Saturday, December 16, 2017
News Roundup

'Stand your ground' revisions win early approval in Florida Senate

TALLAHASSEE — A Senate panel took the first step toward amending the "stand your ground" self-defense law Tuesday, approving a bill that would revamp neighborhood watch programs.

The proposal, sponsored by Sens. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, and Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, won bipartisan support on the Senate Judiciary Committee. It also received nods from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Sheriffs Association, the state public defenders association and the NAACP.

"We definitely support a bipartisan fix" to "stand your ground," NAACP general counsel Kim Keenan said.

Despite the early success in the Senate, it was too soon to tell if a similar proposal would win support in the lower chamber.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, the House point person on "stand your ground," has said he opposes any changes to change the law. And the revisions offered by Simmons and Smith were unlikely to change his mind, he said Tuesday.

"I don't think there's much in that bill," the Fort Walton Beach Republican said.

The 2005 "stand your ground" law removed a citizen's "duty to retreat" in most public confrontations. It sparked intense public debate in 2012, when Sanford neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager from Miami Gardens. Zimmerman was acquitted earlier this year.

The bill considered Tuesday — a combination of two separate proposals by Simmons and Smith — would require guidelines and training protocol for neighborhood watch programs.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Tom Lee, R-Brandon, said there was no debate "about whether or not there needs to be some standards."

There was, however, debate over who should establish the guidelines.

A proposed amendment suggested the Florida Department of Law Enforcement develop a standard training curriculum that would address, among other things, the unlawful use of force.

But FDLE attorney Michael Ramage said that approach did not make sense.

"Our concerns were, because of the variety of these programs from county to county, that it would be very difficult for FDLE to develop a standardized curriculum," Ramage said.

Instead, Ramage suggested the FDLE develop a set of "minimum expectations" and allow local sheriffs offices and police departments to carry out the guidelines locally.

Simmons and Smith said they would craft new language taking the suggestion into consideration.

There was also debate over language that would allow bystanders to sue if they were injured by a person standing his or her ground.

Explained Smith: "We're making it clear that if a third party is injured by your negligence, you are not immune from any suit."

But some senators, including Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, raised concerns that the language would open the door to more civil litigation. The gun-rights group Florida Carry also opposed the change.

The bill passed out of the committee by a 7-2 vote, with Thrasher and Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, voting in opposition.

Some critics, including the young activists known as the Dream Defenders, said the bill did not go far enough to change the existing statute.

"We urge you to repeal 'stand your ground,' " Dream Defender Elijah Armstrong told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer said she was "lukewarm" on the proposal.

"We don't think it does a lot of good, but we don't think it does a lot of harm," she said.

Hammer, who helped shepherd the original "stand your ground" law through the political process, said she would likely attempt some fixes of her own.

"If this thing is going to move forward, I'm going to be working to put some good stuff in to protect the intent of the 2005 Legislature," she said, noting that the law denies immunity to people engaged in "unlawful activity" without defining the term.

After the vote, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee praised Simmons and Smith for working across party lines. Lee acknowledged the first "man crush" of the 2014 legislative session, drawing laughter from the audience.

Simmons and Smith said there was still work to be done on the bill, particularly with defining the term "aggressor." The law denies immunity to anyone who "initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself," but does not give a more specific definition.

Still, Smith said he hoped the vote would send "a strong signal" to the House, which has been sharply divided on the issue.

"This sends a message to the House that this is something we need to discuss and vote on in a bipartisan fashion," Smith said.

Contact Kathleen McGrory at [email protected]

Comments
CDC gets list of forbidden words: ‘fetus,’ ‘transgender,’ ‘evidence-based’

CDC gets list of forbidden words: ‘fetus,’ ‘transgender,’ ‘evidence-based’

Trump administration officials are forbidding officials at the nation’s top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases - including "fetus" and "transgender" - in any official documents being prepared for next year’s budget.Polic...
Updated: 17 minutes ago
Rays’ trade silence likely a short-lived phenomenon

Rays’ trade silence likely a short-lived phenomenon

LAKE BUENA VISTA — There were a lot of reasons the Rays didn’t start the process of trading some of their bigger-name, higher-paid players at last week’s winter meetings.Most obvious was them not finding the just-right deal to move closer Alex Colome...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Jones: Tony Dungy didn’t leave the Bucs on the clearance rack

Jones: Tony Dungy didn’t leave the Bucs on the clearance rack

It is and always will be the greatest debate in Tampa Bay sports history.Jon Gruden or Tony Dungy?You don’t even need to say anything more than that. Bucs fans already know what you’re talking about.Gruden or Dungy?Who was most responsible for the on...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Jon Gruden or Tony Dungy? Why the debate rages on

Jon Gruden or Tony Dungy? Why the debate rages on

TAMPA — Bucs coach Jon Gruden did not win the Super Bowl with Tony Dungy’s team. Don’t believe me? Ask Dungy. "It wasn’t. They did a great job. They took it and tweaked it," Dungy said. "The same way I got a great (Colts) tea...
Updated: 1 hour ago
She was about to celebrate her 94th birthday — and ended up in the back of a police car

She was about to celebrate her 94th birthday — and ended up in the back of a police car

Two days before her 94th birthday, Juanita Fitzgerald was arrested and hauled off to jail.The Eustis woman’s crime?She was being evicted and had fallen behind on her rent, WFTV 9 News reported. Instead of vacating her home at the National Church Resi...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Female congressional candidate leaves race after sexual harassment allegations resurface

Female congressional candidate leaves race after sexual harassment allegations resurface

A Democratic candidate hoping to flip a hotly contested congressional seat in Kansas has dropped out of the race after allegations that she sexually harassed a male subordinate resurfaced amid her campaign.Andrea Ramsey, 57, who was running to unseat...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Forecast: Weekend brings sunny skies and warmer temperatures

Forecast: Weekend brings sunny skies and warmer temperatures

After a cold front across Tampa Bay, temperatures are on the rise this weekend, said WTSP 10Weather meteorologist Ric Kearbey.href="http://www.tampabay.com/specials/2015/graphics/macros/css/base.css"> 10News WTSPThe latest Tampa Bay-ar...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Firefighters injured after early-morning blaze at Tampa strip mall

Firefighters injured after early-morning blaze at Tampa strip mall

TAMPA — Three firefighters were injured early Saturday morning battling a fire at a W Waters Avenue strip mall, according to Tampa Fire Rescue.Firefighters said the two-alarm blaze appeared to come from a nail salon at the plaza on 2202 W Waters Ave....
Updated: 2 hours ago
Q&A with Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx about the Lightning’s next generation

Q&A with Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx about the Lightning’s next generation

DENVER — There might be one team in hockey hotter than the Lightning.It is Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate, Syracuse.The Crunch had won nine straight heading into Friday’s game against Providence. Why is this important? While the AHL is a developmental lea...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Staff writers pick sides (kind of) in the Dungy-Gruden debate

Staff writers pick sides (kind of) in the Dungy-Gruden debate

Even with — perhaps especially with —Jon Gruden set to be inducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor Monday night, Tampa Bay’s Great Sports Debate hasn’t abated. Who deserves more credit for the biggest moment in Tampa Bay sports history — the Bucs’ Super ...
Published: 12/16/17