Mitch Perry - SaintPetersBlog

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

Fear grips Latino communities in Florida as deportations increase

There is palpable fear amongst the undocumented community this week, after the Department of Homeland Security issued new memos that give U.S. officials sweeping latitude to target “removable aliens” for deportation, effectively making most of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. as priority targets.

Under Barack Obama, immigration officials were told to focus on convicted criminals instead of the broader undocumented population. The memo’s issued out this week by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly instruct agents to also prioritize undocumented immigrants who have been charged with a crime but not convicted of it, or committed an act that may be criminal offenses but haven’t been charged for it. Those categories mean that almost any brush with the American law-enforcement system could make an undocumented immigrant a target for removal.

“I’m very, very afraid,” says a St.Petersburg housekeeper who only wanted to be identified by her first name of Melissa.

A Brazilian native who has duel citizenship with Portugal, Melissa came to the U.S. last year with her Portugal passport but has stayed past the three months she was legally able to. She keeps her two-year-old daughter in day care, and says she is terrified that if she gets picked up by local police she may never see her again.

“I’ll never call for some help, if I need the police here,” she says. “I’ll never call anyone to help me.”

There are approximately 610,000 undocumented people in Florida, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

Daniel Barajas is the executive director with the Young American Dreamers based in Auburndale. His organization has been hosting community forums this week, teaching the undocumented what to do if they’re confronted by immigration officers.

“We’re just trying to reassure the community by giving them the confidence in the means of learning their rights and keeping them organize, so when there’s actions where mobilizing the community would be strategic, we could do so,” he says.

Left untouched in the DHS directives is anything to do with DACA, an executive order imposed by President Obama  that provides 750,000 young undocumented immigrations a means to work and live in the U.S.

“We’re gonna show great heart,” Trump said in a news conference last week. “DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me, I will tell you.”

“It’s not a security blanket, even though I do feel like I have a path to citizenship,” says Tampa resident Andrea Seabra, who is part of the DACA program. “It is what it is today, and I just hope every day that things get better.”

While big city mayors like Tampa’s Bob Buckhorn and St. Petersburg’s Rick Kriseman say that they will make sure that their police departments don’t go out of their way to detain undocumented immigrants, Edwin Enciso with Justicia Now says that isn’t the case in many other parts of Florida.

“The problem is that about 40 percent of the udocumented community live in rural counties and have sheriffs who have a history of cooperating with federal agents in this way, and so in those areas the undocumented community, especially farm workers, are more vulnerable,” he says.

Those sheriffs would include Polk County’s Grady Judd, who said at a news conference earlier this week that “our primary goal has got to be to get the illegal aliens committing felonies out of this country and keep them out.”

After the new directives were announced by DHS this week, Orlando area Democratic Representative Darren Soto held an emergency roundtable discussion, where he learned that students in Auburndale, Florida had been questioned by local school administrators about their immigration status. “Given the recent executive action and heated rhetoric on immigration, these unauthorized inquiries are deeply troubling to me and our constituents,” Soto said in a letter sent to Judd, Orange County Sheriff Jerry L. Demings, Osceola County Sheriff Russ Gibson and more than 20 school board members.

“What we find disturbing is that he hasn’t even found time to sit down with the Hispanic community to discuss what their concerns are,” said Barajas of Judd, who has worked with in the past. Barajas said DHS’ orders affects more than just the undocumented, since there are many Hispanic families with “mixed status,” that is, with some family members who are documented, others who aren’t or who have those who are on DACA.

Most Americans believe that cities that arrest illegal immigrants for crimes should be required to turn them over to federal authorities.

A survey from Harvard–Harris Poll published by the The Hill this week found that 80 percent of voters say local authorities should have to comply with the law by reporting to federal agents the illegal immigrants they come into contact with.

Seabra says she wonders whether President Trump has ever had the chance to sit down with DACA students or farm workers, and says such a meeting could have an impact on his viewpoint.

“I feel he was actually exposed to people that work for him, the people who clean his bathrooms, the people that built his building, maybe he’ll understand that we’re not here to destroy his country, but to make it better.”

 

 

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Florida to legislate free speech on college campuses?

The issue of free speech on college campuses reached its nadir earlier this month when protests regarding the appearance of far-right writer and speaker Milo Yiannopoulos caused more than $100,000 damage to the University of Berkeley campus.

