Guest Author - 2/18 - SaintPetersBlog

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Payton Alexander: Neil Gorsuch confirmation would be great for Latinos

Payton Alexander

Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch is coming up for a vote in the Senate this month, with lawmakers debating the nomination of the Colorado judge to the highest court in the country.

Like the late Justice Antonin Scalia, Judge Gorsuch has a track record of interpreting the Constitution as written and intended by the founders. He also served in the Justice Department, and clerked for Supreme Court Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy. For Latinos that value individual rights and the rule of law, there’s a lot to be excited about in his selection to fill the Supreme Court vacancy.

Judge Gorsuch is an excellent pick to strengthen the free and open society that makes that dream possible. With millions of Latinos across the United States who value entrepreneurship and the American Dream, this is welcome news. Judges have a responsibility to protect our liberties from government meddling, and Judge Gorsuch has demonstrated that he will uphold Constitutional limits on government power no matter who is in charge — the foundation of a free and prosperous society.

Far beyond his record as a defender of individual liberty, Judge Gorsuch’s career reflects a solid understanding of the way that progressive interpretations of regulatory and criminal codes have hurt the least fortunate and contributed to the two-tiered society that is emerging in this country. As a Supreme Court Justice, Judge Gorsuch shows promise that he would uphold the rights of all people — immigrants and native-born citizens alike. All of these issues disproportionately impact the Latino community.

More than two hundred years of growing the size and scope of our government have taken their toll on the Constitution. If confirmed to the Supreme Court, Judge Gorsuch will interpret the law and the Constitution faithfully, rather than seeking to erode the checks on government power that it provides. An originalist interpretation of the Constitution, as championed by the late Justice Scalia, prevents judges from legislating from the bench and serves as a vital check against lawmaking by judicial fiat. Judge Gorsuch will help ensure that our constitutional rights are protected, while advancing the foundations of a free society through the rule of law.

There are good reasons for Senators in both parties to support the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, and, in fact, he was unanimously approved to serve on the Court of Appeals — we encourage the Senate to show him the same wide support now.

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Payton Alexander serves as a policy analyst for The LIBRE Initiative.

Blake Dowling: New ransomware kicks it up a notch

Meeting this week with one of our national security partners, SonicWall, we had a fantastic luncheon with some local media partners, clients and Aegis staff.

A big topic of conversation — ransomware.

A SonicWall firewall can certainly help minimize risk, but there is no 100 percent protection from the constantly changing landscape of cyber threats.

Say you are a successful lobbyist, and legislation you want to pass is passing; you keep tweets clean, your email is in a secure cloud, your hardware is under warranty, with a solid backup, password-protected wireless network, two factor authentications for financial institutions, solid anti-virus, anti-spam protection firewall, and so on.

You rock through Session, rolling in a Maserati or other fly ride, feeling confident, successful — think Vince Vaughn in Swingers — confident. Then an intern clicks a link in a bogus ransomware email they thought was from the bank.

Now the game has changed; suddenly all your files are encrypted.

You are hosed.

Making things even worse is that this particular variation of ransomware not only encrypts files, but — if you do not pay the ransom — publishes your data on the web. That could include sensitive client info, financials, browsing history, everything.

This is happening, like a Cary Pigman late-night DUI. It’s not pretty, but it is a reality.

Let’s say; perhaps you spent the past three days logged on to Vegasinsider.com (or streaming episodes of Days of Our Lives), your clients and the whole wide world will know.

QuickBooks files? Yup. All of it.

Over the past few years, ransomware threats (like CryptoLocker) have hauled in over $325 million, with growth that more than doubles each year. How? Why?

Side note, why was Chris Kattan on Dancing with the Stars, what a spectacle. Even worse, why am I admitting to watching? Talk about shame.

Anyway; the “why” is indeed Intriguing.

The business model of ransomware cons is awesome (the crime is not awesome, but it is a classic pyramid scheme).

Go on the dark web and buy a ransomware tool kit for next to nothing; “they” show you how to launch ransomware campaigns via the web and they want half the cut (usually of any of the profits you make).

One variation is particularly devious.

After infection, they will send you the encryption keys to your files, but only if you get two other people you know to click on the same email. They also encourage you to send it to people you don’t like.

Wow. Talk about preying on fears and weak spots.

