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News from Tallahassee for 12/11/13
Sex-Offender Porn Ban Passes First Legislative Hurdle posted on 12/10/13
by RYAN BENK | WFSU
Lakeland Republican Senator Kelli Stargel petitioned her colleagues in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee to broaden an existing ban on pornography. The law already prohibits sex-offenders from viewing or possessing pornography related to their conviction. Florida Action Committee President Gail Colletta agreed reforms to sex offender statutes are needed but questioned the senator’s approach.
“Why is that if we’re trying to change the behaviors and we want these individuals to act more mainstream and more normal and have more normal sexual interests, are we going to prohibit them from having access to materials that are considered mainstream and normal?” Colletta said in a phone interview Monday.
Weekly Roundup: A Week on the Battlefields of the Past posted on 12/9/13
by BRANDON LARRABEE | News Service of Florida
You could be forgiven for looking around and wondering whether you've stepped back in time a year or two -- or even further.
The gambling discussions that have tied the Florida Legislature in knots over the last several years keep coming up. Gov. Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner are still tangling with elections supervisors over voting procedures.
And, at least in one corner of the state, Union soldiers are still the least popular people around.
On most of the issues, there at least appears to be some movement. Suggestions by House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, on how to move gambling legislation forward might help prod his reluctant chamber to action. And Detzner and Pinellas County Superintendent Deborah Clark have defused their conflict over where absentee ballots can be returned in an upcoming congressional special election.
As for the Civil War? In some ways, it's still raging 150 years after it was fought for the first time. Why would it end now?
Supreme Court takes up medical marijuana case posted on 12/5/13
by JAMES L. ROSICA | Tampa Tribune
TALLAHASSEE — The battle over medical marijuana moves to the state’s highest court today, when advocates argue for and against the state’s proposed ballot question.
The measure aims to create a state constitutional amendment, to be voted on in 2014, decriminalizing marijuana to treat “debilitating conditions” such as AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, Parkinson’s disease and other illnesses.
The fight before the justices is technical, centering on whether the ballot summary is clear and accurate.
People United for Medical Marijuana, the committee behind the initiative and led by personal-injury attorney John Morgan, thinks it is. Morgan is friend and recent employer to Charlie Crist, now Democratic candidate for governor.
Attorney General Pam Bondi, who joined with the Republican-majority Legislature to oppose the measure, argues the language is misleading and would make Florida “one of the most lenient medical-marijuana states.”
Twenty states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized medical marijuana under state law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
A ruling by the Florida Supreme Court against the initiative likely will be fatal to the effort to get it on the ballot in time for the 2014 election. The state’s constitution requires a decision no later than April 1.
As of Monday, the state’s Division of Elections reported 133,296 valid signatures toward the 683,149 needed by February to get the initiative on the ballot. There were 14,198 signatures from Hillsborough County, 10,163 from Pinellas and 3,673 from Pasco.
Rod Sullivan, a constitutional law professor at Jacksonville’s Florida Coastal School of Law, said Bondi’s argument is the stronger. He predicts defeat for the pro-marijuana forces.
by JESSICA PALOMBO | WFSU
Organizers of the first-ever Christmas nativity scene erected in the Florida Capitol building today say the display is meant to demonstrate religious freedom guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. But the American Civil Liberties Union warns the state risks lawsuits if it doesn’t allow all religious displays.
Local fifth-graders sang carols at the unveiling of the nativity, which is funded with private donations and sponsored by the Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based law firm specializing in religious freedom cases.
Florida legislator sued after dog bites student in face posted on 12/3/13
by GARY FINEOUT | AP
TALLAHASSEE – A Florida legislator has been sued over his pet dog biting someone in the face at a restaurant near the state Capitol.
Christopher Kent filed a lawsuit last week in Leon County against Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach. Gaetz is the son of Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and recently held a lengthy legislative hearing over a proposal to repeal the state’s contentious “stand your ground” law.
Kent’s lawsuit alleges that Gaetz’s dog bit him last May. The lawsuit contends the dog bite left Kent in pain, disfigured and with injuries that ultimately forced him to withdraw from law school. He said part of the reason he quit the University of Michigan is that the treatment has forced him to take antibiotics that cause stomach problems.
The lawsuit asks for payment of medical bills and damages connected to the bite, but it does not list an amount.
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