The Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times is reporting that a judge has ruled that four legislators who have been fighting against testifying in a legal challenge to the state’s controversial elections law no longer have to.
Elections law sponsors Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Rep. Dennis Baxley — as well as Sen. Paula Dockery and Rep. Seth McKeel — decided last week that they do not want to talk about the controversial elections law passed last year and their role in its passage. Dockery, R-Lakeland, was among two GOP senators who voted against the controversial bill last year.
Five state senators and five state House members were issued subpoenas by a law firm representing the League of Women Voters and the National Council of La Raza last November. Both groups have intervened in the case of State of Florida vs. United States of America and Eric H. Holder Jr. Holder is the U.S. attorney general.
After two hours of legal arguments, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle rendered a quick decision — that legislators have long had a common-law privilege that shields them from being forced to testify about why they make decisions.
“People recognize without even thinking about it that there is this privilege,” Hinkle said. “The balance here favors the legislators and the members of their staffs.”
The state is currently awaiting for a D.C. court to approve four of the most controversial parts of the state’s new elections law. The three-judge panel is looking at whether new restrictions on third-party voter registration drives, a shortened “shelf life” for signatures collected for ballot initiatives, obstacles for voters looking to change their registered addresses on election day and a reduction in the number of early voting days will make it harder for minorities to vote.
Since the state’s elections law was implemented in over 60 counties in the state, groups have sued the state and the U.S. Senate held a field hearing in Tampa into the law.