Pam bondi – Page 7 – Florida Politics

‘Please share with Carlos’: Pam Bondi’s staff knew of citizen complaint over Adam Putnam’s land deal

Last week, POLITICO Florida reported about a land deal that made the family of Adam Putnam $25 million, one that was facilitated by legislation he helped pass in 1999 as a state lawmaker.

“The exact law created in the Putnam-sponsored bill was cited as justification in July 2005 when the water management district passed a resolution that signed off on the deal that paid Putnam Groves $25 million for land assessed at $19 million,” reported Matt Dixon. “Putnam was in Congress at the time, and told the Palm Beach Post in 2012 he had nothing to do with the negotiations.”

In 2012, there were citizen complaints about this Putnam family land deal from 2006, including one from a Tea Party activist. And one of them made it to Pam Bondi‘s senior staff.

Jack Nelson, chair of the Highlands County Tea Party, sought an investigation from Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Bondi, according to the Highlands Today

“This is an outrage, really,’ Nelson told the newspaper. “This is taking the taxpayer for a ride. And they’re saying, ‘Guess what, fella, we got away with it.’ To me, Adam Putnam is ripping off the state of Florida, and he ought to be thrown out of office. And they’re saying this guy is the future of Florida politics?’”

Nelson emailed a complaint to Bondi’s office. Her chief of staff at the time was made aware of it.

According to emails requested under Florida’s public records laws, Jason Rodriguez forwarded Nelson’s complaint to Catherine Crutcher on Jun. 15 2012 and wrote, “Please share with Carlos.”

Carlos, in this case, is Carlos Muniz. Muniz would eventually become Bondi’s chief of staff in 2013.

The email was sent to Gov. Scott as well, though we as of yet have no idea how far up the chain that went.

Expect that the Ron DeSantis campaign will use this theme in its messaging this summer.

Democrats have noticed pressure on Putnam from the right, and are watching to see how his campaign counters narrative developments in this land deal case.

South Florida cities challenge gun preemption

Elected officials from 10 South Florida cities are challenging an NRA-backed state law that imposes strict penalties on local lawmakers — including removal from office and hefty fines — for enacting gun ordinances.

The cities — Weston, Coral Gables, Cutler Bay, Lauderhill, Miami Beach, Miami Gardens, Miramar, Pinecrest, Pompano Beach and South Miami — are asking a judge to toss out a 2011 law that imposes a $5,000 fine on local government officials who create gun rules that exceed statewide restrictions. Under the law, the officials could also be ousted from office for the gun ordinances.

Weston Mayor Daniel Stermer invited “every municipal and county official” to join the challenge, filed in Leon County circuit court Monday.

“This lawsuit impacts each and every one of us that holds office,” Stermer said. “The onerous penalties that exist in this statute … exit nowhere else in Florida statutes.”

Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, and other statewide officials, including Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen, are among the defendants named in the lawsuit, headed by the city of Weston.

Scott’s office is reviewing the lawsuit, a spokesman for the governor said. Bondi’s office said she had “not yet been served” in the case.

The lawsuit contends the 2011 law in part violates constitutional limitations on gubernatorial authority with respect to municipal officers, conflicts with the right of elected officials to legislative immunity, and are “overbroad, in violation of local officials’ free speech rights.”

“These onerous penalties are vindictive and expressly intended to be punitive in nature,” lawyer Jamie Cole of the Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman law firm and other attorneys representing the cities wrote in the 45-page complaint.

The municipalities have suspended or refrained from enacting “reasonable firearms measures” to reflect the views of their constituents “which may be appropriate for the specific circumstances of that municipality (as opposed to the ‘one size fits all’ approach of the State),” the lawyers argued.

According to the lawsuit, gun-rights groups threatened to sue Coral Gables and also urged Scott to remove individuals from office “if the city so much as passed the proposed gun-related measures on first reading.”

