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Sen. Siplin calls on Scott to appoint special prosecutor in Trayvon Martin case

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: Senate President Mike Haridopolos also says “no” to a special committee on the use of the “stand your ground” law.

“The Senate President feels that Governor Scott is currently taking all of the appropriate steps to address the tragic shooting of Trayvon Martin. Additionally, the Senate President is confident that the circumstances surrounding this shooting will be closely examined by lawmakers, and if the Senate concludes that laws need to be revised they will be addressed in the future,” Haridopolos’s spokeswoman Lyndsey Cruley said in an e-mail.

State Sen. Gary Siplin and a coalition of other black lawmakers are asking Gov. Rick Scott to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate last month’s shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a neighborhood watch volunteer near Orlando.

Trayvon Martin was killed last month by George Zimmerman, whom police identified as white but whose family says is Hispanic, in a gated community in Sanford on Feb. 26. Zimmerman, who has not been charged with any crime, has said he shot the high school student in self-defense after a confrontation.

The shooting, now being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice and local authorities, has sparked an international furor with civil rights leaders demanding Zimmerman’s arrest and a probe into selective prosecution of white-on-black crime.

Siplin, an Orlando attorney whose district neighbors Sanford, said the community is plagued by a “plantation” mentality and asked Scott to appoint a special prosecutor to quell racial tension.

“In my community today, they’re very upset. They’re very excited. They’re ready to ignite,” Siplin, a Democrat and a laywer, said at a press conference in the Capitol Wednesday afternoon.
(more…)

Black lawmakers, stunned by Scott, want minorities to get to work for governor

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011 by Dara Kam

After four years of close relations with his predecessor Charlie Crist, most black lawmakers believe they’ll have a much cooler relationship with Gov. Rick Scott.

“I’m not optimistic at all,” said Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, whose district includes a portion of Palm Beach County.

But don’t look for any sit-ins, yet.

After two months on the job, Gov. Rick Scott has yet to appoint a black or Hispanic to a high-level post.

And at a luncheon for black lawmakers at the mansion yesterday, he further alienated some of the members by suggesting he grew up like them – in public housing and with a parent who had a sixth-grade education.

He also told them he wants their help hiring minorities although he also said he insisted he believe in giving preferences to applicants based on race or ethnicity.

Today, black lawmakers set up an e-mail address to help Scott round out his hires.

Blacks and Hispanics interested in getting to work for Scott should send their applications to iamqualified@live.net, caucus leader Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, said at a press conference today. Minority business owners seeking contracts with the state should also send their information, Siplin advised.

The lawmakers want Scott to reconsider his decision to whack money for historically black private colleges – except the financially ailing Edward Waters College near Jacksonville – from his budget.

Siplin said they’ll meet again with Scott and forward the qualified applicants to his office.

Siplin said Scott was simply sharing his background with the black caucus by mentioning the public housing and parents’ lack of education.

“Quite frankly, all black folks are not poor,” Siplin said at a press conference Wednesday.

Smith, whose mother has a master’s degree, said he was shocked at Scott’s comments at yesterday’s lunch and considered walking out.

“He just assumed because he was sitting with a bunch of black people that we had all grown up in public housing,” Smith said.

Scott is “tremendously disconnected” from the realities of being black or Hispanic in Florida, Smith said.

“He doesn’t see the need for diversity or inclusion,” Smith said. “Any diversity that happens (in his administration) is going to happen by happenstance.”

Gov. Jeb Bush started off by alienating blacks when he did away with minority preferences in university admission and state contracting.

Bush’s actions prompted two black lawmakers – then-Sen. Kendrick Meek and Sen. Tony Hill, then a House member – to stage a sit-in in his office.

Incoming Prez Haridopolos clears decks in Senate

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010 by Dara Kam

Before he’s officially taken over as Senate President, Sen. Mike Haridopolos gave the axe to several top-ranking senate staffers this week, according to Senate sources.

The list includes staff directors Bob McKee of the Finance and Tax committee, Ray Wilson of Governmental Oversight and Accountability; General counsel Jay Vail; chief information officer and director of information technology Curt Unruh; and Joe McVaney, deputy staff director with the budget committee.

“The Florida Senate appreciates all of its dedicated employees, but it is the incoming Senate President’s prerogative to make personnel changes, with a new administration. My goal is to have an efficient, well-organized Senate staff, and this is just the first step in doing so,” Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, said in a statement.

The housecleaning takes place after Haridopolos hired Steve MacNamara, former chief of staff for former House Speaker John Thrasher, now a state senator and head of the Republican Party of Florida.

More heads are expected to roll before the November elections. Those leaving will be able to run out their annual leave and comp time, according to a source close to Senate President Jeff Atwater’s office. (more…)

Black caucus wants trial lawyers to unfold their wallets

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009 by Dara Kam

A racially-charged mail piece targeting former House Speaker John Thrasher will cost the state’s trial lawyer association more than embarassment.

The Florida Justice Association has hired former Florida Supreme Court Justice Gerald Kogan to conduct an investigation into the flier that elicited outrage from the legislature’s black caucus.

“It was the most blatant display of racism I’ve seen in 27 years,” Senate Democratic Leader Al Lawson, who is black, said at the legislature’s black caucus meeting last night.

The mailer was especially offensive to black lawmakers because they have historically sided with the trial lawyers in votes and considered them their friends, Lawson said.

“This experience really threw me for a loop,” Lawson, D-Tallahassee, said.

(more…)

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