Sunday, December 17, 2017
News Roundup

A majority of Hillsborough commissioners open to banning discrimination against gay people

TAMPA — In years past, a proposed county law barring discrimination against gay or transgender people would have been dead on arrival at the Hillsborough County Commission boardroom.

Not in 2014.

A majority of the commissioners — four of the seven — have expressed to the Tampa Bay Times their qualified support for expanding Hillsborough's human rights ordinance to also ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in hiring, housing and public accommodations.

There are still a number of steps along the way to passage, starting with a discussion at Wednesday's meeting, and a vote on whether the county attorney should write a draft ordinance. But the mere fact that four of the seven commissioners agree discrimination against gay and transgender people should be illegal indicates a shift for a board that not long ago had a reputation for staunch social conservatism.

Commissioner Kevin Beckner, a Democrat and the county's first openly gay commissioner, is pushing an ordinance that would mirror those passed in 17 Florida cities, including Tampa, and eight counties, including Pinellas.

"The timing is right, the environment is right, and we've certainly progressed as a County Commission," Beckner said. "I feel very optimistic that a majority of my colleagues know what the right thing to do is."

Beckner also pushed for last year's repeal of Hillsborough's ban on recognition of gay pride, a unique stance taken by commissioners in 2005 that Nadine Smith, the president of Equality Florida, called "a stain on Hillsborough County's reputation."

Commissioner Les Miller, the only other Democrat, and Republicans Victor Crist and Sandy Murman told the Times they support barring discrimination against gay and transgender people, but would need to see the actual ordinance in writing first.

"I'm against discrimination to anyone, for any reason," Crist said. "Whether you agree or disagree with their lifestyle, choices, or whatever, the bottom line is they are part of our community and they do not deserve to be discriminated against."

Commissioners Al Higginbotham and Mark Sharpe, both Republicans, wouldn't weigh in before Wednesday.

"I'm going to go into it with an open mind, and I look forward to what Kevin has to say," Higginbotham said.

Sharpe is one of two commissioners who voted for the gay pride ban back in 2005, a decision he later said he regretted.

"I really want to hear what the attorneys and Kevin have to say," Sharpe said. "I'll be listening to all sides."

The only commissioner to not comment was Republican Ken Hagan who, like Sharpe, was on the board for the 2005 gay pride ban. He was out of the room then when the measure passed but returned and supported imposing an extraordinary supermajority vote by future board members to overturn the ban. The ban was overturned by a unanimous vote last year.

Hagan did not return multiple calls for comment since Thursday, when the agenda was released.

Smith, the Equality Florida CEO, said Monday that she expects the Hillsborough ordinance to pass.

One local conservative activist has started mounting an effort to defeat the ordinance. Terry Kemple, a Hillsborough School Board candidate, called the offices of several commissioners Monday to express his concerns.

"It's bad policy, and this is a huge issue," Kemple said in a phone interview. "This puts government in the position of trampling on people's religious liberties in favor of people's sexual preferences."

Beckner, aware there may be opposition, stopped short of predicting the ordinance's success.

"I'm optimistic that we'll move forward on Wednesday," Beckner said. "But I always realize in a boardroom, anything can happen.

Contact Will Hobson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3400.

Power outage halts flights at Atlanta international airport

Power outage halts flights at Atlanta international airport

ATLANTA — A sudden power outage at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Sunday grounded scores of flights and stranded thousands of passengers during one of the busiest travel times of the year.Passengers were left in the dark when...
Updated: 10 minutes ago

Wesley Chapel woman, 28, dies after crashing motorcycle

LUTZ — A 28-year-old motorcyclist died Sunday after she crashed near Lutz Lake Fern Road and Apian Way, Hillsborough deputies reported.Erica Kristen Rodriguez of Wesley Chapel was riding a Kawasaki motorcycle with a small group of motorcyclists eastb...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Why Jon Gruden was the best mistake the Bucs ever made

Why Jon Gruden was the best mistake the Bucs ever made

Warren Sapp pointed to the sky. And then he dropped Kurt Warner to the ground.The Bucs had just intercepted Warner for the fourth time. Sapp’s block cleared the way for Derrick Brooks to cross the goal line and clinch the win.Before Tampa Bay p...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Florida mayor resigns after arrest for using dead peoples’ disabled parking permits

Florida mayor resigns after arrest for using dead peoples’ disabled parking permits

DAVENPORT, Fla. (AP) — The mayor of a small Florida town arrested for using dead peoples’ disabled parking permits to park at city hall has resigned.The Bradenton Herald reports that Teresa Bradley resigned and was given six-months of probation as pa...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Woman, 24, hit by Land Rover, in critical condition

LARGO — A 24-year-old woman is in critical condition after she was struck by a vehicle Saturday night, police said.Khadijah Wood was walking through the parking lot of the Sandy Lane Apartment Homes on Belcher Road about 7:30 p.m.At the same time, Ju...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Warm, sunny Sunday in Tampa Bay

ST. PETERSBURG — It’s another bright, sunny day in Tampa Bay. 10News WTSPThe latest Tampa Bay-area radar 10News WTSPFeels-like temperatures around the Tampa Bay areaHigh temperatures should reach about 80 d...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Murder suspect is on the run after fatally shooting a father, cops say

Murder suspect is on the run after fatally shooting a father, cops say

A first-degree murder suspect remains at large almost a week after the fatal shooting of a Winter Haven father.The Polk County Sheriff’s Office says Johnny Ray Owsley’s murder of 35-year-old Adam Thrower, called "Cook" by friends, involved Owsley’s e...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Lightning wins at Avalanche with four-goal second period

Lightning wins at Avalanche with four-goal second period

DENVER — The Lightning left for Las Vegas Saturday for the first of four nights in Sin City.But Tampa Bay’s first regret came before it boarded the charter flight; the Lighting lamented making Saturday’s 6-5 win over the Avalanche much more thrilling...
Published: 12/16/17
Updated: 12/17/17

Bucs’ Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David out for Monday’s game vs. Falcons

TAMPA — As if containing All-Pro Julio Jones and the Falcons offense isn’t challenging enough, the Bucs will try to do so Monday night without perhaps their top defensive players, tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David.On Saturday, Bucs coa...
Published: 12/16/17
Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

WASHINGTON — Closing in on the first major legislative achievement of his term, President Donald Trump on Saturday defended the Republican tax cut as a good deal for the middle class while boldly suggesting it could lead to explosive economic growth....
Published: 12/16/17