Marion Hammer, the National Rifle Association’s Florida lobbyist and a former president of the national organization, said elected public officials must follow the law regardless of “how important they think they are.”

“When they willfully and knowingly violate state law they have to be held accountable,” Hammer told The News Service of Florida in an email Monday. “They remind me of disobedient children who whine about being punished for doing something they knew was wrong and were warned about the consequences.  I personally don’t think the penalties are severe enough.”

Like other elected officials throughout the country, the cities said they have been under pressure from students and adults to “take some action regarding firearms and ammunition to increase public safety” following the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left 14 students and three faculty members dead.

“Those 17 lives that were lost in Parkland would agree with us that we should do everything possible to keep our communities safe,” Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam said Monday during a press conference at Weston City Hall. “We’re not standing here to say we will pass laws that are unconstitutional, but to have the ability to pass constitutional regulation on arms that could potentially damage, hurt or even take the life of anyone in the public, should be possible. And right now today, it is not possible.”

The lawsuit alleges the 2011 law was created to “deter and chill local officials from even considering reasonable, constitutional firearms regulations in their own communities.”

The plaintiffs “have considered a panoply of possible measures, including, but not limited to, the restricting of guns in municipal-owned facilities and parks, the placing of signs relating to guns in municipal-owned facilities and parks, the regulation of gun accessories (such as holsters or high capacity magazines), or the creation of ‘gun free zones’ or ‘gun safe zones,’ ” but are afraid of running afoul of the law, their lawyers argued.

Meanwhile, Skip Campbell, the mayor of Coral Springs and a former state senator, has spearheaded a campaign to put on the 2020 ballot a constitutional amendment that would ban assault weapons.

The lawsuit filed Monday comes as critics continue to blame the Legislature for not going far enough with a school-safety law, signed by Scott on March 9, that raises the age from 18 to 21 and imposes a three-day waiting period for the purchase of rifles and other long guns, similar to requirements in place for buying handguns.

The new law also bans the sale or possession of “bump stocks,” which allow semi-automatic rifles to mimic fully automatic weapons. And it gives law enforcement officials the ability to seek court orders to seize weapons from people who pose a danger to themselves or others.

The same day Scott signed the bill, the NRA filed a federal lawsuit alleging the new restrictions on rifles purchases are unconstitutional.

The school-safety law also includes a controversial provision giving school boards and sheriffs the power to allow certain teachers and other school personnel, who receive special training and are deputized by sheriffs, to bring guns to schools.

“Funny, the Legislature saw fit in passing the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Act to allow local school boards and sheriffs to decide what happens locally in schools,” Stermer said. “So for some reason it’s good for that, but not for the rest of us.”

The cities’ lawsuit doesn’t dispute the state has the ability to preempt certain subject matters, such as honeybee colonies and the use of electronic devices in cars.

However, penalties are only outlined in the case of firearms, the lawyers argued.

“In every other circumstance, the only consequence of a determination that local action violates express preemption would be a finding that such local action is null and void,” the lawsuit states.

This is not the first time the law has been challenged.

In 2014, a Leon County Circuit Judge ruled in favor of Palm Beach County that “the Legislature may not grant the governor the power to remove a county commissioner when that power is not provided by the Constitution.” The county had challenged the law in 2012.

The ruling, however, maintained that the state could filed legal challenges to any local government official who seeks to enact local gun restrictions tougher than state law.

The issue has “been bothering municipalities” since the law was enacted in 2011, Cole told The News Service of Florida Monday.

“But it’s certainly become of much greater importance because of the Parkland tragedy,” he said.

Cole said he expects other South Florida cities to sign onto the lawsuit.

“This is a clear infringement on the home rule powers and legislative immunity of elected officials,” he said of the 2011 law. “If the Legislature is going to do this thing for firearms, they theoretically could do it for any other preemption, which would be a very bad situation.”

