Pam bondi – Page 2 – Florida Politics

Rally calls for restoring rights after court defeat

A day after a stinging defeat handed down by an appeals court, ministers and civil rights leaders — including national talk-show host Al Sharpton — rallied Thursday at the state Capitol to rev up support for a proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would automatically restore voting rights for most Florida felons.

A march from Bethel Missionary Baptist Church to the steps of the Old Capitol, planned weeks ago, followed a late-night ruling Wednesday from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a bitterly fought challenge to the state’s vote-restoration system.

The appellate court handed Gov. Rick Scott and the other members of the Board of Executive Clemency a decisive victory by blocking a federal judge’s order that would have required the state to overhaul Florida’s process of restoring the right to vote to felons by Thursday.

In a series of rulings, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker found the state’s vote-restoration process violated First Amendment rights and Fourteenth Amendment equal-protection rights of felons. Last month, he gave Scott and the board until Thursday to revamp what the judge called a “fatally flawed” process and rejected a request by Attorney General Pam Bondi to put his order on hold.

But in its 2-1 decision Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the Atlanta-based appellate court not only granted the state’s request to put Walker’s decision on hold but also indicated the district judge’s invalidation of the vote-restoration process likely would not stand.

Thursday’s march and rally, featuring Sharpton and civil-rights lawyer Benjamin Crump, were organized around what was expected to be the release of the state’s new vote-restoration process as ordered by Walker.

Instead, the 11th Circuit’s decision stirred up already impassioned supporters of the proposed constitutional amendment as they gathered on the steps of the Old Capitol.

“I think that we are absolutely fired up. I intend to spend a lot of time here, and I know that others with national prominence will. More importantly, local citizens are energized. Many would have felt that there was hope if the appellate court had not ruled. But by ruling on the eve of this rally, they gave us the impetus to really build a movement,” Sharpton told The News Service of Florida and other reporters following the noon rally.

The proposed amendment, backed by the political committee “Floridians for a Fair Democracy” and largely bankrolled by the American Civil Liberties Union, would automatically restore the right to vote for felons who have served their sentences, completed probation and paid restitution. Murderers and sex offenders would not be eligible.

Home to an estimated 1.6 million convicted felons, Florida is one of a handful of states that do not automatically restore voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences. An estimated 600,000 felons could have their voting rights restored if voters approve the measure, which will appear on the November ballot as Amendment 4.

Although a majority of the convicted felons in Florida who have lost their right to vote are white, blacks are disproportionately represented among the felon population.

So it’s no surprise that felon disenfranchisement sparks intensely emotional responses from African-Americans like those who gathered in downtown Tallahassee under sunny skies Thursday. Many people at the rally began weathering civil-rights storms decades ago.

For some, Florida’s labyrinthine vote-restoration process is viewed as a modern form of lynching and is a vestige of Jim Crow-era laws designed to keep blacks from casting ballots.

And disenfranchisement also prevents felons who’ve completed their sentences from serving on juries, said Crump, a lawyer who represented the family of Trayvon Martin, a black teen whose shooting death in 2012 in Seminole County drew international attention.

Drawing cheers from the crowd of more 150, Crump said he discovered early in his career that in many courthouses, “the only thing black is you, your client and the judge’s robe.”

The “legalization of discrimination is real, and it’s affecting us in ways we cannot even imagine,” he said.

Felons who are unable to vote are effectively shut out of society, the lawyer added.

“They’re like the walking dead. They just ain’t got the death certificate,” he said.

Florida’s current vote-restoration process began early in 2011, shortly after Scott and Bondi took office. The Republican officials played key roles in changing the process to effectively make it harder for felons to get their rights restored.

Scott’s office has adamantly backed the process, saying the governor is standing with crime victims.

Under the process, felons must wait five or seven years after their sentences are complete to apply to have rights restored. After applications are filed, the process can take years to complete.

Since the changes went into effect in 2011, Scott — whose support is required for any type of clemency to be granted — and the board have restored the rights of 3,005 of the more than 30,000 convicted felons who’ve applied, according to the Florida Commission on Offender Review. There’s currently a backlog of 10,085 pending applications, according to the commission.

In contrast, more than 155,000 ex-felons had their right to vote automatically restored during the four years of former Gov. Charlie Crist’s tenure, according to court documents.