The threats are real, so keep your Maserati clean, and keep the intern off the internet.

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Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and writes for several organizations. He can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com

Mark Wilson, Dominic Calabro: Strangling Enterprise Florida, VISIT FLORIDA costly to Sunshine State future

Right now, jobs and the future of Florida’s economy are in jeopardy. That’s because some politicians in Tallahassee want to eliminate Florida’s economic development programs and slash the state’s tourism marketing efforts.

Enterprise Florida and VISIT FLORIDA, Florida’s economic development and tourism marketing programs, are essential to the economic well-being of our state. Eliminating Florida’s targeted and proven economic development programs is not the way forward, and will slam the brakes on the amazing job creation success Florida has seen since the end of the Great Recession.

While incentives paid for by hardworking taxpayers are rarely if ever used and are almost always inappropriate, Enterprise Florida has safeguards in place to ensure taxpayer dollars are not used as corporate welfare to skimp on contractual obligations. As Gov. Rick Scott, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Florida TaxWatch, have often said, programs offered by Enterprise Florida are not paid until the business achieves what is outlined in the contract.

If the Florida House has its way, VISIT FLORIDA will see its budget slashed by $50 million — a move that would cut two-thirds funding. Tourism is still one of Florida’s top industries for jobs and economic growth, despite Florida having a more diverse economic portfolio than at any other time in state history.

Florida has advantages, but the Sunshine State also has a major lawsuit abuse problem, we’re the only state that taxes small business rent, and our unfunded pensions cost eight times what we invest in economic development. The point is that until the Florida Legislature puts jobs and families first, now is the worst possible time to make Florida less competitive.

Taking economic development strategies that work off the table is short sighted, and without question, harms Florida’s ability to continue to lead the nation in job creation. Enterprise Florida and VISIT FLORIDA are important pieces to Florida’s economic puzzle and strangling their resources will hurt our state, our taxpayers, job creators and 20-plus million residents for years to come.

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Mark Wilson is the president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Dominic Calabro is the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch.

 

Matt Gaetz: Fix Florida’s Everglades, avoid distraction of costly land buy

As a former state legislator and now a member of Congress, I’ve been proud to support investments in protecting Florida’s natural resources, including the Everglades. While located far from the Emerald Coast, the Everglades are about as iconic in Florida as the Blue Angels, the Space Shuttle, and the orange. Everglades National Park alone welcomes 1.1 million visitors annually with an economic impact of more than $103 million.

Recently, I joined my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in encouraging President Donald Trump to remain on the current path to Everglades restoration. In a letter delivered by Congressman Francis Rooney, we made the case for why Everglades restoration is critical to preserving such a unique and treasured ecosystem. Congress has already invested $1.26 billion into this ongoing effort. The smartest scientists say these projects are having a meaningful impact on restoring Florida’s “River of Grass” and addressing concerns over water quality issues around Lake Okeechobee. For these reasons, we must complete the comprehensive array of fully-vetted projects that are designed to restore the Everglades and reduce the discharges from the lake.

At the heart of the current debate over fixing Lake Okeechobee is whether additional land should be purchased by the government using state and federal dollars through a bonding scheme that relies on future generations paying off the debt. At a time when 42 percent of all land in South Florida is already owned by the government, we should be looking for ways to get government out of the real estate business – not deeper into it. And with Washington so focused on cutting costs, there simply isn’t enough money to buy more land, especially for projects for which land has already been acquired by the government.

Instead, the dollars committed by Congress and the state should be going toward projects that the science says can provide communities with tangible benefits for flood protection, storage and water treatment – the most quickly and at the best price.

Land buys are not only costly to taxpayers, but also to those who rely on the land to help put food on our tables. According to the conservative James Madison Institute, more than 4,100 jobs will be lost as a result of the proposed land buy. The study also found the plan could cost Florida up to $700 million in economic output, mostly in already struggling Glades communities.

In the case of the proposed plan to purchase 60,000 acres of land south of Lake Okeechobee, the major landowners have signaled they are not willing to sell. Many of these are multigenerational family farmers. So, without a single seller, why does the debate continue? One has to wonder that if the sellers are anything but willing, is eminent domain really at work?

