Death, Sunshine and Sen. Ronda Storms v. Rep. Jim Waldman
The first week of session hasn’t yet ended, and the first inter-chamber/party squabble has already broken out.
It all started Thursday evening at the normally staid Florida Commission on Capital Cases, a 6-member panel that reviews death penalty issues. It’s chaired by Rep. Jim Waldman, a liberal Coconut Creek Democrat whose politics couldn’t be farther from those of Sen. Ronda Storms, a conservative Valrico Republican who also sits on the panel.
By the end of the meeting, Waldman had tried to gavel her quiet and Storms stormed out of the meeting, accusing the chairman of breaking the spirit, if not the letter, of Florida’s open-meetings laws. Storms has requested a legal opinion from the Senate’s general counsel about whether Waldman broke the law.
Waldman said he didn’t and accused Storms of blowing everything out of proportion.
In dispute: Waldman’s 3-item agenda that listed, as its third item, “Discussion of any pending/filed legislation affecting the death penalty.” Attached to it was HB 7027, a bill relating to court rules of process and procedure.
But Waldman then brought up House Speaker Dean Cannon’s plan to create two Supreme Courts – a major piece of legislation that Storms said she wasn’t prepared to discuss.
“I was not provided any backup to the agenda in order to prepare for the meeting’s discussion, nor were members of the public,” she wrote in her letter. “Due to this dilemma, I raised a point of order, inquiring as to the satisfaction of Florida’s broad public record’s laws and the legality of the discussion pursuant to Florida’s public notice Sunshine requirements.”
Waldman said her point of order was not well taken. He said that Cannon’s plan, which is being carried by Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, is a death-penalty related issue. And he said he thought it had been included in the packet.
The conversation grew heated and Storms left. The commission then declined to discuss the legislation at issue anyway because Eisnaugle was spooked and the commission ran out of time.
Waldman said he had grown weary of Storms as well, calling her a “bully…. She wants to monopolize everything.” He said that, in hindsight, he would have ensured the Supreme Court legislation was included in the packet.
Storms said Waldman wasn’t just running afoul of the open-meetings laws. He was discourteous.
“At the very least,” she wrote, “members of the Commission are owed the professional courtesy to receive advance notice and appropriate back up in order to conduct due diligence in preparation of the meeting.”