Florida an outlier on restoring felons’ rights

Florida voters this fall will get to decide whether convicted felons who’ve served their time and paid restitution should automatically have voting rights restored.

But in the meantime, Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet have a month to revamp what U.S. District Judge Mark Walker called the state’s “fatally flawed” current rights-restoration process.

Walker issued an order late Tuesday that was the latest salvo in the battle over voting rights in Florida, one of just a handful of states that don’t have some sort of automatic restoration of the right to vote for ex-felons.

Thirty-eight states automatically restore voting rights for most felons, and two states — Maine and Vermont — even allow prisoners to vote from behind bars.

Automatically restoring the right to vote for convicted felons in Florida could add between 600,000 and 1.6 million voters to the state’s voting rolls, according to national voting-rights experts.

Nationwide, about 3 million people living in communities have had their voting rights stripped, and more than one-third of those former felons live in the Sunshine State, according to Sean Morales-Doyle, a lawyer who works for the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program.

Florida is an outlier because of its restrictive voting-restoration process and because of the “sheer volume” of people who are affected, Morales-Doyle told The News Service of Florida.

Florida’s system — pushed by Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi and adopted shortly after the two Republicans took office in 2011 — is “broken,” Morales-Doyle said.

“It’s definitely kind of out on its own, compared to the rest of the country,” he said.

Under the current system, felons must wait five years before applying to have their civil rights, including the right to vote, restored. Felons who have been convicted of certain violent crimes or sexual offenses must wait at least seven years before seeking a hearing to have their rights restored.

Once an application is made, the process can take years — and big bucks — to complete, and involves extensive documentation, such as certified copies of charges, judgments and other court documents.

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.

The restoration of felons’ rights has long been controversial 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.

A political committee known as Floridians for a Fair Democracy has collected enough petition signatures to place a measure on the November general-election ballot that, if approved by voters, would automatically restore voting rights to felons who have served their sentences, completed parole or probation and paid restitution. Murderers and sex offenders would be excluded under the measure, which will appear on the ballot as Amendment 4.

But it remains unclear whether voters will agree to the changes.

Florida’s current system is not only burdensome, it’s unconstitutional, according to Walker, who last month found that the process gave too much discretion to the Board of Executive Clemency, comprised of Scott and the Cabinet.

Siding with the voting-rights group Fair Elections Legal Network, Walker ruled that Florida’s system is arbitrary and violated First Amendment rights and equal-protection rights under the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

Walker, who scalded state officials for threatening to do away with the rights-restoration process altogether, on Tuesday gave the clemency board until April 26 to “promulgate specific standards and neutral criteria” to replace the current “nebulous criteria, such as the governor’s comfort level.”

Scott hasn’t said whether the state plans to appeal Walker’s order but has given no indication he will back down.

“The governor continues to stand with victims of crime. He believes that people who have been convicted of felony offenses including crimes like murder, violence against children and domestic violence, should demonstrate that they can live a life free of crime while being accountable to our communities,” Scott spokesman John Tupps said in a statement following Walker’s order Tuesday.

While Walker did not find that the lengthy waiting period required before felons can apply — among the longest in the country — is unconstitutional, he did find fault with what can be a years-long delay for applications to be processed and with what appeared to be a willy-nilly decision-making process.

Walker’s decision, centered in part on the violation of First Amendment rights, was the first of its kind in the voting-rights arena, according to Michelle Kanter Cohen, counsel to the Fair Elections Legal Network, which filed the federal challenge.

“This is really an area where, in terms of the First Amendment equal protection claims and the arbitrary nature of this, this is a new way of looking at this problem,” Kanter Cohen said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

Writing “this court is not the Vote-Restoration Czar,” Walker did not provide the state a blueprint for an overhauled system.

But a look at how other states handle the issue, based on information provided by the Brennan Center, provides a glimpse of options for what Florida might consider, should Scott and the Cabinet choose to move forward with new rules.

Dozens of states automatically restore voting rights for people who have served their sentences.

