Florida Legislature

DeSantis: Israel has “total right” to run again, “no similarities” between sheriff suspension and Trump impeachment

IMG_2094A day after a key Senate committee handed Gov. Ron DeSantis a major victory in his crusade against embattled Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, the governor pooh-poohed any parallels between his suspension of Israel and Congressional Democrats’ efforts to unseat President Donald Trump.

DeSantis, Trump ally whose endorsement by the Republican president help boost him to a primary election victory and ultimately into the governor’s mansion last year, also told reporters today that Israel, a Democrat who is running for re-election, has the right to seek office again.

During yesterday’s Senate Rules Committee, one of Israel’s supporters, who identified himself as a “lifelong Republican” who voted for the GOP governor, equated suspension of Israel — an elected official — to the ongoing impeachment effort.

Rules Chairwoman Lizbeth Benacquisto quickly shut down that argument, but a reporter asked DeSantis about any similarities after Tuesday morning’s Cabinet meeting.

“I see no similarities between a presidential impeachment and the removal of a county official. This is a provision of the Florida Constitution. It talks about neglect of duty or incompetence. Obviously, we’ve seen multiple failures out of that agency. In fact, that agency, under his leadership, lost the state certification, and now it’s being reinstated under the new sheriff,” DeSantis said. “Look, had we not acted, my fear was that more failures would have put more people at risk. So I think I acted appropriately and I think that the Senate ultimately will come to that conclusion.”

The Rules Committee overturned the recommendation of Senate Special Master Dudley Goodlette, who found the governor failed to present evidence supporting his decision to suspend Israel, one of DeSantis’ first actions after taking office in January. Goodlette, former Republican state representative who is highly regarded in legislative circles, recommended that the Senate reinstate the embattled sheriff.

But voting 9-7 along party lines after a marathon meeting yesterday, the Rules Committee supported the governor’s suspension. The full Senate will vote on the matter tomorrow at 2 p.m.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday morning, DeSantis thanked the committee, which heard emotional, heart-wrenching pleas from the families of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting victims. The families are united in their insistence that Israel be prevented from getting his old job back. Dozens of Israel supporters also attended the meeting, including numerous members of black churches who expressed their allegiance to the sheriff.

“It was a very long day, with that process,” DeSantis said Tuesday. “I also want to thank the Parkland families for coming. It wasn’t easy for them. This has been a long time coming. I think they really showed a lot of strength, and I look forward to the Senate disposing of this matter tomorrow, and look forward to moving on.”

The expectation is for another, party-line vote in the Republican-dominated upper chamber that will result in Israel being permanently ousted from his job.

Israel, who was re-elected in 2016 by more than 70 percent of Broward County voters, remains popular in most parts of the heavily Democratic county. He told reporters after the Senate committee vote last night that he believes he will be re-elected to the seat he held until he was booted by DeSantis in January.

DeSantis was asked if he would remove Israel again, should the sheriff win re-election.

“No, no, no, no. Look, the people can make that decision going forward. But then, what happens will be, they’ll be responsible for whatever decision is made in that respect. It’s not going to be something that is going to matter to me either way. I had to make the decision I had to make. Those folks can make whatever decision that they want to make,” the governor said.

When pressed about removing Israel a second time, DeSantis — a Harvard Law School grad — reiterated his stance.

“Well, obviously if there was another basis, but no. This is this. If the Senate does concur he be removed, there’s nothing in the Constitution that bars someone from then seeking the same office again. Totally has a right to do it,” he said.

 

National Dems get into Good-Buchanan grudge match

bullseyeNational Democrats have put a target on Congressman Vern Buchanan, adding the Southwest Florida district to its roster of “offensive battlefield” seats.

The latest move makes a total of three Florida seats currently held by Republicans the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee hopes to flip next year.

But battle for CD 16 has an interesting twist: State Rep. Margaret Good, a Sarasota Democrat, defeated Buchanan’s son James last year in a high-profile race for the open House seat.

So the battle between Good, a Sarasota lawyer who drew national attention for flipping a seat that had been held by Republicans, and Buchanan, who’s served in Congress for more than a decade, could shape up to be a super Sunshine State grudge match.

