Today's Tampa Bay Times publishes the editorial, "Recklessly speeding to execute."
Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature are speeding up executions in an era when other states are slowing them down or repealing the death penalty. The legislation that Scott signed into law Friday puts him on track to be the most active executioner in modern Florida history, in a state that has had more exonerations off death row than any other in the country. The only backstop now is if Scott uses his executive clemency powers to try to avoid future injustices.
The new law addresses a nonexistent problem. The death penalty has had support from governors across party lines. Both Democrats and Republicans have ordered executions, but they were able to do so on a timetable that reflected the unique circumstances of each case. The new law strips away a governor's discretion, requiring him to sign a death warrant within 30 days after the inmate has exhausted his appeals and the executive clemency process is complete. The only bright spot is that some flexibility is retained by the governor since only he can order a clemency review. Scott's general counsel, Pete Antonacci, urged the addition of the clemency provision, a step that adds a safeguard from reckless speed.
No one has a clear picture of whether there are innocent people among the 405 people on Florida's death row, but the state has exonerated 24 prisoners off death row in the last decade — more than any other state. Frank Lee Smith died of cancer on Florida's death row in 2000 after spending 14 years there. A posthumous DNA test found that he had been innocent of the crime and identified the real murderer.
First, I'm not a proponent of Gaetz's Timely Justice Act per se.
While concerns about undue delay in the appeals process shouldn't be ignored they'd be more appropriately addressed within the context of a comprehensive review of Florida's entire death penalty process by all branches of state government to minimize the risk the state might execute innocent people (or others who shouldn't be subject to the death penalty), precisely what The Florida Bar urged state officials to launch in a resolution it adopted in February.
Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero, appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush, and I sought that position from Bar leadership for nearly two years.
Capitol News Service posts, "Timely or Shameful Justice?" It's by Mike Vasilinda.
Governor Rick Scott is executing inmates at a higher rate than any Governor of Florida since the death penalty was resumed in 1979. After taking office two and a half years ago, 8 death sentences have been carried out. New legislation to speed up the process even more is drawing both cheers and jeers.
There is also Florida political polling news from a Quinnipiac University poll.
AP coverage is, "Scott's Approval Rating Up But He Still Trails Crist," by Brendan Farrington, via the Lakeland Ledger.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s approval rating is improving, a poll released Tuesday shows, though not to the point that it’s likely to deter any potential challengers in 2014.
The Quinnipiac University poll shows 43 percent of voters approve of the job Scott is doing, compared to 44 percent who disapprove. Meanwhile, 40 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of him compared to 42 percent who have an unfavorable view.
While those numbers aren’t sizzling, they are better than the 36 percent job approval and 33 percent favorable rating that voters gave Scott just three months ago.
The numbers suggest that Scott’s “It’s Working” message, which he’s using to tout Florida’s improving economy, is starting to work.
Still, the Republican governor will have to improve those numbers if he wants to win re-election.
"Gov. Rick Scott gains ground in new statewide poll, but still trails former Gov. Charlie Crist," is by Steve Bousquet for the Miami Herald.
The percentage of voters who have a favorable view of Scott is up to 40 percent, the highest since he took office nearly two-and-a-half years ago. But he has persistent problems with women, who favor Crist by 51 to 32 percent, and Hispanics favor Crist over Scott, 40-33 percent.
Crist’s 13 percent share of Republican crossover votes is slightly higher than Scott’s 8 percent share of Democrats.
Voters still say by a margin of 50 percent to 35 percent that Scott does not deserve to be re-elected, but that too is an improvement over the previous survey in March, when 55 percent said he didn’t deserve a second term and 32 percent said he did.
"It is an indication of how far down Gov. Rick Scott’s numbers have been that he can take some solace from a poll that finds him losing by 10 points to his predecessor in the governor’s office," said Quinnipiac’s Peter Brown. "In addition to cutting the deficit between himself and Crist, Scott sees his tepid job approval and favorability numbers and still-negative re-election numbers as notably improved. That doesn’t mean that happy days are here again for the governor, but if he is going to make a comeback, these are the kinds of steps that would be required."
Flagler Live posts, "Scott Makes Up Some Ground Against Crist and Improves Favorability to Still-Low 40%."
In a match-up against Crist–who has not announced his candidacy in the race–Scott trails, 47 to 37 percent, but that’s a significant improvement from March, when he faced a 16-point deficit in the Quinnipiac poll, and a 12-point deficit in a Public Policy Poll. Scott would also lose against Sen. Bill Nelson, if Nelson were to decide to run for governor. He would beat Scott 48 to 38 percent. Some Democrats are pushing Nelson, who’s had his run-ins with Scott, to run. He was elected to his third U.S. Senate term in November. Florida Democrats gathered for an annual gala last weekend boasted that whoever they would field against Scott would win.
Scott’s numbers have been climbing slowly but rather steadily since his lowest approval rating in May 2011, when it bottomed out at 29 percent, among the worst for any governor in the nation.
Earlier coverage from Florida begins at the link.