In Texas, voting rights are automatically restored when residents complete their sentences and terms of probation or parole and pay restitution.

In California, convicted felons may vote if they are on probation but have to wait until periods of parole are complete.

Wyoming automatically restores the right to vote after five years to people who complete sentences for first-time, non-violent felony convictions in 2016 or after. People with violent convictions or multiple felony convictions must receive a pardon from the governor.

Whatever Florida does, the new standards and criteria “cannot be merely advisory, a Potemkin village for anyone closely reviewing the scheme,” Walker wrote, instructing the board not to rely “on whims, passing emotions or perceptions.”

Because Scott and the clemency board had “unfettered discretion” — according to their own rules — in making decisions about who should have their rights restored, it was impossible to know whether those decisions were based on “viewpoint discrimination,” Morales-Doyle said.

“The thing government can never do in any circumstance is discriminate on the basis of viewpoint,” he said.

The arbitrariness of the system “means none of us knows if Gov. Scott’s denying the right to vote to one person as opposed to another person is because of the views they’ve expressed,” Morales-Doyle said.

“So we have to assume that’s what’s happening. Unless there’s transparency and objective, neutral, specific criteria, none of us have any way of determining what’s driving these decisions and we have no way of holding the government accountable,” he said.

Justices weigh police ‘stand your ground’ defense

Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office this week urged the Florida Supreme Court to overturn a ruling that allowed a police officer to use the state’s “stand your ground” self-defense law after being charged with manslaughter in an on-duty shooting.

Bondi’s office, in a 22-page brief filed Monday, argued that Broward County sheriff’s deputy Peter Peraza was not legally entitled to claim immunity under “stand your ground” in the 2013 shooting death of Jermaine McBean. Instead, the brief argued, officers can seek a more-limited type of immunity under another part of state law.

The Supreme Court agreed in February to take up the case, after Bondi’s office appealed a ruling by the 4th District Court of Appeal. That ruling upheld a circuit judge’s decision that Peraza was entitled to immunity from prosecution under “stand your ground” and that his use of force was justifiable.

The legal battle stems from an incident in which Peraza received a report of a man walking down a street openly carrying a gun. Peraza and another officer pursued the man and ordered him to stop and drop the weapon, the appeals-court ruling said. The man did not drop the weapon, leading Peraza to fatally shoot him. The weapon turned out to be an air rifle.

Peraza was indicted on a charge of manslaughter with a firearm but successfully used a “stand your ground” defense. Under the law, a circuit judge held a pre-trial evidentiary hearing before siding with the deputy’s arguments.

“The circuit court found that the officer’s account of the incident was consistent with the other credible witnesses’ testimony and the physical evidence,” the appeals court ruling said, summarizing the decision. “The (circuit) court then found, by the greater weight of the evidence, that the man (McBean) ignored repeated warnings to stop and drop the weapon, turned towards the officers, and pointed his weapon at the officers, causing the officer (Peraza) to be in fear for his life and the lives of others, prompting the officer to shoot at the man, resulting in the man’s death.”

The controversial “stand your ground” law says people are justified in using deadly force and do not have a “duty to retreat” if they believe it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm. When the defense is successfully raised in pre-trial hearings, defendants are granted immunity from prosecution.

But in the brief filed Monday, Bondi’s office argued that police incidents are subject to another part of state law that can provide what is known as “qualified” immunity. Under such a scenario, the officer would not receive a pre-trial hearing that could lead to dismissal but would be able to raise self-defense arguments at trial, according to the appeals court ruling.

Bondi’s office said police officers have never had a duty to retreat and that the “stand your ground” law granted the “average citizen the right to stand his or her ground.”

“It makes no sense to apply this statute to officers who have always had the right to stand their ground,” the brief said. “Thus, permitting an officer, to elect an absolute immunity over qualified immunity bypasses the statute specifically designed for this scenario and renders (the law dealing with qualified immunity) meaningless.”