Here’s Good’s reaction from a press release issued after the DCCC announced it was adding CD 16 to its targeted congressional seats:

“This campaign is about the people in this district—about healthcare, water quality, and good-paying jobs. We want a representative that listens to and works hard for her constituents. That’s the kind of representative I am and this campaign reflects that work ethic. I welcome everyone and anyone who wants to work for the best interest of the people of our community to join us.” — State Rep. Margaret Good.

And here’s what DCCC Political Director Kory Kozloski said in a memo about the race for CD 16, which includes parts of Sarasota and Manatee counties, and other battleground battles:

  • In 2018, the Democratic House candidate earned 45.4% of the vote, the strongest performance for a Democrat since Florida’s redistricting in 2012, and a 5.2-point improvement on 2016.
  • The district is 32% college educated — outpacing the statewide numbers by 11% — and is almost 90% suburban, a major factor as Republicans struggle to manage a nationwide exodus of suburban voters from the Republican party.

Buchanan now has the dubious distinction of joining Republican U.S. Reps. Ross Spano and Brian Mast on the national Dems’ hit list, a position the congressmen are likely to use to drum up support in GOP circles.

 

Gwen Graham tweet storm credits DeSantis ‘puppeteers’ for post-election ‘bait and switch’

Former congresswoman Gwen Graham, the daughter of former Florida governor and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham who last year sought the Democratic nomination for governor, went on a Twitter rant Monday morning against Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and his “puppeteers.”

Graham lost a heated primary bid for the Democratic nomination to former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who was defeated by DeSantis in November.

In her first tweet storm, Graham called the legislative session that ended in May “the worst ever, if you care about the future of Florida,” hitting on voting rights, education, LGBTQ rights, guns and other issues.

Here’s the rest of Graham’s Twitter posts:

“If DeSantis actually cared about increasing the opportunities for Floridians to vote, he would have vetoed that bill. If he actually cared about our environment, he would have vetoed the toll road to nowhere. (The plastic straw veto was the “bait” on that one.)

“If DeSantis actually cared about a quality education for all students, he would have shunned the advances of @JebBush/@richardcorcoran and the for profit education industry in Florida. I was sick when I heard about Corcoran becoming Commissioner. The man hates public education.

“If DeSantis actually cared about the LGBTQ community, he would have expanded anti-discrimination protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity. A “bait” trip to the Pulse nightclub without action is just what it is – a photo op and nothing more.

“If DeSantis was concerned about gun violence and mass shootings, he would have vetoed the @NRA bill that arms our teachers. More guns =‘s more deaths. Hard stop. But, with an NRA endorsed, A rated Gov, Marion Hammer got what she wanted. Even @SenRickScott stood up to her on that.

“If DeSantis wanted to prove that he wasn’t a Lil’ Trump, he would not have supported the unnecessary bill banning sanctuary cities. In a state as diverse as Florida, the Gov sent the message that he is okay with stoking fear, hatred and divisiveness. Just like @realDonaldTrump.

“So, to those who say, “He isn’t as bad as I thought he would be.” I say, “Congrats to the DeSantis’ puppeteers.” And, to anyone who cares about Florida and her future, stop taking their bait. What the Governor has done is far worse than bad. Tragically a lot of time to go.”

— By Jim Turner and Dara Kam.

 

Hammer gets an ‘F’ from NRA mutineer

We-the-People-Header-1Marion Hammer’s report cards can make Republicans tremble and Democrats cheer.

But now the onetime president of the national gun-rights group, who also serves on its board of directors, is the one who doesn’t make the mark, according to an NRA donor staging a leadership coup.

David Dell’Aquila filed a federal lawsuit against the NRA earlier this month, alleging that the gun-rights group misled contributors, as reported by The Wall Street Journal earlier this month:

A donor to the National Rifle Association filed a lawsuit against the gun-rights group, seeking class-action status, and claiming the group’s funding solicitations were “intentionally and materially false” because the NRA spent donated funds on executive perks, large legal fees, and other expenses unrelated to the group’s core mission.

Dell’Aquila’s mutiny isn’t isolated to federal court. He’s also drumming up support to rid the NRA of its CEO, Wayne LaPierre, amid reports of lavish spending that included $275,000 on spendy suits and a $39,000 single-day spree at a tony Beverly Hills boutique.

