Herald-Tribune by Jim Turner, Dara Kam, and Ana Ceballos News Service of Florida
August 16, 2019
TALLAHASSEE — Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva and his successor don’t consider a heated text-message exchange with an embattled lawmaker to be state-related business.
But Rep. Mike Hill, a Pensacola Republican who this year was chastised by members of his party for his response to a suggestion that gay people be put to death, did and turned over the text messages after a public-records request by The News Service of Florida.
The text messages, first reported by Politico Florida, show Hill was angered when Oliva and future House Speaker Chris Sprowls issued a joint statement condemning his refusal to push back against a constituent’s suggestion that he sponsor legislation to allow the execution of homosexuals.
“Such callous indifference to an outrageous question is unacceptable, runs contrary to our founding principles, and in no way reflects the beliefs of the Republican caucus in the Florida House,” Oliva and Sprowls said in a statement May 31.
A day later, as Hill drew bipartisan criticism over his response to the constituent’s suggestion, sent a long text message to Oliva and Sprowls.
“You should have called me before you joined the mob,” Hill texted on June 1.
“You need to be more concerned with your own actions before you advise me on mine,” Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, responded.
The clash came to light because Hill considered the text-message exchange to be a public record under Florida’s Sunshine Law.
By comparison, Oliva and Sprowls, a Palm Harbor Republican who is slated to become House speaker after the 2020 elections, said they did not possess any text messages that could be turned over as part of the records request.