Former Gov. Bob Graham attends State of State speech

Former U.S. Sen. and Florida Gov. Bob Graham greets Gov. Rick Scott prior to Scott’s State of the State speech Tuesday in the Florida House.
Former U.S. Sen. and Florida Gov. Bob Graham greets Gov. Rick Scott prior to Scott’s State of the State speech Tuesday in the Florida House.
Published March 6, 2013

Graham attends first speech in years

Former U.S. Sen. and Gov. Bob Graham returned to the Florida Capitol on Tuesday and, seated in front of Gov. Rick Scott, attended his first governor's State of the State speech in years.

He noted he was not surprised at the fact Democrats stood and applauded as Scott announced his support for the expansion of Medicaid while Republicans remained silent.

"If you've attended many State of the Unions, you're used to this half of the audience applauding and the other half sitting on their hands,'' he said. "Actually, the fact that it only occurred a couple of times today was a positive sign."

Graham, who was first elected to the state House in 1966, said he is working on a book about his father and his eight years in the state Senate and "his influence on me."

"I love my days in the Florida Legislature. In fact there's a book I want to write, entitled, Everything I learned about politics I learned as a freshman in the Florida Legislature."

Graham's daughter, Gwen Graham, is preparing to announce her candidacy against U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland. She works for the Leon County School Board and would run as a Democrat.

"I believe in good people in politics and I know she'd be an outstanding member of Congress,'' he said.

Protesters chant: 'The state is ours!'

Florida's lawmakers, elected officials and other dignitaries were welcomed with boisterous protests by more than 100 young people Tuesday, as activists voiced their displeasure with the government.

Led by a group called the Dream Defenders, they lined up in the halls of the Capitol and sang protest songs and chanted, "The state is ours!"

"We who believe in dreams, cannot rest until it's won," the group of protesters sang repeatedly, replacing the word 'dreams' with various issues like immigration, students, the future, education, equality and freedom.

The Dream Defenders, a group created in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting last year, has a list of legislative priorities, including issues like gun control, immigration reform and voting rights.

"We are here on this first day of session to address real concerns with real solutions," said Phillip Agnew, a 27-year-old FAMU graduate. Agnew and others, many holding dramatic black signs with white typeface, implored Gov. Scott to repeal the "stand your ground" law and put an end to racial profiling.

Ill ex-senator receives tribute

Former senator and longtime lobbyist Ken Plante, who is hospitalized and suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease, was given a lengthy tribute in the Florida Senate as it named the Senate President's conference room after him.

Plante was elected to the Senate as a Republican from Winter Park and served from 1967-1978. He served when there were few Republicans and many were considered moderates and later became a lobbyist, working to establish a lobbyist association and increasing the code of conduct among that profession.

"Ken Plante was one of the outstanding senators of his time and of this whole generation,'' said Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Surfside.

"It's very difficult for a good senator to make a transition to be a good lobbyist,'' said Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who noted Plante had made the best transition "with a high degree of integrity and a commitment to the good of the process."

Times/Herald staff writers Mary Ellen Klas and Toluse Olorunnipa contributed to this report.