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Rare tactic used to try to force special Florida legislative session

4:23 PM, Aug 13, 2013   |    comments
Dream Defenders Executive Director Phillip Agnew poses at the Florida Capitol. (Photo by Mickey Adair/Getty Images)
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The Dream Defenders staging the sit-in at the Florida Capitol continue to surprise.

The groups commitment to their goals and ability to turn the political conversation toward their issues is starting to turn some heads.

They are celebrating a victory on the 29th day of their vigil outside Gov. Rick Scott's office.

The protesters have convinced enough Democratic lawmakers to force a poll of all state lawmakers on whether Florida should have a special session focusing on the controversial "Stand Your Ground" law.

They needed 32 lawmakers to request the poll and ended up getting 33.

Dream Defender Phillip Agnew says the group is excited to get the poll.

"After almost a month sleeping on the floor we have been able to lobby and move those 32 legislators and we're looking forward to other ones answering the call. We're great multi-taskers so we're getting a lot done here," Agnew said. 

Now a total of 96 lawmakers, or three-fifths of the Legislature, must approve the request to call a special session.

That's a long shot since there are only 58 Democrats in the Legislature and Republicans have mostly supported Stand Your Ground.

But Agnew says the Dream Defenders remain hopeful about their chances to get a special session.

"We don't do this without believing in what we're doing. So we're going to do the work that's required and we're very, very hopeful in the results and just looking forward to doing everything that we can while we're here to continue to advance the conversation and continuing to surprise people."

The Capitol protesters want a special legislative session to focus on the Stand Your Ground law, racial profiling and zero-tolerance school policies.

Calling a special session with a poll of all state lawmakers is a rare tactic in Florida history. It's been tried before, but it's never succeeded.

The poll will end next Monday at midnight.

Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford tells the News Service of Florida he hopes the poll settles the question of a special session once and for all.

"I trust our protesters will accept the results and return the Capitol back to normal business. It's time," Weatherford said. 

Asked if the Dream Defenders would end their sit-in if the poll comes back with less than 96 votes, Agnew said, "Stay tuned."

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