But Peraza’s attorneys, in a document filed at the Supreme Court in January, said the laws “coexist.” They wrote that a police officer could raise a “stand your ground” defense in a pre-trial hearing and, if unsuccessful, make arguments under the qualified-immunity law at trial.

“This case needs to be examined through the practical realities of policing,” Peraza’s attorneys wrote. “To follow the petitioner’s (attorney general’s) argument would allow an average citizen to assert immunity whereas a law enforcement officer who took an oath to uphold the law, to serve and protect, and whose duty entails running toward danger rather than from it, would not be able to avail him or herself of such a defense.”

Ashley Moody

Ashley Moody touts 19 local endorsements for AG bid

Republican Ashley Moody on Wednesday announced 19 endorsements for her Attorney General campaign from local elected officials across the state.

The bulk endorsement includes nods from seven county commissioners, three county tax collectors, and two each of mayors, city commissioners, school board members and clerks of court as well as one property appraiser.

“As I travel across the state, sharing my vision for Florida’s future as the State’s next Attorney General, local elected officials agree that public safety is of paramount concern for their communities, not only as a quality of life issue, but for economic viability.” said Moody. “Thank you to these leaders for joining our team and our campaign for a safer, stronger Florida.”

The local endorsements add to Moody’s tally of backers, which includes 35 Republican sheriffs, 11 state attorneys. She also has the backing of current Attorney General Pam Bondi, who is termed out in the Cabinet post.

Moody, a former judge, is one of six candidates running for Attorney General.

She faces Republican Reps. Jay Fant, Ross Spano and Frank White in the Republican Primary. Competing for the Democratic nomination are Tampa Rep. Sean Shaw and Ryan Torrens.

Moody is in second place in the fundraising race with about $1.5 million on hand between her campaign account and political committee, Friends of Ashley Moody. White leads the pack with nearly $2 million on hand, though his total includes a $1.5 million self-contribution.

The full list of Moody endorsements announced Wednesday: St. Johns County Commissioner Henry Dean, Hendry County Commissioner Darrell Harris, Volusia Chair of County Council Ed Kelley, Gilchrist County Commissioner Marion Poitevint, Nassau County Commissioner George Spicer, Nassau County Commissioner Justin Taylor, Charlotte County Commissioner William Truex, Bay County Superintendent of Schools Bill Husfelt, Volusia County School Board member Melody Johnson, Manatee County Clerk of Court Angelina “Angel” Colonneso, Bay County Clerk of Court Bill Kinsaul, Nassau County Tax Collector John Drew, Lake County Tax Collector Bob McKee, Walton County Tax Collector Rhonda Skipper, Nassau County Property Appraiser Michael Hickox, Callaway Mayor Pamn Henderson, Panama City Beach Mayor Mike Thomas, Sweetwater City Commissioner David Borrero and St. Augustine Vice Mayor and City Commissioner Tod Neville.

Supreme Court to decide if car can be weapon

In a case stemming from the death of a man after an altercation in a bar, Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office Friday urged the Florida Supreme Court to uphold a ruling that a car can legally be considered a weapon.

The Supreme Court said in January that it would take up an appeal by Adam Lloyd Shepard, who was convicted on a charge of manslaughter with a weapon after fatally striking Spencer Schott with a car after leaving a Jacksonville Beach bar in January 2011. The men were University of Kansas basketball fans, but as their team lost a game, “the amicable relationship between Schott and Shepard began to deteriorate,” according to a brief by Shepard’s attorneys.

Under state law, the use of a weapon bumped up the manslaughter charge from a second-degree felony to a first-degree felony, carrying a longer prison sentence. After a jury found him guilty of manslaughter, Shepard challenged the reclassification of the crime to a first-degree felony based on the car being considered a “weapon.”

