4/27/18: Felons Voting Rights, Bipartisan Politics And Solar In Florida

Apr 27, 2018

Florida does not have to change its system for restoring the voting rights of felons -- for now.

In politics this week, we’ll look at the possibility of a bipartisan governor’s ticket in addition to how some politicians may have used your Facebook data.

Plus, the state’s utility regular says leasing solar panels is not the same as selling electricity made from the sun.

Felons Voting Rights

Governor Rick Scott called an emergency meeting of the state Clemency Board this week and then canceled it after a federal appeals court decided he didn’t have to change how the state deals with restoring voting rights of felons.  

Last month, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker gave the state a deadline to create a new system for restoring voting rights to felons. That deadline was supposed to be Thursday. In February, Walker ruled the system is unconstitutional and arbitrary.

But the appeals court issued a stay as it considers the state’s case. Governor Scott has said the current restoration process is outlined in the Florida Constitution and has been in place for more than a century.

Felons in Florida have to wait up to seven years after they've served their time before they can apply for voting rights. Then, it can take years to get their request considered by the Clemency Board.

That’s in contrast to most states - where felons who complete their sentences automatically get voting rights.

Voting rights advocates have said 1.5 million felons may have been disenfranchised under the current system.

Hundreds of protesters rallied at the Capitol Thursday in support of the citizens’ initiative known as Amendment 4. Voters will decide in November whether they want to restore felons’ right to vote.

The Reverend Al Sharpton and other civil rights advocates said Governor Scott, who’s running for the U.S. Senate, wants to suppress the vote.

“Y’all got all these elections going around in Florida, telling me the governor wants to be a senator and all that. Why are you afraid, Governor Scott, of more folk being allowed to vote?” said Sharpton.

Associated Press reporter Gary Fineout,and A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics joined us to discuss the issue.

Bipartisan Politics

Two former Florida congressmen say they’re considering running on a bipartisan ticket in the state governor’s race.

Democrat Patrick Murphy and Republican David Jolly have talked politics on this show.

They’ve been on a tour to explain the gridlock in Washington. Now, polling is underway to see if voters would be interested in a bipartisan, Murphy/Jolly ticket.

The idea is to have Murphy run for the democratic nomination. If he wins the nomination, he’d pick Jolly to be his running mate. Jolly can often be seen on cable TV news programs speaking against President Trump.

Other Political News And Notes

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg faced questions from Tampa Congresswoman Kathy Castor and U.S. Senator Bill Nelson this month over Facebook's use of private data.

Yet, both Florida Democrats have paid for Facebook ads that target users based on information collected by the social media outlet.

“The recent scandal, uh, is obviously frustrating not only because it affected 87 million but because it seems to be part of a pattern of lax data practices by the company going back years,” said Nelson, while Castor said,  “Facebook now has evolved to a place where you are tracking everyone. You are collecting data on just about everybody.”

The hearings in Washington focused on a privacy breach involving a conservative-leaning British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. In 2015, Cambridge Analytica gained access to data of 87 million Facebook users. It was information that wasn’t supposed to be given to third-party companies.

As outraged as lawmakers were about the data breach, the Tampa Bay Times reported that most political campaigns these days pursue voters using personal information collected by Facebook. So any action lawmakers take to regulate Facebook could directly impact their own future campaigns.

Florida Democratic Party's Line Of credit

The Florida Democratic Party opened a big line of credit last year that wasn’t listed on campaign finance reports.

The Naples Daily News reported the $200,000 credit line was opened using the assets of Miami Beach real estate developer Stephen Bittel as collateral. Bittel served as party chairman for ten months until he resigned amid claims by female staffers of inappropriate conduct.

Party officials said the line of credit was never used and was closed when Bittel resigned.

Now, federal regulators are investigating a deficit of nearly $160,000 reported in the party’s federal campaign account last November. The federal account supports congressional candidates like Senator Nelson, who is facing a challenge from Republican and multi-millionaire Governor Scott.

Climate Changes Comes With A Big Cost For Florida

Florida has more at risk than any other state when it comes to the cost of climate change. That's according to a study out this week from the magazine Science.  Researchers figure climate change will cost the state’s economy almost $101 billion by the end of the century because of hurricanes, storm surges, rising sea levels and other consequences of climate change.

Now at the same time, the state’s Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities, gave the green light to solar energy company Sunrun, allowing it to sell its lease solar equipment to homeowners.

Only utilities can legally sell electricity in Florida, and the commission said Sunrun does not need it’s okay to lease its solar panels.

Florida leads the nation this year in the growth of solar power installations according to the Solar Energy Industries Association and is now 12th in the nation in rooftop solar installations.

With her thoughts on both these stories, we were joined by Amy Green, an environmental reporter with WMFE in Orlando.