Yiannapoulos speech was ultimately canceled, just as it was two weeks after protests erupted before his appearance at the University of California at Davis.

The day after the Berkeley cancellation, President Trump threatened to pull federal funds from the university for canceling the event.

On Thursday, the Florida House Subcommittee on Post-Secondary Education heard from conservative academic Stanley Kurtz Thursday about the Campus Free Speech Act, a piece of proposed legislation that he says would defend free speech in Florida universities.

“When protesters disrupt speakers or break in on meetings and take them over to list demands, administrators tend to look the other way,” Kurtz told committee members as he began his 16-minute address. “Students have come to take it for granted that they will face no discipline for such disruptions, administrators themselves often disinvite controversial speakers and limit the exercise of liberty to narrow and highly regulated so-called free speech zones. University boards and trustees rarely act to curb these administrative abuses.”

The remedy to address these issues on college campuses is what Kurtz calls the Campus Free Speech Act, a proposal he calls “the most comprehensive legislative proposal ever offered to restore and protect campus free speech.”

Kurtz, who is with the Ethics and Public Policy Center, co-wrote the report with James Manley and Jonathan Butcher of the Goldwater Institute last month. It calls to:

– Create an official university policy that strongly affirms the importance of free expression, nullifying any existing restrictive speech codes in the process.

– It prevents administrators from disinviting speakers, no matter how controversial, whom members of the campus community wish to hear from.

– It establishes a system of disciplinary sanctions for students and anyone else who interferes with the free-speech rights of others.

– It allows persons whose free-speech rights have been improperly infringed by the university to recover court costs and attorney’s fees.

– It reaffirms the principle that universities, at the official institutional level, ought to remain neutral on issues of public controversy to encourage the widest possible range of opinion and dialogue within the university itself.

– It ensures that students will be informed of the official policy on free expression.

– It authorizes a special subcommittee of the University board of trustees to issue a yearly report to the public, the trustees, the governor, and the legislature on the administrative handling of free-speech issues.

Kurtz received pushback from Orlando Democrat Carlos Guillermo Smith, who said he was concerned about activists who are using hate speech and calling it free speech. Referring to an incident on the University of Central Florida where groups posted anti-Semitic stickers and fliers around dormitories, Smith asked Kurtz if that was speech was protected under his legislation?

Kurtz said it was.

“I would condemn swastikas, and I would hope that others would openly condemn that, but I would not take away their right to do it, because that’s what actually takes us down a dangerous path to civil strife and potential authoritarianism,” Kurtz replied, adding that he lost relatives in the Holocaust.

Smith said the unintended consequences of Kurtz’ free speech proposal would be “increased hostilities toward minority students and minority faiths.” He asked him if there was any part of his plan that would promote “cultural awareness” for students to counteract those unintended consequences?

“Freedom of speech are the greatest way to increase tolerance,” Kurtz responded.

John K. Wilson, who writes a blog for the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), has criticized the proposal.

“The Goldwater Institute proposal should be rejected and opposed in every state legislature,” he wrote earlier this month. “It includes some worthy ideas for colleges to adopt to protect free expression on campus, but they are outweighed by the flawed provisions and the use of legislative repression to achieve these goals.

In the three weeks since the proposal was published, lawmakers in Illinois and Virginia have filed bills in their respective state houses, and a third bill may soon be filed in North Carolina.

In his proposed budget released last week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker included a proposed law to require University of Wisconsin officials to protect offensive speech.

In his 2017-2019 executive budget, Walker recommends “codifying the state’s commitment to academic freedom,” and providing $10,000 in funding for the UW System to review and revise “policies related to academic freedom.”

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David Jolly says the state of GOP will determine his electoral future

Though he’s out of public office, David Jolly has never been more ubiquitous in appearing on television.

The former Pinellas County congressman was scheduled to make another appearance on MSNBC Wednesday night, this time on “All In with Chris Hayes” talking about the buzzsaw that his former GOP brethren are confronting when hosting townhall meetings across the country.

Jolly is a rare Republican, speaking out critical against many of the moves of the Donald Trump administration, bumping up his status on many cable news producers rolodexes. However, that opposition could come at a price.

Because of his comments regarding the pressures of fundraising that he says the GOP establishment imposed upon him and other freshmen legislators, the National Republican Congressional Committee opted not to aid him in his uphill battle to retain his seat against Democrat Charlie Crist last year. If he were to challenge him again next year, he surely will need those funds to compete in a seat that Democrats will fight hard to maintain. Yet Jolly says he can’t think that calculatingly.

