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319 posts from March 2012

March 27, 2012

Trayvon Martin's parents on Capitol Hill today

Trayvon Martin's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, are expected to attend a forum today on Capitol Hill, where Democratic lawmakers will be looking at racial profiling and hate crimes.

The forum is sponsored by Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee. It's billed as a briefing on racial profiling and hate crimes, and is expected to assess the role of the federal government in those issues, specifically in 17-year-old Trayvon's case.

Among those scheduled to speak: Albert E. Dotson Jr., Chairman of the 100 Black Men of America, Inc., and Robert Parker, former Director of the Miami-Dade Police Department and Community Liaison for the 5,000 Role Models of Excellence project.

Trayvon was shot to death Feb. 26 while serving out school suspension in Sanford, where his father’s girlfriend lives. A neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman, called the police to say he saw someone in a hoodie who looked high on drugs, and was suspicious because he walked too slowly in the rain. The unarmed teenager carried Skittles and iced tea, and was talking to his girlfriend on the phone, records show.

The 17-year-old's death has inspired rallies and marches from coast to coast, and sparked a national conversation about racial profiling and justice. Students, some dressed in all black, have walked out of classes throughout Miami-Dade County. Celebrities and NBA athletes have adopted the cause. In Sanford, as many as 30,000 people showed up at a rally last week and more than 2 million people have signed an online petition and more than 400 people have donated money to help the family pay expenses.

The forum is at 3 p.m. in room 2237 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

March 26, 2012

Dem's proposed map that creates 13-11 GOP majority in Congress

A Herald/Times analysis of the new congressional map submitted Monday in Leon County Circuit Court shows that the proposed districts would create 13 Republican-leaning districts, 11 Democrat-leaning districts and 3 swing districts. That compares to the map created by the Legislature that creates 16 GOP-leaning districts and 9 Democrat-leading districts with only two swing districts.

More significantly, the map shifts the sprawling congressional district now held by U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown into a much more compact district, creates more minority districts than the Legislature's map and does it without reducting the minority population in Brown's map -- leaving it at 48.9 percent black voting age population.

Republicans have argued that the new Fair Districts amendments prevent the state from diminishing the opportunity for a black in Brown's sprawling district to elect a black, regardless of how many other minority seats are created in the rest of the state. How Circuit Judge Terry Lewis rules on this point could be pivotal.

The map was submitted as part of the Florida Democratic Party's lawsuit challenging the congressional plan. The Herald/Times analysis is based on voting data and elections results from the 2008 presidential race and the 2010 governor's race. A look at the proposed population data shows that the Democrat's proposal creates 7 minority majority districts including the following:

Continue reading "Dem's proposed map that creates 13-11 GOP majority in Congress" »

Democrats offer court alternative congressional map, target Brown's district

Pointing to a Florida Supreme Court ruling that rejected the legislatively-drawn state Senate map, Florida Democrats on Monday filed an alternative congressional map in Leon County Circuit Court and urged the court to quickly reject the Legislature’s plan.

“This is what a constitutionally valid map looks like,” said Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith in a statement. “The GOP, despite months of useless debate at an enormous cost to Florida taxpayers, has been unable to produce maps free of incumbent protection and partisan gerrymandering.”

The Democrat’s map focuses on making more compact the sprawling African American district now held by U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, and in the process consolidates Orlando into two, instead of four districts. As if anticipating the assault on the district that now stretches over nine counties, Brown joined with Republican Congressman Mario Diaz Balart last year to challenge the Fair Districts amendment that resulted in the new anti-gerrymandering standards but the court rejected their argument.

The Democrat's plan also proposes keeping Hillsborough and Pinellas counties whole, rejecting the design sought by the Republican-led legislature that divides up both counties. The Democratic plan makes few changes, however, to the legislature’s proposals for South Florida.Download Romo Plaintiffs_ Motion for Summary Judgment[1]  Download Appendix.pdf - Adobe Acrobat Pro

Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis is scheduled to conduct a hearing on the challenge to the legislature’s congressional map during the week of April 16. The Democratic Party sued on behalf of several individual voters as did a coalition of voters groups, including the League of Women Voters, the National Council of La Raza, and Common Cause of Florida. Lewis has consolidated the cases and said he has not decided whether or not he will rule on the maps now, or conduct a full hearing later in the year.

Continue reading "Democrats offer court alternative congressional map, target Brown's district" »

AG Pam Bondi pledges "thorough investigation" into Trayvon Martin's death

In Washington D.C. for the health care arguments in fromt of the U.S. Supreme Court, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi also addressed the investigation into Trayvon Martin's death. She said she spoke to Trayvon's lawyer Ben Crump on Sunday, and that she'd spoken to the teen's parents recently, too.

"They know how I feel, I know how they feel," she said. "My heart breaks for these parents. They've been through so much. It breaks my heart, what they're going through."

She's also been in close contact with the U.S. Attorney office that's working with the FBI on the case. In addition, she's been speaking daily with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, an agency she called "completely objective."

"They will do everything in their power to have all the questions answered," Bondi said. "Right now we have too many unanswered questions."  

Bondi said that she herself has no jurisdiction to prosecute the case, but called the special prosecutor, Angela Corey, "second to none," and pledged a "thorough investigation."

"We are doing everything in our power to ensure that justice is sought in this case," she said.

The task force appointed by the governor will be taking a look at the role of the state's "Stand Your Ground" laws, Bondi said. They do not yet know what role that law played in the incident, she said.

"What we do know is that a 17-year-old boy was walking home, and now he's dead," she said. "And when you have questions like that, they need to be answered."

