Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Appeals Court Reinstates Norman’s Candidacy in Senate District 12

The First District Court of Appeals today overturned the Circuit Court’s order that Jim Norman was ineligible to run for election in Senate district 12 (Hillsborough and Pasco Counties.) Read the decision.

While two write-in candidates have qualified for the District 12 seat, Norman’s will be the only name on the ballot and, barring a very unlikely write-in victory, will enter the State Senate in November. Norman, a Hillsborough County Commissioner who consistently sides with development interests tried to eliminate the County’s wetlands program last August.  He will replace Sen. Victor Crist who is term limited. 

As a Senator, Norman may get to vote on whether to eliminate the Department of Community Affairs (DCA), a long time target of many developers.  DCA is the agency that reviews comprehensive plan amendments and has the authority to reject them if they do not comply with Florida’s Growth Management Act.  The Senate may also take up “streamlining” proposals that would lower the bar for permitting.

Norman’s placement on the November ballot was challenged by his primary opponent, State Rep. Kevin Ambler, and the court agreed that Norman had not properly disclosed the gift of a $500,000 home in Arkansas.

The Appeals Court voided Circuit Court Judge Fulford’s ruling because, even though the facts of the case were not disputed, Norman still meets the Constitutional qualifications to run for the State Senate: He is at least 21 years old, he has not been found guilty of a felony or adjudicated mentally incompetent, nor is he disqualified by term limits. Therefore, even though he may have violated statutory law, he still qualifies under the Constitution.

The Appeals Court notes that there are remedies other than disqualification. He could be prosecuted for perjury (read his financial disclosure and oath) or the legislature could refuse to seat him when he is elected. Norman will be the only candidate on the ballot. Two write in candidates have qualified, but their names are not on the ballot.

Rep. Ambler has not yet announced whether he will appeal to the Florida Supreme Court.

David Cullen, Sierra Club Florida lobbyist