Scenes from a sit-in: Palm Beach County’s House Democrats post gun protest pics

Palm Beach County Democratic U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings, Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel occupy the House floor with other Democratic colleagues Wednesday in a picture posted by Deutch on Twitter.
Palm Beach County Democratic U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings, Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel occupy the House floor with other Democratic colleagues Wednesday in a picture posted by Deutch on Twitter.

The revolution might not be televised — CSPAN cameras are turned off when the U.S. House is not in session — but the Democratic sit-in to demand a vote on gun-control legislation is all over social media.

 

Leather chair sit-in pic tweeted by Rep. Lois Frankel on Wednesday morning.
Leather chair sit-in pic tweeted by Rep. Lois Frankel on Wednesday morning.

And members of Palm Beach County’s all-Democratic House delegation are doing their part to fill the Twittersphere and Facebook with sit-in selfies and other pics.

 

Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, appears to have been the first local member of Congress to post a sit-in picture from the House floor, tweeting one at 11:07 a.m. Wednesday.

 

Reps. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach, and Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, have also documented the sit-in on their Twitter and Facebook accounts.

 

Rep. Ted Deutch speaks during the sit-in.
Rep. Ted Deutch speaks during the sit-in.
Rep. Patrick Murphy, who's running for Senate, logs some carpet time during the sit-in.
Rep. Patrick Murphy, who’s running for Senate, logs some carpet time during the sit-in.
Rep. Alcee Hastings in a sit-in selfie with Reps. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., and Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y.
Rep. Alcee Hastings in a sit-in selfie with Reps. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., and Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y.

Orlando massacre: Democrats Frankel, Deutch, Murphy urge ‘common sense’ gun restrictions

Democratic U.S. Reps. Patrick Murphy, Ted Deutch and Loise Frankel at a news conference calling for "common sense" gun control in West Palm Beach.
Democratic U.S. Reps. Patrick Murphy, Ted Deutch and Loise Frankel at a news conference calling for “common sense” gun control in West Palm Beach.

WEST PALM BEACH — Three Democratic U.S. Reps. — Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach, Ted Deutch of Boca Raton and Patrick Murphy of Jupiter — urged the Republican-controlled Congress to expand background checks for gun purchases and ban people on the FBI’s terrorist watch list from buying firearms.

 

Deutch said if the House is prevented from voting on the gun measures, it will confirm that Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is part of a pro-NRA “extremist fringe.”

 

Neither measure highlighted at a news conference today would have prevented St. Lucie County jihadist Omar Mateen from buying the guns he used to kill 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday. But the House members said the Orlando massacre highlighted the need to pass some “common-sense” gun restrictions.

 

Reps. Lois Frankel and Patrick Murphy talk before today's news conference on guns.
Reps. Lois Frankel and Patrick Murphy talk before today’s news conference on guns.

“We have these vigils, we have the candle-lighting, we have the prayer services and now it’s time for Congress to do our job,” Frankel said at a morning news conference outside the federal courthouse in West Palm Beach. “This is not about taking away guns from lawful people…This is not about taking away the Second Amendment.”

 

They specifically mentioned a bipartisan bill by Reps. Peter King, R-N.Y., and Mike Thompson, D-Calif., to expand background checks to include purchases made at gun shows, over the internet or in classified ads.

 

The King-Thompson bill also allows the FBI to prevent people on its terrorist watch list from buying guns, while allowing those who feel they are unfairly or incorrectly on the list to go to court to appeal. The National Rifle Association favors an approach that would put the burden on the government to go to court to justify preventing a person from buying a gun.

 

“If we are going to continue to spend our tax dollars to track these folks down, do we want to make it easier or harder for them to buy the weapons they might want to use?” said Murphy, who is running for U.S. Senate.

 

“If the FBI has a suspected terrorist and cannot be notified that they are trying to buy a weapon, then come on, we are failing our constituents. We are failing the American people,” Murphy said.

 

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton.
U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton.

Deutch said restricting gun sales to suspected terrorists has overwhelming support among the public and NRA members.

 

“Unfortunately, there is this extremist fringe that has controlled the debate in the House of Representatives. And until Speaker Ryan is willing to let us have a vote on this, it’s clear that he is part of this extremist fringe,” Deutch said.

