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Florida Legislature to vote on holding SYG special session

Late Monday, Florida’s Secretary of State’s office announced that it had received five more letters from Democratic lawmakers Monday, giving them one over the necessary 32 letters they need to trigger a poll of the Legislature on whether a special session should be held on making changes to the “stand your ground” law.

Those requesting the special session, all Democrats, are:

Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee; Rep. Barbara Watson, D-Miami Gardens; Rep. Lori Berman, D-Lantana; Rep. Randolph Bracy, D-Orlando; Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale; Rep.Gwyndolen Clarke-Reed, D-Deerfield Beach; Rep. Reggie Fullwood, D-Jacksonville, Rep. Joe Gibbons, D-Hallandale Beach; Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando; Rep. Hazelle Rogers, D-Lauderdale Lakes; Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa; Rep. Larry Lee, D-Port St. Lucie; Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville; Rep. Sharon Pritchett, D-Miami Gardens; Rep. Kevin Rader, D-Delray Beach; Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa; Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg; Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park; Rep. Cynthia Stafford, D-Miami; Rep. James Waldman, D-Coconut Creek; Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Plantation; Sen.  Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens; Rep. Clovis Watson, D-Alachua; Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville; Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach; Rep. Irving Slosberg, D-Boca Raton; Rep. Daphne Campbell, D-Miami, and Sen. Dwight Bullard, R-Miami.

On Monday, letters were received from: Rep. Bobby Powell, Rep. Bruce Antone, D-Orlando; Rep. Kionne McGhee, D-Miami, Rep. Joe Saunders, D-Orlando, and Rep. Dwayne Taylor, D-Daytona Beach.

Letters from the remaining 25 Democrats in the Legislature have not been received. No letters signed by Republicans were received either.

Lawmakers have seven days to fill out forms by selecting either “yes” or “no” on whether to convene a special session. A non-vote is considered a "no" vote. An affirmative vote is needed from three-fifths of members of both the House and Senate to trigger a special session, which is about 96 lawmakers. Getting that many is considered even by Democrats to be a longshot.

Even so, Thurston, the House's Democratic leader, hailed Monday’s milestone.

“I commend those members who have joined me in my request for a special session,” Thurston said in a statement. “While the House Speaker has indicated that the Legislature may hold a hearing later this year on certain policies, including Stand Your Ground, I strongly believe that a special session is the best way to justly address the concerns of our constituents. As the Secretary of State begins the polling of the Legislature, I urge my colleagues, Democrats and Republicans alike, to answer in the affirmative to the request.”

A leader of the Dream Defenders, which has been conducting a sit-in at the Capitol since last month in protest of stand your ground, among other things, struck an optimistic note as the movement entered a new phase. The group helped convince House Speaker Will Weatherford to order a hearing on the law this fall.

“Our experiment in democracy is growing every day,” said Dream Defenders executive director Phillip Agnew. “Not only have we made history by triggering a poll of the entire legislature, and not only are we closer to getting a special session – but this process has also allowed many young people, from all across the state of Florida, to engage with their legislators in a way that they never have before. We thank the 32 members from the House and Senate who championed this effort, and we will continue petitioning our lawmakers in the coming days and weeks to gain still more legislative support.”