While the 1st District Court of Appeal rejected Shepard’s argument, it acknowledged that its conclusion differed from a ruling in a separate case in the 2nd District Court of Appeal. Shepard took the issue to the Supreme Court, but lawyers in Bondi’s office filed a 43-page brief Friday that contended a vehicle can be a weapon.

“In this case, petitioner (Shepard) used the car against the victim to attack or defeat him,” the brief said. “Petitioner specifically drove the car into the victim in a manner that was likely to cause death or great bodily harm. Moreover, although a car may not be a traditional weapon, it has become a modern weapon of choice for a variety of criminals, including those who use it to try to strike people or police officers, and terrorists who use cars as a bomb or a weapon of mass destruction to mow down pedestrians on a sidewalk.”

But in a brief filed last month, Shepard’s attorneys argued that vehicles are not considered weapons under a law that allows reclassification of felonies. The brief said the law does not define “weapon” but that previous Supreme Court opinions have made clear that the “reclassification statute only applies to instruments commonly understood as having the purpose of inflicting death or serious bodily injury to others.”

“Under (guidelines from those opinions), Shepard’s vehicle could not be considered a weapon because the commonly recognized purpose of a vehicle is for transportation, not as an instrument of combat,” Shepard’s attorneys wrote. “Therefore, the trial court erred in reclassifying Shepard’s manslaughter conviction to a first-degree felony.”

The Supreme Court has not said when it will hear oral arguments in the case, which also involves arguments about whether Shepard’s car was improperly seized without a warrant. Shepard, now 37, is an inmate at Cross City Correctional Institution.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

ashley moody

Two more sheriffs back Ashley Moody for AG

Republican Attorney General candidate Ashley Moody picked up endorsements Thursday from Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden and Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay.

“Public safety is on the minds of many Floridians and when it comes to the security of our state we must have an Attorney General with experience who can hit the ground running,” said Whidden. “Ashley Moody’s commitment to the rule of law and her lifelong service to our justice system as a lawyer, prosecutor, and judge make her the only candidate ready to serve as Florida’s top prosecutor. I’m proud to endorse her as our next Attorney General.”

“Now more than ever Florida’s next Attorney General must be someone who understands our criminal justice system and the ways we can combat the growing law enforcement challenges that deputies confront on a daily basis,” said Ramsay. “No one is better equipped and prepared to tackle those challenges than Ashley Moody and I’m excited to work with her and help build a safer Florida.”

The new endorsements make for 35 sheriffs who have lined up behind Moody, a former judge and one of four Republicans running to replace termed out Attorney General Pam Bondi in the fall. Bondi announced her support for Moody early on in the race.

Moody also recently announced endorsements from three state attorneys, making for 11 thus far.

“Florida’s law enforcement has a true passion for protecting our country, community and citizens,” Moody said. “I’m thankful to have the staunch and unwavering support of these incredible leaders and look forward to partnering with all Florida sheriffs to keep Floridians safe.”

Moody faces Republican Reps. Jay Fant, Ross Spano and Frank White in the primary race. Competing for the Democratic nomination are Tampa Rep. Sean Shaw and Ryan Torrens.

Gun restrictions won’t go on November ballot

Floridians won’t have an opportunity to decide whether the state should ban semi-automatic weapons — or to weigh in on other gun-related restrictions — after the Constitution Revision Commission rejected attempts to debate the proposals Wednesday.

Efforts to take up gun-related issues came as the 37-member commission, which meets every 20 years, is narrowing a list of proposed constitutional amendments to place before voters on the November ballot.

A handful of commissioners floated proposals that would impose stricter gun regulations, such as a ban on assault-style weapons, following the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in which 14 students and three staff members were shot dead by 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz. Cruz, who had a lengthy history of mental health problems, used an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle he purchased legally — with no waiting period — to carry out the shooting in Parkland.

