« July 17, 2013 | Main | July 19, 2013 »

9 posts from July 18, 2013

July 18, 2013

Gov. Scott returns to Capitol, meets with protesters

Gov. Rick Scott unexpectedly returned to Tallahassee Wednesday night to meet with a group of college students who had camped out near his office for three days to protest the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Scott met with six of the students, called the Dream Defenders, in a press conference room near the governor's office. Scott listened as students relayed their concerns over the "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law and issues related to racial profiling in the state.

The group has vowed to remain camped out in the Capitol until Scott calls a special session to address concerns over the 2005 Stand Your Ground law. But in comments to the Dream Defenders, Scott said he believes the Stand Your Ground law should remain on the books.

Scott said he spoke with the mother of Martin, Sybrina Fulton, on Wednesday and told the students he would ask for a day of prayer in memory of Martin.

The Dream Defenders said Wednesday night they would remain in the Capitol until Scott calls a special session.


Scott meets with Tallahassee protesters

Gov. Rick Scott made an unscheduled stop in Tallahassee on Thursday night to meet with the protesters who have been camped outside his office since Tuesday morning. The protesters, who belong to a group called the Dream Defenders, want Scott to call a special session to re-evaluate the Stand Your Ground law.

Senate Democratic Leader: #HearTheBills amending Stand Your Ground

Two more Florida lawmakers are calling for changes to Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law.

On Thursday, Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, and House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, launched a social media campaign asking their fellow lawmakers to debate the self-defense legislation.

“Why do they fear this debate?” Smith asked. “We have a clear case that shows Stand Your Ground has very troubling problems, and those problems are central to the well being of Floridians. These changes do not affect a person’s right to self defense. But they stop the ability to hide behind self defense when you bring yourself to a fight.”

Smith also announced plans to re-file his legislation amending Stand Your Ground. He filed a similar proposal during the last session, but it did not receive a hearing.

“The common sense changes to Stand Your Ground in this bill include some a Republican senator recommended," Smith said. “Stand Your Ground was supposed to be about improving public safety. But unless these changes are adopted, no one is truly safe and everyone is fair game.”

Smith's bill would prevent aggressors from receiving immunity, he said. It would also provide less confusing language for adopting jury instructions, and require sheriffs and police chiefs to issue guidelines prohibiting neighborhood watch participants from pursuing and confronting suspects.

Rep. Alan Williams , D-Tallahassee, said Thursday that he would re-file a bill to repeal Stand Your Ground.

Race/murder stats post-Trayvon: PolitiFact checks a claim


The acquittal of George Zimmerman, a white Hispanic, in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager, has prompted commentary from the left and right about race and murder statistics.

We saw this statistic repeated multiple times by conservatives on Twitter after the July 13 verdict: "In the 513 days between Trayvon dying, and today’s verdict, 11,106 African-Americans have been murdered by other African-Americans."

We will leave it up to others to interpret the relevance of such statistics in the Zimmerman trial or other cases. Our role here as fact-checkers is to examine the numbers and their context. 

A quick note on the case before we turn to the numbers: Hispanic is an ethnicity -- someone can be Hispanic and white, as in Zimmerman’s case -- or Hispanic and black. The crime data we reviewed generally focused on whites and blacks, though it sometimes included a generic "other" category.

Martin, 17, was unarmed when he got into a scuffle with Zimmerman in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26, 2012. A jury acquitted Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer whose lawyer argued self-defense, of second-degree murder and manslaughter. (Read our fact-checks that relate to the case and Florida’s "stand your ground" law.) Read what PolitiFact found.

Wilkins resigns as secretary of DCF, Scott names replacement from Miami

David Wilkins, Florida’s top child welfare and social service administrator, resigned Thursday amid an escalating scandal over the recent deaths of four small children who had a history of involvement with child abuse investigators.

Wilkins is leaving the agency to “pursue opportunities in the private sector and to provide more attention” to a foundation he leads, Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement. 

Wilkins has served longer than any other agency head under Scott, serving since the governor's inauguration in 2011. But in recent months, Wilkins had become mired in a simmering controversy over the deaths of four youngsters in a six-week period, all but one of them from Miami-Dade and Broward counties. A fifth child, also from Miami, nearly died from a lacerated liver after the agency failed to act when the infant had suffered a broken thigh bone months earlier.

In his statement, Scott said the agency’s top Miami administrator, Esther Jacobo, would serve as interim secretary. “David did a great job in leading the state’s top child protection agency and his service is deeply appreciated,” Scott said.

“I have no doubt that Esther will increase accountability in the Department and enhance child protective services in order to protect the most vulnerable among us.” 

Continue reading "Wilkins resigns as secretary of DCF, Scott names replacement from Miami" »

Lee wants to give Senate presidency another whirl

Sen. Tom Lee said when he decided earlier this month to run for president, he did so because other lawmakers in Tampa Bay were running for the same post.