Dell’Aquila’s launched a website — “Help Save the NRA” — to recruit other gun-rights advocates to join the demand that LaPierre and the board of directors get the boot.

“We are a well-organized team that has substantial money, resources and support. Although a few high-dollar donors desire to be anonymous, they and our rank-and-file NRA members are the life sustaining blood of the NRA and demand new leadership, accountability and transparency,” Dell’Aquila wrote in a letter to the board, posted on the website.

Dell’Aquila — who’s donated at least $100,000 to the group and had pledged millions more, according to the WSJ — crafted a report card scoring members who serve on the board of the NRA, notorious for the “grades” the group hands out to state and federal legislators.

He gave “A” grades to members who “advocated the replacement of Mr.LaPierre, and/or publicized one’s removal from committee(s) due to questioning leadership, spending, policies, etc,” Dell’Aquila wrote.

And he bestowed “F” grades to members who support “LaPierre and his leadership team with insufficient oversight.”

Hammer was among more than two dozen members who received a failing grade.

The rationale Dell’Aquila gave for Hammer’s “F?”  She “wrote letter in support of WLP.”

Last month, Hammer penned a missive following a contentious NRA meeting. In the July 14 email, the NRA past president advised members of the group that “we must now move on.”

Hammer not only took the failing grade in stride, she flipped it into a compliment.

“When it comes to grading NRA Board members, it is my view that “F” stands for Freedom Fighter because  every NRA Board Member that Mr. Dell’Aquila graded with an “F” has been fighting to protect his Second Amendment rights and his Freedom for many years.  The fact that he is unappreciative, or perhaps ignorant of the continued personal sacrifices of those he arbitrarily and cavalierly maligns, speaks volumes,” she wrote in an email to The News Service of Florida, when asked about the report card.

Among the demands of Dell’Aquila and his junta: the removal of all past NRA president from the board of directors. That would include Hammer, of course.

Dell’Aquila is also demanding that the board cancel its upcoming “cruise/fishing adventure” in Alaska, questioning the $100,000 price tag for the Alaska board meeting.

“If you can justify such an expense given the current financial crisis of the NRA, you have the ears of over a 100 million voters who want to understand your rationale for this, and literally a dozen other financial irregularities,” Dell’Aquila wrote.

And, because Florida, the leader of the mutiny has someone in mind to take LaPierre’s place: political firebrand Allen West, a former Sunshine State congressman who serves on the NRA board of directors.

“There is a cabal of cronyism operating within the NRA and that exists within the Board of Directors. It must cease, and I do not care if I draw their angst. My duty and responsibility is to the Members of the National Rifle Association, and my oath, since July 31, 1982, has been to the Constitution of the United States, not to any political party, person, or cabal,” West wrote in a statement posted on his website in May.

 

Gruters — author of FL ban on “sanctuary” cities — takes immigration on the road

After successfully pushing the controversial bill that bans so-called “sanctuary cities,” the head of Florida’s Republican Party is planning a statewide “listening” tour on immigration.

Sen. Joe Gruters, who doubles as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, announced Monday that plans are in the works to hear from Floridians on immigration, a strategic issue in for the GOP heading into the 2020 presidential election.

“I don’t believe we should ever compromise when it comes to enacting common sense policies that promote public safety and uphold the laws of the land,” Gruters said, in a press release touting the Sarasota Republican’s visit to the U.S.- Mexico border .

Democrats, beware: “I want to hear straight from Floridians and listen to their ideas on what additional reforms they’d like to see the legislature address next session,” Gruters added.

On June 14, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the “sanctuary cities” bill (SB 168), sponsored by Gruters and state Rep. Coyd Byrd, who will take part in the “listening tour.”

The new law is designed to force local law-enforcement agencies to fully comply with federal immigration detainers and share information with federal immigration authorities after undocumented immigrants are in custody.

Under the law, local governments would be required to “use their best efforts to support the enforcement of federal immigration law.”

Opponents have argued, in part, that the bill will lead to increased detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants, including people stopped by police for minor offenses.

The release from Gruters, a Sarasota Republican, says the “immigration tour” dates and locations are coming soon.

— By Jim Turner.

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.