Monday, February 19, 2018
News Roundup

Legislators put amendment on Florida ballot to change court appointments

TALLAHASSEE — Florida legislators took the final step Wednesday to put an amendment on the November ballot that asks voters to decide whether to give Florida's governor new powers to make prospective appointments to the state Supreme Court.

The proposed constitutional amendment, SJR 1188, was approved by a 74-45 partisan vote in the Florida House following its Senate passage. The amendment will be the third one on the ballot and must be approved by at least 60 percent of voters on Election Day to become law.

While Republicans defended the proposal, Democrats opposed it because it would give the governor the power to pick three justices who, by coincidence, will retire on the same day the next governor's term ends, which is Jan. 8, 2019. Both sides expect to use the issue in the November governor's race to rally support for either Republican Gov. Rick Scott or possible Democratic challenger Charlie Crist.

Justices are required to retire at age 70 but can continue to serve on the bench until the end of their six-year term. Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince — the court's liberal wing — will each turn 70 sometime during the next governor's term, and their six-year terms will end on the same day the candidate elected in 2018 is inaugurated in 2019.

The state Constitution is unclear about whether the incoming or outgoing governor should make the appointment when the vacancy occurs on inauguration day. The proposal is designed to put some certainty into the law by giving governors a "prospective appointment" as part of the state's merit selection system used for appellate courts.

The proposal, initiated by Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, is necessary to avoid "workload interruptions" after the justices retire, said Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yalaha. The law requires that the Judicial Nominations Commission have up to 60 days to recommend three candidates for each of the vacancies that occur when the justices retire and then gives the governor 60 days to make a choice.

"We don't want to have gaps in service,'' Metz explained.

Democrats suggested that the current system is working fine and is unlikely to result in a constitutional crisis that Republicans warned about.

"Once you know there is going to be a vacancy, by all means start that judicial nominating process but the person that makes the selection should be the governor who is the governor for that coming term,'' said Rep. Jim Waldman, R-Coconut Creek.

But Rep. Charles McBurney, R-Jacksonville, said "a lame duck is not the same thing as a dead duck" and the governor should have the power to appoint for his entire term.

Metz said the timing is important. "It's better to be doing this now when we don't know who the next governor is than to do it when we know what governor will be making the decisions," he said.

Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, said the measure "brings the common-sense practices of the private sector to the judicial system" and "will only further respect the integrity of the judicial process."

Waldman said that while he doesn't believe the amendment will win enough support to become law, Republicans "will use it to draw their members to the polls.'' But, he added, both sides can ask the question, "Who do you want to pick the justices, Rick Scott or Charlie Crist?''

Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @MaryEllenKlas

Comments
Bubba Wallace emotional after Daytona 500 runner-up finish

Bubba Wallace emotional after Daytona 500 runner-up finish

DAYTONA BEACH – No, Bubba Wallace did not win the 60th running of the Daytona 500.But you wouldn't have known that after seeing his emotions after he placed second – the highest finish ever by a black driver in the Great American Race.Wal...
Updated: 5 hours ago
After Irma evacuation gridlock, new energy for Interstate 75 options

After Irma evacuation gridlock, new energy for Interstate 75 options

OCALA — In mid-2016, a regional task force that spent almost two years exploring ways to improve safety on a crowded Interstate 75 decided to take a conservative approach: make changes to the highway rather than build or expand other roads. Then Hurr...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Austin Dillon wins Daytona 500 after Aric Almirola wrecks late

Austin Dillon wins Daytona 500 after Aric Almirola wrecks late

DAYTONA BEACH – As Austin Dillon celebrated his Daytona 500 win Sunday, he couldn't help but remember the time he was standing there, in Victory Lane, 20 years ago this week.He was 7 then, and his index finger jutted into the air triumphantly t...
Updated: 6 hours ago
‘We had this monster living under our roof and we didn’t know.’

‘We had this monster living under our roof and we didn’t know.’

Nikolas Cruz was immature, quirky and depressed when James and Kimberly Snead took him into their Parkland home. But he was pleasant and seemed to be growing happier, they said.How the 19-year-old turned into a man now arrested and charged with 17 co...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Open-mic night at Pilars is a hot spot for Disney talent

WINTER GARDEN — At the end of the day, when the tourists are gone, Disney performers head out to their favorite spot to keep on singing after their shifts are over. Every Thursday, they perform at open-mic night at Pilars, a Winter Garden martini bar...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Broward program will give small-time offenders a big break

Broward program will give small-time offenders a big break

FORT LAUDERDALE — Pot smokers aren’t the only law breakers able to get a second chance in South Florida. Underage adults buying alcohol, those stealing property worth less than $300 and people nabbed for trespassing, loitering or disorderly conduct a...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Facebook turns to postcards to snuff foreign ads

MENLO PARK, Calif. — Facebook will soon rely on centuries-old technology to try to prevent foreign meddling in U.S. elections: the post office. Baffled in 2016 by Russian agents who bought ads to try to sway the U.S. presidential campaign, Facebook’s...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Parkland students to march on Florida Capitol to demand changes to gun laws

Parkland students to march on Florida Capitol to demand changes to gun laws

TALLAHASSEEAhundred students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland will travel to Tallahassee for a march on the state Capitol on Wednesday in the first organized protest of their #NeverAgain movement.Their demand: that Florida legisl...
Updated: 7 hours ago
EPA chief Pruitt cancels visit to Israel

EPA chief Pruitt cancels visit to Israel

WASHINGTON — Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has canceled a nearly weeklong trip to Israel, agency officials confirmed Sunday.Pruitt, who had been scheduled to leave this past weekend for an extensive tour of the Mideast al...
Updated: 7 hours ago
As victims are mourned in Florida, a search for solace, and action

As victims are mourned in Florida, a search for solace, and action

PARKLAND — On the Sunday after Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School lost 17 of its own, a minister in Parkland implored his flock not to let the horrific shootings lead them away from their faith."Our world is broken, but Jesus is not," the Rev. Eddi...
Updated: 7 hours ago