November 03, 2015

Former law enforcement officers-turned-Democratic lawmakers unite against open carry, campus-carry gun bills



Four Democratic lawmakers -- all former law enforcement officials -- say they intend to fight bills moving through the Florida Legislature that would allow concealed-weapons permit-holders in Florida to carry guns on college campuses and openly in public.

State Reps. Dave Kerner of Lake Worth, Victor Torres of Orlando, John Cortes of Kissimmee and Clovis Watson of Alachua said the "dangerous" legislation won't make Floridians safer and their opposition to the bills doesn't equate to an attack on the Second Amendment, as the bills' proponents have claimed.

"This is bad public policy and the fact that the state of Florida is legitimately considering these concepts is frightening to me," Kerner said. "What we are dealing with now are policies that go way beyond the simple bearing of arms."

Continue reading "Former law enforcement officers-turned-Democratic lawmakers unite against open carry, campus-carry gun bills" »

Term limits proposal for Florida Supreme Court justices, appeals judges advances in the Florida House

John wood


Florida’s Supreme Court justices and District Court of Appeals judges would be limited to two terms in office, under a proposed constitutional amendment that gained initial favor from a House committee Tuesday.

Rep. John Wood, R-Winter Haven, said term limits for the state’s seven justices and 64 appellate judges would ensure “diversity of legal philosophy,” “enhance the proper role of the judiciary,” and “create a true balance of power” with the Legislature and the governor, which are already subject to term limits.

Wood is co-sponsoring HJR 197 with Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora.

But some lawmakers, as well as attorneys speaking on behalf of The Florida Bar, fear the proposal could lead to less-experienced judges and high turnover on the bench, among other consequences.

Continue reading "Term limits proposal for Florida Supreme Court justices, appeals judges advances in the Florida House" »

November 02, 2015

On second stop of 'Jeb can fix it' tour, Jeb Bush emphasizes his results as governor



WINTER PARK –- In an effort to emphasize his commitment to education and supporting programs that help people with disabilities, former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush brought his presidential campaign on Monday to an Orlando area school for children with motor-skill disabilities.

His visit to the Conductive Education Center of Orlando was part of his “Jeb can fix it tour,” which also included stops Monday in Tampa and Jacksonville. The tour is aimed at highlighting Bush’s accomplishments as governor and rebooting what’s viewed as an underwhelming presidential campaign, marred by low poll numbers and lackluster debate performances.

Referring to his work with the Florida Legislature to fund programs that help people with disabilities -- such as the McKay Scholarship program -- Bush said, "I venture to say, because of the catalyst of my first year in office, that the programs for disabilities, for education, for health, for services is significantly better than many states."

Bush’s guests at his stop in Winter Park included state politicians -- former Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings, state House Speaker-designate Richard Corcoran and Winter Park Congressman John Mica -- who used "Captain America" metaphors and biblical analogies to re-inforce Bush’s campaign message that he’s about action and results, not flashy rhetoric like other presidential candidates.

“If you want to measure the depth of an individual, you look at his actions, not at what he says,” said Jennings, who served under Bush from 2003-07. “There’s something in Corinthians that talks about, it’s the empty wagon that rattles the loudest. Lordy, do we have some empty wagons out there! And it the full wagon that is quiet. Well, the full wagon is the one that has the ideas, and the policies, and the accomplishments to play it forward. That’s what we’ve got in Jeb Bush.”

Continue reading "On second stop of 'Jeb can fix it' tour, Jeb Bush emphasizes his results as governor" »

November 01, 2015

RECAP: Absent star power, Florida Democrats energize for 2016


LAKE BUENA VISTA -- Given Florida’s status as a swing state in the 2016 elections, the absence of the Democratic Party’s two major presidential candidates didn’t go unnoticed during the state party’s annual convention this weekend at Walt Disney World.

Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were campaigning in other states and missed out on what Florida Democratic Party officials called a record-breaking gathering of the party faithful.

