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Stop stealing our video, Florida Channel says

The Florida Channel wants you … to stop stealing its videos.

A new disclaimer began popping up Friday under the channel’s online video feeds: “Programming produced by The Florida Channel CANNOT be used for political, campaign, advocacy or commercial purposes!”

It adds: “ANY editing, embedding or distribution without permission is strictly PROHIBITED. Direct linking to complete video files is permissible, except in the case of political campaigns.”

Florida Channel executive director Beth Switzer on Monday explained the “terms of use” reminder was sparked by the “increasing number of people stealing (videos) for advocacy purposes.” She did not point to specific examples. 

Switzer referred to a state law that she said prohibits such use.

It says, in part, that the “facilities, plant, or personnel of an educational television station that is supported in whole or in part by state funds may not be used directly or indirectly for the promotion, advertisement, or advancement of a political candidate for a municipal, county, legislative, congressional, or state office.”

The law, which doesn’t mention work product such as videos, provides that a violation is a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. Those parts of the law were added in 2014.

Aside from a “huge number of videos being lifted and put out there,” Switzer also said her office is getting swamped with calls asking her staff to provide edited clips for use in commercials and other promotions.

“Making copies of what we do is not really in our scope of work,” she said.

Emily Slosberg’s personal, uphill battle for tougher texting laws

Twenty-one years after a car crash that took her twin sister’s life, Emily Slosberg is continuing the fight to make Florida roads safer.

Slosberg, the state representative and daughter of longtime Democratic state lawmaker Irv Slosberg, has picked up her father’s crusade on driver’s safety by championing stronger texting while driving laws statewide.

As reported by WTSP 10Investigates, the issue is deeply personal for both Emily and Irv Slosberg,

On Feb. 23, 1996, seven teenagers between the ages of 13 and 15 — including Emily and Dori Slosberg — had been riding in the back seat of a 1995 Honda Civic. In the front seat were a 19-year-old and 17-year-old.

After the car had swerved to miss an oncoming car, the Honda hit a pole and slammed into another vehicle. Five of the teens were killed, others suffered severe spinal injuries. Emily Slosberg spent 10 days in the hospital and missed her sister’s funeral.

Irv Slosberg, who first came to the Florida House in 2000, passed a mandatory seat belt bill in 2009 — the Dori Slosberg and Katie Marchetti Safety Belt Law — signed by then-Gov. Charlie Crist. Slosberg was also one of first to advocate stronger texting laws in Florida, first enacted in 2013.

Emily Slosberg, CEO of the Dori Slosberg Foundation, is now a Democrat representing District 91, the seat her father held since 2012 and had given up in 2016 for an unsuccessful Senate run.

Emily seeks to continue what her father started.

“We have an epidemic on the roads,” she told WTSP. “I believe that texting and driving, distracted driving, is a major cause of driving fatalities.”

Slosberg said that she is not looking to replace Florida’s existing texting while driving law but to strengthen it.

Current Florida law puts texting while driving as a secondary offense — law enforcement cannot pull a driver over for texting only, and can only do so when they are committing another traffic violation. Even then, a texting ticket is only $20.

Initially, Slosberg sought to use a creative tactic to change the law, by attempting to introduce a bill making texting and driving a primary offense in her Palm Beach County district (known as a “municipality bill”), effectively sidestepping the state law restrictions that consider it a secondary offense.

Slosberg, however, faced stiff opposition from influential members of the Legislature — including some from her own delegation.

“She said on the night she planned to present her bill to her colleagues,” write Donovan Myrie and Noah Pransky of WTSP. “State Sen. Bobby Powell, the chair of the local Palm County delegation, blocked her from speaking to her colleagues. Slosberg was forced to make her presentation during public testimony, and in her words, leadership attempted to ‘add insult to injury’ by adjourning before she had a chance to speak.”

Slosberg also faced a legal challenge for her municipality bill, when Dawn Wynn, the senior assistant attorney for Palm Beach County, issued an opinion (at Powell’s request) confirming that “traffic laws shall be uniform throughout the state” and reinforcing that texting and driving is a secondary offense.

Republicans, many with a Libertarian lean, were also resistant to the idea.

What’s more, Powell suggested making texting while driving a primary offense could have racial overtones — saying that additional laws give law enforcement another opportunity to profile African-Americans and Hispanics.

Despite that, Slosberg stays undeterred, and progress could be coming, although not soon enough for many.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran — typically opposed to greater government intervention — told 10Investigates he will consider a workshop of the issue which could include a national study by Florida’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA). That would result in legislative recommendations in late 2017, and the issue of distracted driving would return for the 2018 Session. If passed, tougher laws in Florida could come as soon as summer 2018.

Former employee sued by Tampa activist Sam Rashid ‘won’t back down,’ lawyer says

Jacqueline Lilley former employee of Divine Designs Salon

A 21-year-old woman sued by Tampa political activist Sam Rashid is not “backing down,” and has filed a motion Monday to dismiss the case.

Rashid, who had twice resigned seats on prestigious boards after making controversial posts on social media, has filed suit in Hillsborough County against former employee Jacqueline Lilley for an alleged libelous” Facebook post in March.

Lilley worked as a receptionist at Divine Designs Salon in Brandon, which Rashid co-owns. She had written online that “the owners are thieves,” adding that workers at Devine Designs were ordered not to communicate with former workers who left on “bad terms.”

Lilley also urged staff there to leave.

Although the post just received over 39 comments and “liked” only about 14 times before it was taken down, Rashid, 55, sought damages in excess of $15,000.

However, in a statement, Lilley says she isn’t shying away from a fight. She has retained Tampa attorney Richard A. Harrison, who filed the motion Monday morning.

“Lilley spoke out about salon practices that she thought were unfair,” Harrison says. “In response, Rashid’s lawyer sent her a two-page, legalese-laden and very threatening sounding letter. Lilley took down her post after a few days, thinking that would resolve the matter. Instead, Rashid sued her for defamation. He’s also recently sued at least two other former employees of the salon.”

“This case isn’t about Rashid’s reputation,” Harrison says. “Rashid filing this lawsuit actually guarantees that more people will read Ms. Lilley’s comments than would ever have seen them otherwise.”

While the initial post was far from viral, Harrison notes that “well over 100 people” have now viewed, shared or commented on the Tampa Bay Times’ online article and accompanying social media post about the case.

“Let’s be clear,” Harrison adds. “This lawsuit is about bullying and intimidating the salon’s current and former employees, almost all of whom are young women … But that’s not really surprising coming from a man who called a successful professional woman a ‘taxpayer subsidized slut,’ is it?”

Harrison also brought up the irony of Rashid’s resignation from the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority.

In June 2014, Gov. Rick Scott appointed Rashid, then a high-profile GOP supporter, to the Hillsborough County’s Aviation Board. In September 2015, Rashid attacked Tampa businessperson Beth Leytham for her involvement in the “Go Hillsborough” transportation initiative, funded by the county government. Hillsborough had been considering increasing sales taxes to build new roads, improve bridges and expand mass transit.

In a Facebook post Sept. 2, 2015, Rashid called Leytham a “taxpayer-subsidized slut,” suggesting she had “intimately close relationships” with two county and one city official.

After a wave of outrage and mounting pressure for Scott to fire him, Rashid resigned Oct. 9, 2015. In his resignation letter, he did not apologize for making the Facebook slur.

“If Sam wants to fight this battle publicly, that’s what we’ll do,” Harrison says. “I’ll fight for the women who still have to deal with him and who fear for their jobs every day.”

As for Lilley’s bottom line, her lawyer quotes rocker Tom Petty: “I won’t back down.”

 

Gambling deal may come down to slots question

Seeing it as the “lesser of various evils” to pass a gambling bill this year, the House may give in to the Senate’s position to legislatively approve new slot machines in counties that passed referendums allowing them, according to those familiar with the negotiations.

As of early Monday, the Conference Committee on Gaming was set to meet later in the day at 1:30 p.m., though an official notice had not yet gone out.

The House and Senate are far apart on their respective gambling bills this session, with the House holding the line on gambling expansion, and the Senate pushing for new games. Both sides also want to see some new agreement with the Seminole Tribe on continued exclusivity to offer blackjack in exchange for $3 billion over seven years.

What’s becoming clearer as the 2017 Legislative Session’s May 5th end looms is House leadership’s distress at recent court decisions, the practical effect of which is opening up more gambling opportunities without legislative say.

Sources had said conference chair and state Sen. Bill Galvano had gotten “spooked” by a Supreme Court decision last Thursday that cleared for the 2018 ballot a “Voter Control of Gambling” amendment, giving voters the power to OK or veto future casino gambling in the state.

Vice-chair and state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz confirmed that Galvano, who didn’t respond to a request for comment, wanted to make sure the amendment “wouldn’t affect the Senate’s offer.”

But one representative of gambling interests throughout the state, who asked not to be named, said the House “was very careful in not taking the referendum counties issue off the table.”

A second person said that “(a)ll things considered, that was way down on the list of things that gave them heartburn.”

More concerning was a 1st District Court of Appeal opinion earlier this month against the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which regulated gambling, ordering the reinstatement of a South Florida casino’s application for a new “summer jai alai” permit.

Taken to one logical extension, the ruling could lead to “mini-casinos” in hotels, they say. Miami-Dade lawmakers in particular have been concerned about Miami Beach’s Fontainebleau Hotel pursuing slot machines in the last few years. At a minimum, such permits allow a pari-mutuel facility to open a cardroom and offer simulcast betting.

Another circuit court ruling last month against the department said entertainment devices that look and play like slot machines, called “pre-reveal” games, were “not an illegal slot machine or gambling device.” Judge John Cooper reasoned that was because players “press a ‘preview’ button before a play button can be activated.”

That ruling’s applicability was, at first, unclear: Because Cooper is a circuit judge, some state officials said his order only applied in north Florida’s 2nd Judicial Circuit of Franklin, Gadsden, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty and Wakulla counties.

Later, attorneys in the industry argued Cooper’s decision applied all over Florida, because it was against the department that regulates gambling statewide. That had House leaders “freaked out” that pre-reveal games would start appearing in bars, restaurants, and even in family fun centers.

Meantime, Galvano and others in the Senate fixated on the dissent in the gambling amendment case, and its implication on what’s known as the “Gretna case.”

Justices Ricky Polston and R. Fred Lewis said the amendment’s “ballot title and summary do not clearly inform the public that the proposed amendment may substantially affect slot machines approved by county-wide (referendums).”

With Lewis signing on to the dissent, “that made us think there was another vote in favor of Gretna that we didn’t think was there,” said yet another person in the gambling industry.

The court has not yet ruled in a case, pending since oral argument was given last June, on Gretna Racing. That’s the Gadsden County track seeking to add slot machines; pari-mutuel interests have said Gretna and other facilities in counties where voters approved slots should be allowed to offer them.

If the court rules in favor, that could result in the single biggest gambling expansion in the state.

“I think the House is fed up with it,” said the first industry consultant, referring to gambling-related court decisions. “The only way they can get a handle on (gambling expansion) is to get a bill done, and if that means throwing in the towel on slots in referendum counties, that’s the lesser of the various evils.”

St. Pete College’s Soviet-style presidential selection would make Vladimir Putin proud

In less pretentious times, St. Petersburg Junior College hired presidents without the help of consultants who make them look ridiculous.

But it’s a “state college” now, and its presidential search is an expensive and entertaining-for-all-the-wrong reasons mashup of Marcel Marceau and The Muppets.

To be fair, variations on the Soviet- stylings of SPC’s presidential search are happening all over Florida. We know more about SPC’s shenanigans because it is among the few “community colleges” where a reporter is paying attention.

Under the understated headline “Discussion is discouraged as SPC searches for a new president, ” the Tampa Bay Times’ Claire McNeill provides this riveting account of the consultant-driven Kabuki presidential search, and the abuse heaped upon anyone who might challenge it.

Observers “sat quietly while members of the college’s search committee drew check marks beside the candidates they saw fit to advance to the final round. In just 20 minutes, without discussion, the top five emerged,” McNeill reports.

Consulting Puppet Master Jeff Hockaday allowed search committee members to come on down!!! and “take turns at the whiteboard, marking those who should advance.”

“We’ll see what happens,” he said.

One thing that won’t happen is the kind of meaningful dialogue that ought to occur when hiring a CEO for a school, a business or a well-managed lemonade stand.

The irony was not lost on former trustee Ken Burke.