Florida will be “ground zero” to “turn around this affront on voting rights” for felons during the 2018 election season, Sharpton predicted.

“We are going to turn on the light in the Sunshine State,” he said. “There is no more critical issue in this land.”

Mark McMillan, a convicted felon who leads the Tallahassee-based Divine Revelations Ministries with his wife, told the News Service he had his rights restored automatically in New York and Texas for his decades-old out-of-state convictions.

But the restoration didn’t apply in Florida, McMillan, 49, learned.

“I moved back here about six years ago, and my rights were gone,” said McMillan, whose community-based outreach includes a focus on felons.

He applied to have his rights restored four years ago but was told by the clemency board that it would be up to 10 years before he would get a hearing.

“I can’t vote, and my charges are from almost 20 years ago,” McMillan said.

State requests more time in felons’ rights battle

Just hours before Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet were scheduled to meet late Wednesday, attorneys for the state filed an emergency motion with a federal appeals court to try to delay a deadline for revamping the process of restoring felons’ voting rights.

The motion, filed Wednesday in the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, also raised the possibility that the state could take the dispute to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 11th-hour maneuvering came as Scott and Cabinet members, who act as the state Board of Executive Clemency, prepared to meet by phone at 9:30 p.m. to address an order by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker that they overhaul the vote-restoration process by Thursday.

Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office on April 6 asked the appeals court for a stay of Walker’s order. But as of 5 p.m. Wednesday, the appeals court had not issued a ruling on that stay request.

With time dwindling, Bondi’s office filed an emergency motion seeking a “temporary and limited stay of the part of the district court’s order requiring appellants (Scott and the Cabinet) to ‘promulgate’ and ‘file’ new rules of executive clemency by April 26, 2018” while the April 6 stay request remains pending.

Also, the emergency motion asked for 10 additional days to allow the state to go to the U.S. Supreme Court if the appeals court denies the stay.

“This (appeals court) should have a fair chance to assess the stay-related arguments submitted by the parties, and appellants should have a fair chance to seek relief from this court and the Supreme Court before promulgating new rules of executive clemency,” the emergency motion said. “Absent a temporary and limited stay of the April 26 deadline, the Board (of Executive Clemency) will be required to act within the next day — before this court or the Supreme Court has had an opportunity to decide whether that part of the injunction should be stayed pending appeal.”

The appeals court did not immediately rule on the emergency motion, which was opposed by attorneys for the plaintiffs in the case, the state filing said.

The arguments at the appeals court came after Walker, in a series of harshly worded rulings, found the state’s vote-restoration process violated First Amendment rights and equal-protection rights of felons. Last month, he gave Scott and the board until Thursday to overhaul what the judge called a “fatally flawed” process and rejected a request by Bondi to put his order on hold.

Scott and the board immediately appealed Walker’s decision and asked the appellate court to put a stay on what the governor’s office branded a “haphazard clemency ruling.”

Scott’s highly unusual move Tuesday night to set a clemency meeting for 9:30 p.m. Wednesday was designed to comply with a Florida law requiring a 24-hour notice for clemency board meetings. Details about what the board might consider as a replacement for the current system had not been made available by Scott’s office.

The board members planned to meet by telephone, but the public “will have an opportunity to provide input at the beginning of the meeting” in the Cabinet room in the Capitol, according to an email from Scott’s office.

The restoration of felons’ rights has long been a controversial legal and political issue in Florida, with critics of the state’s process comparing it to post-Civil War Jim Crow policies designed to keep blacks from casting ballots.

Florida, with about 1.6 million felons, is considered an outlier in a nation where more than three dozen other states automatically restore the right to vote for most felons who have completed their sentences.

After taking office in 2011, Scott and Bondi played key roles in changing the process to effectively make it harder for felons to get their rights restored.

Under the current process, felons must wait five or seven years after their sentences are complete to apply to have rights restored. After applications are filed, the process can take years to complete.

Since the changes went into effect in 2011, Scott — whose support is required for any type of clemency to be granted — and the board have restored the rights of 3,005 of the more than 30,000 convicted felons who’ve applied, according to the Florida Commission on Offender Review. There’s currently a backlog of 10,085 pending applications, according to the commission.

In contrast, more than 155,000 ex-felons had their right to vote automatically restored during the four years of former Gov. Charlie Crist’s tenure, according to court documents in the lawsuit filed by the Fair Elections Legal Network and the law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC on behalf of nine felons.

