The Florida Legislature is run by dead-eyed lunatics, lecherous men, and vampires without the parts of their brains that let them feel empathy.
Tallahassee is such a horrid place that it's barely even news when a politician proposes letting the public openly carry shotguns while riding mountain bikes, or putting a Mobil station in the middle of the Everglades. The bar for political lunacy in this state is extremely high. But without fail, Tally finds new and exciting ways to cross that line every year.
These past 12 months were no different: Floridians were treated to a truly insane, jaw-dropping slate of legal ideas, from getting rid of basically every labor union in the state to abolishing the federal court system. Some of these bills even passed! Here's a recap of the worst ideas that crawled out of the state capital this year:
The federal government is run by a despotic regime that dictates laws and hands down rulings wholly incongruous with the vision laid out by America's Founding Fathers, say two Florida lawmakers. According to state Sen. Keith Perry — a Republican who represents Alachua, Putnam, and portions of Marion Counties — and Rep. Julio Gonzalez, a Venice Republican, the regime now running the United States constitutes an oligarchy of wealthy elites that "must be dismantled for the sake of our republic and for the continued empowerment of its people."
Who are those tyrants? Try the entire judicial branch of the U.S. government.
In December, Gonzalez filed a resolution in the Florida House, which, if passed, would urge the U.S. Congress to straight-up invalidate the judicial branch. And this morning, Perry filed a companion bill in the state Senate. The pair is asking Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution so that Congress can overturn any judicial decision. Under the crackpot bills, which are identical, Congress could overturn U.S. Supreme Court decisions with a 60 percent vote.
During this year's state legislative session, a bill transparently designed to cripple labor unions came close enough to passing that Florida public schoolteachers had to go on a PR blitz to beg lawmakers not to rip their rights away. Teachers, nurses, housekeepers, and every other union-protected industry breathed a sigh of relief when the measure failed during the 2017 legislative session — but the bill has been revived verbatim for 2018 and yesterday passed through its first voting hurdle toward becoming law.
The bill, HB 25, strips collective bargaining power from unions that can't get 50 percent of their workforce to enroll, thus preventing unions from negotiating for health-care plans or paid time off. The bill is so transparently designed as an attack on Democratic-leaning labor organizations that it specifically exempts police, corrections, and firefighters' unions from the new regulations.
Two years ago, parents in Naples clashed over the books being taught at their kids' schools. Members of a conservative group found fault with classics such as The Catcher in the Rye for including "homosexual themes" and The Great Gatsby for highlighting the "moral decay of the wealthy."
Also of concern to these sharp-eyed parents: a world history book that presented evolution as fact and "the biblical theory as ludicrous" and a history textbook that discussed climate change.
Those kinds of debates could now happen statewide if a bill by Republican Rep. Byron Donalds, of Naples, becomes law. House Bill 989 and its counterpart, Senate Bill 1210, would allow any Florida taxpayer to complain to his or her local school board about books used in classrooms.
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More egregious, Steube has proposed a bill that would effectively turn the state's "concealed"-carry law into a de facto open-carry provision. (Polk County state Rep. Neil Combee has proposed a companion measure in the House.)
Steube's second bill would water down penalties for people who walk around carrying their "concealed" guns in the open. Under his rule, doing so without a concealed-carry permit would still be a misdemeanor crime. But under Steube's new bill, "concealed" permit-holders could wave their guns around in the air and face noncriminal fines for their first and second offenses.
The bill would also legalize "temporarily" displaying your gun out in the open. Under the measure, police can't arrest anyone "temporarily" carrying their guns in broad daylight:
A person licensed to carry a concealed firearm under this section whose firearm is temporarily and openly displayed to the ordinary sight of another person does not violate s. 790.053 and may not be arrested or charged with a noncriminal or criminal violation of s. 790.053.
The problem? Steube's bill doesn't define "temporary." The bill as written would let Floridians wander around town with guns openly displayed and nobody could arrest them if they claimed it was just a one-time incident.
Earlier this year, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran was one of only two state-level politicians who attended the infamous Koch brothers-hosted summit in Colorado. Corcoran promptly flew home and announced a plan to kill Florida's public-election-financing laws, which help elect candidates who don't want donations from the corporations, utility companies, real-estate magnates, and billionaires who effectively control state politics.
Naturally, the Kochs' lobbying arm is now ecstatic about the plan and cheering Corcoran on.
"We commend Speaker Corcoran for calling to end political welfare for political candidates," Americans for Prosperity Florida, the local chapter of the Kochs' huge lobbying operation, announced last week. "Individuals seeking to be public servants should not burden the public to finance their political ambitions."
There's plenty of evidence that laws such as Florida's public campaign financing are good for democracy. Scores of studies, including this comprehensive one from the Brennan Center for Justice, show taxpayer-funded elections, as opposed to privately funded ones like we largely have now, are more egalitarian, engage voters better, and produce more competitive candidates who respond faster to the issues of everyday constituents. (Australia, Germany, France, and Israel publicly fund almost the entirety of their elections.) The key is regulating elections correctly, which Florida doesn't do thanks in part to poorly written laws and a few factors beyond the state's control.
But instead of moving closer to a more egalitarian system of campaign funding, Corcoran has instead dismissed the law as "welfare for politicians" and is now asking the state's Constitutional Revision Commission to propose a law abolishing the process.