“We’re here at the Collaborative Labs, but we’re really collaborating by just tabulating our scores,” he told McNeill, referring to the name of SPC’s conference facility in Clearwater. “(Hearing) what other people see in their resume would help me say, ‘Gosh, maybe I read that a little bit wrong, and I may want to adjust something.'”

Communications Department Chair Albert Farr might well have been risking his job in pointing out that the whole point of a committee is to exchange ideas.

But Hockaday, who has led-by-the-nose more than 80 presidential searches, considers such conversation “dangerous.”

Actual educators like Professor Emeritus Maggie Knoop consider Hockaday’s methodology “about as high school as you can get.”

More like second grade, but that’s good enough for trustees such as Deveron Gibbons. Happy to be on Hockaday’s leash, Gibbons can’t be bothered to consider the opinions and information supplied by the faculty and others whose job descriptions do not include attending receptions and rubber-stamping consultants.

Gibbons fulminated about faculty “questioning the integrity of this board.”

“This is not a witch hunt … You are not going to bully this committee,” Gibbons said. “You’ve got people going out trying to be Sherlock Holmes … You can’t be a renegade out here, assuming you have more information than the consultant. … We have to be clean and be careful that we don’t overstep.”

Overstep who?  Sherlock Hockaday?

As the legislative session enters the homestretch, community colleges are under unprecedented and long-overdue scrutiny.  Trustees do their schools no favor in shutting down the voices of the people who do the heavy lifting on campus, teaching the students who fund those $300,000 presidential salaries, along with all the wine and consultant Kool-Aid that the trustees can consume.

Sunburn for 4.24.17 – Florida is burning; Frank Artiles epilogue; Budget negotiations stall; Trial of generation in Jacksonville; Ballard, Inc.

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

DRINKING FROM A FIREHOUSE 

From wildfires burning throughout the state to the smoldering embers of Frank Artiles‘ political career and from the soon to ignite race to be Florida’s governor to the white hot last two weeks (maybe) of the 2017 Legislative Session, attempting to keep up with all that is going on in Florida politics is like, well, drinking from a firehose.

As dangerous as wildfires are — just ask our reporter, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster who lives in one of the areas recommended for evacuation — it’s probably L’affaire Artiles which will have the most immediate effect on state affairs. Not because Artiles’ resignation has any real-world or real-time impact on the government, but because the distraction it caused/is causing knocked the Legislature way off schedule.

Right now, with the Session ending on May 5, the House and Senate do not seem at all on track to pass a budget on time and Sine Die. The conferencing needed to reconcile the budget and other legislation has yet to take place (the prospect of passing a gambling bill, while some key lobbyists says is still possible, seems to be one of the primary victims of the lost time). The conventional wisdom setting into place in Tallahassee is that Session will conclude next week, but with writing a budget tabled for a few weeks.

Meanwhile, almost all of the major policy issues and food fights remain up in the air. From whether to fund Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida to how to implement Amendment 2, it’s unclear which way these issues will move.

This begs the questions, if a budget is not passed before May 5 and the Legislature comes back in mid-May to early June to write one, but it’s then vetoed by Governor Rick Scott because it zeroes out EFI and/or VF, can you imagine the pressure cooker it will be by mid-June as the House and Senate scramble to override the governor’s veto or write a second budget?

Speaking of the governor…

GOV. SCOTT DELAYS TRIP TO ARGENTINA DUE TO WILDFIRES via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press – Scott was scheduled to leave late Saturday for a five-day trip to Buenos Aires. A final decision has not yet been made on whether to cancel the trip completely. The governor has been monitoring the wildfires and visited one site in southwest Florida.

Gov. Rick Scott tours wildfire damage in Lehigh Acres.

— “Local investment in public safety communications infrastructure pay off during Florida disasters” via Florida Politics

BREAKING LAST SUNDAY NIGHT: Scott left for Argentina, per Fineout.

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— EPILOGUE TO L’AFFAIRE ARTILES — 

HOOTERS ‘CALENDAR GIRL’ AND PLAYBOY ‘MISS SOCIAL’ WERE ARTILES’ PAID CONSULTANTS via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The long list of expenditures filed with the Florida Division of Elections by Artiles’ political committee, Veterans for Conservative Principles, also raised some questions. Why did the committee hire a former Hooters “calendar girl” and a Playboy model with no political experience as “consultants?” Were the payments related to a trip to the Kentucky Derby or a fishing tournament in Key West? What was the more than $51,000 in reimbursements to Artiles for? Heather Thomas, a former Hooters calendar girl and waitress at 101, a restaurant and bar in Tallahassee, was paid $2,000 between March and June of last year. The expense report lists the purpose as “consultant.” Her friend, Brittney Singletary, is a waitress at Stetsons on the Moon in Tallahassee. She was paid $1,500 with three checks covering three of the same dates and listing the same purpose.

IT’S IMPORTANT TO NOTE, contra the narrative some in the media, like Michael Van Sickler suggest, that Artiles could have survived sans the Klas story. That’s not true. Senate leadership had and has more on Artiles than what Klas reported and some of what they had was shared with Artiles, which is part of the reason why he really resigned — not because Klas was working on this story.

AS ARTILES LOST SUPPORT IN STATE SENATE, BILL GALVANO HELPED BROKER RESIGNATION via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – (I)t was Galvano who was tasked with dealing with the backlash that ultimately led to Artiles to issue a statement announcing his resignation Friday morning. “I did meet with him last night [Thursday],” Galvano (said). “What was said between the two of us was personal.”

THIS IS ALL ADAM SMITH COULD COME UP WITH WHEN WRITING ABOUT ARTILES? (Plus Franco Ripple wrote the exact same thing earlier) Here’s Smith’s Loser of the Week note.

DWIGHT BULLARD CONSIDERING RUNNING FOR ARTILES’ SEAT via Jessica Bakeman of POLITICO Florida – … “I’d be lying if I said interest wasn’t there, but I still need time to process it all and make a final decision,” said Bullard, a Miami public school teacher who lost in the Democratic-leaning district last fall. He said it’s ironic that the Republican has now stepped down under pressure from his black Senate colleagues, who were upset about his use of a slang version of the “N-word” to refer to white members of the GOP conference in the presence of two black senators. “That same community that he chose to ignore are the ones who led to his demise,” Bullard said. “That should resonate with anyone thinking about running for the seat, whether they’re a Democrat or a Republican.”

