifting skills and accompanying training. That’s because Florida is experiencing “generational changes” and that the “nature of work in Florida is changing.”
“Florida 2030 provides a comprehensive look at what Florida needs to get right in order to become and remain a place marked by global competitiveness, prosperity and high-paying jobs, and vibrant and sustainable communities,” said TonyCarvajal, executive vice president of the Florida Chamber Foundation. “Florida’s future will face challenges, but it also means we have unique opportunities to succeed.”
The findings, while preliminary, will be expanded upon when the foundation releases its full report at the 2018 Future of Florida Forum, Sept. 26-27 in Orlando.
Hollywood Reporter: FSU film school among best
Those looking to break into the film industry should consider Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts, according to the entertainment industry’s media powerhouse, The Hollywood Reporter.
The Reporter recently put the school at No. 19 on its annual list of Top 25 Film Schools, noting the achievements of Oscar-winning director BarryJenkins, a 2003 graduate of the program, along with other successful alumni.
Jenkins snagged the Academy’s 2017 Best Picture Award for his drama, “Moonlight.”
“Measures of success like industry placement, award-winning student films and alumni accomplishments consistently demonstrate the excellence of our programs,” said RebBraddock, dean of the College of Motion Picture Arts. “It’s always rewarding to be recognized by outlets like The Hollywood Reporter and Variety for what we already know: Our faculty, students and alumni are outstanding.”
The film school pointed to its other recent successes: 97 percent of graduates find relevant work within a year of leaving. It’s also the only film school in the nation to completely fund student projects.
Sweetening the deal for students is a 5:1 student-faculty ratio, meaning student filmmakers are apt to find several one-on-one mentors.
“You really get the sense that the school is preparing you in every aspect for the industry,” said ZoeDeLeon, who earned a Master of Fine Arts in screenwriting and playwriting in 2018.
FSU’s housing for student entrepreneurs
Florida State will house a group of prospective entrepreneurs in a new living-learning community this fall.
Stationed at Deviney Hall, the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Learning Community is designed to expose students to available resources and information to help plan their time through FSU’s entrepreneur-focused curriculum.
The community is linked to FSU’s Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship, which recently opened a location downtown.
“We are thrilled to be able to have a pipeline,” said SusanFiorito, director of the Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship. “This is a wonderful opportunity for us to get students who are freshmen to think about their passion and to talk to other entrepreneurs about the variety of options that are available to them.”
The idea was welcomed by incoming students: The program had just 36 openings but received 127 applications.
Tallahassee Senior Center marks 40 years
Next week, Tallahassee Senior Services will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Tallahassee Senior Center, which is in the old Armory building at 1400 N. Monroe St.
To mark the occasion, there will be a program and open house Tuesday, Aug. 28, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. During this time, guests can glimpse the evolution of the Senior Center, fellowship with center participants and learn more about active aging opportunities.
“In our constantly changing community, one thing has remained the same since 1978 — the Tallahassee Senior Center continues to be a haven for Tallahassee’s active aging population,” City Commissioner GilZiffer said.
“Since opening, the Senior Center has welcomed countless adults through its doors, providing a place to connect and thrive. Celebrating 40 years is truly a testament to the value and worth that our Senior Services division brings to our community.”
Voters should not be given a chance to decide the fate of a proposed constitutional amendment expanding rights for crime victims because the ballot language is misleading, lawyers opposing the measure told a Tallahassee judge Friday.
Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers heard arguments on whether Amendment 6, approved by the Constitution Commission Revision, should remain on the Nov. 6 general-election ballot. The proposal would expand rights for crime victims, would raise the retirement age for judges and would change the way laws and rules are interpreted in judicial proceedings.
“However, in actuality, Amendment 6 does much, much more. Amendment 6, among other things, restricts the constitutional rights of those accused of crimes,” said Mark Herron, an attorney representing Naples defense lawyer Lee Hollander and the Florida League of Women Voters, who filed the legal challenge.
Herron said the ballot language does not inform voters of the full impact of the measure, including changes affecting the right to a speedy trial and the appeals process for criminal defendants.
“The summary and title, on the whole, fail to give voters information regarding the true scope of the amendment and its chief purposes by entirely omitting several significant changes made by the amendment,” Herron told Gievers.
But Barry Richard, a lawyer representing Marsy’s Law of Florida, said there are no constitutional rights “that are being eliminated by this amendment,” which he said advances a new set of rights for victims of crime.
Richard said for a court to remove an amendment from the ballot; it must find something “material” was left out of the ballot summary. If there are no rights being eliminated, then the challenge falls short of that legal standard, according to Richard.
He said the criminal defendant’s right to a speedy trial, protected by both the state and federal Constitutions, would not be changed by the proposal. But the amendment would give “a concomitant right to the same speedy trial” to crime victims, Richard said.
A key argument in the challenge is that the proposed amendment would eliminate a phrase in the Florida Constitution that outlines rights for crime victims but says they are established “to the extent that these rights do not interfere with the constitutional rights of the accused.”
Herron said Amendment 6 is fatally flawed because the ballot summary is “entirely silent” on the elimination of that phrase, which he characterized as an existing “fundamental” constitutional right for criminal defendants.
But Richard said the challengers are relying on a “partial clause” that would be replaced by the new rights language outlined in the proposed amendment.
“That’s not a free-standing phrase. It does not create a free-standing right in the Florida Constitution,” Richard said.
As another problem, Herron cited the ballot summary’s failure to mention that corporations and “other business entities” may be able to classify themselves as crime victims, if the amendment is adopted by voters.
Richard acknowledged it was unclear from the text of the amendment whether corporations could claim that right. But he said that was an “ambiguity” that would have to be resolved “in a different courtroom, in a different time” and should not be part of the ballot challenge.
Gievers closely questioned a lawyer from Attorney General Pam Bondi’ s office about whether the ballot title or summary “tells voters what the effect on the existing criminal justice system would be from the standpoint of the criminal defendants.”
Senior Assistant Attorney General Karen Brodeen told Gievers the summary does not contain that information because there would be no impact on the rights of criminal defendants.
“I don’t think that’s a valid argument. I don’t think there’s going to be any effect,” Brodeen said.
In addition to the challenge raised by Herron’s clients, a separate lawsuit, filed by Plantation Key resident Amy Knowles, is also asking the court to remove Amendment 6 from the November ballot. Gievers heard arguments in both cases Friday.
The major portion of the proposed amendment would expand existing rights for crime victims, while adding nine new rights in the state Constitution. The new rights for crime victims impact a number of areas, including setting bail, pretrial releases, restitution and the disclosure of information.
The proposal, known as “Marsy’s Law,” is part of a broader national movement stemming from the 1983 death of a California woman, Marsy Nicholas, who was stalked and killed by an ex-boyfriend.
In addition to the crime victims’ proposal, Amendment 6 would also raise the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 years to 75. And it would eliminate an existing legal standard that requires a deferment to governmental agencies in the interpretation of laws and rules in judicial proceedings.
Gievers’ decision is likely to be appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, which is already reviewing six of the eight constitutional amendments placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission.
In total, there are 13 proposed state constitutional amendments on the Nov. 6 ballot. Each amendment must win support from at least 60 percent of the voters in order to be enacted.
Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.