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Sides battle in Florida ‘Legislative Privilege’ case

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Sides battle in Florida ‘Legislative Privilege’ case


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Arguing that the issue is moot, voting-rights groups on Friday urged an appeals court to reject an attempt by the state House and Senate to shield lawmakers and legislative staff members from testifying in redistricting lawsuits.

Lawyers for the groups filed a 44-page brief at the 1st District Court of Appeal that said they decided in December 2022 not to continue seeking depositions of lawmakers and staff members as part of a constitutional challenge to a congressional redistricting plan passed in spring 2022.

As a result, the groups said an appeal of an October 2022 decision by a Leon County circuit judge that could have led to depositions is moot.

But attorneys for the House and the Senate have continued pursuing the appeal, arguing that a legal concept known as “legislative privilege” bars requiring testimony from lawmakers. Ultimately, the House and Senate want to take the issue to the Florida Supreme Court and to undo a 2013 ruling that allowed such testimony in certain circumstances.

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The voting-rights groups’ brief said that “in December 2022, there was no longer a live issue — or even the threat of one — for this (appeals) court to resolve.”

“This appeal is unquestionably moot,” the brief said. “It challenges the circuit court’s October 27, 2022, order allowing appellees (the voting-rights groups) to depose a limited subset of legislators and staff involved in the 2022 congressional redistricting process on a limited number of topics. But those depositions never happened.”

In a March 11 brief, however, attorneys for the House and the Senate argued that the “appeal raises questions of great public importance” and that the 1st District Court of Appeal should send the case to the Florida Supreme Court. The Legislature ultimately wants the Supreme Court to “recede” — essentially reverse course — from the 2013 ruling in a case known as Apportionment IV.

“Apportionment IV erred in rejecting an absolute legislative privilege in civil cases and instead establishing a shapeless, standardless balancing analysis as the purported safeguard of the prerogatives of the legislative branch,” the March brief said. “That error threatens the legislative process with grave consequences and should be overruled.”

A coalition of groups, such as the League of Women Voters of Florida and Equal Ground Education Fund, and individual plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in 2022 challenging the constitutionality of a redistricting plan that Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed through the Legislature. They contend the plan violated a 2010 constitutional amendment that set redistricting standards, including a standard that said plans could not “diminish” the ability of minorities to “elect representatives of their choice.”

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The 1st District Court of Appeal in December 2023 upheld the constitutionality of the plan, and the groups have appealed to the Supreme Court, where that issue is pending.

But as part of the case, the plaintiffs in 2022 also sought depositions from six current and former lawmakers and five current and former staff members. The Legislature fought the depositions, but Circuit Judge J. Lee Marsh in October 2022 said he would allow the lawmakers and staff members to be questioned, with some limits.

Marsh cited the 2013 Supreme Court precedent.

“The appropriate line in this case is where the doors to the House and Senate meet the outside world,” Marsh wrote. “Accordingly, each legislator and legislative staff member may be questioned regarding any matter already part of the public record and information received from anyone not elected to the Legislature, their direct staff members or the staff of the legislative bodies themselves. They may not be questioned as to information internal to each legislative body that is not already public record (e.g., their thoughts or opinions or those of other legislators.)”

In addition to arguing that the appeal of Marsh’s ruling is moot, lawyers for the voting-rights groups also wrote in Friday’s brief that there is “no absolute legislative privilege in Florida.”

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But in the March brief, attorneys for the House and the Senate wrote that historically, “the legislative privilege safeguarded the integrity and independence of the legislative process and assured that fear of personal repercussions would not sway the votes of lawmakers or chill the freedom of speech and action in legislative deliberations.”

The current and former lawmakers involved in the dispute are former House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor; former Sen. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero; former Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach; Sen. Jennifer Bradley, R-Fleming Island; Rep. Tom Leek, R-Ormond Beach; and Rep. Tyler Sirois, R-Merritt Island. Each had a leadership role in the 2022 redistricting process.



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Florida

FREE ADMISSION: State parks won’t cost Florida residents over holiday weekend

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FREE ADMISSION: State parks won’t cost Florida residents over holiday weekend


ORLANDO, Fla. – State parks will offer free entry this Memorial Day weekend to Florida residents.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the free admission last month while promoting summer activities in the state.

The free admission runs from Friday through Monday.

Florida has nearly 200 state parks and thousands of miles of trails. The parks range from historic parks like the Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park in Flagler Beach, Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna, to natural springs like Silver Springs State Park in Marion County.

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If you’re planning to hit up Blue Springs, De Leon Springs or Wekiwa Springs, expect large crowds.

To find a state park near you, head to the Florida State Parks website.


You can listen to every episode of Florida’s Fourth Estate in the media player below:

Copyright 2024 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All rights reserved.