Instead of a futile land buy, Florida needs to stay the course on completing the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), which has enjoyed bipartisan support from our

Congressional delegation since its inception under Governor Jeb Bush and President Bill Clinton in 2000. The plan keeps taxpayer dollars focused on addressing the water quality issues in coastal areas of South and Southwest Florida while also building additional storage at points north, east, south and west of Lake Okeechobee. Most importantly, it does so in a way that respects private property rights and agricultural communities, which play a crucial role in Florida’s economy.

Whether you are from North Florida or South Florida, we can all agree that Florida’s Everglades are a national treasure we cannot afford to lose. Finishing the projects that were started in 2000 will help to ensure the “River of Grass” will be around for generations to come. We need to stay the course and not get distracted by another government land buy that won’t solve the problem but will harm some of our struggling rural communities.

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Matt Gaetz is the U.S. Representative for Florida’s 1st Congressional District, stretching from Pensacola to Holmes County.

Blake Dowling: Senate Bill 772 — Time to help

Blake Dowling and the team at Gretchan Everhart

One of the first columns I ever put together was on assistive technology for those who need it for communication. It was based on a 60 Minutes expose highlighting the power of a tablet to open doors to those who, for most of their lives, have been unable to communicate.

Since then, I have written on the topic several times.

But for that first one, it was about six years ago; I was just married and had been sitting on 30A eating stone crab claws. On the TV, Tebow and the Broncos were pulling a miracle win against the Dolphins.

Dave Hodges, my editor at the time, texted me suddenly; he needed my column that night.

So, I pulled out my iPad and hammered something out.

The color and functionality of the tablet crossed boundaries, offering something truly powerful to a part of our community in need.

I recently reviewed some testimony and information on Senate Bill 772, sponsored by Lorraine Ausley, sent over the weekend — I would love to put it out there so our elected officials can make this bill a reality.

If you have ever spent any time at a school like Gretchen Everhart in North Florida or get to know kids with special needs, you understand how valuable these tools are in their lives.

If you have seen how these tools change lives, you would easily make this effort a reality.

I was emailing James Harding, Instructional Specialist at Florida State University’s College of Business who also serves as the Chair of the Public Policy Committee for the Florida Alliance of Assistive Services Technology (FAAST).

Harding had this to say about the revisions to the legislation: “Technology has been a game changer not only for business but has been vital in tearing down barriers for work, fun, and independence for persons with disabilities.”

This bill is simply a natural extension of existing law; it will empower the next generation to secure their place in an ever-changing world and to ensure that they have tools they need to maintain their independence.

To gain a better understanding of why accessible technology is so important, he urges everyone to watch the recent testimony provided by members of the disabled community using text to speech technology.

The message was profoundly heard.

It is simply good public policy, and we are very grateful the leadership of Ausley and our other elected officials.

Below is some recent testimony from individuals that use assistive technology.

A link to Jennifer‘s testimony: https://youtu.be/ABwQNBrPMs0

A link to Michael Phillips‘ testimony: https://youtu.be/NYaaaLMPKvs

If you made it this far I would like to thank you for reading about this important issue and if you have the ability to do something about it, make it happen because helping others be able to help themselves should always be our top priority.

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Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and writes for several organizations. He can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

Blake Dowling: Legal artificial intelligence

I was meeting with the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce’s Communications Committee; there was some brainstorming about session ideas for the upcoming Chamber Conference.

There were some thoughts thrown out, and quite a few comments were made. Then someone said, “how about automation and artificial intelligence.”

Suddenly, a surge of ideas and thoughts hit the room like a vicious uppercut from Mike Tyson circa 1999. All industries went into the mix: retail, auto, construction, medical and legal.

We are on the crest of a mighty wave of disruption, the likes of which the world has never seen.

That wave, my friends, is called “artificial intelligence.”

We must approach this wave head on like the wise one Jeff Spicoli (of 1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High played by Sean Penn) once said, “Well Stu, I’ll tell you, surfing’s not a sport, it’s a way of life, it’s no hobby. It’s a way of looking at that wave and saying, ‘Hey bud, let’s party!’” Indeed.

I was the first (the opening act and least knowledgeable — HA!) of three speakers for a luncheon last month hosted by the Leon County Research and Development Authority; the topic was artificial intelligence.

The most interesting part of the discussion was about the legal world. The speaker dove into AI platforms that actually answer legal questions. The conversation quickly escalated to why not have AI judges, lawmakers and police?

