Tag Archives: Florida politics

‘Don’t be afraid. We want people to come forward’

I don’t often report good political news. I found some: while an ACLU-filed lawsuit contesting the legality of the Florida legislature’s quasi-poll tax awaits its day in court next April, more than twenty former felons had their voting rights restored before a Miami-Dade County special committee. To wit:

…Miami-Dade has become the first county in the state to mandate that when people finish serving out their prison time, they are not kept from voting because of financial burdens on the outside. More than $278 million in outstanding court fines from felony cases exist in Miami-Dade since 2000, according to Miami Herald News partner WLRN News.

While former felons in Miami-Dade will still be on the hook for the court costs, this will not restrict them from registering to vote. They can also petition to have their fines converted to community service.

Not everyone is eligible — anyone convicted outside of the state or in federal court is not.

Still, for the hundreds of thousands of Miami-Dade residents who can register to vote, the State Attorney’s Office encourages them to reach out.

“Don’t be afraid,” Fernandez Rundle said. “We want people to come forward.”

Miami-Dade alone counts one hundred fifty-thousand felons who can seek redress. To be clear, these citizens must still pay their fines, but the failure to do will not rescind their right to vote — the only fair solution, one, of course, ignored by the legislature.

‘For a second, all that shame — all that stuff — came back to me’

Yes, I know: Brevard County’s Covenant Christian School is a private institution. Yet it accepts public money, presumably so it can exercise its right to fire teachers like Toro Lisciandro for admitting they’re gay:

While many public districts, such as Orange, have policies that ban discrimination based on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and more, Florida has no law banning discrimination against LGBT employees in general.

And whereas public schools must accept all students, schools in the state’s publicly funded voucher program can refuse to serve LGBT families — even if they get money from the state’s corporate tax credit “scholarship” program.

Many voucher schools actually spell out their discriminatory policies.

At Merritt Island Christian School, homosexuality is the only expulsion-worthy sin for students listed in its “ethics” policy.

At Volusia’s Trinity Christian Academy, students are told that simply saying “I am gay” is “basis for dismissal.”

Those two schools got more than $1.7 million in public money last year.

Please linger on the last sentence from this excerpt of Scott Maxwell’s column. Two phenomena have coincided. First, the redirection of public funds into private institutions; secondly, the disinterest with which Florida legislators view the discriminatory practices of these private institutions. A few months ago Democrats failed to get amendments passed to the bill eventually signed by Governor Ron DeSantis, amendments that would have addressed sexual orientation.

Profiles in perfidy

A few crumbs hurled at Democrats cannot the nature of the Florida Republican Party’s triumph this legislative session. In addition to banning sanctuary cities, allowing teachers to carry guns, easing the restrictions on the creation of hospitals, the Florida House and Senate will send a bill to Governor Ron DeSantis’ desk that declaws, neuters — use whichever appropriate verb you wish — or destroys the voter-approved amendment allowing felons to vote. Continue reading

Florida politics and the carceral state

In a classic example of heads-I-win tails-you-lose policy, the Florida legislature has decided that the plain language of Amendment 4, passed with overwhelming support last November, doesn’t mean what it says:

Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said that the upper chamber is scheduled Monday to consider a House bill that would prevent felons from voting until they’ve paid off all fines, fees and restitution.

The House bill would potentially keep hundreds of thousands of former felons from voting. The Senate’s version is milder, allowing felons to vote while paying off fines and fees.

Both Galvano and Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, the architect of the Senate bill, said Friday they were willing to consider the House version, which Brandes said was constitutional.

And the Republican leaders of both chambers said they remain committed to passing a bill this session. The question is whether the House, the more conservative chamber, is willing to accept what the Senate offers.

The Senate bill improves mildly on this horror:

That measure doesn’t require fees and fines be paid if they were converted to a civil lien. Since fees and fines are usually converted to a civil lien by the time a felon has completed their probation or parole, it would allow them to vote while paying off those obligations, as many other states allow.

We see the groundwork for two Floridas: one for those who can afford to vote and those who can’t; besides, Florida has to pay for the carceral state with a Kafkaesque web of administrative costs imposed on former felons. Only nineteen percent of Floridians pay these debts. In addition, a 1998 law requires fees to pay for courts. Both bills form part of the GOP’s nationwide effort to unravel democracy, from efforts to criminalize mistakes in voter registration to proposed legislation in New Hampshire requiring new forms of ID for those out-of-state college students who want to vote.

Alas, finding sympathy from those same voters is impossible. To gauge the depths of right wing pathology, don’t discuss taxes : discuss the carceral system, whether it’s death penalty or disenfranchisement. It’s been impossible to dissuade people who support capital death, even those who don’t watch FOX News in a feedback loop, from believing that revenge and justice are incompatible; they’re likely to say, “Yes, they are, and fuck you, he raped this woman three times, he doesn’t deserve to live.” The state, they insist, has the duty — the obligation — to bleed these felons dry. They deserve it. Asking these people to where in the Constitution it states that you can revoke the rights of citizenship for a felony takes you exactly nowhere, nor does explaining that prisoners get counted as part of the population for drawing congressional districts, therefore rescinding their rights amounts — ahem — to taxation without representation.

Florida — the state with the prettiest name, part XVIII

While Governor Ron DeSantis helped break the impasse over medical marijuana and has made clear his opposition to Big Sugar, the Florida House remains a cloaca in which ideas like this fester: on Wednesday a panel approved a bill requiring Florida public universities to survey faculty members and students about their politics. Continue reading