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3 posts from June 24, 2014

June 24, 2014

Another break-through ruling: Divided Supreme Court takes Bainter redistricting appeal

The unprecedented rulings keep on coming. A divided Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear the question of whether 537 pages of documents of political consultant Pat Bainter should have been introduced in a lawsuit by a coalition of voters groups challenging the state's congressional redistricting maps.

In a 5-2 decision, the court said it would decide the case at the urging of the appeals court last week. It ordered that briefs be filed on a schedule, concluding on July 31. The majority offered no reason for its decision but Chief Justice Ricky Polston, who was joined in the dissent by Justice Charles Canady, scolded the other justices for accepting the case.

"We take jurisdiction of this case to do what?" Polston wrote. " ... The procedural posture of this case is unprecedented and bizarre." Download SCOFLA certifies Bainter redistricting

The challenge to the state's congressional districts was brought by a coalition of voting groups led by the League of Women Voters. Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis is expected to rule on the case any day. The parties submitted their final arguments to Lewis nearly two weeks ago, but the fate of 537 pages of documents produced by Bainter and his Gainesville-based consulting firm, Data Targeting, Inc., remains in dispute.

Continue reading "Another break-through ruling: Divided Supreme Court takes Bainter redistricting appeal" »

New 'progressive' mailer links Scott and Crist

The latest mail piece from a mysterious group that calls itself Progressive Choice Florida is a two-fer that attacks both Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic opponent Charlie Crist as "one in the same."

The allegations in the mailer are that both men oppose health care reform and women's health care and support the expansion of school vouchers and have appointed conservative judges.

Progressive Choice is thought by some to be a conservative front organization trying to help Democrat Nan Rich gain ground in her primary fight against Crist.

The latest mailer doesn't mention Rich but says "Florida deserves a real progressive leader!" Progressive Choice is run by a Baltimore political consultant, Jamie Fontaine-Gansell, who has told TalkingPointsMemo that the group is a "real deal progressive organization." Its donors remain a mystery. The group is not required by Florida law to reveal donor information until a month before the election.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that Progressive Choice is paying for a racially-tinged radio ad in central Florida that cites Crist's strong support for the NRA's political agenda and his support for stricter sentencing laws when he was a Republican governor and state senator.

“It’s time Charlie Crist answer to Floridians for his record, for a lost generation of African-Americans and for trampling on the ideal that the punishment fit the crime,” the spot says.

Two road-safety bills become law

Gov. Rick Scott signed two road-safety bills into law Tuesday.

One of the new laws (SB 102) increases the penalties for drivers who leave the scene of a crash in which a person is killed. The minimum mandatory sentence will now be four years, the same as for DUI manslaughter.

The legislation is called the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act, in memory of a Miami cyclist who was killed by a hit-and-run driver in 2012. 

The driver, Michele Traverso, served less than two years in jail for leaving the scene of a fatal accident. Had he stayed behind and been found guilty of DUI manslaughter -- evidence suggested he had been drinking before the crash -- his sentence would have been longer.

Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, a Miami Republican, said he sponsored the bill because there was an obvious incentive for drunk drivers to take off.

"Creating the appropriate penalties for hit-and-run drivers is the right thing to do for our state," he said Tuesday.

Patty Cohen said she hoped her husband's death would help make the roads safer.

"While nothing will bring Aaron back, it gives us comfort to know that the change we have made may prevent other families from suffering as ours did," she said.

Scott also signed HB 225, which strengthens state law on child safety seats. 

Florida law already requires federally approved safety seats or restraining devices for children who are 3 years old or younger. The requirements will now apply to 4- and 5-year-old children, too.

Sen. Anitere Flores, the Miami Republican who sponsored the legislation, said the new law would save lives.

"I am grateful to have played a part in passing legislation that will promote the well being of Florida's youngest and protect them on the roads," she said.

Scott has just one bill remaining on his desk.

The bill, HB 561 by state Rep. Erik Fresen, requires the court to appoint attorneys for children with special-needs if a legal guardian is not available. The proposal passed by unanimous votes in both the House and Senate.