Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is staying in the Republican primary for president, and lawmakers debate a bill that would increase civil liabilities in Florida.

Haley stays in race ahead of Michigan's primary

There’s been a number of developments on the presidential campaign trail.

Starting with a shakeup at the Republican National Committee. The party’s chair, Ronna McDaniel, announced she will officially relinquish that role next month.

She said she will allow the party to select a new chair of their choosing, following the tradition of letting a party’s presidential nominee pick a new chair.

Former President Donald Trump has already suggested North Carolina GOP chair Michael Whatley for the job.

Meanwhile, Trump is leading the Republican primary field, with 110 bound delegates compared to former Gov. Nikki Haley’s 20.

Michigan’s primary election takes place Tuesday, where Trump and Haley remain on the Republican ballot alongside several candidates who have dropped out, including Gov. Ron DeSantis

Michigan has been a crucial battleground state in the last two presidential elections and candidates will be looking not just to win the primary, but to see where they stand for the November general election as well.

After Saturday’s loss in her home state of South Carolina, Haley is facing growing calls from fellow Republicans to end her presidential candidacy.

“The sooner we come together, the better. There’s really no pathway for her after tonight,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said.

Haley trails in the delegate count and in the polls, and late Sunday, Americans for Prosperity announced it will no longer spend money on behalf of her campaign.

But Haley is vowing to stay in the race, both in Michigan on Tuesday and through March 5, Super Tuesday.

She says her ability to win four out of 10 voters in the South Carolina primary Saturday is a danger sign for Trump’s campaign.

“You can’t win a general election if you don’t acknowledge the 40% of Republicans who are saying we don’t want Donald Trump,” Haley said.

There are 874 delegates at stake on Super Tuesday, when 15 states and one U.S. territory hold primaries, but experts say it will be nearly impossible for Haley to catch up.

“They’ve redesigned the rules in a lot of these states. Trump and his team have been working on this for a couple of years. Most of them are now winner-take-all, or winner-take almost all, delegates,” University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato said.

President Joe Biden is expected to easily win Michigan’s Democratic primary, but some left-wing Democrats are urging votes for uncommitted delegates, to protest Biden not being more critical of Israel’s tactics in its war against Hamas. Because Michigan has a large concentration of Arab-American voters, the protest vote could be significant. Some of Biden’s supporters are pushing back.

“I think the progressives always had trouble with the perfect being the enemy of the good,” former DNC charman Howard Dean said.

The results on Tuesday will be closely watched for any clues about where Michigan is trending before the November election. The state was critical to Trump winning the White House in 2016 and then Biden winning it in 2020. 

Civil liabilities bill gets pulled from Committee

A controversial bill concerning wrongful death lawsuits and the unborn could see big changes before it reaches the Senate floor, if it gets there at all.

Lawmakers in Tallahassee Monday are busy renegotiating a bill that would give liability protections to Florida’s unborn with only one day left to advance bills in committee.

Senate bill 476 would empower parents sue over the wrongful death of their unborn child. 

For Florida Democrats, though, this is a veiled threat against access to abortion. 

“We’ve been working with the sponsor but she doesn’t seem interested in taking some of the suggestions we have so again it begs the question… what are you actually doing?” Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book said.

Under the bill, pregnant mothers would get immunity against civil lawsuits. Plus, a proposed amendment seemed to offer at least some protections to abortion providers too. 

But after some outspoken skepticism, the bill sponsor pulled the bill out of committee.

“Although I have worked diligently to respond to questions and concerns, I understand there is still work that needs to be done,” State. Sen. Erin Grall said.

Meanwhile, in the house, Republicans are dismissive about those concerns.

“This bill is narrowly tailored. It only applies to the wrongful death statute so while I’m happen to discuss personhood and whether a child should be a person, this is not that bigger conversation,” State Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka said.

It’s unclear as of now what changes could be on the horizon for this bill, if any.

New bill would increase penalties for youth gun crimes

A bill that would toughen penalties for kids caught with guns is one step closer to becoming law.

The Florida House of Representatives approved HB 1181 Thursday with a vote of 83-29. Under the bill, minors who illegally possess guns would be charged with a third-degree felony.

