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
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.
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
I can’t help from feeling pity for Crystal Minon. She’s a human being living check to check in a northern Florida town ravaged by last year’s hurricane. Continue reading
When Floridians by a sixty-five percent margin voted on an amendment in November automatically restoring voting rights to hundreds of thousands of former felons, I hope they foresaw the catastrophe. No way would the Florida GOP allow almost a million former felons, most of whom are people of color, back on the voting rolls without a fight. The adverb in my first sentence matters; the amendment was, unusually, crystalline in word and intent, mandating an automatic restoration.
To Governor-elect Ron DeSantis and his colleagues, however, “automatic” is a point of view. At an elections conference a couple weeks ago, the state said it has, according to the Tampa Bay Times, “stopped transmitting documents counties use to remove convicted felons from the rolls.” Legislators need more time. Indeed, DeSantis has already said he wants the legislature to write “implementing rules,” which means a two-month delay until the session opens in March. Election supervisors are fuming:
All this talk about the legislature is baffling to elections supervisors and civil rights groups, who say the amendment was designed to be self-executing. The state Supreme Court unanimously approved the amendment’s language as clear and specific, saying voters could understand that the point was to “automatically” restore the affected population’s voting rights.
“I don’t think you need the legislature,” Manatee County election supervisor Mike Bennett told TPM.
A self-described “strong Republican” who tried to enact felon rights restoration during his 12 years in the state Senate, Bennett called himself an “advocate” for Amendment 4. As Bennett noted, the Senate Ethics & Elections Committee won’t have its first meeting until March, and any proposed measures will then have to pass the House, the Senate, and be approved by DeSantis.
“That process will take more time whereas if the secretary of state’s office handled it and came up with the definitions and clarifications, they could do it much faster,” he said.
Without uniformity and guidance, the possibility exists that men and women who show up to vote will, ye gods, fall into the GOP trap of committing voter fraud:
“On January 8 people are going to be coming to my office trying to register to vote,” Bennett said. “And I want them to be able to register to vote but I don’t want them to commit another crime accidentally.”
For the percentage of my readers who believe in the new federalism, the results look inevitable: counties with Democratic mayors will move quickly to answer the will of voters, while counties with Republican ones will stop short of outright defiance. Advocates of the new Confederacy will always find support.
Defeated congressman Carlos Curbelo offered a coherent post-mortem to The Miami Herald, which also served as an analysis of how Debbie Mucarsel-Powell wrested my Clinton-leaning from the GOP for the first time since 2012. Continue reading