“We would have won if the NRCC had come in,” Jolly told this reporter on WMNF’s MidPoint program Thursday. “If there had been a half million or a million dollars, the reality is of modern electoral science is we would have won … we would have closed that three precent gap.”

Jolly lost by 3.8 percentage points to Crist, a closer race than many polls had predicted, based on the redistricting of the CD 13 seat that added the much more liberal parts of downtown and South St. Petersburg to the district. However, Jolly says he won’t fall in line and stay silent when he sees some of the actions that the new Republican president is doing in office.

“I’m not going to sell my soul simply for electoral office,” he said. “I’m not interested in being part of a Congress that’s broken.”

And Jolly includes some Democrats of being timid in speaking out against Trump when the occasion calls for it.

“The reality is that a lot of Democrats are afraid to speak out against Donald Trump as well. And Charlie’s one of those.”

Jolly also took note that while there’s been criticism about some Republicans (such as Marco Rubio) avoiding hosting town hall meetings this week, so has Crist.

“The Congressman is meeting with constituents and hearing their concerns at community events across the district,” responds Crist spokesperson Erin Moffet. “We are looking at options for future public events to make sure the people’s voices continue to be heard, and I’ll be sure to let you know when they are scheduled.”

Regarding a potential congressional rematch against Crist next year, Jolly says he won’t make that decision until sometime early next year.

“If this is the state of the Republican Party next year, what we’re seeing today, then there’s probably not a place for me on the ballot, but I just keep doing what I believe is right,” he says.”There will be a point at which that aligns with where the party is and the community is, and then perhaps there might be an opportunity to seek election again. It simply is not my singular focus, though.”

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Charlie Crist joins blasts Trump administration’s rollback of protection for transgender students

Charlie Crist is blasting the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw Obama-era protections for transgender students in public schools that let them use bathrooms and facilities corresponding with their gender identity.

“This action sends a frightening message that the administration does not care about the safety of transgender children in our nation’s schools,” Crist said Thursday. “While repealing this guidance does not change the fact that Title IX protects transgender students, it subjects our public schools to more lawsuits and puts trans youth at risk. I stand with America’s trans students who, like all children, deserve a safe place to learn.”

Two GOP members of Florida’s congressional delegation have also criticized the decision.

“This is a disappointing choice for the Administration to make,” Congressional District 26 Representative Carlos Curbelo said in a statement. “We should be working toward ensuring all American children feel safe and accepted in their schools, regardless of where they live, their race, creed, gender identity or sexual orientation.”

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen called the decision by the Trump administration, “lamentable.”

Along with Rep. Jared Polis (D – CO), Ros-Lehtinen introduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) in 2015 that would prohibit schools from discriminating against students based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. She’s also supportive of the Safe Schools Improvement Act which would require schools to create a code of conduct against discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, and other important factors.

Last May, the departments of Education and Justice issued joint guidance directing schools to let transgender students use facilities that correspond with their gender identity. The “Dear Colleague” letter, addressed to school districts and colleges that receive federal funding, was based on the Obama administration’s interpretation of Title IX, the federal law that bans sex discrimination in schools, to include gender identity.

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Jessica Vaughn files to run for Hillsborough County School Board

Jessica Vaughn, a Tampa Palms resident who grew up attending Hillsborough County schools and now teaches in them,  filed to run for the District 6 seat on the Hillsborough County School Board currently held by April Griffin.

The 39-year-old Tampa native says she thought about entering the  District 7 countywide primary last summer, but realized it was too late in the process to make an impact. Her declaration for ’18 comes a full year and a half before Hillsborough voters will go the polls.

“I’m a certified teacher, and I’ve actually been subbing for the last couple of years because my son is in pre-school, so I’ve experienced what it’s like to being in the classroom as a certified teacher,” she says. “And as a substitute teacher I’ve seen all the types of special classes, and I hear a lot of conversations from the break room from frustrated teachers.”

Vaughn does have electoral experience, having won a spot on the Tampa Palms Community Development District last November, where she says she’s learned to work with others while managing a million dollar budget.

A graduate of Gaither High School in Tampa, she earned her degree in Elementary Education from USF in 2010 and began teaching in Hillsborough County schools immediately afterwards, mostly in Title 1 and Renaissance schools. After taking time off in 2013 for her pregnancy, she’s returned to teaching as a substitute.