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3-time defending champ Oklahoma beats Florida State 11-3 in super regional opener

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3-time defending champ Oklahoma beats Florida State 11-3 in super regional opener


NORMAN, Okla. — Three-time defending national champion Oklahoma is one win away from going back to the Women’s College World Series.

Alyssa Brito went 3 for 3 with two homers and the second-seeded Sooners beat No. 15 seed Florida State 11-3 in six innings in Game 1 of the best-of-three Norman Super Regional on Thursday night.

Kasidi Pickering had two hits for the Sooners (53-6), who got 11 hits from eight players.

Sooners coach Patty Gasso said this was the best she has seen her team hit this season.

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“Top to bottom, it’s hard to breathe when you’re facing these guys, when they’re really feeling it,” she said. “It’s probably the first time in a long while that I felt top to bottom, we were taking really great swings and now it looks really good.”

Oklahoma ace Kelli Maxwell (20-2) went the distance for the win. She gave up three runs on four hits in five innings. Gasso said she was glad to see Maxwell fight through some tough innings. Florida State left eight runners on.

“It’s a victory,” Gasso said. “Nobody knows probably what I’m talking about. But for Kelly to stay through that and fight through that and throw over 100 pitches — that’s a victory for her.”

Florida State loaded the bases in the first with two outs but did not score against Maxwell.

Oklahoma’s Tiare Jennings hit a homer in the first, the 95th of her career. That tied her for second in school history with Lauren Chamberlain and moved her into a tie for third in Division I history.

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Oklahoma tacked on a run in the second, but Florida State’s Devyn Flaherty singled in the third to knock in two runs and tie the score.

Brito’s solo shot in the third highlighted a three-run inning that put the Sooners up 5-2.

Florida State got two on with no outs against Maxwell in the fourth and again failed to score.

Florida State starter Ashtyn Danley lasted just two innings after giving up five runs on six hits. Brito took new pitcher Emma Wilson out of the park in the fourth for a two-run blast that gave the Sooners a 7-2 edge. Kinzie Hansen followed with a two-run shot to make it 9-2.

The Seminoles won the national title in 2018 and lost to Oklahoma in the championship series in 2021 and 2023. That’s why Gasso expects Florida State to play better on Friday in Game 2.

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“I don’t expect that we’re going to have a game like we did today because they’re too competitive,” Gasso said, “They’re too well coached. They’ve been here before. They know what this feels like. They’re going to fight.”

In the Los Angeles Super Regional, Maya Brady hit two solo homers to help No. 6 UCLA beat No. 11 Georgia 8-0.

Brady went 3-for-4 and scored three runs and Jadelyn Allchin had three hits and scored twice for the Bruins

Kaitlyn Terry (21-1) threw a four-hitter. She struck out five and threw 93 pitches.



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South Florida home lists for $26M amid a flurry of big-dollar local sales

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South Florida home lists for $26M amid a flurry of big-dollar local sales


A new Venetian Islands, Florida property has hit the market for $26 million — and it’s not even a megamansion. The waterfront home, at 310 W. Dilido, is almost cozy at just 5,787 square feet.

“The Venetian Islands aren’t known for large homes, but this one has five bedrooms and an ideal layout,” said listing broker Dina Goldentayer of Douglas Elliman.

“It’s also on the Gold Coast, the Billionaires’ Row of the Venetian Islands,” Goldentayer added. “It has southern exposure with downtown [Miami] views. It’s the best of both worlds.”

The house comes with 60 feet on the water. Dina Goldentayer / Legendary Productions
There is plenty of room to entertain in this modern Venetian Islands home. Dina Goldentayer / Legendary Productions
A chic modern kitchen. Dina Goldentayer / Legendary Productions

Billionaire Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and Palantir, owns in the islands, as does Justin Korsant, CEO of firm Long Light Capital. The Venetian Islands are a chain of manmade islands in Biscayne Bay between South Beach and downtown Miami. 

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The new construction waterfront home was completed this year.

Details include a chef’s kitchen, and a main bedroom suite with white oak floors, lots of storage, a spa-like bath and a terrace. There’s also an elevator and a roof area. 

The home’s dock awaits a new owner’s yacht. Dina Goldentayer / Legendary Productions
Spectacular sunsets from the bedroom terrace. Dina Goldentayer / Legendary Productions
The home comes with five bedrooms and a pool. Dina Goldentayer / Legendary Productions

Outside, there’s a pool, a covered lanai, a summer kitchen and a dock with 60 feet on the water. 

Four Venetian Islands properties have traded in the last 90 days for more than $20 million, including 416 W. San Marino Drive, which Korsant just bought for $23 million — even though it is still under construction, said Goldentayer, who also repped both sides of that deal. 

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