— “Replacing Artiles: Who’s in and who’s out” via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times

SUNBURN FACT OF LIFE: There could be no bigger mistake in the SD 40 special election than for the Florida Democrats to go back to Dwight Bullard. What does it say about Bullard that he lost to someone like Artiles in the first place?

TWEET, TWEET: @SLRoss528: The concerns regarding his (Bullard’s) association with terrorists have not gone away

MORE TROUBLES FOR THE SOUTH FLORIDA CREW – ERIK FRESEN TO PLEAD GUILTY FOR FAILING TO FILE TAX RETURN ON $270K via Jay Weaver of the Miami HeraldFresen, a former Republican state representative from Miami-Dade, plans to plead guilty to a federal misdemeanor charge of failing to file a tax return on income of $270,136 in 2011 while he was serving in the Legislature and working as a land-use consultant. Fresen, 40, who was term-limited in 2016 after serving eight years as a legislator in a district stretching from West Miami to Cutler Bay, was charged in Miami federal court this week. That paved the way for his planned guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Robert Scola. Fresen could face from probation up to one year in prison.

DAYS UNTIL: NFL Draft – 3; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die (Maybe) – 11; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 11; MLB All-Star Game – 77 FSU vs. Alabama football game – 130; Election Day 2017 – 196; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 234; First Day of 2018 Legislative Session – 258.

***Learn the facts! FHCA knows Florida’s seniors deserve the best! The Senate’s proposed nursing home reimbursement plan creates incentives for quality and will dramatically improve care for our seniors.***

— THE LATEST ON LEGISLATIVE BUDGET NEGOTIATIONS —

THE HOUSE’S SIDE OF THE STORY via @SaintPetersBlog on Twitter: Negotiators for @MyFLHouse say they were willing to meet @FLSenate halfway; up from appx. $81.2 bil to $83.179 bil. … Obviously, that’s almost $2 billion more than @MyFLHouse originally wanted to spend. …. Another concern of House is Senate’s willingness to play fast with out-year budgets. … House insiders point out that when he was Aprops Chair, @JoeNegronFL was very worried about out-year deficits, now not so much.

THE SENATE’S SIDE OF THE STORY via Fineout on Twitter: After a week of negotiations @JackLatvala says there is still no deal. Lack of deal led House to propose continuation budget … says Senate isn’t quite sure how a “continuation” budget would work. Calls it a DC term … says the House & Senate did trade a couple of offers, inc a comprehensive 1 from House last week … says there is still opportunity to reach a budget deal this session. Need to reach deal on allocations by Tuesday … Irony of @MyFLHouse @ @richardcorcoran proposing continuation budget is that it would keep some funding for @EnterpriseFL & @VISITFLORIDA

PROBABLY BOTH SIDES OF THE STORY but it’s behind a paywall: “House, Senate make no progress over weekend on bridging $4 billion gap via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

KEY BUDGET QUOTES:

Richard Corcoran: “There’s no end to the Senate’s liberalism.” Jack Latvala: “We put things on sheets of paper, side-by-side, and it was I’d say for the most part roughly 2-to-1 in their favor.”

COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — The House Education Committee will discuss a bill (HB 773) that would tweak the state’s standardized-testing requirements when it meets at 2 p.m. in Reed Hall. The House Health & Human Services Committee will discuss its version of the 2016 medical marijuana constitutional amendment implementing bill (HB 1397) when it meets at 2 p.m. in Morris Hall. The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee meets at 3 p.m. to discuss a bill (HB 7007) to revamp the health insurance plan for state employees. The Senate Ethics & Elections Committee will hold several confirmation hearings, including Surgeon General Celeste Philip, when it meets at 5 p.m. in 412 Knott.

— “Proposed House committee bill would reset land-buying funding formula as chairman makes push” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida

GAMBLING CONFERENCE COULD MEET THIS WEEK via Florida Politics – A notice last Thursday said: “The Conference Committee on Gaming … will not meet before Monday, April 24.” A Supreme Court decision approving the “Voter Control of Gambling” amendment for the 2018 ballot threw a wrench into the works, vice-chair and state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz said last week. He said conference chair and state Sen. Bill Galvano wanted to make sure the amendment, which would give voters power to OK or veto new casino gambling, “wouldn’t affect the Senate’s offer,” Diaz said. The House and Senate are a gulf apart on their respective gambling bills this session, with the House holding the line on gambling expansion, and the Senate pushing for new games, including approving slot machines in counties that passed referendums allowing them.

TWEET, TWEET: @Aglorios: Florida Legislature’s gambling conference meets on Monday at 1:30 pm.

EDITORIAL: LAWMAKERS IN HOUSE SHOULDN’T SQUANDER BEST CHANCE YET TO HELP THE EVERGLADES via the Miami Herald – The Florida Senate gets it. As a result, Senate lawmakers have passed one of the most carefully crafted bills yet to ensure the health of the Everglades. As environmentalists, water-dependent businesses, economists and tourists know, so much depends upon the health of the River of Grass, including South Floridians’ access to clean water, the state’s economic vitality, indeed, the well-being of the state itself … Florida desperately needs a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. For too long, the state has blithely allowed water released from the lake to flow to the coasts, and out to sea, an unconscionable waste of this precious resource … pollutants in that water have created massive algae blooms that, literally, have raised a stink in estuaries and along beaches, threatening to ruin the entire ecosystem around Lake O and the Everglades. The reservoir will serve two vital purposes. First, it will store the billions of gallons of water currently being sent to the coasts. Second, it will feed needed water to the Everglades to keep them hydrated.

BUSINESS RENT TAX CUTS STILL IN PLAY IN HOUSE, SENATE FOR 2017 via Florida Politics – Florida’s business rent tax is one of the outstanding issues at play as lawmakers crawl toward sine die of the 2017 Legislative Session. Included in the House’s tax package is HB 7109, a reduction of the business rent tax – lowering it from 6 percent to 4.5 percent for two years. If approved, the tax cut would begin January 1, 2018, and then supporting a permanent tax rate reduction from 6 percent to 5.5 percent beginning January 1, 2020. HB 7109 is on the House’s Special Order Calendar. While the Senate has not yet put together a package, there are two bills in the upper chamber that seeks to give businesses a break … SB 704 seeks to provide tenants with relief from the Florida’s “double taxation” – a “tax on tax” that occurs when tenants pay property taxes for property owners. SB 484 … would reduce the state sales tax rate that is charged on commercial leases from 6 percent to 5 percent.

