Saturday, April 21, 2018
Politics

Weatherford calls for hearings on 'stand your ground'

TALLAHASSEE — Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford announced Friday that he will order hearings this fall on the state's "stand your ground" law, a victory for the young protesters known as the Dream Defenders who have spent the past two weeks protesting at the Capitol.

"It's a critical first step," said Phillip Agnew, executive director of the Dream Defenders. "We've been here for three weeks. We know democracy takes time. Progress takes time."

They shouldn't celebrate too hard. Weatherford assigned the task of chairing the hearings to a staunch supporter of the law, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach.

"I don't support changing one damn comma of the 'stand your ground' law," Gaetz said Friday. "It would be reactionary and dangerous to make Floridians less safe to pacify uninformed protesters."

Gaetz, the 31-year-old son of Senate President Don Gaetz, talks tough on crime. He passed a bill this year that expedited death row cases and has been known for pushing conservative causes popular in his Panhandle district. He expects the hearings to draw national attention, and he says he's ready for the debate.

"I want to have hearings; it's a good idea," Gaetz said. "Right now, the only voices on 'stand your ground' are coming from the radical left. I want an opportunity to give a full-throated defense of the law."

He said he's not sure when he'll hold the hearings, how long they'll last or how they'll be structured.

But he said his bias shouldn't deter those holding out hope that hearings can lead to changes in the law.

"Bills I don't support occasionally pass my committee," he said.

Weatherford agreed to the hearings in an op-ed published Friday. "Our evaluation of its effectiveness should be guided by objective information, not by political expediency," he wrote. "Does the law keep the innocent safer? Is it being applied fairly? Are there ways we can make this law clearer and more understandable?"

The announcement falls short of what the Dream Defenders want — a special session of the Legislature. But it's the biggest commitment to date by Republican leaders to review the controversial law. Some have blamed "stand your ground" for the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Gov. Rick Scott has refused to ask for a special session, as have Weatherford and Senate President Gaetz. Meanwhile, Democrats are writing letters trying to trigger a poll of the Legislature on whether to hold the special session. It's considered a long shot — 96 lawmakers need to request the session.

Agnew said he wanted to know more about the hearings, but he said he was cautiously optimistic. Already, his group has been recording testimony from experts and those affected by "stand your ground" laws during meetings in Scott's office. That testimony will be presented during the hearings, Agnew said. Except for a 30-minute meeting held last month, Scott hasn't met with the group.

"The hearings will be an opportunity for people to discuss the laws," Agnew said. "We will hope for the best and prepare for the worst."

 
Comments
Trump says he doesn’t think personal lawyer will ‘flip’

Trump says he doesn’t think personal lawyer will ‘flip’

WEST PALM BEACH — President Donald Trump said Saturday that he doesn’t expect Michael Cohen, his longtime personal lawyer and fixer, to "flip" as the government investigates Cohen’s business dealings. Trump, in a series of tweets fired from Florida o...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Vive la France: Trump hosts glitzy White House state dinner

WASHINGTON — Now it’s President Donald Trump’s turn to pull off the ultimate charm offensive. Wined and dined on multiple state visits during his tour of Asia last year, Trump is paying it forward and celebrating nearly 250 years of U.S.-French relat...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Romano: Okay, now who sounds like a hysterical teen talking about guns?

Romano: Okay, now who sounds like a hysterical teen talking about guns?

The writer of the letter sounds hysterical. Perhaps a little desperate. And maybe that’s just who Marion Hammer is these days.Most of the world knows her as the take-no-prisoners maven of the National Rifle Association who directs Florida politicians...
Published: 04/21/18
Ex-FBI deputy director ‘disappointed’ in Comey comments

Ex-FBI deputy director ‘disappointed’ in Comey comments

WASHINGTON — Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director, is "very upset and disappointed" by comments made by his former boss James Comey that contradict his account of a disclosure to the news media, McCabe’s lawyer said Friday. "Andy has at all ...
Published: 04/20/18
Carlton: Mayor’s race: plot twists, meteoric rises, candidate implosions. It’s what we do in Tampa.

Carlton: Mayor’s race: plot twists, meteoric rises, candidate implosions. It’s what we do in Tampa.

The one thing you can say for sure about electing a mayor in Tampa is you can’t really say anything for sure.Historical proof: A couple of elections ago, Harvard-educated hometown-boy-gone-to-Washington Frank Sanchez was going to be our next mayor, h...
Published: 04/20/18
Carlton: Kids, want to make them listen? Vote

Carlton: Kids, want to make them listen? Vote

Today across America, high school students are expected to walk out of class in their latest show of solidarity against gun violence and elected officials unwilling to do much about it. It marks a grim anniversary — 19 years since Columbine bra...
Published: 04/20/18
Castor ends speculation: She’s running to be Tampa’s next mayor

Castor ends speculation: She’s running to be Tampa’s next mayor

TAMPA — For months, Tampa political aficionados have speculated: Will she or won’t she?Does Jane Castor, the city’s first woman police chief and presumed heavyweight mayoral candidate, really want the job? Asked and answered. Castor filed paperwork T...
Published: 04/19/18
Everybody loses in a trade war, Canadian chamber CEO warns Tampa officials

Everybody loses in a trade war, Canadian chamber CEO warns Tampa officials

TAMPA — President Donald Trump has tweeted "trade wars are good, and easy to win."Don’t believe it, the president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce told Tampa business and political leaders on Wednesday."We share more with you than with anybody els...
Published: 04/19/18
Hernando clerk of the court announces resignation to run for judicial seat

Hernando clerk of the court announces resignation to run for judicial seat

BROOKSVILLE — Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller Don Barbee this week submitted his resignation — effective Jan. 7 — to run for an open circuit judge seat.Barbee, who is in the middle of his second term, said he made the move "with a tremendo...
Published: 04/17/18
Poll: Democrats’ advantage in midterm election support is shrinking

Poll: Democrats’ advantage in midterm election support is shrinking

Democrats hold an advantage ahead of the midterm elections, but a Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that edge has narrowed since January, a signal to party leaders and strategists that they could be premature in anticipating a huge wave of victorie...
Published: 04/16/18