Once upon a time, the Florida legislature helped people and communities prosper. During the 1970s and ’80s, the so-called “Golden Age” of Florida government, Republicans and Democrats passed laws that protected the environment, children, the disabled and seniors and improved education, health and economic development. Now, as a deadly pandemic wreaks economic and social havoc and climate change threatens the state with rising seas and stronger storms, you might expect our leaders to act with similar vision and decision. But rather than address our urgent problems, our Republican-dominated legislature has another agenda: slashing citizens’ rights and helping the rich get richer.
Just look at some laws they’ve proposed this session. Cities would lose the right to regulate short-term rentals and “party houses” that ruin long-established neighborhoods. New toll roads would speed development in rural communities that don’t want it. The non-existent problem of voter fraud would be “solved” by making it more time-consuming and difficult for you to vote. And just in case citizens get any ideas of their own, constitutional amendments proposed by voters would have to win a daunting 67 percent of the popular vote, effectively preventing most from passing. (But guess what—any constitutional amendment a legislator proposes needs only 60 percent of the chambers’ approval to be placed on the ballot.)
They also pushed to criminalize peaceful protest and, in a creepy bit of North Korean-style social engineering, suggested dictating which academic fields college scholarship students can study. And miffed by overwhelming voter support for medical marijuana, they want to weaken the doses, which would serve their double aim of punishing voters and helping corporations—the pot companies—increase their sales.
The opposite of public servants, such officials are driven by arrogance, ignorance, and the desire to pander to and join the ranks of the rich and powerful. Florida deserves better, and so do you.
Pam Daniel is the retired editorial director of Sarasota Magazine and a current special projects editor and frequent contributor.