Related topics

Florida editorial roundup

December 5, 2018 GMT

Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:


Dec. 3

Tampa Bay Times on a panel giving Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis a list of finalists with no black people to consider for the Florida Supreme Court:

Florida’s highest court should reflect the people it serves. That’s why the list of nominees to the Florida Supreme Court is stunning for its lack of diversity. For the first time in 36 years, the court will not have an African-American member when three new justices join the court next year unless something changes fast. This is an injustice that reflects poorly on the state, and Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis should correct it.


DeSantis will select the new justices from a list of 11 nominees submitted by the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission. None of the nine judges and two lawyers on the list the panel submitted last month is black, although six of the original 59 applicants were African-Americans. When Justice Peggy Quince’s term ends Jan. 8, it will mark the first time since the late Justice Leander Shaw joined the court in 1983 that the Supreme Court will not have a black justice. DeSantis should ask the commission to reconvene and provide additional choices so he can make appointments that better reflect Florida’s diversity on the highest court in America’s third-largest state.

This isn’t about quotas. It’s about ensuring fair representation and opportunity across the board. DeSantis will select three justices to fill vacancies left by Quince and Justices Barbara Pariente and R. Fred Lewis, who are retiring because of the mandatory retirement age of 70. With Florida becoming younger and more diverse, the nominating commission had ample opportunity to reflect the changes taking place in a state with more than 3.5 million African-American residents. But none of the six black applicants for the vacancies made the commission’s list, drawing sharp criticism especially from black political leaders and civil rights activists.

The governor doesn’t have the legal authority to reject the commission’s entire list of nominees, but there is a window for DeSantis to ask for additional names. The JNC may give the governor up to six candidates for each vacancy, or 18 nominees in this case. That’s seven more than what the commission has offered. While the JNC is not obligated to reconvene or to include more names, a larger list would broaden the talent pool and create an opportunity to make the court more diverse.


This may be DeSantis’ problem, but it was created by Gov. Rick Scott. Since he took office in January 2011, Scott has not appointed a single black judge to a state appellate court, according to a brief filed by a Broward County-based association that advocates on behalf of black lawyers in a pending case challenging the appointment process. The governor also appoints all members of the judicial nominating commissions that develop the appointment lists for state appellate and trial courts. The governor’s philosophy shapes not only who sits on these nominating panels but who applies for judicial appointments. Attorneys who don’t share the governor’s political views or social circle have no practical reason to bother.

Scott has appointed black trial judges during his two terms in office, but the appellate courts are different. Those filling vacancies on the Supreme Court and lower appellate courts could serve a generation or longer, ruling on core constitutional issues from privacy and free speech to education and civil rights. Floridians have a right to see in the courts a reflection of themselves.




Dec. 5

The Palm Beach Post on concealed gun carrying permits:

It has never made much sense that concealed-weapons permits are issued through the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs. So it’s about time that people are talking about shifting this responsibility to a state agency that might actually be suited for the job.

Two state senators have the right idea. Lauren Book of Plantation and Linda Stewart of Orlando, both Democrats, have submitted a bill to put weapons permits under the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

This should be a no-brainer. The FDLE already plays a key role in the permit process; it performs the background checks.

In almost every other state in the nation, gun permits are issued through a law-enforcement agency. In those 46 states, lawmakers both liberal and conservative recognize that it’s a matter of public safety to try to keep weapons out of the hands of people with a history of violence. The job belongs to those entrusted with ensuring public safety.

But no, says Marion Hammer, the diminutive lobbyist for the National Rifle Association who towers over the Florida Legislature.

Now that a Democrat, Nicole “Nikki” Fried, is poised to head Agriculture and Consumer Services, Hammer is suddenly hot to put concealed-weapons permits under someone else’s control. Her pick: Jimmy Patronis, the state’s chief financial officer, a reliable Republican with an A+ rating from the NRA.

It’s hard to imagine a more blatantly political, self-serving and unnecessary proposal. And at what cost? Florida sees an average of 827 gun-related homicides, 1,538 gun-related suicides, 1,694 nonfatal interpersonal shootings, and 1,773 unintentional shootings a year — at an annual cost of more than $5 billion in health care, law enforcement, costs to employers and lost income, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Our state has suffered two of the nation’s most high-profile mass shootings, both involving obviously disturbed individuals. And Hammer’s response is to hamstring the process that would better protect us.

Hammer says “the concealed weapons licensing program needs to remain under an elected Cabinet official.” What she means: an official who is susceptible to NRA donations and the voting power of NRA members.


Under Agriculture and Consumer Services, concealed weapons licenses have exploded in Florida: from a total 295,000 in 2002 to 1.9 million this year. GOP leaders have regarded the wide dissemination of concealed-gun permits as a point of pride — none more than outgoing Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, self-described “proud NRA sellout,” who made it a priority to speed up gun licensing.

... After the Pulse and Parkland shootings, where 50 and 17 Floridians died, respectively, we can no longer afford to let the NRA set the terms for the state’s gun laws. ...



Dec. 3

South Florida Sun Sentinel on Gov. Rick Scott suspending Broward County Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes:

There’s nothing to like about Republican U.S. Sen.-elect Rick Scott’s Friday night takedown of Democrat Brenda Snipes, Broward County’s embattled supervisor of elections, whom he’s accused of “misfeasance, incompetence and neglect of duty.”

Snipes had announced she was resigning Jan. 4, after all. Why did the governor feel compelled to kick her in the backside — and threaten her pension — on her way out the door?

Without question, Snipes, 75, needs to go. She’s stayed in office far too long and has made far too many mistakes. In the days after the November election, she rattled public confidence yet again by saying she didn’t know how many ballots remained to be counted. This editorial board, which endorsed her opponent in the last election, called for her resignation. People on both sides of the aisle agreed her time was up. Days later, so did she.

You can understand Scott’s pique with Snipes, who regularly brings up the rear in reporting election results. During her office’s chaotic November count, his margin of victory fell into the mandatory recount range. But then again, her flawed ballot design — believed responsible for 25,000 voters skipping the U.S. Senate race in Florida’s bluest county — might have helped him secure his win against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson.

Snipes did herself no favors by scheduling her resignation for the day after Scott is sworn in as a U.S. senator. Had her plan played out, her replacement would have been named either by Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez Cantera, acting in an interim role, or Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis, who will take office three days later.

Still, Scott has now made Snipes a cause celebre, a black Democratic woman suspended and replaced by a white Republican man — Pete Antonacci — who doesn’t even live in Broward ... As human nature would have it, Snipes punched back by rescinding her resignation — which Scott had not yet accepted — and promising a fight. Now Florida’s Democratic Black Caucus is pushing for a hearing in the Florida Senate, which must decide whether her suspension should be made permanent ... Broward’s elections office needs shaping up, without a doubt. It needs a trustworthy and transparent supervisor who can build public confidence. But for this heavily Democratic county, Gov. Scott instead chose a loyal Republican soldier ... We can only express disappointment that as one of his last acts as governor, Scott chose to stir up a racially-tinged hornet’s nest. That instead of taking the high road, he demonstrated spite toward a public servant at the end of her career. And that among Broward’s nearly 2 million citizens, he couldn’t find a single candidate worth interviewing about how to build confidence in the county’s elections office.