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Who’s No. 2 and legal battles: The week in Florida politics

September 1, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s 2018 midterm election is one of the most important in years. The governor’s office and all three Cabinet seats are on the ballot; Republican Gov. Rick Scott is challenging three-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson; several congressional seats will be competitive; and Floridians will vote on several proposed constitutional amendments. The following are items of political interest from the past week:

WHO’S NO 2?

The surprising outcome of Florida’s gubernatorial primary election on Tuesday has put a lot of attention and focus on the Republican and Democratic winners now heading on to the November election.

But while U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum are making television appearances and picking up money they also have a looming deadline to contend with.

Florida election law requires Gillum and DeSantis to pick a running mate by Sept. 6.

In recent years, there has been much debate over whether the job of lieutenant governor is really needed especially since the job doesn’t have any defined duties. After Lieutenant Gov. Jennifer Carroll abruptly resigned in March 2013, Gov. Rick Scott didn’t pick a replacement until nearly a year later.

Scott tapped former legislator Carlos Lopez-Cantera for the post just months before he sought a second term in office. But while Lopez-Cantera played a role in helping Scott push through his legislative priorities during his re-election year, he became less and less visible once Scott was sworn into a second term.

Guessing who DeSantis or Gillum will pick has quickly become the favorite parlor game of Tallahassee’s insiders who are throwing out the names of various legislators and local officials — many of whom have limited name identity outside of their local areas.

In most elections, the choice has little bearing on the ultimate outcome, although there is speculation that Jeb Bush’s decision to choose Tom Feeney as his lieutenant governor in 1994 may have led to his narrow defeat.

AMENDMENT LEGAL BATTLES RAGE ON

There were supposed to be 13 amendments on this year’s ballot, but how many of those amendments voters will get to act on remains caught up in legal limbo.

This past Monday Circuit Judge Karen Gievers tossed off the ballot Amendment 6 because she ruled that the measure is misleading and does not fully tell voters what it does.

The measure, known as Amendment 6 or Marsy’s Law, was put on the ballot earlier this year by the state’s Constitution Revision Commission. The commission meets every 20 years and has the power to place amendments directly before voters. They must be approved by 60 percent of voters in order to pass.

Amendment 6 would spell out crime victims’ rights, including protections from harassment, being informed of the accused’s custody status, the right to be heard during criminal proceedings and the right to confer with prosecutors about any plea agreements. The proposal also puts in limits on how long appeals can take. The amendment, if passed, would also raise the mandatory retirement age for judges and justices from 70 to 75.

Gievers, however, agreed with those who challenged the amendment that it does not tell voters that it would also remove or modify rights of the accused in a criminal case.

The case over the amendment has been quickly kicked up to the Florida Supreme Court, which is now going to decide the fate of three separate amendments.

Justices held a hearing this past week on an amendment that if passed would ban betting on live dog racing. The high court is scheduled to hold hearings on the victims’ right amendment and an amendment dealing with charter schools next week.

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