State Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, and 10 other lawmakers have been issued subpoenas in the ongoing lawsuit over federal review of controversial sections of a new election law. The subpoenas were issued by a Washington, D.C. law firm that represents the League of Women Voters of Florida and the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic voter advocacy group.
The two organizations intervened in the case of State of Florida vs. United States of America and Eric H. Holder Jr., the U.S. attorney general. The state-initated lawsuit asks a three-judge panel to "pre-clear" or approve four specific sections of the new election law to ensure that they do not violate the civil rights of minority voters in five counties: Hillsborough, Collier, Hardee, Hendry and Monroe.
Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, who sponsored the legislation (HB 1355), said he received a copy of the subpoena electronically while he was talking with a reporter Tuesday. "What we'll do is look to the House counsel for guidance and conduct ourselves accordingly," Baxley said. A fifth House subpoena was issued to the State Affairs Committee, which approved the bill following a heated committee debate last spring.
Among many other demands, the subpoena tells Baxley and the others to produce "all documents concerning your, or any other legislator's, reasons, justifications, rationales, interests and/or purposes in enacting any of the four sets of voting changes." The law firm's representative declined to discuss why specific legislators were issued subpoenas.
The other House members whose records were demanded are Reps. Keith Perry, R-Ocala; Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach; Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City; and Trudy Williams, R-Fort Myers. Senators who were subpoenaed include Bennett; Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale; Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami; Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland; Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey; and John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine. (Dockery and Fasano were the only Senate Republicans who voted against the bill; all of the others voted for it).