Greetings from Day 37 of the 60-day legislative session in Tallahassee! Yesterday was a big day in state political news, though little of it having to do with the session.
Debatable: A few hundred people showed up on Facebook Live, and just about the entire Tallahassee press corps showed up in person to see House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum — likely and declared governor candidates, respectively — debate sanctuary cities and Corcoran’s ad featuring a hoodie-wearing illegal immigrant gunning down a woman, the Associated Press’s Brendan Farrington reports.
I don’t have a whole lot to add to Farrington’s account, but a couple of things. First, who won the debate? That would have to be progressive torch-bearer state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, who was name-checked by Corcoran several times throughout the debate for his bill (HB 1333) that would, in Corcoran’s words, turn Florida into “a sanctuary state.” At least three times, Corcoran demanded to know whether Gillum supported the legislation. Gillum would not answer, likely because he had never heard of the bill, which has never received a committee hearing in either chamber, much less read it.
Corcoran is instead pushing a bill (HB 9) that would require local officials to hold suspected illegal immigrants that are the subject of immigration detainers. It would also allow state and local officials to be sued by people harmed by illegal immigrants if those officials ignore the law. The problem with that is that multiple federal judges — including one as recently as last week in California — have ruled that holding people for ICE violates their Fourth Amendment rights. So, Corcoran’s bill would appear to force local officials into choosing between risking a state lawsuit brought by potential victims or a federal lawsuit brought by people caught up in immigration dragnets.
After last night’s debate, Corcoran dismissed that possibility.
“We’ve looked at all of the Texas litigation, we’ve looked at all the federal litigation,” he said. “What got Texas in trouble, what got some of these other folks in trouble, is that they give that enforcement mechanism which is solely in the hands of ICE, they give that to their own law enforcement officers. We don’t do that. … All we’re saying is to local elected officials is you guys have to cooperate. When ICE reaches out to you and says we want a hold for 48 hours on that individual, you have to cooperate. That’s completely constitutional and within the bounds of all these pieces of litigation you’re seeing out there.”
This does not appear to be entirely true. The case in California specifically found that holding someone for ICE for 48 hours as Corcoran wants is a violation of that person’s Fourth Amendment rights.
Happily for local elected officials who don’t want to get sued, although the bill has passed the House, it seems to have stalled in the Senate.
Having some crow: In yesterday’s newsletter, I wrote about a special election in a House district in Sarasota taking place that day, “I sense another ‘Sure, we lost, but look how close it was compared to 2016’ take coming from a lot of Democrats tonight.”
Well, last night, Democrat Margaret Good beat Republican James Buchanan by 7 points and is headed to the Florida House, the Associated Press reports. President Donald Trump carried the district by almost five points in 2016.
Boom: Yesterday, the House Commerce Committee cleared the way to lifting Florida’s ban on fireworks sales.
In other news, Florida has a ban on fireworks sales — well, unless you’re buying them to scare birds. It’s all explained in my story.
Penalized for learning too much: In Florida, if students take too many credit hours over what’s needed for a four-year degree (120 credit hours in most cases), they get slapped with fines that effectively double their tuition. The penalty is meant to keep students moving through the system and get them to graduate on time, but it’s financially wrecking people who simply opted to change majors during their time in college. The News Service of Florida’s Lloyd Dunkelberger reports that the Legislature is now considering scaling back the penalty somewhat, allowing students to take a few more courses before getting hit with the fee.
Crashing and burning: A vote on a bill that would preempt local laws on vacation rentals, such as those made through AirBnB, was postponed in a House committee, the Orlando Sentinel’s Gray Rohrer reports. That makes passage fairly unlikely this session. There’s just a couple weeks left, and committees stop meeting before the final week, so if a bill’s gonna get to the floor, it had better clear its committees by the end of next week.
Jared Moskowitz must live under a bridge … ’cause that’s where they keep the trolls. State Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs, was a little upset that Democratic bills that would affect state law were not being heard, even as a resolution declaring pornography a public health risk was up for debate in the House Commerce Committee. (The resolution would not actually do anything except declare that the Legislature thinks porn’s problematic.)
So, Moskowitz proceeded to try to add nine amendments to the resolution, including one declaring Nazis and white supremacists a public health menace, and another positing the health risks of porn actress and alleged Trump mistress Stormy Daniels. All the amendments were shot down for not being related to the bill.
The porn bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover, called it a mockery of the legislative process. Spano is running for attorney general.
Speaking of porn: President Donald Trump’s long-time lawyer, Michael Cohen, has finally admitted that, yes, he paid $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels after an alleged affair with Trump, the Washington Post’s Mark Berman reports. But, he says the $130,000 came out of his own pocket and should not be considered an unreported campaign expense, as a watchdog group claimed.
“I am Mr. Trump’s longtime special counsel and I have proudly served in that role for more than a decade,” Cohen said in a statement. “In a private transaction in 2016, I used my own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Ms. Stephanie Clifford. Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly.”
His statement did not include any particular reason why Cohen shelled out 130 grand to a porn actress.
Will Russia meddle in the midterms? The Associated Press’s Deb Riechmann reports that intelligence agencies believe so, though at this point, a better question might be, Why would Russia not meddle in the midterms?
Oops: The official White House line on disgraced White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter, who allegedly beat both of his ex-wives, was that his background check was still ongoing at the time he departed the White House.
The Washington Post reports that FBI Director Christopher Wray has testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that Porter’s background check was completed in July.
Here comes the judges: President Donald Trump has made three picks for the federal bench in South Florida, the Sun Sentinel’s Paula McMahon reports. The judgeships are lifetime appointments and would have jurisdiction over criminal and civil cases in an area that includes the president’s part-time home base of Mar-a-Lago.
That’s Mayor London to you: The Hallandale Beach City Commission, reeling from multiple corruption scandals including the arrest of Mayor Joy Cooper, has just appointed Cooper rival and former Vice Mayor Keith London as the city’s new mayor, the Sun Sentinel’s Susannah Bryan reports. He’ll hold the title until November’s election, unless Cooper is found not guilty first. The commission also got a new member, with a fifth on the way in a March 13 election. After that, the five-member commission will be back to five members, having dropped to just three after Cooper’s arrest.
≥280 CHARACTER HOT TAKE: I realize I just ate my words over House District 72 in today’s newsletter, but come on now. If Democrats take over the Florida House in 2018, I will eat my socks.
≥280 CHARACTER HOT TAKE: For an equally giddy but somewhat more realistic take on the special election by a Democratic campaign guy, see above.
≥280 CHARACTER HOT TAKE: Oh God. Has this Corcoran-Gillum thing started a trend? Will we see political candidates debating each other on whatever happens to be the topic du jour? And if so, who’s next and what’s the topic? Caldwell v. Grimsley on citrus greening? Patronis v. Ring on the freshness of the “fresh crab fingers” at Captain Anderson’s? Yeesh.
As always I’m @Daniel_Sweeney. Troll me there.