The 2,000 attendees left with mixed emotions. Energized, certainly — but also somewhat disappointed.

“You had some who really thought it would signal Florida’s importance” if Clinton and Sanders were to attend, said Susan McManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida. “Others are happy that people seem engaged even without their presence, and they’re willing to be patient until the general election.”

Democrats know they have to mobilize both their base and moderate voters, if they’re going to have a chance at winning not only the presidency but also Florida’s open U.S. Senate seat.

Both parties have a slate of candidates duking it out in the party primaries, hoping to put up the strongest candidate in a competitive race to replace Marco Rubio.

Democratic candidate Patrick Murphy, a Jupiter congressman, picked up several major endorsements during the weekend that propelled his status as the Democratic establishment’s favorite in the race.

Read the full story here.

October 31, 2015

U.S. Senate candidate Pam Keith stands out with speech to Florida Democrats (but still faces long odds)



LAKE BUENA VISTA -- Pam Keith isn't well-known -- but at least some Florida Democrats are aware of her now after a rousing speech she gave tonight at the state party convention in Orlando.

Keith, an attorney from North Palm Beach, is competing against Democratic U.S. Reps. Alan Grayson, of Orlando, and Patrick Murphy, of Jupiter, in the party primary for the 2016 U.S. Senate race.

She lacks the name recognition and fundraising sources that Murphy and Grayson have, but she managed to draw a more enthusiastic reaction from Florida Democrats Saturday night than either of her opponents.

The three candidates were among a line-up of speakers who addressed about 900 Democrats gathered for the final dinner of this year's state party convention, held at Disney's Yacht & Beach Club Convention Center in Orlando.

Continue reading "U.S. Senate candidate Pam Keith stands out with speech to Florida Democrats (but still faces long odds)" »

Prominent Democrats back Patrick Murphy over Alan Grayson



LAKE BUENA VISTA -- In a significant show of support, two prominent U.S. senators and a former U.S. representative are throwing their weight behind Patrick Murphy over Alan Grayson in the contentious Democratic primary in Florida's 2016 U.S. Senate race.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill and former Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank say they believe Murphy has the better chance at uniting independent voters, who will likely decide next year's election.

They say Grayson, his main opponent, is too polarizing. They said Grayson -- if he were to beat Murphy in next year's Democratic primary -- could potentially cost the Democratic Party a significant chance at reclaiming the majority in the U.S. Senate come 2017, regardless of who the Republican candidate might be.

Klobuchar, McCaskill and Frank's endorsement announcement came Saturday as 2,000 Florida Democrats are gathered in Orlando this weekend for the state party convention.

"You gotta have somebody that will stand their ground but find common ground and reassure independent voters that they are not extreme," McCaskill said of Murphy. McCaskill knows from experience; she faces a similar dynamic in Missouri, a heavily Republican state.

Continue reading "Prominent Democrats back Patrick Murphy over Alan Grayson" »

Amy Klobuchar energizes Florida Democrats on Hillary Clinton's behalf



LAKE BUENA VISTA -- Neither Hillary Clinton nor Bernie Sanders are here in person at the Florida Democratic Party's state convention this weekend in Orlando. Both campaigns are well-represented, though, and Clinton's campaign arranged for a prominent Democrat to address the state party faithful on her behalf: Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

In an energetic speech, inflected with humor, Klobuchar sought to energize the delegates into mobilizing for victory in 2016. She emphasized the importance of Florida's role in the presidential race, but also as one of the critical states that could decide which party controls the U.S. Senate in 2017.

"I hope you know what state is at the epicenter of getting this done," she said. "We actually need five states, but we will not do this if we don't have Florida."

Continue reading "Amy Klobuchar energizes Florida Democrats on Hillary Clinton's behalf" »

October 30, 2015

Gov. Rick Scott signs death warrant for Oscar Ray Bolin Jr., schedules execution for January


Less than 24 hours after Florida's most recent execution of a death row inmate, Republican Gov. Rick Scott has signed another death warrant.