Siding with the plaintiffs, Walker in a March 27 ruling chastised Scott and other state officials and ordered the clemency board to devise a constitutionally sound program with “specific, neutral criteria that excise the risk — and, of course, the actual practice of — any impermissible discrimination, such as race, gender, religion or viewpoint.”

Walker scalded state officials for threatening to do away with the rights-restoration process all together and gave the clemency board until Thursday to “promulgate specific standards and neutral criteria” to replace the current “nebulous criteria, such as the governor’s comfort level.”

Walker also cautioned that there is a risk that the clemency board “may engage in viewpoint discrimination through seemingly neutral rationales” or a “perceived lack of remorse” that “serve as impermissible” masks for censorship.

“Therefore, the board must promulgate specific standards and neutral criteria to direct its decision-making,” Walker ordered in March. The judge did not specify a particular process but ordered that “Florida’s corrected scheme cannot be byzantine or burdensome.”

Arguing that they needed more time to craft new regulations, the state’s lawyers asked Walker to put his decision on hold, again drawing a rebuke from the judge.

“Rather than comply with the requirements of the United States Constitution, defendants continue to insist they can do whatever they want with hundreds of thousands of Floridians’ voting rights and absolutely zero standards,” Walker wrote in a six-page decision April 4. “They ask this court to stay its prior orders. No.”

Scott has steadfastly defended the state’s process, saying it is founded on a 150-year old system enshrined in the state Constitution.

A Scott spokesman, John Tupps, lashed out at the judge after Walker refused to put his order on hold.

“Judge Walker haphazardly ordered elected officials to change decades of practice in a matter of weeks. This is completely reckless and does not give the victims of crimes the voice they deserve,” Tupps said in a statement this month. “The governor will always stand with victims of crimes, not the criminals that commit heinous acts. Let’s remember, these criminals include those convicted of crimes like murder, violence against children and domestic violence. The court of appeals should issue a stay immediately.”

In seeking a stay from the 11th Circuit, Bondi’s lawyers reiterated that the state needs more time to answer a slew of questions regarding the vote-restoration process.

“The issue is not whether the board could unilaterally prescribe new rules in a short span of time … but whether the state’s policymakers and citizenry — including but not limited to the board — should be afforded sufficient time to carefully consider the important issues at hand,” the lawyers wrote.

The legal tangle involving Scott, the federal judge and the felons in the case comes months before Floridians will decide whether felons should automatically have their voting rights restored. A political committee known as Floridians for a Fair Democracy collected enough petitions to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would automatically restore voting rights to felons who have served their sentences, completed parole and paid restitution.

Murderers and sex offenders would be excluded. The amendment, if approved by 60 percent of voters, could have an impact on about 600,000 Florida felons, according to supporters of the measure.

Frank White’s cash position an advantage in AG race

There’s four months left before Republicans pick their nominee in to replace Attorney General Pam Bondi, and Pensacola Rep. Frank White’s advantage could be a deciding factor in how the race shakes out.

White has a little over $2 million banked for his campaign, including $1.5 million from himself, while his chief rival, former circuit judge Ashley Moody has more than $1.5 million on hand.

Moody’s campaign often makes the argument that she’s the fundraising leader – emphasis on “raising” – but there’s no skirting around the fact that White’s campaign account has a $616,205 advantage over Moody’s.

The gulf is more pronounced for the third Republican in the race, Jacksonville Rep. Jay Fant. He had $742,590 in his campaign account at the end of March, less than two-fifths of White’s hard money total.

White and Moody also have political committees, of course.

Moody has brought in about $440,000 for hers and White about $240,000 for his, and when those totals are added to the campaign hauls the gulf between White and Moody shrinks to about $475,000.

But campaign money, often called hard money, carries some benefits that the soft money in committee accounts simply can’t match. Likely the most impactful difference is how far those dollars can stretch when it comes to TV and radio ad buys.

Ad pricing can vary wildly based on factors such as the time of day the buyer wants it to run and whether or not it can be pre-empted. There’s also the vastly different landscapes of Florida’s media markets to consider.

Still, once the “lowest unit rate” rule kicks in, no candidate can be charged more for an ad than the lowest-paying commercial advertiser purchasing ad time in the same class. Political committees, even the ones sponsoring ballot initiatives, aren’t given the same deal.