HOME RULE OR LOCK DOWN? That is the question hanging over the rapidly moving, not moving, moving again vacation rental bills (HB 425/SB 188) that are up in their final committees this week: House Commerce and Senate Rules. So what will it be? Behind Door A, we have a watered down vacation rental bill that pretty much does nothing, allowing local governments to keep some local control if they had rules in place pre-2011 – aka home rule prevails. And behind Door B, we have a very aggressive preemption bill, similar to the old Greg Steube bill, that has picked up speed and is moving through the process that would put a lock on local governments’ control of vacation rentals. It will be interesting to see which vacation rental bill will be the last one standing, if any at all…are lawmakers so far apart on this with the recent amendment actions by Sen. Jeff Brandes that this issue will end up seeing the light of another session?

— “When Airbnb goes wrong: A Miami story” via David Smiley of the Associated Press

IS THIS ‘WHISKEY & WHEATIES’ LAST HURRAH FOR 2017? via Florida Politics – A measure to undo the requirement that retailers sell distilled spirits separately from other goods is back on the House calendar for this week. The House will consider the “whiskey & Wheaties” bill (SB 106/HB 81) on Tuesday, records show, after postponing it twice in recent weeks … The latest holdup came after lawyers for Publix, the Florida supermarket chain that opposes the measure, said it would mean teenage employees wouldn’t be allowed to work in stores where hard booze is sold.

WHAT THE GOV’S OFFICE IS READING – SITE SELECTORS ISSUE WARNING TO STATE ECONOMY IF ENTERPRISE FLORIDA IS CUT via Robert Trigaux of the Tampa Bay Times – A pair of site selection experts hired by Pinellas County this year to give an unvarnished look at the high-density county’s challenging prospects for economic development and better wages offered up the good, the bad — and a warning. If Florida or the Tampa Bay region’s economic development organizations fail to provide traditional marketing or support to corporate projects recruited to this market, there will be a painful price in lost jobs and investment paid by the area economy. That includes Pinellas County, warned Josh Bays, a principal with the Dallas economic development consulting firm Site Selection Group. “It scares me to death,” Bays said of the potential loss of backing by Enterprise Florida at the state level and the Tampa Bay Partnership at the regional level.

FCTA CAPITAL DATELINE TALKS FINAL WEEKS OF 2017 LEGISLATIVE SESSION — FCTA President Brad Swason talks with EEM President Peter Schorsch, The Capitolist Publisher Brian Burgess, POLITICO Florida Bureau Chief Matt Dixon, and Rotunda host Trimmel Gomes about their inside perspectives on the state of affairs in the Florida Capitol as the 2017 legislative session nears its finish. What are the must-wins for the Speaker, Senate President and Governor? What bills are on life support? Who are the biggest winners and losers this year? These insiders tackle all the latest in this episode of The Pundits: Digital Media Edition on Capital Dateline.

YOU HAVE TO LOVE THIS QUOTE ABOUT JOE GRUTERS FROM JOE GRUTERS: “People may say Joe’s doing what’s in the best interest of Joe. Of course I am because I’m trying to get the best deal for our community.” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

*** The Florida Health Care Association knows how legislators can save taxpayers $68.2 million per year in unnecessary spending, while safeguarding the highest level of care for Florida’s frailest residents. Learn more here.***

ETHICS COMMISSION BUCKS LEGISLATIVE LEADERS’ ASSERTION OF AUTHORITY via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – The panel agreed to back Chairman Matthew Carlucci in rejecting a “delegation of authority” issued March 21 by Speaker Corcoran and PresidentNegron. Carlucci was sure the leaders’ intentions were “noble,” and that “these are good people,” he said. Still, “as long as the Legislature stays involved with any kind of delegation or perception of a delegation that they can deliver to us, there will always, in my opinion, be a conflict of interest inherently. And particularly on our investigators and their support teams,” Carlucci said. “Because when we have to occasionally investigate members of the House or the Senate, and there’s a perception that they have some control, that is a conflict of interest.”

WEXFORD RESPONDS TO DOC’S CANCELLATION OF HEALTH CARE CONTRACT via Florida Politics – In a lengthy press release, the Pittsburgh-based private health care provider took issue with the department’s criticism of its performance: “Wexford Health Sources disagrees with the assessment of the Correctional Medical Authority regarding the treatment provided to a small number of inmates at the South Florida Reception Center. More significantly, we take strong exception to the idea that this limited number of cases—involving patients who were already experiencing significant psychiatric challenges before they ever entered our care—should serve as the basis for termination of our contract with the State of Florida … there was nothing in the treatment of these inmates that should, or could, justify contract termination.” Wexford Health President CEO Dan Conn summed up the situation: “Wexford Health’s culture is one of transparency. We have always been open and direct with the Department about our performance. In fact, the Department has consistently complemented us on our performance and partnership.”

***From negotiating rebates and discounts from drug companies and drugstores to reducing waste and offering services like home delivery of medicines, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) use a number of tools to reduce drug costs and improve quality. In Florida, PBMs will save $43.4 billion over 10 years.***

TWO DEMOCRATS STAND OUT IN GOVERNOR RACE via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – Four of the five top contenders for the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nomination spoke to voters in Tampa Bay … Two stood out: Andrew Gillum … and John Morgan … Democrats need a nominee who will take a progressive agenda to every corner of the Sunshine State, [Gillum] said, including the conservative Panhandle, where Floridian families struggle to make ends meet and vent over high-stakes testing in schools just like elsewhere in Florida. Morgan … “Write down one thing that Tallahassee has ever done to make your life better.” Priorities: Raise the minimum wage, reform Florida drug laws, rein in public education money flowing to privately operated charter schools. Delivery: A. He is funny and smart, a non-politician with a clear, simple, gutsy agenda. The big question: Will Morgan run? He sounded like it Friday.

