Tallahassee, FL -- June 15, 2012 --
Florida's voter registration purge headed to court this week as state and federal agencies traded lawsuits in the politically charged effort to remove ineligible voters from the critical swing state's voter rolls.
In contrast, U.S. and Florida environmental officials appeared harmonious in their joint effort to restore portions of the Everglades after federal officials signed off on a revised plan to clean up water entering the region by reducing phosphorus levels and restoring flow.
Meanwhile, a task force set up following the death of Trayvon Martin took testimony from his parents and others as they met near Sanford for the first of a series of public hearings over the state's "stand your ground" self defense law that has come under fire following the death of the unarmed 17-year-old earlier this year.
Citizens Property Insurance Corp. this week tapped a private sector executive to become its CEO as board members continue to push to downsize the state-backed insurer, which now handles nearly 1.5 million policies.
In election news this week, legislative leaders weighed in on a number of fronts including a state Senate race in which a candidate saddled with ethics baggage stepped aside.
And finally, Gov. Rick Scott this week recounted his own voting rights issues when, in 2006, he was informed that he was indeed, not dead.
VOTER ROLL ISSUE HEADS TO COURTS
Following weeks of bluster, Florida elections officials this week sued the federal government to gain access to a Department of Homeland Security database they say is critical for state efforts to purge ineligible voters from the rolls.
The Department of Justice returned the favor by filing a federal lawsuit of its own, saying state efforts to remove voters from the rolls violates the National Voter Registration Act, which, among other things, prohibits the last-minute cleansing of voting rolls.
The controversy stems from the state Division of Elections earlier this year sending a list of about 2,600 names of potentially illegal voters to local supervisors of elections. The division used what it has acknowledged was an imperfect list put together from a state Highway Safety database of people who had a certain degree of likelihood to be in the country illegally.
Secretary of State Ken Detzner filed his lawsuit in the District of Columbia to force the federal agency to share citizenship information. Detzner said the state has been trying for nearly a year to gain access to DHS's Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements Program (SAVE) database, which tracks citizenship and alien status.
In response, U.S. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez said Florida is not complying with federal laws aimed at protecting the ability of eligible U.S. citizens to register to vote and maintain their voter registration status. A day later, the feds filed suit in federal court in Tallahassee.
Gov. Rick Scott has been spearheading efforts to purge the rolls. This week the governor said he had his own run-in with election officials.
In 2006, Scott, whose middle name is Lynn, got mixed up with a Richard E. Scott a recently deceased Florida voter who happened to have the exact same birthday, 12-1-1952, as the governor.
"I had to vote provisionally because they said I'd passed away," Scott said. "So I said, 'I'm here, here's my driver's license, I'm really alive.' And so they allowed me to vote provisionally. And then they went back and checked and said I was alive."
TASK FORCE KICKS OFF STAND YOUR GROUND HEARINGS
The first public hearing of Scott's Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection offered a wide range of opinion on the "stand your ground" law in Seminole County, where Martin was killed after an altercation with George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who now faces second degree murder charges.
Among the nearly 100 who turned out to speak were supporters of the statute on one side, and Martin's parents on the other.
Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, the panel's chairwoman, said the charge of the task force is not to debate Martin's death but look at the state statute that allows residents to use force when they fear great bodily harm.
But Carroll said the first public hearing was held in Longwood, near where Martin was killed, to give its community members some "closure" on the shooting death that has roiled the state and nation.
National outrage over the lack of an arrest in the shooting prompted Scott to create the task force and to name Jacksonville State Attorney Angela Corey the special prosecutor in Martin's case.
Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, parents of the unarmed black teen who was killed less than four months ago, didn't necessarily call for the law's repeal. Fulton pleaded with the panel to at least "look at" the law in light of her son's death. The couple also delivered 375,000 online petitions collected by Second Chance on Shoot First, a national campaign.
EPA SAYS OK TO REVISED FLORIDA EVERGLADES PLAN
Environmental Protection Agency officials this week told Florida that a revised state plan to improve water quality in the Everglades meets with Washington's approval, and said it may meet a federal judge's order to clean up the ecosystem.
The plan was first submitted by Scott Administration officials to Washington in October. A revised proposal was submitted earlier this month after the EPA raised objections to the initial plan. In the end, officials said the technical plan was arrived at after extensive back-and-forth between Washington and Tallahassee.
The state is under a federal court order to clean up the Everglades, following a lawsuit that resulted in a 2008 order by U.S. District Judge Alan Gold to boost cleanup efforts.
GILWAY IN, NORMAN OUT:
Citizens Property Insurance Corp. board members on Wednesday tapped Barry Gilway, president and CEO of Mattei Insurance Services, a Seattle based commercial insurance company, to take over Citizens, which now handles nearly 1.5 million policies and faces more than $500 billion in potential risk.
While Gilway stepped in, Sen. Jim Norman, R-Tampa, stepped out.
Norman announced he would not seek another term in the Florida Senate without explanation, but he faced a Senate ethics vote ethics charges for failed to disclose the gift of a half million home to his wife.
Norman, R-Tampa, admits he failed to disclose the gift when he ran for the Senate in 2010, but his lawyer argues it was simply a mistake.
Story of the Week: Florida's recent effort to purge its voter rolls headed to court this week as Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner and the Obama administration sued each other.
Quote of the Week: "So I said, 'I'm here, here's my driver's license, I'm really alive.' And so they allowed me to vote provisionally. And then they went back and checked and said I was alive." Gov. Rick Scott on being told in 2006 that he had to cast a provisional ballot because he was, according to incorrect election office records, dead.