League of Women Voters hears about guns, Louboutins and electionsby Dara Kam | April 11th, 2013
The League of Women Voters of Florida heard from both sides on the gun debate and elections and ethics reform during their annual gathering in the Capitol this morning.
National Rifle Association Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer addressed the crowd after Quincy Police Chief Walter McNeil, a former president of the International Police Chiefs Association who’s helped the White House craft a gun control policy.
It’s the first time Hammer’s been asked to appear before the League in her nearly four decades of lobbying.
She told the group, which backs stricter gun control measures, that semi-automatic weapons function the same as traditional guns but look fancier.
“It’s technology that’s been around for over 100 years and the only diffrerence is cosmetics. The cosmetics are new,” Hammer said. She said that a gun with the plastic stock replaced by a wooden stock would fire the same way.
“That’s no different than a lady in an elegant dress and nylon stockings and Christian Louboutin high-heeled shoes and expensive jewelry changing clothes into blue jeans, a sweatshirt, Nikes and a Timex watch. The only difference is the way she looks,” she said.
Hammer also said that Florida’s first-in-the-nation “Stand Your Ground” law does not need to be changed. Gov. Rick Scott appointed a task force to look into the law in response to an outcry over the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old unarmed black teenager killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman.
“If criminals don’t want to get shot, they should leave people alone,” Hammer said.
Rep. Mark Pafford, celebrating his 47th birthday on Thursday, spoke about elections and health care.
He called an elections bill passed by the Florida House on the first day of the legislative session and working its way to a floor vote in the Senate a good start but still troubled.
And he criticized an ethics proposal caught up in a wrangle over campaign finance reform. Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, made the ethics reform his top priority and his chamber passed that measure on the first day of session. But House Speaker Will Weatherford’s priority campaign finance reform is troubled after Scott said he opposes a hike in the current $500 campaign contribution caps included in the House plan. Senate Ethics and Elections Committee Chairman Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, in charge of both measures along with the election package, says the House has linked campaign finance and ethics and one won’t get passed without a deal on the other.
Pafford criticized the ethics plan when asked whether the stalemate would be resolved.
“I don’t think there was any ethics reform. I think it’s all bull—-,” Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, said.
Latvala, who’s butted heads with Democrats over the election package, began his remarks on a somewhat defensive tone, telling the League he wasn’t “going to argue” about any of the issues but would take questions before handing them a compliment.
“I appreciate all the work you do to try to keep politicians honest,” Latvala said. “That’s what we’re trying to do, too.”
The League is asking for more than what’s included in Latvala’s election package. They want to eliminate the requirement of provisional ballots for voters who move out of county, do away with a requirement that absentee ballots include a witness signature and scrap a requirement that requests for absentee ballots to be sent to an address other than the voter’s home be made in writing.
Latvala said the witness signature was the recommendation of a Miami-Dade grand jury as a way to eliminate voter fraud. And he said the number of provisional ballots in 46 of 67 counties – including all of the large counties – surveyed by state supervisors was about 8,500. That’s a small number to ensure that voters don’t cast ballots in more than one place, he said.
And he criticized Democrats for blocking an compromise he offered regarding the provisional ballots. Latvala said he would have eliminated provisional ballots for voters in counties with electronic voter but Democrats refused to accept that because they insisted on requiring early voting on the Sunday before Election Day, also known as “Souls to the Polls” in which black and minority churchgoers cast their ballots after service.
On the campaign finance/ethics deal, Latvala said he is working with Scott’s office to convince him to move on the campaign contribution limits and get the House to make some concessions.
“We’re still a long way from resolving it. We’re trying. The ethics bill shouldn’t be held hostage to a campaign finance bill of questionable value,” he said.