TALLAHSASSEE (News-Press.com) - The Florida Secretary of State's office will begin polling members of the Legislature to find out if there is enough support to hold a special session to decide the fate of the state's controversial "stand your ground" law.
Vastly outnumbered Democrats have a week to convince enough Republicans lawmakers to support the special session.
House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, announced late Monday that Democrats had gathered the 32 written requests necessary to trigger a poll of lawmakers. If 96 members of the Legislature agree, the House and Senate would return to Tallahassee to debate the law.
"While the House speaker has indicated that the Legislature may hold a hearing later this year on certain policies, including stand your ground, I strongly believe that a special session is the best way to justly address the concerns of our constituents," Thurston said in a statement issued by his office.
Legislators will now be sent a poll from the state agency that they have until 11:59 p.m. on Aug. 19, to sign and return. The proposal is an effort to circumvent the opposition to a special session by Scott and Republican legislative leaders.
The process, allowed in state statutes, has never been used before to call a special session.
The poll was hailed by the Dream Defenders, the Hialeah-based group that has staged an around-the-clock protest since July 16 against the law, which grants legal immunity to people who use deadly force if they reasonably believe their lives are in danger.
House Speaker Will Weatherford, who has directed a subcommittee to hold a hearing on the law this fall, said Monday that he hoped both sides will accept the results.
"Once this poll concludes, the question of a special session will be final," Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said in an email. "I trust our protesters will accept the results and return the Capitol back to normal business. It's time."
Thirty-three of the state's 58 Democratic lawmakers have filed petitions with the Florida Department of State requesting a special session. But even if every Democrat in the Legislature were to support a session, no sure bet, another 38 Republicans would still have to back the idea.
Most Republicans have resisted changing the law. For example, House Criminal Justice Subcommittee Chairman Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, has vowed not to change "one damn comma."