Think about an AI cop pulling someone over. There would be no concern for their own safety, no bias. Same with a judge, no agenda, no individual interpretation of the law. Only the facts. That is unless it was an AI judge from Iran?

Hmmmm.

Lots to ponder here. Let us move into legal AI.

Each day, our world creates about 2,500,000,000,000,000 quintillion bytes of data. This data needs review and analysis. What better way to review data, than have a supercomputer like IBM’s Watson jump on it?

For example, Watson please review every piece of legal information on the web about police use of excessive force (only cases where the suspect was perceived to have a weapon) in the United States to assist with county of Los Angeles v. Mendez. This is happening.

AI research tools like ROSS are changing the game. Firms like Salazar Jackson and Latham & Watkins are on board with ROSS.

Check out their video online, it is very cool, (and see Todd’s tiny shoes)

LawGeex is another AI platform specializing in contract law. According to a CNBC piece earlier this year, CEO Noory Bechor called it “like the beginning of the beginning of the beginning,”

The LawGeex platform, Bechor said, ” it can take a new contract, one that it’s never seen before, read it and then compare it to a database of every similar contract that it’s seen in the past.”

Legal Robot is also a very cool company, promising to ensure fairness, improve transparency and allow signups with confidence. Sounds fantabulous to me.

If you are strolling down Market Street in San Francisco, stop in and say hello to their team.

There is really no way of knowing how far this will go, what massive legislative hurdles await – I am hopeful it will lead an enhancement of the legal community, but who knows.

As Hunter S. Thompson once muttered: “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. This is the American Dream in action. We’d be fools not to ride this strange torpedo all the way to the end.”

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Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and writes for several organizations. He is available at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

Pat Neal: Prosperity for our families and future

Pat Neal

Thanks to the efforts of Governor Rick Scott and the state’s committed business leaders, Florida has one of the strongest economies in the country. With our unemployment rate under 5 percent, Florida continues to exceed the nation’s annual job growth rate and tourism, one of the state’s economic drivers remains strong, with just under 113 million visitors in 2016, an increase from just 86 million visitors just three years ago.

Much of this success has been a result of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida.

Their contributions are critical to our state’s recovery and continue to be important drivers in Florida’s economic well-being. The two organizations are responsible for helping create thousands of jobs in conjunction with private businesses, and the organizations allow us to compete with other states for businesses and visitors, many of whom have significantly increased their business and tourism marketing programs to entice companies and visitors.

It is important to have a business climate that allows companies to flourish, people to be able to find high-paying jobs and to ensure that we are economically competitive on a national level.

Political differences in the Capitol are putting the success of the Sunshine State at risk. Members in the Florida House have filed numerous pieces of legislation taking aim at Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. The bills call for drastic cuts or the complete elimination of the two public-private partnerships, outcomes that would undoubtedly slow down or even reverse the good economic fortune of Florida.

As an employer of hundreds, I hear every day how important it is for Florida families to have good jobs that pay well and build a more prosperous future for our children.

Research from Florida TaxWatch shows that Florida’s targeted economic development incentives have generated positive return on state investment by enticing qualifying businesses to bring high-wage jobs to the state and diversifying the state’s industry portfolio. Incentive programs also have numerous protections, such as sanctions and clawbacks, in order to ensure that the hard-earned dollars of Florida taxpayers are not spent unwisely.

We must compete with the millions each year of incentives paid by other states, counties and municipalities.

The data also backs up the power of tourism marketing in attracting visitors to the Sunshine State. Continuing to fund Visit Florida will bring hundreds of millions of people to the state.

Every 76 visitors to Florida support one job. This investment is diversifying the Florida economy, creating jobs and improving the income of Floridians.

If the legislature were to make significant cuts to, or eliminate, Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, it will put Florida at an economic disadvantage versus the rest of the nation, stifling job creation and slowing economic development and extinguish the hopes of hundreds of thousands of Florida workers who seek a more prosperous future. We must continue to fund our incentive and tourism marketing programs. We must remain a state open for business.

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Pat Neal, former state senator and the former chair of the Christian Coalition of Florida, currently serves as chairman-elect for the board of directors of Florida TaxWatch, the state’s independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research institute and government watchdog, and the president of Neal Communities.