DEJA VU: “Gwen Graham close to announcing she’s running for Governor” via Anthony Man of the Sun-Sentinel

JOHN MORGAN: I WAS NOT DRUNK THAT NIGHT AT BOOTS N BUCKLES via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – … “First of all, I was not drunk when I was on that video,” said Morgan, laughing off the question and explaining that he had had two drinks at Outback before that video was filed. “I guess if I use the f-word, f-bombs, people think I’m drunk. If that’s the case, I’m drunk every damn day of my life. … When I got on my bus to go back to my beach house, I got drunk. And when I got to my beach house, I got drunker. But I was not drunk at Boots N Buckles. But I do love Boots N Buckles it will be in my heart forever.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Run. I told him, I said if you run I think you’ll win.” — Charlie Crist, recounting a conversation he had with Morgan to Jim DeFede on “Facing South Florida.”

ANDREW GILLUM’S ‘GRAY AREA’: EMAILS REVEAL A MAYOR’S OFFICE ENTANGLED IN PROFESSIONAL AND POLITICAL WORK via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat– Weeks before Tallahassee Mayor Gillum announced he was running for Governor, he sent Neera Tanden an email thanking her for her work on the Hillary Clinton campaign. But something else was on his mind … that he wanted to discuss with Tanden, former policy director for President Barack Obama and the president of the Center for American Progress, a liberal public policy research center. From his campaign account <andrew@andrewgillum.com> Gillum wrote: “I was hoping that you and I could find the time to connect by phone or in person soon. I saw that you may have waded into the Florida Gubernatorial Primary in support of Gwen Graham, and I wanted the opportunity to discuss that race with you before too much time passes.” Using another email address, andrewgillum2012@gmail.com, Gillum cc’d subsequent emails from Tanden to his assistant at City Hall, Angie Whitaker (angela.whitaker@talgov.com). Whitaker asked what “the preferred number that Mayor Gillum should call to connect with Ms. Tanden Tuesday, February 14 @ 12:30pm?  Thank you.”

PAT NEAL: EASY TO SEE WHY HE COULD BE FLORIDA’S NEXT CFO via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News – It took me less than five minutes with Neal over a cup of coffee at the Doubletree in Tallahassee to see why he and Gov. Scott are such good friends. And it isn’t because Neal, 68, has been a champion fundraiser for the governor, though he’s certainly been all that. Scott and the Bradenton homebuilder are cut from the same cloth. They speak the same language. No wonder political insiders — not all of them but some of them — float Neal’s name as the leading candidate for chief financial officer when Jeff Atwater leaves the post. “Providing jobs for Floridians … what higher a calling could there be for a leader in Florida?” Neal asked. Does that sound like anybody else we know?

CORRINE BROWN’S TRIAL FEATURES BIG-NAME WITNESSES TO TEST CHARGES via Steve Patterson of the Florida Times-UnionBrown will stand alone and defiant this week when she faces fraud and tax charges that could put her in prison, effectively for the rest of her life. The aide who watched her back for a quarter-century will be a witness for the prosecution that accuses the flamboyant Democratic power broker of cashing in on donations she steered to a bogus charity, One Door for Education … witness lists that both sides go a long way to … give people an idea of whom to watch as the case unfolds. Still, it’s easy to lose track. Between them, the lists include three members of Congress, about a dozen business executives, plus college presidents, local politicians, assorted Jacksonville movers and shakers, and the son of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. The prosecution’s witness list includes Tandy Bondi, the granddaughter of former Gov. Lawton Chiles and sister-in-law of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

— “In Corrine Brown’s trial, a chapter of Jacksonville history will be written” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics

A.G. GANCARSKI WILL BE LIVE-BLOGGING BROWN’S TRIAL; once it starts, you can follow along by clicking here.

TWINE NOOSE LOWLIGHTS HATE BEING SENT ARAMIS AYALA’S WAY via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – A twine noose taped to a postcard and nasty comments sent in the mail and via social media are showing racist hatred Orlando’s State Attorney Ayala is receiving as she battles in court with Gov. Scott over whether she has the power to refuse to pursue death penalty prosecutions. The twine noose was discovered attached to a card inside an envelope mailed to her office, one of two racist-material and potentially threatening mailings that her office has reported to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office recently.

BALLARD, INC. via Fredreka Schouten and Maureen Groppe of USA TODAY – Former campaign aides, fundraisers and others with ties to Trump and Pence have attracted dozens of new lobbying clients in Washington, raking in more than $2.2 million in lobbying fees in the first months of the administration … Brian Ballard … appears to lead the pack, signing up 20 federal clients since opening his Washington lobbying operation this year. His company, Ballard Partners, has earned more than $1.1 million in a three-month period, new lobbying reports show. Ballard is one of more than a dozen White House allies launching new firms, taking new jobs in lobbying firms or signing up new clients this year as companies and other interests look for ways to shape policy in the Trump administration …

— “Ballard Partners’ latest federal signing: The ruling party of Albania” via Florida Politics

TWEET, TWEET:

SPOTTED at the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists FAPL-tini reception – Alex Alvarado; Rep. Daisy Baez; Rivers H. Buford, Director of Government Relations, American Heart Association; Candice Ericks, President, TSE Consulting; Dawn Faherty (from Rep. Don Hahnfeldt‘s office); Edgar Fernandez, Partner, Anfield Consulting; Susan Goldstein, President, Susan Goldstein Consulting; Suzanne Goss, Jacksonville Electric Authority; Mike Hightower, Chief Public Affairs Officer, Jacksonville Electric Authority; Lauren Jackson, Principal, Ericks Consultants; Mark Landreth; Dave Mica, Executive Director, Florida Petroleum Council; Samantha Saxton; Brad Swanson; Doug Wheeler, President & CEO, Florida Ports Council; Larry Williams; Victoria Zepp, President Clarity1st Consulting.

NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS

Slater Bayliss, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: IAP Worldwide Services

Melanie Brown, Johnson & Blanton: Seaworld Parks and Entertainment

Joseph Sazverg, GrayRobinson: Petainer Manufacturing USA Inc

Samuel Verghese, One Eighty Consulting: Informatica Corporation

Don Yaeger, Jeanette Yeager, One Eighty Consulting: Centrify

FOR #MONDAYMOTIVATION, SEE VOLUNTEER FLORIDA’S #30UNDER30 – Make sure to check out Volunteer Florida’s  #30Under30 initiative, which recognizes an under-30 volunteer every day throughout the month of April.  #30Under30 features emerging student leaders and accomplished volunteers like PIFF’s Samantha Sexton and the Florida Justice Association’s G.C. Murray. Click here to see all of the #30Under30 volunteers to date!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Sen. Randolph BracyBrian Hughes‘ better half, the wonderful Rachel Perrin Rogers, as well as our friend in Alabama, Apryl Marie Fogel, the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s Janelle Irwin, Moffitt Cancer Center’s Laura Lenhart, Mary Ellen Upton, Mr. Florida Ports Doug Wheeler and our own Andrew Wilson. Celebrating today is HD 66 candidate Berny Jacques, our friend St. Pete City Councilman Ed Montanari, and Amanda Stewart.

