YOUR DAILY WEEKLY READER: misrepresentation, missing rights and forced death



BECAUSE ACTING IN YOUR BEST INTEREST IS SECOND ONLY TO ACTING IN THE DUBIOUS INTEREST OF A FAILING GOVERNOR: “As Florida lawmakers open their annual legislative session Tuesday and the governor gives his fourth state-of-the-state address, overshadowing everything for the Republican-controlled Legislature is one overriding goal: the reelection of Gov. Rick Scott.  Woefully behind in the polls but ahead in campaign cash, the governor faces the greatest uphill climb of any incumbent governor since Republican Bob Martinez ran for a second term in 1990 and lost when Democrat Lawton Chiles emerged from retirement.  To help Scott’s chances, lawmakers are expected to grant the governor his modest list of priorities, including a $500 million tax cut, another freeze on university tuition, and a reduction on taxes on business leases. With that, they hope to end the session in harmony, and draw a contrast to how government will operate if Scott is replaced by the presumptive Democratic contender, Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor who has returned to run as a Democrat.  ‘The governor needs to succeed on all of his stated priorities — all of which he will because they are popular and limited,’ said John M. “Mac” Stipanovich, who served as chief of staff and campaign manager to Martinez.” (via Miami Herald)



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COME FOR THE FEDERAL LAWSUIT; STAY FOR THE SEESAW POSITIONING FROM THE GOVERNOR’S OFFICE: ALL FOR TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE, BUT TOTALLY AGAINST DISCRIMINATION. RIGHT?: “Two Jacksonville civil rights attorneys have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Florida’s laws voiding or otherwise refusing to recognize same-sex marriages entered in other states or countries. Attorneys Bill Sheppard and Samuel Jacobson have filed the challenge on behalf of a same-sex couple who got married in Canada and live in Tallahassee. The lawsuit filed late Friday in the Northern District of Florida names Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi as defendants and is one of several similar recent suits that have successfully challenged such laws nationwide. The plaintiffs in the Florida case, James Domer Brenner and Charles Dean Jones, are seeking to apply a U.S. Supreme Court decision to invalidate and enjoin the enforcement of Florida’s constitutional provision and statute prohibiting recognition of legally married same-sex couples. In the United States v. Windsor, the high court last year held that withholding federal recognition and benefits from legally married same-sex couples, as required by the Defense of Marriage Act, violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process, the lawsuit said. Several similar suits filed in Florida before the Windsor case were unsuccessful. This is the first suit filed in federal court challenging the state’s laws since the Windsor decision. A coalition of groups opposed to same-sex marriage is gearing up to fight a lawsuit challenging Florida’s ban on gay marriage recently filed in state court in Miami-Dade County by six gay couples.” (via Florida Times-Union)


EXACTLY WHO IS IN SUPPORT OF WAGE THEFT, ANYWAY? OH, BIG BUSINESS: “Legislation (SB-926) that would pre-empt local attempts to regulate wage theft is moving at a fast pace through the Florida Legislature. Wednesday it will be up for its first vote in committee.  Workers' rights groups oppose the proposed bill, saying it would make it too difficult for workers to get back lost wages. Rich Templin, legislative and political director for the Florida AFL-CIO, pointed out this is the fourth time in the past four years that lawmakers have attempted to pass such a law. ‘This bill is like an episode of the 'Walking Dead,'’ he charged. ‘An issue comes before the Legislature, they kill the bill, and then, lo and behold, it gets up and starts walking around again, which is what we have here on the issue of wage theft.’ Miami-Dade was the first county in the country to adopt a wage-theft law. Close to $1 million in lost wages has been recovered under their law by the U.S. Department of Labor. Broward and Alachua Counties also have passed their own local laws. More than 31 percent of Florida's population lives in counties that have established local Wage Recovery programs. Templin pointed out that ‘wage theft’ describes more than just employers not issuing paychecks. It also describes requests to not write down overtime hours and to report that lunch breaks were taken when they were not. ‘Wage theft is big business,’ he declared. ‘There are a lot of big companies and small ones - unscrupulous business owners - who have worked into their business model, underpaying their employees.’ The Florida AFL-CIO and other groups assert that fighting wage theft should be accessible to all workers, not just those with the financial means and ability to fight for their income in court.” (via Public News Service)


IN WHICH THE DEATH PENALTY IN FLORIDA GETS EVEN MORE DEPRESSING: As the death penalty becomes rarer and more concentrated in a few parts of the country, the states that continue to employ it are resorting to more desperate schemes to kill people. In January, for the third time in as many months, Missouri executed an inmate whose appeals were still pending. (A federal appellate judge wrote that he was “alarmed” by the state’s conduct.) Meanwhile, several states are refusing to disclose where they are buying the execution drugs they use, which come from unregulated compounding pharmacies.  And while the Supreme Court categorically banned the execution of people with intellectual disabilities as unconstitutional in 2002, some states continue to defy that principle by interpreting the court’s words as narrowly as possible. In that case, Atkins v. Virginia, the court said reduced mental capacity made a defendant less culpable, but left it to states to enforce the ruling.  On Monday, the court heard oral arguments in a case challenging Florida’s attempt to get around the 2002 decision by requiring intellectual disability to be proved by an I.Q. score of 70 or less, even though the test includes a margin of error of five points.  The defendant, Freddie Lee Hall, was sentenced to death in 1978 for murdering a pregnant woman named Karol Hurst. Over the years, Mr. Hall has scored between 69 and 80 on I.Q. tests. In 1991, a Florida court heard expert testimony and found that Mr. Hall has been “mentally retarded his entire life,” but upheld his sentence because capital punishment was not yet prohibited in such cases. After the 2002 Atkins decision, Mr. Hall seemed to have a strong case that he was ineligible for execution. Yet Florida kept him on death row because he had I.Q. scores higher than 70. This reasoning runs counter to the consensus among mental-health professionals, who see I.Q. tests as approximate, incomplete measures and reject strict cutoffs in reading the results. It also goes against the Supreme Court’s ruling, which relied on a multipronged clinical definition of intellectual disability that considers limitations in adaptive functioning, like interpersonal skills and self-care. Under Florida’s law, none of that matters if a defendant scores higher than 70. (via New York Times) 


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