William Large: Florida must end assignment of benefits abuse, self-serving windfalls

William Large

A state law that was originally intended to give individual policyholders special rights in disputes with their insurance companies is instead being used by some repair vendors and their lawyers to generate a self-serving windfall. The problem is serious and growing, and it’s driving insurance costs higher and higher.

The so-called “one-way attorney fee” allows a policyholder to collect their legal fees from their insurer if they win a claims dispute. But, if the policyholder loses in court, they don’t have to pay the insurer’s legal fees.

Some repair vendors, though, are tricking policyholders into signing an assignment of benefits or AOB. This allows the vendor to seize control of the policyholder’s special rights, file a claim and sue the insurer, often without the policyholder’s knowledge or consent.

Now, this litigation-for-profit scheme has become an incentive for lawyers and their vendor clients — often water damage remediation firms, roofers, or auto glass shops with aggressive marketing schemes — to clog the courts with lawsuits and generate big paydays for themselves.

Recently, the Florida Justice Reform Institute revealed how the growing use of AOBs and the one-way attorney fee by third parties is increasing litigation and costs.

Using the Florida Department of Financial Services’ service of process database, we discovered some startling insights.

From 2000 to 2016, Florida’s population increased 26 percent, while total litigation filed against insurance companies increased about 280 percent.

In particular, AOB litigation increased by over 66 percent from 2010 to 2011, fell briefly after the 2012 auto insurance reforms, and then started rising again. From 2014 to 2015, AOB litigation increased 10.7 percent, and then 21 percent from 2015 to 2016.

AOB lawsuits initiated by vendors who provide water cleanup, restoration, drying, mitigation, mold detection, or remediation services were overwhelmingly concentrated in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. On average, these three counties produced more than 80 percent of litigation from these vendors in 2014, and that share rose to nearly 85 percent in 2015, and nearly 89 percent in 2016.

Unfortunately, the problem is not just confined to home insurance claims. Auto glass claims also saw a staggering increase — over 3,000 percent in five years — from 591 claims in 2011 to 19,558 claims in 2016.

But the most surprising discovery was that nearly 25 percent of all AOB cases — from property to auto to auto glass — filed in Florida between 2013 and 2016 were filed by just 11 lawyers.

The bottom line is that all this rampant AOB abuse and litigation is driving insurance costs up. Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier had it right last month when he told the Governor and Cabinet that there’s no other explanation other than the one-way attorney fees.

The Florida Legislature has strong data supporting this growing problem. It’s time for them to pass meaningful reforms and stop a handful of unscrupulous repair vendors and their lawyers from using the policyholders’ special rights for their own benefit. Keep consumers in control of the insurance policies they bought and paid for, and stop the abuse that’s sending insurance rates higher.

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William Large is President of the Florida Justice Reform Institute.

The Florida Justice Reform Institute was created in 2005 to fight wasteful civil litigation through legislation, promote fair and equitable legal practices and provide information about the state of civil justice in Florida. Visit fljustice.org for more information.

Blake Dowling: The road, fast food and Session — all aboard!

Session is here in the Capital City, beginning with a Monday bash at Associated Industries to welcome those from all over the state.

The Legislative Session kickoff has been on my calendar for a decade now; it is a great event and a nice chance to reflect on the past year and the one coming just ahead.

Mayor Andrew Gillum wants to run for governor, legal pot is everywhere, POTUS can give a good speech. What else? Charlie Christ switched back to the GOP, got a divorce or something like that. It’s hard to keep tabs on Chuckles.

For those traveling from out of town make sure to stay away from fast food. It is hard on the system, makes you fat and decreases your life span.

Wendy’s is making it hard to avoid fast food, as they are leading the pack with devious innovative ways to get a double cheeseburger in your hand (where are they square, by the way).

What are they doing? Self-service kiosks for one thing. I wrote in an earlier column that the model Amazon’s new cashier less smart self-serve store would be appealing to big business looking to save money from a higher minimum wage. The head burger honchos came to the same conclusion. How do they stay highly profitable? Get rid of employees.

So, those are elected officials that always want to raise taxes and the minimum wage.

Stop. I was talking to John Londot from Greenberg Traurig about a minute ago about AI (we are collaborating on something for Leon County next week), and it’s not just minimum wage workers that should be on alert.

We must all be mindful of what sort of impact AI could have on the world. We could have an autonomous utopia on our hands or a scorched wasteland.

