One in five Dems bail on party, vote against SYG special session
It’s been one of the most contentious issues state lawmakers have had to face, and three of them chose to skip it.
Three state lawmakers -- all Democrats -- skipped voting on whether to hold a special session on Stand Your Ground. Those not bothering to let their constituents know where they stood on the issue were: Rep. Ricardo Rangel of Kissimmee; Sen. Joe Abruzzo of Wellington and Sen. Darren Soto of Orlando. They didn’t cast a ballot by 11:59 p.m. on Monday, thereby forgoing a vote on holding a special session.
A legislative aide for Rangel, who refused to give his name, said it was a moot issue because the question of holding a special session had been decided last week, before Monday's deadline. The aide said Rangel was still making up his mind when the session was voted down. So, where does Rangel stand on the issue of a special issue?
"As far as I know, he wasn't forced to make up his mind," the aide said.
Abruzzo also said he didn't think it was necessary to vote.
"The votes were already tallied, the determination was already made," he said. Abruzzo did say that he wasn't opposed to a special session on stand your ground, but thought there were other, more urgent, priorities.
"I wouldn’t be in favor of holding a special session on stand your ground ahead of one on health care," Abruzzo said.
As for the law itself, Abruzzo said he favors making changes to it, but not repealing it. He said there should be something in the law that prohibits vigilantes and provides police with a greater ability to detain those who use stand your ground as a defense in homicide cases.
Soto could not be reached.
According to the Florida Secretary of State's office, which conducted the poll of lawmakers, Rep. Daphne Campbell, D-Miami, also did not vote. That's a bit odd, considering that Campbell was one of 33 Democratic lawmakers who sent in letters by Aug. 12 to request a poll of the Legislature. She said she supports a session. Campbell said she doesn't know why her vote wasn't recorded. She said her office replied twice to requests for her vote.
"I don't know what mistake was made, but it was their mistake, not ours," Campbell said Tuesday.
A non-vote is the same as a “no” vote, so those four lawmakers, by not voting or having their votes recorded, joined seven other Democrats who voted against the special session. Those Democrats who did bother to let their constituents know that they were breaking with their party were: Rep. Mark Danish of Tampa; Rep. Katie Edwards of Plantation; Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda of Tallahassee, Rep. Linda Stewart of Orlando; Rep. Carl Zimmermann of Palm Harbor; Rep. Mike Clelland of Lake Mary, and Rep. Dwight Dudley of St. Petersburg.
All of the "no" votes came from Democrats in the House. Each one except Rehwinkel Vasilinda, who was elected in 2008, is a rookie lawmakers from a competitive district. Danish already faces a challenge from Shawn Harrison, whom he beat in 2012.
That looming race had nothing to do with his vote, Danish said.
"There needs to be a comprehensive review of Stand Your Ground," Danish said. "But a session would be narrowly focused at the expense of taxpayers and a broader review of the justice system."
The regular legislative process was the best way to conduct a review, he said.
That meant that of the 58 Democrats in the Legislature, only 47 voted for a special session to repeal or change a 2005 law that has sparked some protests in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting. So nearly 20 percent of Democrats was peeled away from the party position to hold the session.
By contrast, all 101 Republicans in the Legislature (minus Mike Fasano, who left his Pasco House seat to serve as tax collector) voted. All voted against the special session.
Final score, as announced Tuesday afternoon by the Florida Secretary of Office, which conducted the poll of lawmakers: 108 against a special session to 47 for a special session. Democrats needed 96 votes for it.
Here’s the final tally:
Florida House of Representatives YES Votes (35):
Lee Jr. (L)
Florida Senate YES Votes (12):
Florida House of Representatives NO Votes (82):
Florida Senate NO Votes (26): Altman
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