News from Tallahassee for 11/21/14

Bondi Wants Gay Marriage Ban Kept Intact Longer posted on 11/19/14

by AP

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is asking to keep intact the state's ban on same-sex marriage until ongoing appeals have finished.

A federal judge earlier this month decided to keep Florida's ban in place through Jan. 5. That means no gay weddings can take place for now.

But Bondi's office on Tuesday asked the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to keep the stay in place beyond that date.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in August ruled the Florida gay marriage ban was unconstitutional. But he stayed the effect of his decision, hoping to avoid confusion while the state appealed it.

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Florida Attorney General Bondi Files Appeal To Uphold Same-Sex Marriage Bans posted on 11/18/14

by Nick Evans | WFSU

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is appealing a ruling earlier this year that invalidated the state’s same-sex marriage bans.

In August, a federal judge ruled Florida’s same-sex marriage prohibitions are unconstitutional, and the case now heads to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

According to ACLU spokesman Baylor Johnson, even though the federal ban known as The Defense of Marriage Act—or DOMA—was struck down last year, state laws can get in the way of same-sex couples applying for federal benefits.

“In states where the state doesn’t recognize a marriage between people of the same sex,” Johnson says, “there are still federal benefits and federal issues that these families are left in limbo about.”

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Weekly Roundup: A Big Supply of Demand posted on 11/17/14

by BRANDON LARRABEE | News Service of Florida

It was a demanding week in Tallahassee.

The Florida Supreme Court demanded that a Republican political consultant turn over documents related to the state's 2012 redistricting process, continuing a legal battle that has raged for more than two years. That ruling will also give the public a look at documents that a Leon County judge said were key to his decision over the summer to toss the state's congressional districts.

Florida Democratic Chairwoman Allison Tant demanded that a group of Democratic "bed-wetters ... shut up" instead of continuing their attempt to unseat incoming House Minority Leader Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach. Pafford and his allies spent the week more quietly attempting to show that the challenge would die out on its own.

And a group of students demanded that new Florida State University President John Thrasher make a series of changes to prove that the university wouldn't be in the thrall of conservative forces.

Of the demands, the only one that seemed certain to produce results was the one by the Florida Supreme Court, which has the authority to compel people to follow its orders.

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In Surprise Move, Supreme Court Takes On Fate Of Obamacare Again posted on 11/10/14

by JULIE ROVNER | Health News Florida

Once again the Supreme Court will decide whether the Affordable Care Act lives or dies.

Defying expectations, the court announced Friday it has agreed to hear a case that challenges the heart of the law: subsidies that help people pay their insurance premiums. In about three dozen states, the federal government runs the online marketplaces (exchanges) where individuals can find health plans.

At issue is a phrase in the law stipulating that subsidies to help those with incomes under 400 percent of poverty are available only in "exchanges established by a state." The authors of the law argue that the rest of the statute makes it clear that subsidies are available not just in state-run exchanges but also in those where the federal government is doing the work of the state.

When the law was written, most people expected that states would want to run their own exchanges. It was a surprise when most opted to let the federal government do it instead.

A decision to strike down the subsidies in federally run exchange states could end up making insurance unaffordable for millions of people and threaten the viability of the law's entire health insurance program.

In a rare Friday afternoon notice following their closed-door conference, the justices noted with no further comment that they have agreed to hear King v. Burwell. That is the case in which a three-judge appeals court panel in Richmond ruled unanimously that Congress did intend to allow subsidies to be available nationwide.

The same day that the Richmond court ruled, a panel in the District of Columbia Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 the opposite way. But that case, Halbig v. Burwell, was vacated when the full appeals court agreed to rehear the case. That hearing is scheduled for December.

Because there are not yet contradictory decisions by appeals courts, most observers thought the Supreme Court would at least wait until the lower courts were finished considering the case before weighing in.

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Sheldon Criticizes Partisan Attorneys General Associations, Pledges Not To Join posted on 11/3/14

by Nick Evans | WFSU

Democratic Attorney General candidate George Sheldon is criticizing incumbent Attorney General Pam Bondi for her contact with lobbying groups. The attack comes on the heels of a number of articles reporting on lobbyist influence over Attorneys General across the country.

Multiple media reports suggest corporate lawyers are successfully lobbying attorneys general across the country. The New York Times reports Bondi’s office chose not to pursue cases against numerous companies including Travelocity and Priceline after meeting with the companies’ lawyers from the legal firm Dickstein Shapiro. Sheldon says campaign funds raised from these companies by partisan attorneys general associations raise questions about the integrity of the office.

“[Bondi] said even yesterday that all of that money, which she does not deny taking, did not influence any of her decisions,” Sheldon says. “I believe an Attorney General should be held to a higher ethical standard. I believe an Attorney General should avoid even the appearance of impropriety.”

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