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Democrat Sean Shaw says he’ll be “activist” Florida Attorney General

But Shaw showed little enthusiasm for one cause espoused this week by his opponent in the primary, consumer foreclosure lawyer Ryan Torrens of Tampa – investigating TECO over the June 2017 deaths of five workers in a boiler accident.
Rep. Sean Shaw, D-Tampa.
Rep. Sean Shaw, D-Tampa.
Published May 18, 2018
Updated May 18, 2018

State Rep. Sean Shaw is promising an activist attorney general's office that will file or join lawsuits to correct what he calls the state Legislature's failure to properly fund public education and environmental land purchases and legalize medical marijuana.

The Florida Legislature, he said in a Tampa campaign stop Friday, "is not doing what the people instructed us to do" under constitutional amendments passed in popular votes and other constitutional provisions.

"When the Legislature doesn't do what they're supposed to do, there's no one to hold them accountable except the attorney general," said Shaw, one of two Tampa Democrats in the primary for attorney general.

"I'm suing the Legislature," he told the crowd at a Café con Tampa gathering.

Shaw said he would consider suing polluters or large fossil fuel users over the costs of adapting cities for sea level rise caused by climate change.

He also said, "The time has come for full legalization" of marijuana. "We ought to tax it, regulate it and have a revenue stream for the state."

But Shaw showed little enthusiasm for one cause espoused this week by his opponent in the primary, consumer foreclosure lawyer Ryan Torrens of Tampa – investigating TECO over the June 2017 deaths of five workers in a boiler accident.

Torrens said TECO executives should be prosecuted if they knowingly ignored worker safety in the incident.

In an interview after his speech, Shaw said "I don't understand what the criminal point is – there's already civil litigation from the victims currently going on. I'm not sure what state basis I (would) have to go after anybody in connection with that incident."

TECO is one of Shaw's largest contributors, with $10,000 to his political committee last month and $1,000 to his campaign last year.

Shaw said state attorney generals in other states have led investigations on opoid abuse, President Donald Trump's allegedly illegal foreign emoluments, Trump's Muslim travel ban, immigration law enforcement and unauthorized data use by Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.

But the Florida attorney general's office has stayed on the sidelines.

"We should be proactive, we should be on the front lines," he said.

Meanwhile, he said, the Florida Legislature has failed to enact constitutional amendments passed by the voters on medical marijuana and environmental land purchases, and is failing to adhere to the constitutional requirement to fund public schools adequately.

If voters pass an amendment planned for the November ballot restoring voting rights for most felons who have finished their sentences, "I can guarantee (the Legislature) are going to do everything they can to thwart it," he said.

He said Pam Bondi's lawsuit against opoid manufacturers, announced this week, is "great. The only problem is, she's been in office eight years" before acting.

Shaw, 40, is a Princeton and University of Florida educated lawyer with a firm that represents consumers in property insurance claims, and is the son of the late Leander Shaw, who was the state's first black Supreme Court chief justice.

He previously served as the state insurance consumer advocate, appointed by former state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink of Tampa, and has been a state House member since 2016 representing central Tampa, part of the university area and Progress Village.

The Democratic nominee likely will face a much better-funded Republican after a GOP primary including former Judge Ashley Moody of Plant City and Reps. Jay Fant of Jacksonville and Frank White of Pensacola.

But Shaw said he considers his chances of winning to be "over 50 percent."

"The Republicans are going to have a tough primary and I'm not," he said. "They're going to have to take positions that are untenable in the general election."

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