Florida Legislature

Oliva, Sprowls: Mike Hill’s “callous indifference” is “unacceptable.” Hill: “Fake news!”

House Speaker José Oliva and his successor, Rep. Chris Sprowls, joined in the rapidly growing bipartisan chorus denouncing state Rep. Mike Hill for laughing at a suggestion that homosexuals should be executed.

Hill created a firestorm after being caught up tape in an exchange posted online by his hometown paper, the Pensacola News Journal, above an editorial by the paper’s prize-winning cartoonist, Andy Marlette.

Marlette wrote:

A citizen comments: “In 1 Corinthians, it says that a man who has an affair with another man will be put to death.”

Hill’s response?

“It says that in the Old Testament, too.”

Another attendee asks, “Can you introduce legislation?”

Chuckles are audible. The state representative joins the laughter. “I wonder how that would go over?” Hill says.

Hill’s comments, and laughter, drew bipartisan condemnation and calls for the founder of the local Tea Party to apologize, resign or both.

State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, who is openly gay, said he was “shocked & disgusted to discover a colleague who I’ve worked with closely would joke about punishing me by death for being gay.”

An hour after the Republican House leaders censured Hill on Twitter, Hill posted a reply to Smith’s outrage.

 

State Rep. Mike Hill draws bipartisan condemnation over gay execution “jokes”

State Rep. Mike Hill‘s hometown paper says he’s “unfit” to hold office, and fellow Republicans piled on after Hill was caught on tape “joking” about the execution of homosexuals.

Pensacola News Journal cartoonist Andy Marlette skewered Hill — the founder of the Northwest Florida Tea Party — today, in an opinion piece that includes a recording of the Pensacola state rep’s comments:

In less than 30 seconds of audio from his recent meeting with a Pensacola-based group called Women for Responsible Legislation, Florida Rep. Mike Hill proved why he is both an unfit legislator and an unfit Christian.

Listen to the clip.

A citizen comments: “In 1 Corinthians, it says that a man who has an affair with another man will be put to death.”

Hill’s response?

“It says that in the Old Testament, too.”

Another attendee asks, “Can you introduce legislation?”

Chuckles are audible. The state representative joins the laughter. “I wonder how that would go over?” Hill says.

And Jesus wept.

There, in that moment, Mike Hill and a few sad members of a small, cruel audience betrayed the most fundamental message of Christ — love.

Hill’s comments quickly created a backlash on Twitter, including from fellow Republican state Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa.

Hill’s an avowed conservative who’s Twitter bio reads: “Pro Life! Pro Guns! Pro Jesus!! Insurance business owner. USAFA grad ’80. GOP member, FL State House. Psalm 91:1″

The Pensacola insurance guy created another media uproar recently, after pledging to re-file legislation similar to a controversial Alabama “fetal heartbeat” law that bans most abortions. His efforts to get the Florida House to pass similar proposals so far have failed.

Democrats also jumped on Hill Friday, with some demanding that he apologize or resign.

Florida Democratic Party Executive Direct Juan Peñalosa took to Twitter and issued a press release condemning Hill’s remarks. Peñalosa, who is gay, also called on Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Republican Party of Florida to denounce Hill.

 

Patsy Palmer remembers her late husband, Sandy D’Alemberte. Plus, she wants your stories.

Sandy-DAlemberte-3x2An outpouring of praise for the Southern gentleman and legal giant described as “the definition of a statesman” continues to flood social media, the web and email inboxes as Floridians mourned Monday’s sudden death of Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte.

D’Alemberte, a former president of the American Bar Association and onetime president of Florida State University who also served as dean of the school’s College of Law, was extolled as a brilliant legal scholar who made a lasting imprint on education, civil rights, criminal justice and the courts.

With a shock of white hair, a trademark bow tie and a soft, Southern drawl, was a legal icon who influenced decades of Florida governance and was called “a force of nature” by Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady, a conservative Republican who is was on the other end of the ideological spectrum from D’Alemberte.

D’Alemberte and his wife, Patsy Palmer, had celebrated their 30th anniversary on May 13, Palmer said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

She said her husband, who was nearly 20 years her senior, “lived fully up until the very, very end.”

Palmer stressed that her husband remained “the Sandy D’Alemberte that you met years ago” until his unexpected death at a Lake City hospital Monday afternoon.