LUR starts 45 days prior to a primary race and 60 days prior to a general, so come July 14 White’s advantage in campaign cash, if he still has it, could prove doubly effective in the final stretch before the Aug. 28 primary.

That’s not to say White’s running ahead of Moody. If anything, he has a little bit of catching up to do considering she’s locked in support from more than half of Florida’s sheriffs and 11 state attorneys as well as Bondi.

Feds chip in $1M for Parkland first responders

The loss of life is priceless, but it seems the federal government is looking to mitigate other, tangible costs of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that left 17 dead.

On Monday afternoon the Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance, or BJA, announced it would award a $1 million grant to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to help cover expenses incurred by area first responders following the shooting.

Specifically, the award will help the state, City of Parkland and Broward County pay salary and overtime expenses created by the shooting. A news release from the Justice Department said the money would help “defray costs” for personnel of the 18 agencies recruited for help.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who heads the Justice Department, spoke fondly of law enforcement and saw the grant as a follow-through on a promise made shortly after the Valentine’s Day massacre.

“As I told our state and local partners back in February, the Department of Justice stands ready to help them in any way we can,” Sessions said in a prepared statement. “Today we offer $1 million to support the police who have been working overtime in the aftermath of this tragedy. They can be sure about this: we have their backs.”

In a media appearance following the shooting, Time magazine reported Sessions also promised to reverse mass shooting trends and increase gun prosecutions.

The money will be funded through the Byrne JAG Program. Administered by BJA, the program is authorized by law to cover “precipitous or extraordinary increases” in crimes such as mass violence, according to the Justice Department’s news release.

Immediately after the shooting Attorney General Pam Bondi announced the state would cover funeral costs for each victim and counseling for survivors. The Florida Legislature passed and Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a $400 million school safety package to harden schools and address mental health issues to prevent other school shootings in the state.

Hillsborough GOP event to feature both Rick Scott, Colt handgun raffle

With the Republican Party of Hillsborough, $20,000 goes a long way.

First, it buys a spot at next month’s Lincoln Day Dinner, seated at a table with Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott is headlining the event — themed “Let Freedom Ring” — along with Attorney General Pam Bondi (as Master of Ceremonies) and U.S. Reps. Dennis Ross, Gus Bilirakis and Vern Buchanan.

Twenty large also gets “Platinum Sponsor” status, an exclusive mention at the dinner and six passes to the VIP reception, joining Scott and “visiting dignitaries.”

Despite the potential ethics violation of buying access to Scott — as a newly minted U.S. Senate candidate — those cutting the big checks also get a special prize: 20 chances to win a Colt 1911 A1 G.I. 45 ACP (valued at $949).

Friday is the last day of the event’s “early bird pricing.” It’s also the same day thousands of students across the country walked out of classrooms to protest for gun reform on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre.

And there is no small irony in an event that features Scott and a raffle of a handgun (particularly a Colt), considering the Florida Governor’s history of mingling guns and jobs, two issues that served as cornerstones of his political career.

In 2011, Scott pledged more than a million dollars to Colt Manufacturing to open an Osceola County plant to manufacture AR-15’s — similar to the weapon used by Nikolas Cruz to kill 17 students and teachers in February’s deadly Parkland high school shooting.

“Since Scott’s first year in office, the governor has sought to bring gun makers to Florida,” Florida Bulldog reporter Dan Christiansen wrote Feb. 20. “In 2011, for example, he promised $1.6 million in incentives to Colt Manufacturing Co. to open a plant and add 63 jobs in Osceola County to build AR-15 rifles, like the one police say was used in last week’s slaughter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.”

With the Colt incentive deal in hand, Scott wanted show Florida was both open for business (especially the gun business) and welcoming to gun rights supporters — key factors in Florida’s much-derided reputation as the “Gunshine State.”

“‘As a supporter of new job creation and the Second Amendment, this announcement sends a clear message that Florida is both open for business and a defender of our right to bear arms,’ said Scott, adding that he was personally involved in bringing Colt to Florida,” the Bulldog piece noted.

Unfortunately for Scott, the boast was short-lived. The Colt deal later fell through because the gun manufacturer did not live up to the promised jobs.