Vaughn says that having attended a lot of school board meetings, she feels there’s a “disconnect” between the public concerns and the board’s agenda.

Regarding the board’s budget crisis, she says from afar it’s difficult to understand where that began, noting the criticisms of a lack of transparency on the part of former superintendent MaryEllen Elia.

“This is not an attack on anyone, but when there are classrooms that don’t have air conditioning, and there are school bus routes being cut and parents are being inconvenienced by having to take their kids to school, it just seems to me that an almost half a million dollar renovation on the school board offices might have been something that may be looked at again to see if that’s a priority, ” she says, also questioning the hiring of of Gibson Consulting Group, which is being paid $818,000 to help get the board’s finances under control.

“It just seems to me, that money could have been managed a little bit better,” she says.

Vaughn is politically active, having attended last summer’s Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia as a delegate for Bernie Sanders. Like the Vermont independent senator, she she says she wants to run a grassroots campaign and get in touch with as many people as possible.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity to meet and talk witih people, and really listen to what their concerns are, not only just listen but hopefully be able to elicit some solutions as well,” she says.”I feel like a lot of people are really disconnected and they really don’t understand what a school board does and how it affects their children’s education.”

Vaughn is the third candidate to file for the District 6 seat, following William Person and Randy Toler, who have both been unsuccessful in previous bids for the board.

And then there is Griffin, perhaps the best known member of the board, now in her third term in office.

Griffin was one of the four members of the board who voted to oust Elia in 2015, a move that offended much of the Tampa/Hillsborough political and business establishment. Yet despite the warnings that the Elia affair would hurt those board members, two of the four board members who voted to oust Elia – Cindy Stuart and Susan Valdes – won reelection in 2016

“I told Jessica it was my intention to run,” Griffin told SPB on Wednesday night. “She had decided to run against an incumbent.”

Vaughn acknowledges that running countywide won’t be easy.

“I have full confidence that we would run a really good campaign, but  even if we just help shape the narrative and the discussion of what should be imporrant when we’re talking about eduction and somehow shift it away from the drama that seems to follow political campaigns, and stay focused on what people want…I’ll feel successful,” she says.

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Bill Nelson now targeted by group calling for his vote to repeal, replace ACA

Being a Democratic Senator up for re-election in 2018 and living in a state won by Donald Trump last fall means that Bill Nelson is going to be getting a lot of attention over the next year and a half from groups supporting Republican causes.

On Wednesday, TV ads began running on cable news networks in Florida targeting Nelson for supporting the Affordable Care Act in 2010. The ads will continue to air over the next couple of weeks.

One Nation, a 501(c)4 linked to the Karl-Rove-backed American Crossroads, has begun airing television ads in nine states calling on Senate Democrats who supported the ACA to support GOP efforts to repeal and replace the ACA.

“Last fall Americans sent Washington a clear message: clean up the Obamacare mess,” said Steven Law, president and chief executive officer of One Nation. “We’re going to make sure Washington follows through.”

Florida is in the first batch of nine states that will be seeing the ads which challenges Senate Democrats. They’re part of a $3 million ad campaign to take place over the next three weeks in 11 states. The TV ads will be followed by radio, digital, print and mail.

Michigan and Tennessee will be part of the second ten-day wave of radio and digital ads.

The ads are being unveiled on the same day that a new poll shows that the ACA is becoming more popular, now that the reality that it could be completely repealed is at stake.

A new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll shows voters are now split evenly on the law. Forty-five percent of registered voters approve of the law, the poll shows, and 45 percent disapprove. That’s an improvement from just a month ago, when only 41 percent of voters approved of the health care law, compared with 52 percent who disapproved.

The ads have begun airing on the same day that the National Republican Senate Committee unveiled a new digital ad campaign to inform Florida voters of what they call Nelson’s” liberal record” in Washington, comparing his Senate voting record to Massachusetts’s Elizabeth Warren.

 

 

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Senate Republicans begin targeting Bill Nelson in new digital ad campaign

Bill Nelson isn’t running for re-election for another year, but it’s never too early to start the campaign against him.

That’s what the National Republican Senate Committee is doing this week, unveiling a new digital ad campaign to inform Florida voters of what they call Nelson’s “liberal record” in Washington, comparing his Senate voting record to Massachusetts’s Elizabeth Warren.