Continue reading "AG Pam Bondi pledges "thorough investigation" into Trayvon Martin's death" »

Sen. Chris Smith's Stand Your Ground claim faces Truth-0-Meter

The fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Fla., has reopened debate about the state’s "stand your ground" law.

One of the arguments we’ve heard from lawmakers wanting to change the 2005 law is that deaths due to self-defense are up dramatically since "stand your ground" passed. The law -- approved overwhelmingly by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2005 -- allows people to use deadly force when they believe their life is at risk.

Sen. Chris Smith, a Democrat who represents parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties, wants to rewrite the law because he fears its protections are too broad. Smith wants to change the law so that it only applies in cases that take place in a home, car or at work. He also wants to prohibit the use of "stand your ground" in cases where the shooter has provoked a confrontation, Smith said in a March 21 press release sent by the Senate Democratic office.

"This law has been a double-edged sword," said Smith, who was the House Democratic leader in 2005 when "stand your ground" passed. Smith voted against the law. "Stand your ground’ appears to be giving suspects better protections from arrest and prosecution than increased security measures for the citizens the law was originally intended to protect. This needs to be dramatically changed. … We can’t keep turning a blind eye to the number of lives this law has claimed."

According to the press release, Smith noted that "since the law’s passage, deaths due to self defense have jumped over 250 percent."

PolitiFact checks it out.

House set to 'rubber stamp' Senate map

The Florida House Redistricting Committee approved the Senate's fix to its rejected redistricting map on a party line vote Monday and sent it to the House floor where nothing is expected to change.

"I think it’s a significant improvement to the map that was passed before and I think it is in compliance,'' said House Redistricting Chairman Will Weatherford as the committee met to review the Senate map. The Legislature has until Wednesday to come up with a new Senate map after the Florida Supreme Court rejected its first try 5-2 on March 9.

Rep. Evan Jenne, D-Dania Beach, said he will propose an amendment to revise some areas of the map on when the proposal comes to a vote before the full House on Tuesday, but it's not expected to go anywhere.

"No one can deny it's a better map,'' Jenne said Monday. "While it is better, I'm not quite sure it gets us over the hump."

Continue reading "House set to 'rubber stamp' Senate map " »

Jeb Bush Jr. to hold fundraiser for Connie Mack

Jeb Bush Jr., who last month threw his support behind Rep. Connie Mack IV for U.S. Senate, is throwing a fundraiser for Mack Thursday at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables.

Expected guests at the reception include Mack's father, former Sen. Connie Mack III, as well as Miami Republican Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, David Rivera and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart

The chairman of the event is GOP fundraiser Jorge Arrizurieta. Several Miami-Dade mayors -- Carlos Hernandez of Hialeah, Manny Maroño of Sweetwater and Yioset De La Cruz of Hialeah Gardens -- are also on the invite.

Contributions are $500 per person.

Following Trayvon Martin's death, NRA ready to stand its ground over Stand Your Ground

With Trayvon Martin’s death, Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law and the National Rifle Association’s agenda are in the crosshairs.

And the NRA probably couldn’t be happier to stand its ground.

Chances state lawmakers will strike the deadly force law from the books: Nil.

Chances it will be amended: Slight.

Chances the NRA will get to boast of a win: High.

That means bragging rights, a happy membership and, ultimately, more money for an organization that can boast of its effectiveness in the state Capitol.

The NRA relishes a fight. But it has gotten nearly everything it wanted out of Florida’s Legislature. And that could become a strange problem — for the NRA.

“The NRA is a victim of its own success,” said one of its longtime opponents, former Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach. “There’s not much more for the NRA to win. It’s running out of people to pick fights with.”

So, in recent years, the NRA’s fights in the state Capitol have become, relatively speaking, more small bore and geared toward waging turf battles with other special-interest lobbies.

Read Marc Caputo's column here.

March 23, 2012

Marco Rubio's legal team gets FEC fine cut

After Sen. Marco Rubio's 2010 campaign, the Republican senator was fined $9,904 for failing to disclose information about 36 donors who gave more than $1,000 to his campaign within 48 hours of the general election, according to a Federal Election Commission filing made public this week. Here's the link: http://eqs.sdrdc.com/eqsdocsAF/00126440.pdf

The donations totaled $92,440. Among the donors listed as not being disclosed in the 48-hour window? The Las Vegas Sands Corporation PAC, the political action committee of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. His super PAC, Winning Our Future, has propped up Newt Gingrich's 2012 presidential bid with millions of dollars in contributions.

Rubio's legal team from Holtzman Vogel in 2011 fought back against the fine, successfully proving to the FEC that only six of the donors were actually not disclosed properly. The Federal Election Commission dropped the fine to $1,360.

California Democrats ask for hate crime investigation into Trayvon Martin's death

Twenty-four Democratic members of the California congressional delegation asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate whether 17-year-old Trayvon Martin's death "was motivated by racial bias and therefore a hate crime."

In their letter, the representatives told Holder that Trayvon's family "deserves to know the truth and the American people expect justice to be served."

Also in the letter: "It is in the best interest of our constituents and the country that you conduct a thorough investigation that also determines whether this was motivated by racial bias and therefore a hate crime…History has shown that investigating these crimes and enforcing our laws against them bring the issue to light and help our society progress."

It was signed by the following representatives: Karen Bass; Xavier Becerra; Judy Chu; Anna G. Eshoo; Sam Farr; Bob Filner; John Garamendi; Janice Hahn; Mike Honda; Barbara Lee; Zoe Lofgren; Doris Matsui; Jerry McNerney; George Miller; Grace Napolitano; Laura Richardson; Lucille Roybal-Allard; Linda Sanchez; Loretta Sanchez; Jackie Speier; Pete Stark; Mike Thompson; Maxine Waters; and Lynn Woolsey.