The Hillsborough GOP Lincoln Day dinner is May 19 at TPepin’s Hospitality Centre in Tampa, beginning promptly at 6 p.m.

According to the invite, the event starts with a reception and silent auction of “significant local and historical items of interest” — which presumably includes the Colt giveaway. Dinner begins at 7 p.m.

Greyhound owners plan legal challenge of dog racing ban

The group that represents the state’s racing-greyhound breeders and owners will challenge a proposed constitutional amendment to outlaw dog racing, its spokesman and lobbyist told Florida Politics Tuesday.

Jack Cory, who represents the Florida Greyhound Association (FGA), said former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp and former appellate judge Paul Hawkes, who also now represent the group, are working on a brief to the Florida Supreme CourtA request for comment sent to Kottkamp on the details of that challenge is pending.

On Monday, the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) approved the proposal (P6012) on a 27-10 vote; it needed at least 22 votes. Barring court action, it will go directly on November’s statewide ballot, where it needs at least 60 percent approval to be added to the constitution.

“We’re obviously very disappointed,” Cory said. “We don’t feel the proposal meets the requirements for ballot placement. We appreciate those who voted against it, but as we’ve seen, you only need a few lies to poison the well.”

In debate on the amendment, Attorney General Pam Bondi inveighed against dog racing; the Tampa Republican is known for regularly bringing shelter dogs to state Cabinet meetings to get them adopted.

“The entire country is watching us,” she said Monday, reciting a litany of alleged abuses of racing dogs. She told fellow commissioners that dog racing “is cruel and inhumane (and) horrible … This is not who we are as a state.”

Cory responded that Bondi, term-limited this year, was “wrong, and a modicum of research would have shown that.”

But “she read from the script given to her by an out of state so-called animal rights group,” he added, referring to GREY2K USA Worldwide, which opposes greyhound racing. 

Moreover, as the state’s chief legal officer, “she has full access to any kennel in the state,” Cory said. “She could see any abuse firsthand, but she won’t, because there is none … Respectfully, she did not know what she was talking about.”

Carey M. TheilGREY2K’s executive director, called the association’s members “sore losers” and said there was no basis for a challenge.

“This is a desperate attempt to prevent voters from having a say because they know they will lose at the ballot box,” he said.

Between Bondi and greyhound interests, “voters can look and decide who they want to believe,” Theil added.

He said a public relations campaign, including “grassroots volunteers” and paid advertising, is already being planned for the amendment’s passage in November.

The main vehicle for that campaign will be the Committee to Protect Dogs, a Florida political committee. State records show the panel has not yet raised any funds.

“We’re going to ask voters one simple question: ‘Would you treat your dog this way?’ ” Theil said.

Cory said the stakes are high to knock down the amendment: If it passes, “you’re putting people out of work, some who have been in the business for over 50 years. That’s not right.”

Greyhound racing ban heads to voters

Florida voters will decide whether to outlaw greyhound racing under a proposed constitutional amendment approved Monday.

The proposal (P6012) was passed by the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) on a 27-10 vote; it needed at least 22 votes.

It will go directly to November’s statewide ballot, where it needs at least 60 percent approval to be added to the constitution.

Commissioner Tom Lee, the amendment’s sponsor, tweeted: “My proposal to end dog racing just passed the @FloridaCRC! The amendment will now appear on the November ballot and voters will decide whether our state ends this archaic tradition.”

The measure goes into effect Dec. 31, 2020, if passed, and bans dog racing itself and betting on dog races. It doesn’t, however, affect any other gambling now going on at dog tracks, such as card games.

Lee, a Republican state Senator from Thonotosassa and possible candidate for state CFO this year, left the fiery rhetoric to Attorney General Pam Bondi, an ex officio member of the CRC.

Bondi, a Tampa Republican, regularly brings shelter dogs to state Cabinet meetings to get them adopted.

“This is a black eye on our state,” Bondi said in an often emotional speech on the floor of the Senate, where the commission meets.

She recited a litany of alleged incidents of abused racing dogs, showing photos. Bondi said 419 greyhounds have tested positive for illegal drugs, including cocaine, over the last decade. 

“The entire country is watching us,” she said. Dog racing “is cruel and inhumane (and) horrible … This is not who we are as a state.”

Commissioner Chris Smith, a former Senate Democratic leader, asked whether banning racing would be an unconstitutional ‘taking’ of private property. 