 

Asked if the burden should be on the government or the individual in a dispute over inclusion on the terrorist watch list, Deutch said: “If you’re on the terror watch list, after you’ve been investigated, after you’ve been deemed a threat, and if you’re on the no-fly list, after it’s been determined that you should not be able to board a plane, then the onus should be on you to confirm that you’re not a threat.”

 

 

Zika: Lois Frankel urges House to approve more money to fight ‘looming health threat’

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, flanked by Palm Beach County mosquito control supervisor Gary Goode and Michael Farzan of The Scripps Research Institute.
U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, flanked by Palm Beach County mosquito control supervisor Gary Goode and Michael Farzan of The Scripps Research Institute.

WEST PALM BEACH — U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, today urged the Republican-controlled House to approve more money to combat the mosquito-borne Zika virus and urged citizens to do their part to control mosquitoes.

 

“It is a looming health threat,” said Frankel, conducting a news conference in a friend’s lush back yard. “Our delegation here in Florida, both senators as well as the president of the United States, have recognized it and there’s going to be a push again next week when we go back to Congress to get more funding.”

 

Old tires or discarded bottles can collect water and become mosquito breeding grounds, said Gary Goode of Palm Beach County's Mosquito Control Division.
Old tires or discarded bottles can collect water and become mosquito breeding grounds, said Gary Goode of Palm Beach County’s Mosquito Control Division.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has called for emergency federal money to combat Zika. President Barack Obama requested $1.9 billion to fight Zika in February; the Republican-controlled Senate last month approved $1.1 billion, while the House has offered $622 million.

 

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has been an unlikely ally of Obama’s on the Zika issue, urging the House to support the White House figure.

 

Frankel said the House position is “underfunding it quite a bit.”

 

She said Florida is “somewhat ground zero” for the fight against Zika because “we have conditions that are susceptible to mosquitoes and an economy that relies heavily on tourism. We have got to take precautions, and it’s not just government doing its part, it’s the community doing its part.”

 

Gary Goode of Palm Beach County’s Mosquito Control Division said people can help combat mosquitoes by ridding their yards of old tires, water bottles or other debris where water can collect.

 

“Work with your neighbors and just scour your yards for anything that might be holding water,” Goode said.

 

 

Rep. Alcee Hastings, county lawmakers introduce ‘Corey Jones Act’ in Congress

Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach.
Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach.

Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach, and the three other members of Palm Beach County’s congressional delegation today introduced a bill — named for local shooting victim Corey Jones — to withhold federal grant money from police departments that allow plainclothes officers in unmarked cars to make routine traffic stops.

Jones was shot and killed Oct. 18 by a Palm Beach Gardens police officer who was not in uniform and drove an unmarked vehicle and encountered Jones after Jones’ vehicle broke down along an Interstate 95 exit ramp. Officer Nouman Raja, who was fired by the department in November, said he shot Jones after seeing that Jones had a gun.

Jones “would not have had any reasonable reason to believe that the person in plainclothes driving the unmarked vehicle was a law enforcement officer,” the preamble to Hastings’ bill says.

“Any confusion as to the nature of the law enforcement officer’s interaction with Mr. Jones could likely have been avoided had a uniformed officer in a marked vehicle been called to the scene. Tragic incidents like the death of Mr. Jones can easily be avoided by prohibiting law enforcement officers in plainclothes or law enforcement officers in plainclothes and unmarked vehicles from engaging in routine traffic stops.”

The Hastings bill — cosponsored by Reps. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, and Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach — would bar federal Community Oriented Policing Services grants from going to a law enforcement agency that “allows law enforcement officers to engage in routine traffic stops while in plainclothes or while in plainclothes and in a police vehicle that is unmarked or that otherwise is not clearly identified as a police vehicle.’’

Hastings called the bill “common-sense legislation will help keep both law enforcement and the citizens they police safe. Tragic incidents like the death of Corey Jones can easily be avoided by prohibiting plainclothes law enforcement officials driving unmarked vehicles from making traffic stops. These situations lead to confusion and even confrontation…I believe that imposing this requirement on COPS grant recipients will make our communities safer.”

Said Murphy, who has invited Jones family attorney Daryl Parks to next week’s State of the Union address: “I am proud to join Congressman Hastings in introducing the Corey Jones Act of 2016. I also applaud the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department for enacting changes to their plainclothes officers policy and approving the start of a body camera program this week. We honor Corey’s memory by taking actions such as these to increase public safety and improve trust between law enforcement and their communities.”

