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Today on Context Florida: Florida death penalty, ALICE, South Tampa politicos and Florida’s dim prospects

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Today on Context Florida:

To find someone guilty of a crime — any crime — jurors have to agree unanimously. Not so to impose the death penalty, says Julie Delegal. Not here in Florida. And that’s why Florida’s death penalty sentencing procedure is in constitutional hot water. As Florida law stands now, after jurors find a defendant guilty of first-degree murder, they aren’t required to deliberate to the point of unanimity to sentence a murderer to death. They only take a vote and let the judge do the rest. Those split, majority-only sentencing votes reduce the jury’s role from fact-finder to an adviser, the U.S. Supreme Court said on January 12, which violates an individual’s Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury.

Ted Granger reports on the United Way of Florida, which released a report on ALICE — Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed — last year, which revealed the scope of financial hardship in Florida. The report found that while 15 percent of Florida households fall beneath the poverty line, an additional 30 percent experience severe financial strain despite being active in the labor force. That means that 45 percent — 3.2 million Florida households — are struggling to support themselves and their families. These ALICE households are just one emergency away from falling into poverty. They are hardworking families that pay taxes, hold jobs and provide services that are essential to Florida’s economy. But due to child-care costs, transportation challenges, and the high cost of living, they are virtually living paycheck to paycheck. One healthcare emergency or car repair could send them into a financial crisis.

Bill Day’s latest:


Peter Schorsch introduces us to Robert and Nancy Watkins, who may be the two most key players in Florida’s political universe. Through their South Tampa accounting firm moves tens, if not hundreds, of millions in political contributions and expenditures. Nancy is the treasurer for dozens of candidates and committees, including Conservative Solutions PAC, the most prominent super PAC supporting Marco Rubio’s bid for the White House. Among her too-many-to-name Florida clients are several A-list members of Congress and the Florida Legislature. There is probably no adviser, consultant, or vendor with more direct connections to Florida politicians than this power couple. Their services are not cheap. In 2009, Florida Trend cited several campaign finance reports to determine that the accountants charge federal campaigns north of $2,500 to keep the books. But candidates gladly pay because few people in the country know more about campaign finance. More important, the two are known for their ethics and integrity in an industry that faces constant scrutiny.

Dale Brill wonders what Florida’s prospects are. What will it take to be seen as an “innovation ecosystem”? The state needs to invest in human capital that produces or attracts an educated, skilled and creative workforce. Research and development investments yield new technologies and processes to meet what markets and society demand. Investment capital takes on the risk for a calculated upside in the few projects that ultimately survive. If our future investments don’t soon reflect a commitment to the architecture of innovation, we will neither grow our own version of GE nor attract Fortune 500 companies that can spawn Florida’s economic revolution. At least one score card casts doubt that we’ll succeed any time soon.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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