That’s up from a first-degree misdemeanor. They’d also be detained longer — five days for a first offense and 21 days for a second offense. For third and subsequent offenses, they could be adjudicated delinquent and committed to a residential program. 

Florida Rep. Berny Jacques sponsors the bill. He pointed to a Christmas Eve shooting in Pinellas County as an example of why it's needed. A 14-year-old boy shot and killed his sister after an argument with his 15-year-old brother about Christmas presents. That 15-year-old then shot the 14-year-old.

"It's tragic, because now a young man is charged with first degree murder and the other is charged with attempted first degree murder, and it's tragic because this could have been prevented," Jacques said during debate. "It could have been prevented because these youth were known not only to carry their firearms, but they had multiple run-ins with the law, including on firearm offenses — one of them at 12 years old. Had a charge with minor in possession of a firearm, but at the time and at this current time, it's only a misdemeanor, and there was no real mechanism to hold that child accountable. And who knows, if there were mechanisms in place, who knows what could have been prevented?"

Those against the bill said they're concerned the extended time teens can be detained is too harsh. According to the bill, if an adjudicatory hearing doesn't take place after a young person has been detained for 60 days, the court must hold a review hearing within each successive seven-day review period until the hearing is held or the child is placed on supervised release.

"If law enforcement is investigating what has happened in a matter, we get to hold a child basically until law enforcement and the state attorney can make a charging decision," said Florida Rep. Michele Rayner. "That flies in the face of the Constitution, that flies in the face of human decency, that flies in the face of protecting our children."

Freddy Barton, executive director of Safe & Sound Hillsborough, said he and his team reviewed the bill Thursday with teens in its youth gun offender program.

"I think that the bill does give a little bit more teeth to the existing language that's out there, but I don't think that it answers all of the concerns," Barton said. "We still need to have parents to come to the forefront and make sure that they have a role and responsibility in keeping guns out of the hands of kids, and we need to look at more prevention-based programming."

Safe and Sound works with young people facing charges to help get them back on the right track.

"Here in the pink and in the blue, those are kids that either are on probation or they've got some type of gun charge," Barton said, referring to a map of Hillsborough County with colored stickers on it, representing teens currently taking part in the group's programming.

According to Barton, they were all court-ordered to work with Safe and Sound in the last month.

"Unfortunately, the numbers are growing, and so we're trying to do as much as we can early because we're getting ready to go into spring break. We already know if we don't have active programming in place for kids and they're out of school, we see the numbers increase," Barton said.

He said it was important to talk with teens in the youth gun offender program about the bill to give them a better idea of the impact their actions today could have on their lives going forward.

"You need to understand there are going to be deeper consequences for making some of these choices. So, let's make better choices now so you don't find yourself on the other end of that," Barton said.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said that's the point of the bill — toughening consequences to stop kids from committing gun crimes.

"It's probably the worst that it's ever been," Gualtieri said of gun-related crime involving teens. "I think what it's being caused by is all these kids are out in the middle of the night, breaking into all these cars, and there's a lot more guns out there. There's a lot more guns in cars."

Gualtieri helped work on the bill and said it's about making sure the consequences match the crime.

"Everything in 1181 focuses on gun crimes and also being reasonable about it and making sure that we give kids the opportunity to get on the right side of it. We're using detention centers as a place those kids would be incarcerated for a minimum period of time to get the message across," Gualtieri said. "Kids at 14, 15, 16 years old, 2 to 3 in the morning, standing on the street corner, should not have a gun sitting in their waistband."

Barton said he does share the concerns of critics about the length of time teens could be detained, saying it could set them far back when it comes to school.

"If you can imagine when you were in high school and you were sick two, three days, you were already behind when you went back to school. Now, you're being securely confined for 21, 30 days for the state to come back or someone to come back and say that, 'Hey, this kid needs to be detained for another 21 days,'" said Barton. "Well, it's almost a death sentence for the kids when we try to get them back in their school environment."

Gualtieri said the proposed new detention times are reasonable.

"At the end of the day, there's an easy solution to the problem for young kids: don't commit gun crimes. If you don't commit gun crimes, you don't have to worry about it," Gualtieri said.