I prefer to think positive on the subject and I know John does too. We must not fear innovation but that is not to say we should not walk carefully.

“Technology can play a great role in creating a better customer experience, unlocking productivity, driving throughput and ultimately saving some labor to help us to continue to have a strong economic model,” said Todd Penegor, Wendy’s CEO.

Wendy’s has created a lab — called 90 Degrees — with a team of developers and engineers to work on self-serving kiosks, its website and mobile app.

They want you using smart pay, and who do you think they are targeting? Youth. Millennials. They want to make the Clown and the King as irrelevant as the compact disc.

They are well on their way, plus they are rolling out a standardized POS (point of sale, not the other acronym you were thinking of) to all stores. They are making a massive investment in innovation and expect them to crush the competition, except Chick-fil-A. Can’t touch the master.

Wendy’s want you ordering from the app, from kiosks and have an agile and nimble digital experience with their brand. And they are half way there.

Da da da da da … I’m McLoving it.

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Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and writes for several organizations. He can be reached here: dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

Andrew Warren: ‘Stand your ground’ changes bad for law enforcement

The Florida Legislature is considering significant changes to the “stand your ground” law that will make our communities less safe and unnecessarily disrupt our criminal justice system while doing nothing to protect those who legally own guns.

The Legislature also has falsely suggested the proposed changes will have no financial impact. The proposed legislation fundamentally changes our jury system by requiring, for the first time in Florida legal history, that state prosecutors would have to disprove a legal defense to even begin prosecuting a case. The proposals quickly moving through this year’s legislative process threaten public safety and undermine the fair and equal criminal justice system that our community deserves.

In 2005, the Legislature enacted the nation’s first “stand your ground” law, which removed a person’s duty to retreat before using force in self-defense of himself, another person, his home, or property. In legal terms, “stand your ground” expanded the scope of the long-standing defense of self-defense. Procedurally, a criminal defendant asserting “stand your ground” immunity must establish by a preponderance of evidence (more than 50 percent standard) at a pretrial hearing that he or she acted in self-defense.

Proponents of changing the law claim it restores the fundamental principle of justice that a citizen is innocent until proven guilty. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our Constitution guarantees the innocence of the accused until every element of the crime has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. As the state attorney for Hillsborough County, I wholeheartedly embrace our extremely high burden of proof to obtain a conviction. The proposed changes, however, create an unnecessary and technical legal hurdle in the law to force the state to disprove a defense — which would often require proving a negative — beyond a reasonable doubt, upending the constitutional standard and centuries-old common law.

The impact of these changes would be monumental. Under the legislation, SB 128, a defendant simply can make an unsworn, unverified representation to a court that he acted in self-defense. Then, before prosecution can even begin, the state would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense. This would require essentially two trials. Supporters of the bill claim that it is limited to cases involving the use of firearms, but the scope of the changes encompasses all violent crime. Every murder. Every stabbing. Every beating and assault. And every domestic violence attack.

To implement these proposals, we will need more judges, more courtrooms, more prosecutors and more law enforcement officers. In Hillsborough County, this would impact more than 5,000 cases per year. If only half of those cases involve a claim of “stand your ground” immunity, the time and resources in my office alone amount to nearly $3 million annually.

The bill wastes taxpayer dollars by needlessly increasing the workload of prosecutors and law enforcement officers. Beyond the economic impact, the proposed changes undermine public safety by taking police officers off the street and forcing them into the courtroom, and by making it harder to prosecute violent crime. The changes will embolden violent criminals and prevent justice for victims. As written, the bill is anti-law enforcement and anti-law and order.

I stand ready and willing to work with supporters of these bills who seek sensible implementation of “stand your ground” immunity to protect responsible gun owners. At a minimum, the Legislature should require defendants to provide facts sworn under oath and reduce the standard to a preponderance of the evidence. The proposed legislation is not about guns or innocence; it is about public safety and the effective operation of our criminal justice system. I call on legislators, gun rights advocates, survivors of domestic violence and all stakeholders in our criminal justice system to work together toward sensible solutions instead of the wholesale, irresponsible changes found in these proposals.

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Andrew Warren is state attorney for the 13th Judicial Circuit, which covers Hillsborough County.

[This op-ed was first published March 2 in the Tampa Bay Times, republished with permission.]

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