Commissioner Roberto Martinez, a former federal prosecutor, proposed an amendment that mirrored gun restrictions imposed by a new Florida law, which raised the minimum age from 18 to 21 and imposed a three-day waiting period to purchase long guns, such as the one used by Cruz. Like the new law, Martinez’s amendment also called for banning “bump stocks,” devices that allow semi-automatic weapons to mimic automatic guns.

While lawmakers passed the age and waiting-period restrictions, putting such measures in the Constitution would make them more permanent — and harder to change. The Constitution Revision Commission has unique power to place proposals directly on the ballot.

Martinez, a Republican who said he owns three guns, said he met with students from the Parkland school and others while researching the issue.

“They’re not gun-grabbers. But what these students and the young people are asking for are reasonable laws to make sure that guns don’t get into the hands of the wrong people,” Martinez argued. “That’s all they want. And they want an opportunity to vote … to put into our Constitution those same very meaningful and reasonable firearm safety restrictions that are now included in the act.”

But Martinez tried to add the amendment to another commission proposal (Proposal 3) that deals with property rights of certain immigrants. Commissioner Emery Gainey, who works for Attorney General Pam Bondi and was appointed to the constitution-revision panel by Gov. Rick Scott, challenged whether the amendment had anything to do with the underlying proposal.

“I have personally seen the carnage that it (a semi-automatic weapon) does to the human body,” Gainey, who’s spent three decades in law enforcement, said. “I think it’s a discussion that Floridians ought to have. … There’s a proper forum. I don’t think this is it.”

As they did on two other gun-related proposals, a majority of the commission refused to allow a debate on Martinez’s amendment after Rules and Administration Chairman Tim Cerio decided the proposal was “not germane” to the underlying proposal.

“It’s not even a close call,” Cerio, a former general counsel to Scott, said.

Martinez appealed the decision and asked that the rules be waived, because the Feb. 14 shooting occurred after an Oct. 31 deadline for proposals to be submitted.

But Bondi, who serves on the constitution-revision panel, said commissioners had plenty of time to file proposals following the 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando that left 49 people dead.

“To say that the shooting came up recently, well, we had Pulse nightclub a year ago. You’ve all known that from day one.  No one did anything on that,” she said.

But Martinez argued that people should be allowed to “have a voice” and “publicly debate” what has become “the issue of the day” for Floridians.

“There was mention of the awful tragedy at Pulse, where the gay community was targeted. That was an awful massacre. And what did the Legislature do about that? Anybody want to raise their hands? No hands? That’s because they did nothing,” Martinez said.

He urged the commission to echo the actions of “the political leadership of this state” this year, saying Scott and the Legislature had “basically been unshackled to address this issue,” despite pressure from powerful special interests. The National Rifle Association filed a federal lawsuit shortly after Scott signed the new law and has targeted Republican legislators who supported the measure.

“What is the harm done, if we were to go forward, debate this issue and vote on it? I can’t see any harm,” he said. “What is the benefit? The benefit is unlimited.”

The motion to waive the rules failed on a voice vote.

Commissioner Chris Smith, a former state senator from Fort Lauderdale, was met with an identical response — a challenge to germanity — when he attempted to introduce an amendment that would ban assault-style weapons.

Smith, a Democrat, noted that the Legislature debated the assault-weapons ban during the annual session, which ended March 11.

But Florida voters “want to have a voice on this,” he said.

“It’s being debated right now in your home offices. It’s being debated in the parking lots of Publix. It’s being debated throughout this state. We are in a unique opportunity to give those 20 million a chance to actually vote on it,” he said.

The majority also rejected taking up Smith’s amendment.

Wednesday’s CRC actions came after House Speaker Richard Corcorantargeted by the National Rifle Association following the passage of the new gun restrictions — wrote in a letter to commissioners that he had a “grave concern” about amendments “that are inappropriate for inclusion in the state Constitution.”

Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, said he opposed proposals seeking an assault-weapons ban and an “extended” waiting period.

