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The Buzz 11/14/13

Domestic Partnerships in Pensacola? During its meeting on Thursday, Nov. 14, the Pensacola City Council will vote on an ordinance that would establish a Domestic Partnership Registry for the City of Pensacola. Councilman Larry B. Johnson (District 4) is sponsoring the ordinance, which if passed, would establish several rights for two unmarried cohabitating people. Among those rights are healthcare facility visitation, ability to make healthcare decisions in the event a partner is incapacitated, participation in a dependent’s education, notification in case of an emergency, correctional facility visitation, and funeral/burial decisions.

The Pensacola ordinance is modeled after that of the City of Orlando, which is one of 14 cities and counties in Florida that have a Domestic Partnership Registry in place. Leon County is currently the only municipality north of Gainesville with a registry.

While domestic partnerships afford certain rights that convey with legal marriage, the domestic partnership it would allow is not intended to be a marriage. The ordinance states, “Nothing in this ordinance shall be construed as recognizing or treating a domestic partnership as marriage.” If passed, the ordinance provides that cohabitating individuals could file an affidavit of domestic partnership with the City, pay required fees, and the City Clerk would issue a certificate and laminated card as documentation of the partnership. Domestic partnerships could be terminated by filing an affidavit with the Clerk as well.

This item will be voted on shortly after this issue of the IN is printed. For updated information on the vote, check Rick’s Blog at ricksblog.biz.

Not A Good Bet Sheriff David Morgan warns that expansion of gambling in Florida is a “crapshoot at best.”

In an interview with the Independent News, the sheriff said, “One only has to look to Las Vegas, Nev. and Atlantic City, NJ, to see that the expected panaceas of fiscal stability and work for all were clearly false promises.”

The Florida Senate Gaming Committee is holding on Nov. 14 a hearing in Escambia County to learn how the Panhandle views the possible expansion of casino gambling in the state. During the 2014 Legislative Session, the Senate will consider reworking the laws governing gambling in the state. Some see that as an opportunity to bring Las Vegas-style casinos and gaming into Florida.

The Florida Sheriff’s Association opposes any efforts to expand gambling and asked Morgan to speak on the issues of gaming and its impact on communities in Northwest Florida.

“Our community will be compelled to expand law coverage, requiring more taxes,” he said, noting that Las Vegas and Atlantic City have crime rates double the national average. “The International Association of Police Chiefs has pointed out that for every dollar collected in gambling taxes governments spend $10 fighting problems directly related to legalized gambling, such as prostitution, embezzlement, bad checks and racketeering.”

Sheriff Morgan added, “The issue is a simple one for me, if we portray ourselves to be a decent society one must set aside personal wants and desires, like gambling, for the betterment of the whole community. The deficits of any proposed expansion will far outweigh any forecasted assets.”

The Florida Senate Gaming Committee meets Thursday, Nov. 14, from 1:30-4:30 p.m. at the WSRE-TV Jean & Paul Amos Performance Studio on the main campus of Pensacola State College.

Rise In Reported Sexual Assaults When Congressman Jeff Miller dropped by the offices of the Independent News last week, he talked about the rise of sexual assaults in the military.

“First, the military had to recognize that it had a serious problem,” said Miller. “Members of Congress had been saying for quite some time this is something they needed to focus on intently.”

The fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act mandated an independent panel to make recommendations to Congress to stop military sexual assault in a report due in June 2014.

Army Maj. Gen. Gary S. Patton, director of DOD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, appeared on Nov. 7 before the Response Systems to Adult Sexual Assault Crimes Panel to report on DOD’s prevention and awareness initiatives.

General Patton reported that there were 3,553 assault reports in the first three quarters of the last fiscal year, up from 2,434 in the previous year—a 46 percent increase. The Independent News reported earlier this year (Independent News, “Not Invisible Anymore,” April 4), that few assaults were being reported because of the lack of confidence in how they would be investigated and few cases resulted in the accused being prosecuted. Patton believed that that attitude has changed.

“In light of the historic under-reporting of this crime in both military and civilian sectors,” Patton said, “we assess the increase in victim reports in FY13 to be a strong indicator of increased victim confidence, due to a combination of things we have been doing across the department, namely: improved victim support services, sustained leader emphasis and service member awareness, and enhanced legal and investigative capabilities.”

Rep. Miller talked with the Independent News about whether commanding officers should be handling the sexual assault cases.

“There is a ‘big tug and pull’ right now in taking adjudication away from commanding officers,” he said. “It’s awfully difficult to leave it in their hands when you see what folks have gone through.”

Miller said that both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have passed their Armed Service appropriation bills and have scheduled a conference committee. Both bills have provisions addressing sexual assault.

He said, “I’m very anxious to see what comes out of the conference, but this is one area we have a lot of agreement.”

“We should never put our troops in a position where advantage could be taken of them,” said Miller, who chairs the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “You hope people would recognize a responsibility with leadership not to let things like this to be ignored or swept under the rug.”