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Carlton: The NRA's Christmas list and other politics

The Friday before Thanksgiving, the week that was.

A spit-out-your-Starbucks headline: That faction on the Hillsborough County School Board that disliked, to put it mildly, their autocratic but effective superintendent won the war. But apparently, no one told them, or they're just crazy-mad with all that newfound power.

Back in January, they got just enough votes to give MaryEllen Elia the boot. (Elia's consolation prize: to become no less than the New York state education commissioner.)

So, the gang got their victory lap, and then everybody pinky-swore to disdain distasteful politics and childish sniping. A new day, they said.

Until Tuesday, when the same gang of four unceremoniously dissed Elia-supporting board member Doretha Edgecomb. That night, they ignored the board's own long-standing tradition and kept her out of the chairwoman's seat.

For many years, the School Board has exercised a most civilized practice of rotating who got to be the chair, a public leadership role that includes running the meetings. Board member after board member benefitted from this. Edgecomb — who is the only black member and who voted against firing Elia — was expected to be next chairwoman because of that tradition. Family was at the meeting to wish her well.

Then swooped in the coup, with Elia's biggest critic April Griffin voted in via herself, Susan Valdes, Sally Harris and Cindy Stuart — the selfsame group that voted Elia out. Interesting coincidence, or is that faction still playing hardball?

Edgecomb, who has always been about dignity over discord, said this afterward: "Nothing changes about what's important to me in this job, nothing at all." And petty politics live on at the School Board.

Color us surprised:

For a minute there, it looked like the National Rifle Association might not be getting every single thing on its lengthy Christmas list courtesy of the ever-doting Florida Legislature.

A bill that is like steroids for Florida's already troubling "stand your ground" law did not advance in the state House this week — a shocker, given that the NRA is so rarely denied by Florida lawmakers.

More power for a law that lets people shoot with impunity? Guns on campus? Guns carried out in the open in public, regardless of the obvious potential dangers echoed by law enforcement? All on the list.

This particular bad-boy bill says that at a procedural hearing before a trial — similar to motions to dismiss in other criminal cases — prosecutors would be required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt why this wasn't self-defense. Which would tilt the scales toward every gun-carrying defendant in a "stand your ground" case and would mean prosecutors essentially must try a case twice. It would turn standard court procedures upside down.

Nice twist to the system, if you can get it.

The bill also has a nifty little caveat allowing the accused to get back attorney's fees and other costs from the state. And how handy that might be for getting prosecutors to think twice about filing charges.

A House committee effectively killed that bill. A day later, the Senate was advancing a bill of its own. And while the issue still might not see the light of day, around here, it's best to never count the NRA out.

Quotes that make you go hmmm:

"For me, it's a lose-lose proposition. If I vote against it, I'm the guy who killed the plan. If I vote for it, I'm the guy who moved the bad plan forward."

— Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist on being the swing vote in deciding whether to put a half-penny sales tax to improve roads, buses and transit on the 2016 ballot for voters to decide. For the record, Crist wasn't saying the plan was bad, but that's how anti-tax advocates see it.

"I have confidence in Victor."

— Former commissioner, transportation proponent and optimist Mark Sharpe.

Sue Carlton can be reached at carlton@tampabay.com.

Carlton: The NRA's Christmas list and other politics 11/19/15 [Last modified: Thursday, November 19, 2015 8:36pm]
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