“We will always remember that radiant Sandy D’Alemberte that we all saw and knew for so many years. He will never stop being that person. So as awful as it is that he is gone and we do not have more of him, we do not have to watch him being diminished and miserable,” she said.

For years, Palmer, also a lawyer, has been a constant presence at her husband’s side, whether at Bach Parley concerts in a downtown church or working the halls of the Capitol.

Palmer recalled that she and her husband met just a few days before her 39th birthday, and he was nearly 56 when they tied the knot.

“We had communities and friendships and values in common, and on top of that we were very much in love. He opened so many worlds for me,” she said.

“Sandy” was “a leap and the net will appear kind of guy,” a contrast to her more cautious approach to life, Palmer said.

“I was really the partner who said I’m not sure there was a net,” she added.

“We shared so much, in terms of what we cared about and what we believed in. He opened many worlds to me, and I just feel that if it was a partnership I was a particularly lucky part of that partnership,” Palmer said.

Palmer didn’t hesitate when asked what could be done to honor the Florida icon and show their support for his widow.

She wants stories.

“What I really hope, as people remember him over time — and that includes reporters — if people have stories about him, that they could memorialize those somehow,” Palmer said.

Folks with anecdotes can write them on index cards, type them up or make voice recordings, Palmer suggested.

“I want him to continue, vivid. I want to keep knowing more about him. I would love it if people just got stuff to me, and I will hold onto it and treasure it,” she said.

Anyone with an anecdote or remembrance they would like to share with Patsy Palmer is encouraged to send an email to darakam@gmail.com, and we will make sure she receives all messages and recordings.

Gruters, horses brag on session; Eskamani gets angry

Subtlety apparently wasn’t the goal in videos featuring lawmakers from opposite sides of the aisle, pushed out after the 2019 legislative session wrapped.

Sen. Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican who’s also the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, got a majestic, campaign-style video featuring a lot of horses and a basso voiceover.

Meanwhile, Orlando Democrat Rep. Anna Eskamani, Florida’s answer to U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, went her own route.

Eskamani recruited her twin sister, Ida, to act as her “Anger Interpreter” in a video inspired by comedy duo Key and Peele’s ‘Luther the anger translator.’

In a follow-up tweet, Eskamani, who’s known throughout the Capitol for what seems to be a perpetual smile, made it clear that the video was all in good fun.

“Want to make sure y’all know that we made this video with nothing but love & gratitude for our colleagues and to the legislative process. I do my best to always present as my authentic self, and w/out laughter we have nothing.  ❤️”

For those not in the know, Luther made a political splash in 2015, when he gave some assistance to then-President Barack Obama during the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

So, you don’t have to look it up, here’s the Obama version.

 

By Jim Turner and The Dara.

Congressional subcommittee chair: GOP take on Amendment 4 “an act of defiance”

A day after a congressional panel held a hearing in Fort Lauderdale, Democratic U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch and Alcee Hastings filed legislation to make it easier for voters to fix signature mismatches.

Even if Congress doesn’t pass the South Florida Democrats’ federal legislation, the elections changes they’re proposing will almost certainly go into effect here in the Sunshine State.

Giving voters another chance and more time to fix their mismatched VBM signatures  is one of the provisions included in a an elections package (SB 7066) on its way to Gov. Ron DeSantis. The proposal also includes the Republican-controlled Legislature’s controversial plan to carry out a constitutional amendment restoring voting rights to felons who’ve completed their sentences. Murderers and people convicted of felony sexual offenses are excluded from the “automatic” vote-restoration.

Under the provision included in the elections package, felons would have to pay all financial obligations — including restitution, fines and fees — before having their voting rights restored. Judges can waive the fees and fines, or order community service in lieu of payment.

“As this subcommittee continues to travel the country, I can think of no better place than here in Florida, a state that is no stranger to having its elections become the focus of national attention,” said U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, an Ohio Democrat who chairs the Committee on House Administrations Elections Subcommittee.

Fudge called Florida’s passage of Amendment 4, which more than 5 million voters supported, a “watershed moment for civil rights.”

Echoing other critics’ objections to the plan, the congresswoman blasted Florida lawmakers’ handling of Amendment 4, saying it amounts to a modern-day poll tax.

“They blatantly ignored the will of the Florida voters that approved the measure in a retroactive act of voter suppression. It is an act of defiance by this legislature,” she said.

Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum was among the witnesses at yesterday’s hearing, which addressed issues related to the 2018 elections, such as faulty ballot design, rejection of VBM ballots and recount litigation.

A joint press release issued by Deutch and Hastings cites a report by University of Florida political science professor Daniel Smith, who found that 15 percent of vote-by-mail ballots submitted by Parkland voters aged 18 to 21 were nearly three times more likely to be rejected than those of voters in the same age group statewide.

Smith’s analysis found that 15 percent of the VBM ballots sent by the young Parkland voters were tossed. Students in Parkland launched a national voter registration effort following last year’s horrific mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School left 17 students and staff dead and another 17 people injured.

Here’s more from the South Florida Dems’ press release:

The “Protecting American Votes Act” will require elections officials to make two attempts to notify voters when their ballots are rejected based on a signature mismatch—by mail in addition to either text, phone, or e-mail. It will also require states to provide at least ten days from the date of notice to cure the mismatch to verify their identity and ensure their vote is counted. Officials who review signatures will also be required to participate in formal training and provide a report to Congress detailing the number of ballots that are rejected and description of the notification and cure process the state uses to protect voters. These reforms reflect several of the changes the Florida legislature included in SB 7066 to reform its election laws.

 

 

 

Tucked in proviso: Medicaid managed-care rollout

There were no efforts this legislative session to change how the state’s Medicaid managed-care program would be rolled out under five-year contracts totaling billions of dollars.

Until, that is, it came to health-care budget negotiations.

In a late-night weekend meeting, the Florida House floated proviso language that would require the state to develop a new equitable formula for assigning Medicaid recipients to managed-care plans when they don’t voluntarily make a choice.

The proviso requires the Agency for Health Care Administration to submit to the Legislature no later than August 31 details on how it will change the current assignment process. The proviso also requires the new process to be implemented no later than November 1. The late-night proviso also would eliminate $3 million from the state agency for Health Care Administration’s administrative budget until it delivers the new formula.

The Senate did not agree to the move and the issue remains in flux as lawmakers continue to negotiate the details of the $90 billion budget.

The proposed change in the formula is a move to help two new “provider sponsored networks,” or PSNs, that were awarded five-year contracts. Lighthouse Health Plan is a PSN in Northwest Florida in Medicaid Regions 1 and 2. The latest enrollment figures at AHCA show that 27,060 people enrolled in the plan in March.

The other PSN is Miami Children’s Health Plan which has 12,880 members. That PSN serves children in Medicaid Region 9, which includes Indian River County south to Palm Beach County, and Medicaid Region  11, which includes Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

Though the Legislature meets annually and considers hundreds of bills, it only is required by law to pass one: the budget. The state spending plan also is the only bill that must be distributed and available to read for 72 hours before final passage.   The regular legislative session is slated to end May 3, meaning the budget agreement must come Tuesday for lawmakers to wrap on time.

Florida has a mandatory Medicaid managed-care program. The state recently completed a new procurement and signed five-year contracts worth at least $90 billion with different HMOs and PSNs across the state. For contracting purposes, the state is divided into 11 different Medicaid regions.

The proviso language requires AHCA to submit a report to the Senate president and House speaker no later than August 31 detailing how the agency will change the assignment process. The  new process must be implemented no later than November 1.

To help ensure compliance with the mandate,  $3 million in administrative funds is being held in reserve. The agency can ask the Legislature to release the funds when it completes the new plan.

By Christine Sexton.

Bigger, better, stronger? Panama City officials plead for aid

Months after Hurricane Michael ravaged the Florida Panhandle, Panama City officials are calling out both state lawmakers and Congress to adequately fund disaster relief.

The appeal comes in a two-and-a-half-minute video that highlights successful recovery efforts while expressing the agonizing wait for assistance that has stretched to 200 days.

The storm that crippled Bay County left behind 31million cubic yards of debris, or 12 million truckloads, created a housing crisis and displaced thousands of students, Panama City Mayor Greg Brudnicki explains as he takes viewers on a tour of his community.

“We know that we need help from Tallahassee and Washington,” Brudnicki says as he wraps up the video. “With your help we can rebuild Panama City bigger, better and stronger. Thank you.”

Brudnicki and City Manager Mark McQueen are off Monday to D.C. for several days of meetings with members of Congress and various federal agencies.

By Jim Turner.