Joe Henderson: House just made life a lot more difficult for public school boards, teachers

It’s a good thing the Florida House of Representatives wasn’t in session when Columbus wanted to sail the ocean blue.

Lawmakers would have passed a bill prohibiting the trip because science hadn’t yet proven that the earth was round. Oh, there were those crackpots who said it was, but the representatives of the day would have known better than to let those poor sailors float right off the edge of the flat planet into oblivion.

Alas, the House is in session now and voted 94-25 Thursday in favor of a bill that has been called a science denier’s dream. HB 989 has been pitched as a way for parents to challenge those terrible things in their children’s textbooks, like, you know – reality.

The language of the bill requires that textbooks “be research-based and proven to be effective” along with being “accurate and factual.” It allows residents – not just parents of school kids – to challenge what is being taught in public classrooms.

What’s wrong with that?

That depends whether you embrace fact-based facts or, as someone once said, alternative facts. And that’s the landmine in this bill.

Supporters of the bill, introduced by Rep. Byron Donalds, a Naples Republican, say this will make it easier for parents to weed out objectionable material. They say local school boards will still have the final say over what textbooks are used.

However, you can expect those boards to spend time dealing with issues like the one reported by the Orlando Sentinel. It told of an affidavit filed by Lynda Daniel of Martin County, who was peeved about a textbook used in an Advanced Placement course.

She wrote that she was opposed to: Presentation of evolution as fact … The vast majority of Americans believe that the world and the beings living on it were created by God as revealed in the Bible.”

Actually, a 2014 poll by Pew Research said that 65 percent of Americans believe in evolution, although 24 percent of that number believe it was guided by a supreme being. But what’s a fact among friends, right?

There are already plenty of alternatives for parents who don’t like what they see in public schools. They can home school. The number of charter schools is expanding.

My goodness, if they live in Southwest Florida their children could attend the Mason Classical Academy – the charter school which Byron Donalds helped found.

But no.

Since this bill would widen the pool of potential objectors to what is being taught, how long until someone shows up demanding that the Civil War be henceforth called The War of Northern Aggression?

How long until they try to force teachers to say it wasn’t about slavery, when all anyone has to do is look at the various articles of secession by southern states to prove that it was?

Literature could become an endangered species. I mean, Romeo and Juliet promoted teen suicide and defiance of parents, didn’t it?

And forget about presenting Muslims as human beings entitled to the freedom of religion guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

Supporters of this bill will tell you none of that will happen. They say this is legitimate oversight. All I know is, life is about to get more difficult for public school teachers, administrators and board members. That’s a fact.

Is this ‘whiskey & Wheaties’ last hurrah for 2017?

A troubled measure to undo the requirement that retailers sell distilled spirits separately from other goods is back on the House calendar for this week.

But a number of amendments were filed Friday night that could continue to muddle the legislation’s path to passage.

The House on Tuesday will again consider the “whiskey & Wheaties” bill (SB 106/HB 81), after postponing it twice in recent weeks. The Senate’s version passed last month. 

The most recent snag came after lawyers for Publix, the Florida supermarket chain that opposes the measure, said their reading of state law suggested teenage employees would no longer be allowed to work in stores if hard booze was sold there. Publix’s opposition has been rooted in its investment in separate stores.

Indeed, one amendment filed by Rep. Scott Plakon, a Longwood Republican, would clearly make it “unlawful for any vendor licensed (to sell hard liquor for consumption off premises) to employ any person under 21 years of age.”

Sen. Jack Latvala, the Clearwater Republican who chairs the Appropriations Committee, raised concerns as early as February that the bill would allow retail employees under 18 to be around liquor.

Moreover, “I just don’t see the fervor,” he added, during a Senate Rules Committee meeting. “This is not a problem I have heard anyone urge me to fix.”

Another Friday amendment from Al Jacquet, a Lantana Democrat, says no business can sell booze if it “received, or continues to receive, state subsidies such as tax credits, tax incentives, sales tax refunds, or grants … , has at least 10,000 square feet of retail space …  and is located in a slum or blighted area.”

That would include locations of Wal-Mart, one of the corporations pushing the repeal.

A version of the bill—which started as a one-line repealer—has been filed for four years running.

It aims to do away with the Prohibition-era state law requiring businesses, such as grocery chains and big-box retailers, to have separate stores to sell liquor. Beer and wine already are sold in grocery aisles in Florida.

Pure-play alcoholic beverage retailers, such as ABC Fine Wines & Spirits and independent operators, have complained the bill is being pushed by big retailers looking to expand their market reach.

But Wal-Mart, Target and others say tearing down the wall of separation between liquor and other goods is simply a “pro-consumer” move toward added convenience.

As Hialeah Republican Bryan Avila, the House sponsor, said recently: “Trust me: I can tell you with certainty I have experienced every thing imaginable that could possibly happen in the legislative process with this bill.”

Business rent tax cuts still in play this Session

Florida’s business rent tax is one of the outstanding issues at play as lawmakers crawl toward sine die of the 2017 Legislative Session, set for May 5.

As the only state-sanctioned sales tax on commercial leases in the entire nation, a pair of bills now making way through the Florida Capitol that attempt to lighten the load on commercial businesses, which pay more than $1.7 billion in rent taxes every year.

Included in the House’s tax package is HB 7109, a reduction of the business rent tax — lowering it from 6 percent to 4.5 percent for two years. If approved, the tax cut would begin January 1, 2018, and then supporting a permanent tax rate reduction from 6 percent to 5.5 percent beginning January 1, 2020.

HB 7109 is on the House’s Special Order Calendar for Tuesday.

While the Senate has not yet put together a package, there are two bills in the upper chamber that seek to give businesses a break.