Oscar Ray Bolin, Jr. killed three women in the Tampa Bay area in 1986. He was sentenced to death for two of them and is serving a life sentence on the third.

Scott's office sent a letter and signed death warrant today to Warden John Palmer at the Florida State Prison. Bolin's execution is scheduled for 6 p.m. Jan. 7. Download Bolin Warrant

Bolin is being put to death for the 1986 murder of Teri Lynn Matthews, whom he abducted from the Land O' Lakes Post Office in the early morning hours of Dec. 5, 1986.

As Scott's office recounted: Bolin brought Matthews' severely beaten body to the home of his 13-year-old half-brother, who reported that he saw the body wrapped in a sheet outside the home and heard moaning. Bolin bludgeoned Matthews with a wooden club, sprayed the her with a water hose and loaded her into a truck to dispose of her body. She was found wrapped in the sheet on the side of the road in Pasco County later that day with severe head injuries and stab wounds in her neck and body.

Bolin appealed his case to federal court but his petition was denied in 2013, and the 11th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals also denied to review the case.

Bolin has been convicted of two other murders in Hillsborough County. He is currently sentenced to death for the 1986 murder of Stephanie Collins and is serving a life sentence for the 1986 murder of Natalie Holley.

Last night, at 7:36 p.m., the state of Florida put Jerry Correll to death for stabbing and killing his daughter, ex-wife, and her mother and sister in Orlando.

Correll’s execution was the 22nd to take place in the death chamber at Florida State Prison since Scott took office in 2011 -- more than any other governor since the death penalty was reinstated in Florida in 1976.

Public safety agencies want more funding for workers, salaries, infrastructure



Representatives from 11 state agencies and organizations charged with ensuring public safety in Florida seem to agree: Efficient government is good, but after years of cuts, many of their agencies are strapped for cash in critical areas.

There's either too few employees or they're too underpaid, sometimes both. And aging facilities, vehicles and thousands of state-owned buildings across Florida are in need of repair, renovation or replacement.

The agency's budget requests -- including prioritized requests for more funding -- were outlined during presentations this morning to Republican Gov. Rick Scott's budget and policy staff. (Several sessions of budget presentations are being held today on other topic areas, including general government and education.)

Parity in pay was a common explanation for why several agencies, ranging from the Department of Corrections and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to associations representing state attorneys and public offenders, are asking for extra money in the 2016-17 state budget toward employees' salaries.

Continue reading "Public safety agencies want more funding for workers, salaries, infrastructure" »

McCaskill, Kobuchar and Senate candidates highlight Florida Democrats' Orlando line-up


Florida Democrats are gathering in Orlando this weekend for their annual convention, aiming to energize their base -- and Floridian voters -- into making the Sunshine State a bluer shade of purple after the 2016 elections.

There's a lot on the line next year, with Florida once again being a swing state in the presidential race and with the victor of Florida's open U.S. Senate race potentially deciding which party will control the chamber in 2017. The Florida Democratic Party is emphasizing those stakes with the convention's theme, "Florida's Future."

The convention line-up includes prominent Democrats from Florida and around the country, including Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who's scheduled to speak Saturday morning and is acting as a surrogate for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign since the former Secretary of State won't be in attendance.

The gathering kicks off today and runs through Sunday at Disney's Yacht & Beach Club convention center.

Saturday night, the two congressmen seeking to be the party's nominee in the race to replace Marco Rubio and join Bill Nelson in the U.S. Senate -- U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, of Jupiter, and U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, of Orlando -- will get their chance to address the party faithful. Murphy also has scheduled a Saturday afternoon press conference to make "an important announcement" with some yet-to-be-named special guests.

Other prominent Democrats attending this weekend include: Democratic National Committee Chairwoman and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, Missouri U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy, U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, state legislative leaders and several mayors -- including Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam.

Panels and seminars will also be held on topics such as LGBT equality issues, education, and the minimum wage.