Firearm policies “are best left to the purview of an elected legislature in a constitutional republic,” the speaker wrote Wednesday morning.

“The Constitution protects the right to keep and bear arms. All firearm policies flow from that fundamental right and should remain policy matters for the Legislature,” Corcoran wrote.

Noting that Corcoran had essentially told the Constitution Revision Commission to mind its own business, Commissioner Hank Coxe, a Jacksonville lawyer, offered a proposal that included a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and a 10-day waiting period for the purchase of guns.

Coxe, who was appointed by Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, said the commission had signed off on numerous proposals that lawmakers refused to pass — including a potential ban on greyhound racing and a victim’s rights measure known as “Marsy’s Law.”

“The legacy of the CRC is, as we stand here now given the germanity issue, that we worry about victim’s rights in Marsy’s Law, that we worry about the greyhounds, but, because of adherence to this rule, we do not worry about reducing the number of people murdered in the state of Florida,” Coxe said. “Forget germanity. Just waive the rules.”

But, again on a voice vote, a majority of the commission refused to waive the rules, and Coxe’s amendment failed.

Maggie’s List kicks off 2018 cycle with March 27 fundraiser

Maggie’s List, a federal PAC that works to elect and support fiscally conservative women in Congress and the U.S. Senate, is holding its first fundraiser of the 2018 cycle on March 27 in Tampa.

The event will be held at the home Brandy Puls from noon to 2 p.m. and a number of Republican elected officials are slated to attend, including Attorney General Pam Bondi, state Sen. Dana Young, state Rep. Kathleen Peters and state Rep. Jackie Toledo.

Also on the docket as “special guests” are U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis and Attorney General candidate Ashley Moody, who was endorsed by Maggie’s List in December.

The event invite lists three contribution tiers. Donors who pitch in $1,000 can get a spot on the host committee, while the individual tier measures in at $250 and the young professional level is listed at $100.

To join the Host Committee or RSVP drop a line to Margarida Sepda via 813-944-8964 extension 308, or send an email to

Currently on the host committee are Beth Basham, Kelly O’Brien, Karen Pittman, RSA Consulting Group CEO Ron Pierce, and Nancy and Robert Watkins.

The event hosts are listed as Leslie Saunders, Wendy Pepe, former Florida Secretary of State Sandra Mortham, former chairwoman of the Republican Party of Florida and the Indian River County tax collector Carole Jean Jordan and On 3 Public Relations President Christina Johnson.

The event invitation is below:

Maggie's List invitation

Pam Bondi to fight for Winter Haven’s Ritz Theatre

Attorney General Pam Bondi has filed a complaint against the non-profit charged “with renovating and operating The Ritz Theatre in downtown Winter Haven,” her office said in a press release Tuesday.

The Ritz Theatre 100, Inc. was named as defendant, as was Stella C. Heath, its executive director.

“The complaint alleges that misconduct and mismanagement by the defendants have placed the future of the Ritz Theatre in jeopardy,” the release says.

“Despite substantial grants, gifts, and funding from the State of Florida, the City of Winter Haven, and others to pay for needed renovations and operating costs, the Ritz Theatre remains underutilized, strapped for cash and in peril of closure,” it adds.

“Efforts by several community members to obtain seats on the Board of Directors to help redress management and financial problems have been rejected by the board, which instead improperly filed an unsubstantiated $250,000 lien against the Ritz Theatre property in favor of Heath.”

Bondi seeks appointment of a receiver to take possession of the non-profit, “determine all outstanding indebtedness, and to report to the Attorney General’s Office and the court all steps needed to enable the theatre to fulfill its longstanding mission.”

Her office “also is seeking an accounting, as well as temporary and permanent injunctive relief, including relief from the improperly-filed lien, to ensure that the theatre’s mission is and will continue to be met.”

The complaint, filed in Polk County, is below. More information is on the Friends of the Ritz Theatre Facebook page. 

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