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Immunity bill for lawmakers abruptly dropped

by John Kennedy | February 20th, 2012

Legislation that would have shielded lawmakers from having to testify or turn over public documents in court hearings was abruptly dropped Monday, after drawing criticism from a top senator.

The legislation (HB 7123) cleared the House Judiciary Committee last week under fire from Democrats who charged it was intended to serve as an obstacle in emerging lawsuits over redistricting.

Senate Reapportionment Chairman Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, sent a memo to fellow senators Monday saying he didn’t think the measure was necessary.  But he also indicated he was worried how the legislation might appear to a court reviewing the Legislature’s work redrawing House, Senate and congressional boundaries.

“Florida’s newly enacted congressional and legislative districts have been subjected to prolonged public scrutiny like never before,” Gaetz wrote. “They likely will be subject to more litigation than ever before…I do not want to chance even an appearance that the Legislature is not fully willing and able to explain our plans to any court of competent jurisdiction.”

Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yalaha, whose civil justice subcommittee advanced the proposal (HB 7123), said the immunity bill has nothing to do with redistricting. Instead, Metz said legal protections now granted legislators by courts on a case-by-case basis should be broadened.

He also said it was wrong that legislators could be forced to testify about their “legislative functions and duties.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, went even further, saying immunity is a “defense against gamesmanship and bullying.”

Labor unions have sued legislators over new teacher standards, retirement system payroll contributions and election law changes in the past year. In an attempt to sway a judge or jury, union legal strategy could include making lawmakers testify about their “intent” in approving these laws.

In redistricting, the motives of lawmakers crafting new maps also could prove pivotal.  But Metz’ proposal would have kept lawmakers off the witness stand.

House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, and Rules Chairman Gary Aubuchon, R-Cape Coral, said Monday — soon after Gaetz’s memo was released — that the House was dropping the immunity proposal this year. Cannon, however, added some criticism to those who had derided the legislation.

“The hysterical reaction we’ve witnessed over the last few days  has been ill-informed and politically-motivated,” Cannon said. “Unfortunately, a debate this year on this subject will never be free of partisan rancor, blatant political opportunism, and unrestrained hypocrisy on the part of those who wish to discredit the most open and transparent redistricting process in Florida’s history.”


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5 Responses to “Immunity bill for lawmakers abruptly dropped”





  2. taxpayer Says:

    Well, all the politicians need to answer to everything, they
    are the policy lawmakers. Why not blame on them when something is wrong when representing the people of their different districts. Republicans, Democrats and Independents.

  3. Citizen X Says:

    I guess if you have done nothing wrong then you have nothing to worry about…

  4. Jim Says:

    All elected officials should not be above the law, their Urgent need to provide themselves immunity is at best highly suspicious.
    Immunity from what? Perhaps being accountable to the people of Florida?
    The comment by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, who went even further, saying immunity is a “defense against gamesmanship and bullying.” is an absolute farce and a disgrace.
    The republican lead super majority Florida legislator, even after the passage of a constitutional amendment, continue to serve them selves against the best interests of their constituents and the people of Florida.
    Our hard working elected officials at work protecting them selves.

  5. brandy Says:

    What should be passed is a bill that states all public servants are subject to the laws of the land and cannot be considered immune from that at any time in their future whether still in office or not. Florida certainly seems to be making every effort to comply with the UN Agenda 21. If you haven’t read it, look it up.

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