Sponsored by Hialeah Republican Sen. Rene Garcia, SB 704 seeks to provide tenants with relief from the Florida’s “double taxation” — a “tax on tax” that occurs when tenants pay property taxes for property owners.

The bill is a proposed alternate business rent tax cut, targeted to commercial tenants who have leases that separately state they pay their landlord’s property taxes as part of their lease payments.

Another bill (SB 484), put forth by Port Orange Republican Dorothy Hukill, would reduce the state sales tax rate charged on commercial leases from 6 percent to 5 percent.

Supporters of tax cuts say Florida’s business rent tax puts the state at a distinct competitive disadvantage, one that is unique in the country. Commercial rent taxes makes Florida’s competitors more attractive to business since companies are naturally more resistant to move to the state if they can get similar benefits elsewhere without paying a tax on rents.

Martin Dyckman: On death warrants, Florida governor’s ‘awesome moral responsibility’

When former Florida Gov. LeRoy Collins was nominated in 1964 to head the nation’s new Community Relations Service, South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond opposed him aggressively because Collins had renounced racial segregation.

“…I hope that as long as the good Lord lets me live on this earth I will continue to grow and to recognize changes and to meet the new responsibility as changes require,” Collins said.

The widely reported confrontation prompted Dessie Horne Williams, a Miami schoolteacher, to write to Collins, recalling a meeting with him five years earlier at the governor’s office.

“(W)e have always thought of you as a kind, understanding man, who feels compassion for human suffering no matter what color the skin of the sufferer may be,” she wrote … You, Governor Collins, are a true” Southern gentleman. May God keep you through the coming trials.”

Collins’s courtesy to anyone he met was legendary. Even so, the Williams letter was remarkable.

On the occasion she described, she and her parents were pleading for the life of her brother, Willie Horne Jr., who was condemned to die for rape. Collins commuted 10 of the 39 death sentences that came to him, but not Horne’s. The prisoner was executed in January 1959. However, Collins had given his family his personal attention and a full measure of compassionate respect.

At the time, though, Ms. Williams had asked a question that struck his heart: “Do you think that my brother is going to die because he is black?”

Collins assured her that it was only because of the brutality of the crime. The victim’s escort, a court said, had been beaten senseless with a tire iron.

But the governor’s conscience was troubled. He knew that had the victim been black or both parties white, the jury almost certainly would have recommended mercy. He tasked his staff to find reasons to repeal the death penalty, and when the Legislature convened a few months later he asked that it do so.

The House committee that killed the bill said that without the possibility of a death penalty, a resumption of lynchings “can certainly be anticipated.”

It was a rare if unwitting acknowledgment of the profound racism that accounts for the South’s peculiar and persistent obsession with the death penalty.

It clearly matters more to the politicians than to the voters. A Florida survey by Public Policy Polling last year found that only 35 percent of respondents favored execution over life without parole. The question was asked in the abstract however, without a politician waving some bloody shirt in the background.

Collins confronted the racism.

“By far the great majority of those to be executed were Negroes,” he said, “and yet only 17 percent of the state’s population were colored. It was a gross travesty on the principle of equal protection.”

Whites are now the majority on Florida’s death row, but blacks are still disproportionately represented. Florida has never executed a white for a crime against a black but one appeal is pending. As of last October, blacks were still the majorities on 12 other death rows, nine of them in the South.

Although the death penalty remains in force outside the South, it is in near disuse except in Florida and other former slave states. The South accounts for 1,180 of the 1,448 U.S. executions since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment 41 years ago, according to the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington. That’s 81 percent. Florida is fourth highest on the list with 92. Texas leads with a staggering 542. Outside the South, however, there haven’t been any since 2014, except for one in Oklahoma.

Race bias was evident in how Florida governors and the state pardon board commuted death sentences between 1924, when Florida first began to keep track of them, and 1964, when executions paused for 15 years.

In a paper published in 1993, Margaret Vandiver, a criminology professor at the University of Memphis, found that blacks condemned for crimes against whites in Florida were executed in 90 of 95 cases. On the other hand, whites whose victims were white received clemency in 22 of 83 cases. Blacks on death row whose victims were black were spared nearly half the time, in 27 of 61 cases. There were no death sentences, hence no commutations, for whites convicted of crimes against blacks.

The disparity was greatest in convictions for rape, which is no longer a capital crime. Of the 40 black men condemned for raping white women during the 40 years Vandiver reviewed, only two got clemency. One was Willie Irvin, of the “Groveland Four,” who had been framed by a racist sheriff. The Florida House of Representatives formally apologized to their families last week. Irvin had exhausted his appeals when Collins drew vehement criticism for commuting his sentence in 1955.

The point is that Collins did commute his sentence, doubting his guilt, and spared nine other men as well. No Florida governor has commuted a sentence since Bob Graham last did so in 1983. In another glaring departure, Florida governors apparently are no longer willing to face or hear from the families of condemned prisoners, as Collins did every time.

I have been trying with scant success to find out how Gov. Rick Scott considers clemency in comparison to how Collins did it. Among the questions I sent his press secretary, Lauren Schenone: Does he accept comments from lawyers for death row inmates? Does he consider each case himself or does he accept the decisions made by former governors whose death warrants were stayed in the courts? Does he consider the trial and appeal process to be essentially infallible?

Her answer was terse, said little, but was revealing in one important respect.

“Signing death warrants is one of the Governor’s most solemn duties. His foremost concerns are consideration for the families of the victims and the finality of judgments. (Emphasis supplied.)

“Our office follows procedures outlined in Rule 15 of the Rules for Executive Clemency on this process,” she said.

Rule 15 shrouds all the process in secrecy and says that the Commission on Offender Review “may” — not shall — conduct an investigation in each case. There is no data on how often it does so. The rule also provides that the Governor and Cabinet may schedule a public discussion, but that practice ceased during Jeb Bush’s term.

The words in italics, “finality of judgment,” suggest that Scott doesn’t care, as Collins did, that the courts might make mistakes with fatal consequences. His conscience is dead to that possibility. Once the legal case is over, that’s it.

That is a profound abdication of a governor’s most awesome moral responsibility.

___

Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the Tampa Bay Times and author of “Floridian of His Century: The Courage of Gov. LeRoy Collins,” published by the University Press of Florida. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

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