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Democratic U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson wants federal ban on hazing

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson wants a federal ban on hazing rituals, saying the law that makes death or serious injury due to hazing a felony obviously isn’t enough.

SCOTT KEELER | Times (2009)

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson wants a federal ban on hazing rituals, saying the law that makes death or serious injury due to hazing a felony obviously isn’t enough.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson plans to introduce a federal hazing ban when she returns to Congress this month.

"I've been toying with different scenarios," she said in an interview. "I want it to be broad enough to affect a lot of people so they will stop."

Wilson is consulting with officials from the Justice Department and universities to figure out how far she can go, she said.

She wants her bill to target the people who haze, the person being hazed and those who are present for the ritual and "don't report it or intervene."

"You're just as guilty as the people that are actually striking or participating in the hazing," she said.

Her effort comes as state and county investigators piece together the events leading up to the death of Florida A&M drum major Robert Champion, whose death is considered a homicide as a result of severe beatings from a hazing ritual Nov. 19. He was 26.

Under Florida law, hazing that results in serious bodily injury or death is a felony. The law is obviously not enough, Wilson said, to discourage long-standing and covert hazing practices that occur in marching bands and Greek organizations.

Wilson said she discouraged her son Paul from pledging a fraternity when he attended FAMU in the early 1990s. She was regional director of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority at the time and had suspended several pledge classes as a result of hazing.

"You've got to make it strong enough for this generation of children," she said. "They feel that they're invincible, so you have to make something strong enough to put fear into their bellies."

Romney in strong position

There's little doubt that the Republican presidential candidate in the most enviable position this cycle is Mitt Romney. And Florida is a prize he's best positioned to win. Last week, he hosted a Florida telephone town hall. And now he's planning to run a positive TV ad, "Leader," which has already aired in other early-voting states. No word yet on the media markets, but the Orlando-Tampa I-4 corridor is always a good bet.

Meantime, the pro-Romney SuperPac Restore Our Future has been up, running and bashing Newt Gingrich. While Romney's campaign ad appears to be the first of the GOP candidates in Florida, expect a lot more advertising (and less positivity) from him, his rivals and the SuperPacs as the Jan. 31 Florida primary draws near.

Jump forward two years

What better way to help ring in 2012 than a little speculation about Florida's 2014 election cycle? This little nugget from our interview with Gov. Rick Scott's pollster, Tony Fabrizio: "I would relish the opportunity to run against Charlie Crist. But is the guy who presided over Florida's economy going into the tank really going to run a campaign when Florida's economy is springing back? How do you work that? Promise to do better this time?"

Teaming up for polling

The Tampa Bay Times, Miami Herald and Bay News 9 are partnering with Mason Dixon Polling & Research for the upcoming election cycles. Mason Dixon has polled for Florida newspapers and TV affiliates since 1986. The partnership, which runs through 2016, also includes Central Florida News 13 and El Nuevo Herald.

"We're excited to combine the state's top political journalists with the excellence and strong track record of Mason Dixon polling," Times editor Neil Brown said. "The Florida political scene is of the utmost interest and importance, both locally and nationally. This partnership means one thing: the most authoritative coverage anywhere."

The debut poll will be this month.

Times/Herald staff writers Marc Caputo and Michael C. Bender contributed to this report.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson wants federal ban on hazing 01/03/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 3, 2012 10:36pm]
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