Florida Democrats in Congress weigh in against Legislature’s bid to allow guns on campus

Guns on campus bill draws opposition from Florida congressional Democrats
Guns on campus bill draws opposition from Florida congressional Democrats

Florida’s 10 congressional Democrats joined together Wednesday in opposing efforts in the state’s Republican-led Legislature to allow roughly 1.5 million concealed weapons permit holders to bring their guns onto college campuses.

“We agree that campus violence is a serious problem. Sadly, there have been at least 23 shootings on college campuses just in 2015,” the letter states. “Increasing the number of guns on college campuses is simply not the answer.”

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, a former state lawmaker, also went a little further.

“Florida’s colleges should be safe for our students, not remakes of the Wild West,” Frankel said in a statement. “The State Legislature should take seriously the concerns of university administrators, police, parents, and students and stop these reckless bills.”

The legislation (CS/HB 4001) has drawn controversy — and packed hearings — as it has advanced in the House. A similar idea also is moving forward in the Senate.

The measures are likely to head for full votes in the House and Senate soon after lawmakers convene the 2016 session on Jan. 12.

In committee hearings, the legislation has drawn a now familiar lineup of supporters and critics. Representatives of college and university administrators, campus police and faculty organizations have testified against the measure.

Supporters, including the NRA, argue campuses should not be allowed to bar those with permits from carrying their weapons with them.

The debate has raged at the state Capitol only a few miles from Florida State University, where in November 2014 gunman Myron May wounded two students and a library employee before being killed in a hail of gunfire from police.

The tragedy has frequently been cited by speakers on both sides of campus carry.

 

Running in new territory, Deutch gets endorsements from fellow Broward Democrats

Rep. Ted Deutch, running in a new district, gets endorsements from fellow Democrats
Rep. Ted Deutch, running in a new district, gets endorsements from fellow Democrats

In a move that may be aimed at defusing potential opponents in his re-tooled congressional district, U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch was endorsed Tuesday by a handful of prominent Democrats.

Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, was joined by U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings of Delray Beach and Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach in backing Boca Raton’s Deutch in his bid for the 22nd District, which now stretches deep into Broward County.

All four lawmakers currently represent parts of Broward County. But new congressional boundaries approved last week by the Florida Supreme Court make the 22nd District a Broward-dominated seat, stretching from Fort Lauderdale to Boca Raton.

Deutch agreed to run in the 22nd District, currently held by Frankel, while the West Palm Beach lawmaker seeks re-election in the 21st District, contained in Palm Beach County.

“Over the years, Ted has proven himself to be a consummate advocate for his South Florida constituents and a strong voice for Israel and Middle East peace, and his voice will be critically important in the 115th Congress,” Wasserman Schultz said. “He has represented Broward well and we are fortunate to have him.”

 

Seat Swap: Frankel, Deutch find solution to congressional district redraw

U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, and Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach.
U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, and Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach.

Following the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling revamping congressional district boundaries, Palm Beach County Democrats Lois Frankel and Ted Deutch have found a relatively simple solution aimed at retaining familiar territory.

They’ll swap districts.

But stay with us, while we explain this political version of  ‘who’s on first.’

Deutch of Boca Raton, currently represents the state’s Congressional District 21, stretching from Palm Beach County into Broward County. He’ll run for the revised District 22 seat that will range from Boca Raton and Highland Beach into Broward.

“The 22nd district, approved today by the Florida Supreme Court, is home to around 300,000 constituents I am proud to serve today, as well as thousands of Broward and Palm Beach County residents I previously represented in the Florida Senate and in Congress,” Deutch said.

“I am excited to run in the community where my wife and I work, where my daughters graduated and my son attends high school, where my family goes to synagogue, and where I have spent so much time working for and with the people of South Florida,” he added.

The District 22 seat is currently held by Frankel of West Palm Beach. But many of the communities contained in that district would be in District 21 following the court decision — which affirmed a District 21 contained in central Palm Beach County.

Frankel is now looking to run in that new District 21.

“I have deep respect for Ted Deutch’s tireless service to South Florida along with great affection for him as a friend,” Frankel said. “His decision to run in the new Broward-based seat reflects his long commitment to serving the community where he has worked and raised his family.”

“As the junior member of the South Florida delegation, I will honor his decision as I look to represent Palm Beach County in 2016. More importantly, Ted and I will remain focused on tackling the challenges of South Florida together, for as long as our constituents continue to elect us,” Frankel added.