“I’ve been calling a few members, which is actually when I learned a couple have made a commitment to Sen. (Wilton) Simpson,” Lee said. “I know Simpson is running very hard, and so is Bill Galvano.”

Lee, R-Brandon, was Senate president in 2004 to 2006 and was elected back to the Senate last year for a two-year term after the former incumbent, Ronda Storms, left the seat to run unsuccessfully for Hillsborough County property appraiser.

The 51-year-old homebuilder said he he was seeking the presidency in 2020 (where he would preside over the 2021 and 2022 sessions). Even though he concedes it’s too early to run for such a far out date (Lee would have to win next year’s election, plus a second in 2018), but said since others were doing so, he felt compelled to announce now.

“They’ve forced me to run,” Lee said.

Tampa Bay hasn’t had a Senate president since Lee in 2006. With Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, currently locked in the race for 2016 (for the 2017 and 2018 sessions) with Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, Lee is laying out a scenario in which four Tampa Bay lawmakers are now in the mix for the job (if one includes Manatee County as part of Tampa Bay).

According to our friends at The Bradenton Herald, Galvano, R-Bradenton, is being coy about his plans for the presidency in 2018 (for the 2019 and 2020 sessions).  As for Simpson, R-Trilby, the Times/Herald asked him on July 11 if he was running for the presidency and he said he was too busy being a regular senator.

“I would be very humbled if my colleagues suggest I can do that job,” Simpson said. “I’m working very hard to be a humble public servant. If that adds up to more than me representing Senate District 18, I would be honored. But right now, all I’m focused on is representing my constituents.”

Rep. Williams: Come home, Rick Scott

Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, blasted Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday for not meeting with the student protesters camped outside the governor's office.

Scott has not been in the state capital publicly since last Tuesday. He was in New York City last weekend, and has been travelling in Florida since.

Meanwhile, more than three dozen student activists have refused to leave Scott's office in the Capitol. The protesters, part of an organization known as the Dream Defenders, are demanding that Scott call a special session to address the Stand Your Ground law in the aftermath of George Zimmerman's acquittal. 

Williams said Scott's refusal to meet with the students shows a lack of leadership.

"He could have said, 'I'm getting back in my private jet and going to meet with these students,'" Williams said at a press conference Thursday. "[Former] Gov. [Charlie] Crist would have done it. [Former] Gov. [Jeb] Bush would have done it."

Williams said Scott had come home to the Governor's Mansion at least one of the nights.

"He decided to leave, to back out under the cover of darkness," Williams said.

Williams also added his voice to the chorus of people calling for a special session to address Stand Your Ground. He was joined by Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, and Rev. R.B. Holmes, Jr., the vice chair of the governor's Stand Your Ground task force.

Said Jones: "Florida likes to tout being first... We were at the front end of the line to implement this law. We should be the first to repeal it."

Republicans now own 'Empty Chair Charlie' website

For weeks, Florida Republicans have gleefully tweaked former Gov. Charlie Crist and his record with a daily "This Day in CRIST-ory" feature that points out the flip-flops and policy shifts in the Republican-turned-Democrat's record.

The GOP took its strategy a step further Thursday, claiming ownership of the dormant site www.emptychaircharlie.com, which the Florida Democratic Party created in 2008 as a vehicle to criticize Crist for what Democrats then saw as his inattention to his responsibilities as governor. 

In a release, RPOF said: "The site's sole purpose will be to archive and post previous Florida Democratic Party press releases and other materials attacking Crist's tenure as governor and his open campaign to be John McCain's vice president."

In launching the site in 2008, then-Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Thurman sent an email to party activists, saying the site would be "dedicated to holding Crist accountable for his blatant absence during the state's most dire economic times in 16 years." 

The "empty chair" strategy was actually created by Crist's team in the 2006 governor's race, when Crist effectively criticized his Democratic opponent, Jim Davis, for missing votes while in Congress.   

Take your favorite GOP senator out to the ball game

America's favorite pastime is, of course, baseball. Tallahassee's favorite pastime is, of course, raising money.

Senate Republicans will merge the two next month when they hold a fund-raiser at Yankee Stadium during an Aug. 13 game between the Bronx Bombers and the Los Angeles Angels. A VIP reception precedes the baseball. The Yankees, who train in Tampa every spring, are represented in Tallahassee by the lobbyist Brian Ballard and his partners.

The listed co-hosts on the invitation are Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and his designated successor, Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando. The money will benefit Senate Majority 2014, the fund-raising account for GOP senators who are up for re-election. Sixteen of the 26 Republican senators will face the voters in 2014.

No suggested donation is listed on the invitation because this is a soft money event. Gaetz, Gardiner & Co. are swinging for the fences: They want big checks.

-- Steve Bousquet