Florida Senate

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.

 

Book pushes for state probe of Epstein work-release deal

Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat, is trying to rally support behind her call for Gov. Ron DeSantis order a state investigation into how the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office handled sex offender Jeffrey Epstein while he was in its custody more than a decade ago.

Book, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who says she’s gotten calls to “back off” her investigation request, wants people to “stand” with her in demanding an “independent investigation.”

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Book’s making the ask through the website of Lauren’s Kids, the non-profit organization she founded aimed at preventing child sexual abuse.

Book is using social media to drum up support for her effort.

DeSantis said last week he was considering whether state law-enforcement officials had an oversight role.

Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw has started an internal affairs and criminal investigations into the Epstein matter.

Epstein is facing sex-trafficking charges involving minors in Florida and New York. A federal judge in New York has denied a request for bail.

Epstein previously served 13 months of an 18-month sentence after he pleaded guilty in 2008 to two state prostitution charges in Florida, including procuring a minor for sex.

The plea required him to register as a sex offender. While in custody, Epstein was housed in a private wing of the Palm Beach County stockade, according to the Miami Herald, which has done extensive reporting on Epstein.

After more than three months in custody, Epstein was provided work release for up to 12 hours a day, six days a week, the Herald reported.

“I know they are investigating it down in Palm Beach, but clearly when you look at how that happened, even if, like, 10 percent of the things about him are true, then that whole (plea) agreement was suspect and woefully below what he should have faced,” DeSantis said Thursday. “I’ll look at it and see, can the state can exercise some good oversight there.”

By Jim Turner and Dara Kam.

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.

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.