Former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp and former appellate judge Paul Hawkes, who represent the Florida Greyhound Association (FGA), have said the amendment’s passage would subject the state to lawsuits worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

“It is not a taking,” Bondi answered bluntly. As to to the hundreds of dogs that could be out of work, she added: “These dogs will be spoken for … if I have to take 1,000 of them, I will.” 

Smith later brought up a much-maligned ‘pregnant pigs’ amendment, as another example of what not to put in the state constitution: “This is why we have a Legislature,” he said. “Let’s not ‘one up’ the pigs by adding dogs.”

He was backed up by Commissioner Arthenia Joyner, another former Senate Democratic leader, who said dog racing “is how people make their living.” As one person told her, “Close this down and you close me down.”

“We’re seeking to take away an opportunity from hard working people,” Joyner added, saying the Legislature should provide a solution. 

But Commissioner Don Gaetz, a Republican and former Senate President, countered the Legislature could deal with it, but hasn’t and won’t. The issue is too fraught with peril because it implicates the state’s gambling laws, he said. Gaetz co-sponsored the proposal. 

“The industry won’t reform itself,” he added, mentioning “reasonable” past attempts to regulate dog racing. “Let the people of Florida decide whether to continue this as part of our culture.”

Updated 7 p.m. — Carey M. Theil, executive director of GREY2K USA Worldwide, emailed the following statement:

“… This is a major victory for everyone in the state who cares about dogs. Commercial greyhound racing is cruel and inhumane. Every three days, a greyhound dies at a Florida dog track. Greyhounds endure lives of confinement, and many suffer serious injuries. Over the past decade, there have been more than 400 greyhound drug positives in Florida including dogs that tested positive for cocaine, opiates, and other serious drugs.

“The animal protection community is united in its support for this humane proposal. We are prepared to run a formidable campaign, and are confident Floridians will vote ‘yes’ for the dogs this November.”

vaping or vaporizing

Drilling, vaping bans headed to ballot

Voters will get a chance to decide this fall whether to ban nearshore oil and gas drilling and prevent people from vaping or using electronic cigarettes in many public places, under a proposed constitutional amendment approved Monday.

Without debate, the Florida Constitution Revision Commission on Monday voted 33-3 to back a single proposed amendment (Proposal 6004) that includes the drilling and vaping issues.

The 37-member commission approved a series of proposed amendments Monday, amid repeated questions about linking multiple issues in single proposals.

Commissioner Brecht Heuchan, chairman of the commission’s Style and Drafting Committee, said the drilling and vaping issues were linked because sponsors worked together with a moniker of “clean air, clean water.”

“If anything went together, it was those two,” Heuchan said.

The proposed ban on vaping and electronic cigarettes in workplaces was sponsored by Commissioner Lisa Carlton, a former state senator from Sarasota County. Commissioner Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, a former mayor of Sewall’s Point, sponsored the proposed drilling ban. She handed out seashells to fellow commissioners after the vote.

In a committee meeting last month, Thurlow-Lippisch called her proposal a needed “statement” to help the economy, wildlife and quality of life for Floridians.

“It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, or black or white or an alien from outer space, if you get to come here, you can walk the beaches and enjoy what they are,” Thurlow-Lippisch said.

Florida law currently prohibits the state from granting leases to drill for oil or natural gas in state coastal waters. But putting into the Constitution a ban on exploration and extraction of oil and natural gas in coastal waters would be more permanent.

The anti-drilling proposal comes amid debate about plans by President Donald Trump’s administration to allow oil and gas drilling in federal waters off various parts of the country.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke appeared in January in Tallahassee and said drilling would not occur off Florida’s coasts, but the administration’s stance has continued to draw questions. The federal issue involves waters beyond the nation’s outer continental shelf — a jurisdictional term describing submerged lands 10.36 statutory miles off Florida’s West Coast and three nautical miles off the East Coast.

Carlton’s vaping measure, meanwhile, would expand a 2002 voter-approved constitutional amendment that banned smoking tobacco in workplaces, including gathering spots such as restaurants. The proposal would expand that prohibition to apply to “vapor generating electronic devices.”

Carlton, in a committee meeting last month, recalled watching her gymnast daughter work out at a gym and sitting behind someone who was vaping.