Supreme Court ruling sets congressional boundaries with big changes in Palm Beach County

Justice Barbara Pariente wrote the court's majority opinion
Justice Barbara Pariente wrote the court’s majority opinion

The Florida Supreme Court set new boundaries for the state’s 27 congressional districts Wednesday, upholding a map drawn by a voters’ coalition in a setback to the Republican-ruled Legislature.

The 5-2 ruling endorses a recommendation from Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis who held a three-day trial in September to review maps submitted by lawmakers and the voters’ groups, led by the Florida League of Women Voters and the state’s Common Cause.

“We remain “cognizant that this Court’s role is not to select a redistricting map that performs better for one political party or another, but is instead to uphold the purposes of the constitutional provision approved by Florida voters to outlaw partisan intent in redistricting,” Justice Barbara Pariente wrote for the majority.

U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, has already vowed to challenge the justices’ ruling in federal court, claiming the recommended map converts her Jacksonville to Orlando district into one stretching west past Tallahassee.

Brown said the change disenfranchises minority voters in the Orlando area and she contends it violates the federal Voting Rights Act.

In Palm Beach County, the proposal recommended by Lewis dramatically changes three of the four congressional districts which course through the county.

Districts held by U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, and Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, would undergo the most revision.

Frankel’s District 22 would become Broward County-based, and include only Boca Raton and Highland Beach in the former West Palm Beach mayor’s home county. Deutch’s two-county, District 21 — which like Frankel’s, runs north-to-south — would instead be contained completely in Palm Beach County.

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach, would lose Hendry County from his District 20, in exchange for gaining a larger portion of Broward. The district would continue to include a majority of black voters, but also lose a section that splits six Palm Beach County cities, mostly along the Florida East Coast Railway tracks.

While a number of Palm Beach County officials earlier testified before lawmakers, urging that Frankel-Deutch districts remain two-county and continue stretching north-south, that had little effect on the mapmaking.

The battle over the once-a-decade task of redrawing congressional boundaries has proved epic in Florida, a legislative and courtroom brawl that began calmly enough four years ago, with public hearings around the state.

The Legislature’s first approved map was declared unconstitutional by Lewis in 2013, who ruled that interference by Republican consultants had “made a mockery” of voter-approved anti-gerrymandering constitutional standards.

After lawmakers redrew the map last year, that plan was tossed out by justices.

When the Legislature held a special session in August to attempt a third try, the House and Senate clashed bitterly and failed to reach consensus – leaving it to the courts to craft boundaries.

Justices to review congressional map that includes big changes for Palm Beach County

A plan for Florida's congressional districts heads today to the state Supreme Court.
A plan for Florida’s congressional districts heads today to the state Supreme Court.

Just days after the Florida Legislature failed to approve new Senate district boundaries, the state Supreme Court today will hear arguments on a congressional redistricting plan sent to them by a Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis.

Lawyers for the House, Senate and a pair of voting groups will have 20 minutes each to make their case this afternoon to the state’s seven justices. They are positioned to decide what boundaries are in place for the state’s 27 congressional districts for next year’s elections.

The congressional map has gone to justices after the House and Senate failed to agree during an August special session on setting new boundaries.

Two earlier efforts by the Legislature to draw the map had been thrown out by the courts for violating anti-gerrymandering provisions in the state constitution.

Leon Circuit Judge Terry Lewis recommended a plan to the Supreme Court last month, following a three-day hearing.

In Palm Beach County, the proposal recommended by Lewis dramatically changes three of the four congressional districts which course through the county.

Districts now held by U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, and Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, would undergo the most revision.

Frankel’s District 22 would become Broward County-based, and include only Boca Raton and Highland Beach in the former West Palm Beach mayor’s home county. Deutch’s current, two-county district — which like Frankel’s, runs north-to-south — would instead be contained completely in Palm Beach County.

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach, would lose Hendry County from his District 20, in exchange for gaining a larger portion of Broward. The district would continue to include a majority of black voters, but also lose a section that splits six Palm Beach County cities, mostly along the Florida East Coast Railway tracks.

The district held by U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, remains largely unchanged in the proposal before justices.

The Legislature’s failed effort to redraw state Senate boundaries means justices will likely be asked to approve new district lines for that chamber in coming weeks.