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11 posts from January 15, 2014

January 15, 2014

Black legislators cancel meeting with Gov. Scott

The Florida Legislative Black Caucus on Wednesday abruptly cancelled a scheduled noon meeting with Gov. Rick Scott, saying that it would be "fruitless" because of Scott's "lack of action" on matters of importance to the group.

The caucus and Scott have a rocky history.

Last year, black lawmakers sharply criticized Scott for not appointing more African-Americans to judgeships, and Scott sought to shift responsibility for highly controversial voting-law changes to the Legislature. In 2011, Scott offended black lawmakers by telling them at a luncheon that he grew up "probably in the same situation as you guys" by living in public housing.

Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, the caucus chairman, released a letter to Scott explaining why the group was snubbing him. The letter cited concerns over affordable health care, judicial appointments, restoration of rights for ex-felons and minority participation in economic development efforts such as state advertising programs.

The letter said in part:

"Despite great respect for the public office you hold, we have agreed to cancel our scheduled meeting with you today.

"Based on your lack of action on matters of importance to this caucus that we have brought to your attention at prior meetings, we believe another meeting at this time would be fruitless.

"Today, as we recognize the anniversary of the birth of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., we are particularly mindful that the dreams of Floridians remain unfulfilled. Therefore, we take this occasion to respectfully remind you that there are significant needs facing Floridians that demand attention and action.

"All Floridians, including the thousands of residents of the communities we serve, deserve to have access to affordable health care that can be provided under an expansion of coverage using available federal dollars.

"We believe you can and should do more to ensure that your administration -- as well as the various staffing and judicial appointments you make -- reflects the racial and ethnic diversity of Florida.

"The restoration of rights for individuals who have paid their debts to society is an important caucus priority. So, too, is the proper enforcement of voting rights and the end to the unnecessary purging of legitimate voters from voting rolls for apparent partisan gain."

-- Steve Bousquet