“Bill Nelson has positioned himself squarely on the left, voting with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren 92 percent of the time,” said NRSC Communications Director Katie Martin. “Bill Nelson may try to pose as a moderate as the election approaches, but his record shows that he has more in common with Washington liberals than with Florida voters.”

Although progressive Democrats in Florida have occasionally criticized Nelson’s voting record, he was largely in sync with Barack Obama over the past eight years on the main pieces of legislation.

He’s served in the Senate for over 16 years, defeating Bill McCollum, Katherine Harris and Connie Mack IV along the way. Although there are rumors of various Republicans who will challenge him in 2018, most observers believe Governor Rick Scott is the leading contender at this point.

Nelson has said he’s ready and willing for the challenge against Scott, saying“I only know one way to run, and that’s to run as hard as I can as if there’s no tomorrow.”

The digital ads will run on Facebook and are part of a national campaign targeting Senate Democrats representing states won by Donald Trump in November.

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Floridians for Ridesharing Coalition pushes for statewide bill to get passed this year

Last year in the Florida Legislature, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill to create statewide regulations regarding ridesharing, but the bill died ignominiously in the state Senate.

Similar bills are winding their way through committees in both chambers already in 2017, and on Wednesday, the group Floridians for Ridesharing Coalition announced their support for that legislation, being sponsored in the House by Palm Harbor Republican Chris Sprowls and Tampa Republican Jamie Grant and in the Senate by St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes.

“We fully support legislation that embraces innovation, and legislation that creates predictable regulatory climate across the entire state for ridesharing companies,” said Frank Walker, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Florida Chamber of Commerce on a conference call.

Florida is one of only 12 states in the nation that has yet to create a statewide law regarding ridesharing, or transportation network companies (TNC’s) as they are also known.

In 2016, the drama was in the Florida Senate, where Uber blamed Senate PresidenAndy Gardiner for the inability for the ridesharing legislation to advance. He’s been succeeded by Palm City Republican Joe Negron, who has praised the current legislation.

“I think you’ve got two different bodies then you had last year,” said Walker, when asked why he’s more optimistic that the bill will pass this year. He also said that there is simply more demand for Uber and Lyft. “Environment plays a big role, and so does demand,” he said.

No region of the state has more interest in seeing a ridesharing bill passed than in the Tampa Bay area. That’s because of the large unpopularity with the body charged in Hillsborough County to regulate Uber and Lyft, the Public Transportation Commission.

Over the years, PTC officers have cited numerous Lyft and Uber drivers for operating illegally. Those actions ceased after the PTC finally passed a bill last fall bringing the two companies into compliance.

“Local regulations at best have been problematic and dysfunctional, and have not been helping to foster and grow the local economy, and that’s why we need a statewide regulation,” said Bob Rohrlack, President/CEO of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

Rohrlack blamed “the status quo,” meaning the taxicab industry predominantly, for putting up roadblocks to protect, and not grow markets. “The local regulations penalize entrepreneurs. That’s something that none of us should be accepting,” he said.

In previous years, there has been criticism that the ridesharing companies have not been accommodating towards the disabled. But Kim Galban-Countryman, Executive Director of Lighthouse of the Big Bend, says the TNC’s are helping people with disabilities, especially those living with vision loss.

“Convenient transportation options are an absolute necessity for people with vision loss, and ridesharing introduces a simple affordable means to get around,” Galban-Countryman says.”Through various voice activated systems and services, individuals with visual impairments who otherwise would not have access to convenient transportation options can maintain their independence, and call a Lyft or Uber driver to take them where they need to go.”

Floridians for Ridesharing Coalition was formed before the 2016 legislative session.

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Bill allowing women to sue doctors who perform abortions advances in Florida House

Women could sue doctors who performed an abortion on them without “informed consent” under a bill advanced by a House subcommittee Wednesday.

Sponsored by Vero Beach Republican Erin Grall, HB 19 would allow women to seek damages from doctors who failed to adequately inform of the physical and psychological harms of abortion for up to 10 years.

Currently, the primary recourse women have on an injury during an abortion procedure is to file a medical malpractice claim.

Grall told the House Quality Subcommittee that it was “time-consuming process” that placed an “unnecessary obstacle” to a judicial remedy.

West Park Democrat Shevrin Jones, the ranking member of the committee, asked Grall about the evidence of women suffering from psychological problems because of an abortion.

Although she didn’t provide statistics to back it up, Grall said that there had been “many women and many organizations” who came to her saying they had emotional distress after such a procedure.

“There is no hard research or data that I’m able to bring to you today,” she acknowledged, adding that she believed that, in any case, it was underreported.

Doctors and insurance companies strongly oppose the bill.

Mark Delegal, with the Doctors Company, a medical malpractice insurance business, said passage of HB 19 could knock out all medical malpractice reforms passed by the Florida Legislature in 2003.

“There’s nothing to suggest that current law is insufficient to address the harm suffered by women who have had abortions — certainly nothing that justifies vastly expanding physician liability and treating those injured by abortions differently from all other medical malpractice claimants,” said William Large, president of the Florida Justice Reform Institute.

Abortion rights advocates crowded the hearing room, and while most “waived in opposition” to the bill, several people did speak out against the bill.

Psychologist Rachel Roberts cited a 2008 study by the American Psychological Association Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion that concluded that among adult women who have an unplanned pregnancy the relative risk of mental health problems is “no greater if they have a single elective first-trimester abortion than if they deliver that pregnancy.”

“Most of you in this room would not have an audacity if she regretted having a baby, so I don’t know why you deem it acceptable to ask the one in three women like myself why we regret our abortions, “said Erin Foster, a Planned Parenthood volunteer from Tampa.

Douglas Murphy, with the Florida Medical Association, is a practicing OBGYN in Ocala. While he does not personally perform abortions, Murphy said if he did, and were just coming out of training, he would not want to practice in Florida if HB were to become the law of the land.

With the same committee hearing testimony last week about a doctor shortage in Florida, Democrats picked up on that cue in questioning Grall.

“This is just bad policy,” said Jones, “and if we’re trying to bring doctors into the state, we’re moving in the wrong direction.”

“I do believe what this is an attempt to eliminate abortions,” added St. Petersburg Democrat Wengay Newton.

Fort Myers Republican Ray Wesley Rodrigues pointed out that the only doctors liable under the bill would be those who failed to give informed consent, which is part of current law.

“I don’t see anything wrong with it,” he said. “This is a good bill.”

Grall said she was speaking for the women not in the room who choose not to talk about the emotional pain suffered from an abortion, comparing it to legislation regarding children, who also rarely have a voice in the halls of the Legislature.

“So, there are plenty of times that we will be asked to speak on behalf of people who have no voice, ” she said. “And that is who this bill addresses.”

The bill has one more committee stop before reaching the floor of the entire House. There is no companion bill filed yet in the Senate.

If it were to pass in the Legislature, HB 19 would become the first such law in the country, though similar legislation is moving through the Iowa Legislature.

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Lisa Wheeler-Bowman endorses Barclay Harless in St Pete City Council District 2 race

District 7 St. Pete City Council Member Lisa Wheeler-Bowman is endorsing Barclay Harless in the race for City Council District 2.

“We need to make our city better in all corners and give all residents an equal playing field and opportunities. Barclay has worked in Midtown, and he understands we need to improve neighborhoods throughout our city by working to improve transportation, eliminate food deserts, bring sustainable jobs into all areas and give our kids the skills to compete for livable wage jobs,” said Wheeler-Bowman in a statement issued out by the Harless campaign.

“I know we have a lot of challenges and I need another fighter like me on city council to get things done for all of St. Pete and work to eliminate disparities in any neighborhood, that is why I am endorsing Barclay Harless and look forward to working with him on behalf of St. Pete residents and small businesses.”

Harless is a commercial banker and former aide to state Representative Darryl Rouson. He’s opposed by real estate agent Brandi Gabbard in the race to succeed the term-limited incumbent, Jim Kennedy.

“We have so much to celebrate, yet our community faces serious challenges today. I’m ready to roll my sleeves up and get to work. I am running to tackle the tough challenges and provide meaningful results; I am not interested in finger-pointing or playing the blame game,” said Harless. “Having worked across the aisle in the Florida Legislature, with local leaders on the Pinellas County Charter Review Board, with the St. Pete Chamber of Commerce and with the small businesses that have revolutionized our urban core, I am ready to take on the issues facing our city. I thank Lisa for her leadership and I’m looking forward to working with her on city council.

“The two together will be a powerhouse for progress on council,” says Nick Janovsky, Harless’ campaign manager.

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