Saturday, November 18, 2017
Politics

Weatherford calls for hearings on 'stand your ground'

RECOMMENDED READING


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
Senate ethics, relatively silent, could face busy year

Senate ethics, relatively silent, could face busy year

WASHINGTON — It’s been nearly six years since the Senate Ethics Committee conducted a major investigation of a sitting senator. Next year, the panel could be working nonstop, deciding the fate of up to three lawmakers, including two facing allegation...
Updated: 4 hours ago
In struggling upstate New York cities, refugees vital to rebirth

In struggling upstate New York cities, refugees vital to rebirth

UTICA, N.Y.Pat Marino pulled into the shop on a cold, wet Thursday and stood close as a young mechanic with gelled-up hair and earrings lifted the truck and ducked underneath."You need a little bit more oil," the mechanic said."Five quarts wasn’t eno...
Updated: 7 hours ago
As sex scandals topple the powerful: Why not Trump?

As sex scandals topple the powerful: Why not Trump?

WASHINGTON — "You can do anything," Donald Trump once boasted, speaking of groping and kissing unsuspecting women. Maybe he could, but not everyone can. The man who openly bragged about grabbing women’s private parts — but denied he really did so — w...
Published: 11/17/17
Allegations against Alabama’s Roy Moore dividing GOP women

Allegations against Alabama’s Roy Moore dividing GOP women

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Standing on the white marble steps of Alabama’s Capitol, Kayla Moore surrounded herself with two dozen other women Friday to defend husband Roy Moore against accusations of sexual misconduct that are dividing Republicans, and women...
Published: 11/17/17
Franken apologizes to woman who says he kissed, groped her

Franken apologizes to woman who says he kissed, groped her

WASHINGTON — Minnesota Sen. Al Franken personally apologized to the woman who has accused him of forcibly kissing her and groping her during a 2006 USO tour, saying he remembers their encounter differently but is "ashamed that my actions ruined that ...
Published: 11/17/17
Negative mailers trace back to campaign of state House candidate who denies them

Negative mailers trace back to campaign of state House candidate who denies them

An 87-year-old widow from Melbourne, a mysterious direct mail company in tiny Buffalo, Wyo., and a tangled web of political committees all were linked to the onslaught of negative mailers that helped Lawrence McClure win the Republican primary in Pla...
Published: 11/17/17

10,000 more FBI records unsealed from JFK assassination files

DALLAS — Yet again, the National Archives released a trove of records from the Kennedy assassination files on a Friday afternoon, another strange stream of loose ends, dead ends and tangents with little apparent connection to the assassination of the...
Published: 11/17/17
William March: Why Jose Vazquez had to campaign from a prison cell

William March: Why Jose Vazquez had to campaign from a prison cell

Jose Vazquez, Democratic nominee in the Dec. 19 state House District 58 special election, doesn’t seem like a criminal. He’s 43, divorced with six children, and has worked as a security guard and in auto recycling. He was a high-level political field...
Published: 11/17/17
Selective outrage: Trump criticizes Franken, silent on Moore

Selective outrage: Trump criticizes Franken, silent on Moore

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is displaying selective outrage over allegations of sexual harassment against prominent men in politics, as his own tortured past lingers over his response. Trump moved quickly Thursday to condemn accusations again...
Published: 11/17/17
Franken draws swift condemnation in Congress after woman claims he groped her

Franken draws swift condemnation in Congress after woman claims he groped her

WASHINGTON — Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., faced swift condemnation and bipartisan calls for an ethics investigation Thursday after he was accused of forcibly kissing and groping a broadcaster and model while traveling overseas in 2006.The allegations ag...
Published: 11/16/17