Six black Hillsborough County elected officials are asking Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford for a special session to repeal or change the 2005 “stand your ground” law they blame for a looming economic crisis caused by a boycott of Florida.
“Since the outcome of the Zimmerman verdict in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, Florida has become a lightning rod for criticism over our state’s ‘stand your ground’ law,” states the July 29 letter. “Now, in the weeks since the ‘not guilty’ verdict was rendered, the cries for boycotting Florida from some of the most prominent names in the entertainment industry and those organizing upcoming conventions and other major gatherings are growing because nothing has been done to fix the problems that remain in the law.”
The letter was signed by Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa; Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa; Les Miller, Hillsborough County Commissioner; Plant City Mayor Mary Mathis; Tampa City Council member Frank Reddick and Doretha Edgecomb, a Hillsborough County School Board member.
Joyner voted against the law in 2005 as a member of the House, calling it a bad bill that would lead to violence. Miller, however, voted for it while he was a Senator. He explained why on Monday, explaining he was told at the time by Democratic senators who were lawyers that the law would be viable. He said he regrets his decision and wished he had the information that Democratic house members had. It passed in the Senate 39-0, with all 14 Democrats voting for it. It passed 94-20 in the House, with 12 Democrats voting for it and 20 voting against.
Here’s the letter:
July 29, 2013
Dear Governor Scott, President Gaetz, and Speaker Weatherford:
As members of the Hillsborough County Black Elected Officials, we are writing to call your attention to a looming economic crisis that you have the power to avert.
Since the outcome of the Zimmerman verdict in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, Florida has become a lightning rod for criticism over our state’s “Stand Your Ground” law.
While it may not have been invoked during the trial, it was certainly utilized in the instructions to the jurors, and as they’ve come forward, the consensus we continue to hear is that but for the Stand Your Ground inclusion, the outcome of the verdict would likely have been much different.
Now, in the weeks since the “not guilty” verdict was rendered, the cries for boycotting Florida from some of the most prominent names in the entertainment industry and those organizing upcoming conventions and other major gatherings are growing because nothing has been done to fix the problems that remain in the law. As the chorus of voices increases - which we certainly expect – the impact on our hotels, our restaurants, our entertainment venues, and the many small businesses that depend on tourism for survival are threatened. A ripple effect is created that in turn impacts every Floridian, and every family that draws a pay check from these local operations. So too is the public perception of Florida as less a place of white sand and sunny skies and more a state where dark clouds are gathering.
As elected officials representing one of the prime tourist destinations in the state, and deeply concerned about this statute and its inherent potential for violence, we are calling on you to convene a special session of the legislature to repeal, or in the alternative, pass legislation to repeal or, in the alternative, fix the statute.
The longer Tallahassee leadership refuses to acknowledge the need for action on Stand Your Ground, the greater the damage to Florida’s economy and reputation. It is a scenario that can be prevented by doing what’s right and recalling lawmakers to Tallahassee.
Arthenia L. Joyner, Chair Betty Reed, Vice Chair
Florida State Senator Florida State Representative
Lesley Miller, Jr. Mary Mathis
Lesley “Les” Miller, Jr. Mary Mathis
Hillsborough County Commissioner Mayor of Plant City
Frank Reddick Doretha W. Edgecomb
Tampa City Council Member Hillsborough County School Board Member
Cc: Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith