Saturday, February 17, 2018
News Roundup

As ACLU touts court victories against Gov. Rick Scott, state GOP attacks group

TALLAHASSEE — As the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida touted its courtroom victories against Gov. Rick Scott's administration Thursday, the Republican Party of Florida made a scathing rebuttal.

The party accused the civil rights group of ignoring the will of voters, inflating its successes and filing frivolous lawsuits that cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.

"The ACLU has largely failed Florida taxpayers, who voted for and support many of the initiatives that the ACLU opposes," wrote Republican Party of Florida spokesman Brian Burgess in response to a report released by the group Thursday.

The public skirmish is only the latest between the state GOP and the civil rights group since a Republican supermajority swept into the Legislature and Scott took office in 2011.

The report, which comes just before lawmakers meet for the first time this year ahead of the 2013 session, spells out the status of nine lawsuits the ACLU has been involved with against the state and outlines the group's legislative priorities.

Among other requests, the ACLU called on Scott and the Legislature to reverse the controversial voting law that led to long lines during the 2012 election and to restore voting rights for nonviolent felons.

In 2012, the Cabinet voted to require all felons to wait five to seven years after completing their sentences to apply to have their right to vote restored.

"We issued the report because I thought the past two years were rather extraordinary ..." said Howard Simon, president of ACLU of Florida. "Whether it's voting rights, privacy rights, freedom of speech, or redistricting, the ACLU has played a role in protecting the people from their own government." With only a few dozen employees, the ACLU of Florida is a perpetual thorn in the side of the Scott administration. The group has little clout in the Republican-dominated legislative and executive branches, but flexes its muscle in the courts, where its lawsuits have overturned many of Scott's highest priority laws.

For example, the group played a role in challenging the Firearms Owners' Privacy Act, which bans doctors from asking patients if they own guns. Miami Federal Judge Marcia Cooke struck down the law, and the state has appealed.

A federal district court in Orlando also struck down a Scott-backed law that required welfare recipients to take drug tests, even as dozens of other states rushed to pass similar proposals. Florida appealed the ruling to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, which has not ruled.

The Republican Party of Florida criticized the report as making light of the legal battles in which Scott came out a winner. Furthermore, the report states, ACLU ignores the will of voters — opposing laws that are "wildly popular with Florida citizens."

Despite an ACLU lawsuit, the U.S. Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security approved Scott's method of purging Florida voter rolls of noncitizens. And so did the majority of voters, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.

Drug testing for welfare recipients has also polled well, wrote Burgess. "(The report) once again exposed the organization's willingness to oppose common sense, stretch the truth and play partisan politics rather than act as a true 'defender of liberty' as it claims," Burgess said.

Contact Brittany Alana Davis at [email protected] or (850) 323-0353.

Comments
Trump adviser: Russian meddling ‘incontrovertible’

Trump adviser: Russian meddling ‘incontrovertible’

MUNICH — President Donald Trump’s national security adviser said Saturday there was "incontrovertible" evidence of a Russian plot to disrupt the 2016 U.S. election, a blunt statement that shows how significantly the new criminal charges leveled by an...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Prominent Republican donor issues an ultimatum

Prominent Republican donor issues an ultimatum

A prominent Republican political donor demanded on Saturday that the party pass legislation to restrict access to guns, and vowed not to contribute to any candidates or electioneering groups that did not support a ban on the sale of military-style fi...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Hundreds rally against gun violence in downtown St. Pete

Hundreds rally against gun violence in downtown St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG — A red heart-shaped balloon rose above crowd of several hundred people that had gathered at Williams Park on Saturday evening to mourn Wednesday’s school shooting in Broward County and to protest gun violence.Below the balloon, signs ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Trumpeter is the highlight of a concert featuring ‘West Side Story’ themes

Trumpeter is the highlight of a concert featuring ‘West Side Story’ themes

TAMPA — Leonard Bernstein would have turned 100 this year. The Florida Orchestra performed two of his works Friday, the second of which paired the dances from West Side Story with the overture to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet.The orches...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Stormy at the strip club: A porn star cashes in on presidential connection

Stormy at the strip club: A porn star cashes in on presidential connection

TAMPA — In the center of the nightclub, between the cigar case and bustling bar, a giant screen blankets the back wall. Usually, ads for drink specials and coming attractions scroll across.But Friday night, a life-size picture of President Donald Tru...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Man found dead in flaming mobile home

TAMPA — Firefighters found a man dead inside a burned-down mobile home Saturday.Tampa Fire Rescue got a call just after 4:30 p.m. that a single-wide mobile home at the 100 block of East Linebaugh Avenue was in flames.The man’s identity was not releas...
Updated: 4 hours ago
‘I’m going to watch you bleed’: Nikolas Cruz threatened ex’s new boyfriend, report says

‘I’m going to watch you bleed’: Nikolas Cruz threatened ex’s new boyfriend, report says

Warning: This story quotes graphic material.Before he killed 17 people at a South Florida high school, Nikolas Cruz repeatedly threatened an ex-classmate who had started dating his former girlfriend, according to a report in Buzzfeed News."I’m going ...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Police find dead man in Tampa apartment

TAMPA — Police found a dead man inside an apartment in the 5200 block of Sonora Court Friday after 3 p.m.Who the man is or how long he’s been dead is not yet clear, police said. The victim appears to have been killed in some sort of "homicidal violen...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Police up patrols at two Pinellas Park schools after Snapchat threat

PINELLAS PARK — Police said they will have a heightened presence at two Pinellas Park schools after a school shooting threat was shared on social media.A post Friday on social media app Snapchat threatened a possible school shooting Tuesday, accordin...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Prosecutor: Death penalty was ‘designed’ for cases like Florida school shooting

Prosecutor: Death penalty was ‘designed’ for cases like Florida school shooting

The 17 counts of premeditated murder against Nikolas Cruz are the type of case "the death penalty was designed for," according to the Florida prosecutor in charge of trying the confessed school shooter.But Michael Satz, the longtime Broward state att...
Updated: 6 hours ago