“I think it’s time to clean up our restaurants, our malls, our movie theaters, so we can all breathe clean air again, which is what the 2002 constitutional amendment intended,” Carlton said.

The Constitution Revision Commission, which meets every 20 years to evaluate possible changes to the Constitution, is taking final votes on 12 proposed constitutional amendments. Measures that go on the Nov. 6 ballot will need approval from 60 percent of voters to pass.

Ashley Moody

Two more sheriffs endorse Ashley Moody for AG

Former circuit court judge and Republican candidate for Attorney General Ashley Moody announced Thursday that two more county sheriffs have endorsed her bid to succeed Pam Bondi in the fall.

The endorsements came from Taylor County Sheriff Wayne Padgett and Martin County Sheriff William Snyder, both Republicans.

“Ensuring safety and security for every Floridian is one of the most important obligations of any elected official. Ashley Moody has spent her life in service to the safety of our state, both as a federal prosecutor and a judge,” Padgett said.

“Ashley is a proven leader for our criminal justice system and I’m proud to endorse her and her vision for keeping our state safe and protecting Floridians from the evolving criminal threats that law enforcement confronts on a daily basis.”

Snyder, who is also a former member of the Florida House, added: “As Sheriff, my top priority is the safety and security of the people I serve and there is no one more qualified to help assist law enforcement in their mission than Judge Ashley Moody.

“A tough on crime former federal prosecutor who has the knowledge and track record of keeping our state safe, Ashley will make an outstanding Attorney General. I’m proud to support her.”

With the new endorsements, Moody has now earned the backing of 37 – nearly 80 percent, the campaign says – of Florida’s Republican sheriffs. Moody’s other backers include 11 state attorneys as well as Bondi, who is a lifelong friend.

Moody is running in the Republican Primary against state Reps. Jay Fant of Jacksonville, Ross Spano of Dover and Frank White of Pensacola.

Through March, White led the money race with more than $2 million on hand, though his total includes $1.5 million in candidate contributions. Moody is in second with $1.5 million on hand without the help of loans, followed by Fant with $1 million raised including a $750,000 loan and Spano with $71,000 banked.

Also running for the Cabinet post are Tampa Democratic Rep. Sean Shaw and Odessa attorney Ryan Torrens.

A recent poll showed Moody with a one point lead with a third of voters undecided if she and Shaw were the candidates on the November ballot.

ashley moody

Ashley Moody reels in the money for Attorney General bid

Former Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Court Judge and Attorney General candidate Ashley Moody finished March with more than $1.5 million on hand between her campaign account and political committee.

“This unprecedented support of Floridians, both in personal endorsements and financial contributions, is a testament to the hard work of our campaign team and volunteers,” said Moody. “We have crisscrossed the state sharing our conservative message of enforcing the rule of law for a stronger, safer Florida and it is truly resonating with voters.”

Moody added $102,025 last month — $79,525 through her campaign and $22,500 through her committee, Friends of Ashley Moody. Spending came in at about $42,000, leaving her with more than $1.54 million in the bank at the end of the month.

The committee report included four $5,000 checks, one each from Integrated Employer Resources, Belleair retiree Pamela Muma, Coral Gables attorney Gonzalo Dorta and Floridian’s United for Our Children’s Future, a political committee chaired by Ryan Tyson.

The campaign haul came in through 155 contributions, including eight for the statewide campaign maximum of $3,000.

The campaign also received $31,338 worth of “in-kind” contributions, all but $1,475 of which came from the Republican Party of Florida. Services included consulting and staffing.

Moody, a Plant City native, is one of four Republicans running to replace termed-out Attorney General Pam Bondi in the fall. She faces Jacksonville Rep. Jay Fant, Dover Rep. Ross Spano and Pensacola Rep. Frank White in the primary.

Since entering the race, she’s locked in support from more than half of Florida’s sheriffs and 11 state attorneys as well as Bondi, who is a lifelong friend of Moody.

Though she trails White in cash on hand, her campaign routinely points out that Moody is the fundraising leader in the Cabinet race due to the majority of White’s money coming from a $1.5 million self-contribution. Fant also pushed his campaign past the $1 million mark by way of a $750,000 loan.

Tampa Rep. Sean Shaw and Odessa attorney Ryan Torrens are running in the Democratic Primary.

The primary election will be held Aug. 28. The general election will be held Nov. 6.

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