Florida

Florida Men Screw Up Less Than Usual

The Florida Legislature had a heck of a week, passing everything from a major school choice program (yay!) to restricting the voting rights of felons (boo!).

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Florida, man.

At Reason, we try to keep tabs on what's happening in state legislature as much as possible. But there are a lot of state legislatures, and as important as their work is, a lot of what gets passed tends to be stuff like naming bridges and designating official state amphibians. When things do get interesting, it's usually less because legislators operating fruitful laboratories of democracy and more because some kooky lawmaker thinks the death penalty can't be abolished because Jesus.

But sometimes state legislatures have the capacity to surprise you. This week, it seems like not a day has passed without someone on the Reason staff passing around some bit of news from Tallahassee. The news hasn't been all good, but an awful lot of it has. When you're used to being disappointed by elected officials at all levels, what Florida's done in the past few weeks looks mighty impressive:

School Choice: Possibly the most significant piece of legislation is a new private school voucher program that cleared the state House on April 29 after two days of debate and is now awaiting a signature from Gov. Ron DeSantis. DeSantis is expected to sign it—expanding Florida's school choice programs was a centerpiece of his campaign for governor last year.

The bill will create a new scholarship program for students from families earning less than $77,000 annually, though lower-income families will have priority if there are more applicants than available scholarships. Families will be able to use those dollars to pay for tuition at charter, private, or religious schools of their choosing; the money will come from the state's contribution to the student's assigned school district.

There will be 18,000 scholarships available when the program begins next fall, with 7,000 scholarships added to that total in each subsequent year. And there should be no doubt about the demand. This year, more than 170,000 students sought the 100,000 available scholarships in one of Florida's already existing school choice programs, according to the American Federation for Children, a pro-school choice group.*

Armed Teachers: Speaking of schools, the Florida House on Wednesday passed a bill to let teachers carry guns in the classroom. The measure is a direct response to last year's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 people dead. School districts would have to agree to allow teachers to be armed, and any teacher who wants to carry a firearm on school property would have to complete a specialized training course.

The Second Amendment doesn't stop at the front door of a school building. And given how poorly law enforcement handed the Parkland shooting while it was happening, it can't hurt to have an additional deterrent to any would-be copycats.

Criminal Justice Reform: Lawmakers only get half credit for this one, considering what could have been. Crucial sentencing reforms that would have allowed nonviolent felons to be released from prison earlier and that would have given judges the power to ignore mandatory minimums for drug offenders were stripped out of a criminal justice omnibus bill that reached DeSantis' desk this week.

Still, the measure does contain some worthwhile provisions, including an amendment that would prohibit occupational licensing boards from disqualifying applicants based on crimes that occurred more than five years ago, unless they were violent or sexual offenses. According to the National Employment Law Project, Florida's occupational licensing laws have more than 800 disqualifications merely for having a criminal record.  Reducing those barriers to finding a job will help former prisoners find work—and studies show that not having a job is the best indicator of whether someone will commit another crime after getting out of prison.

Felon Voting Rights: Now some bad news. Last year, Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot question restoring voting rights to more than 1.4 million people with criminal records. But this week the state legislature sent DeSantis a bill that would prohibit those same people from voting unless they have paid all court fines and fees as well as completed any restitution payments associated with their crime.

That's a direct rebuke of the will of the voters. It's also a nakedly political maneuver that will likely keep many individuals who have served their time from being able to participate in future elections.

Needle Exchanges: The Florida Senate voted unanimously this week to let county governments greenlight safe injection site programs modeled on a successful pilot program run by the University of Miami since 2017. Such programs allow heroin addicts to access not only clean needles but also to get tested for AIDS and hepatitis C, and to receive naloxone, which can help treat overdoses. It's not an overstatement to say this bill will literally save lives.

Hospital Deregulation: If this bill doesn't save lives, it will certainly improve them. As I wrote this morning, Florida's hospitals will no longer have to get the state government's permission before expanding or offering new services if Gov. Ron DeSantis signs a bill that reached his desk this week. That bill overhauls the state's Certificate of Need regulations—little-known rules that were supposed to hold health care costs down by limiting unnecessary capital expenditures, but often do the opposite. By operating as artificial limitations on the supply of health care services, they inflate costs and reduce access to care.

Telemedicine: If you're improving health care laws, why stop there? This bill is a bit technical, but it gives health care providers more say in setting their rates for telemedicine services instead of forcing providers to comply with rates set by the state.

Speaker of the House Jose Oliva (R–Miami-Dade) has made health care reform a priority this year. In a session-opening speech in March, he said Florida should do a better job of providing "choice and competition in provider markets." Repealing Certificate of Need rules are one way to do that, and this is another.

Banning Straw Bans: At least 10 Florida cities have banned one-use plastic straws, but this week the state legislature told them to suck it this week. It passed a bill that effectively nullifies those laws until 2024. The measure is similar to the preemption laws some states have used to keep overly aggressive city councils from banning plastic bags and other useful items. That steps all over local control, but sometimes a state legislature has to be the adult in the room.

The legislation also authorizes the state legislature's policy commission to study the rationale for straw bans. As Reason's Christian Britschgi put it earlier this week: "That's a welcome provision given how often bogus straw stats are cited by legislators and city officials, or even incorporated into the text of straw bans."

Banning Sanctuary Cities: Other times, stepping all over local control isn't a good idea. A bad bill landed on DeSantis' desk this week that would ban sanctuary cities—places where local officials refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials' request to detain individuals suspected of being in the country illegally. "The bill would essentially make the 'request' a requirement," says the Miami Herald.

Are two bad laws worth seven decent ones? You'll have to decide that yourself, but how often does a state even bat above .500?

CORRECTION: This article originally stated that more than 170,000 students sought the 10,000 available scholarships in one of Florida's school choice programs. There were 100,000 scholarships available through that program.

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  1. Florida Men Screw Up Less Than Usual

    Hold My Beer

    /Florida Man

  2. I wonder if it’s constitutional to deny voting rights ex post facto? The rights were restored by the amendment and the amendment was passed before this new law. Maybe this requirement to repay court costs in order to vote should only apply going forward?

    1. Maybe the 13th Amendment bans military conscription and slave-wage jury empaneling… You may be onto something.

  3. “Florida Men Screw Up…”

    I am told that once, a man’s girlfriend wife -Sig Otter -what-have-ye once complained, “When we make love, you ALWAYS insist on being on TOP, and you’re ALWAYS pickin’ yer nose!! WHY??!

    He says, “My momma told me, do NOT screw up, and keep yer nose clean”!!!

    1. He’ll be here all week.

      (Tip your waitresses, but otherwise leave them alone.)

    2. 😀

  4. “Some kids are unwanted, so you kill them now or you kill them later. You bring them in the world unwanted, unloved, you send them to the electric chair. So, you kill them now or you kill them later.”

    https://www.lifenews.com/2019/05/02/democrat-legislator-defends-aborting-retarded-babies-some-kids-are-unwanted-you-kill-them-now-or-kill-them-later/

      1. LOL, thank you, I missed that one.

        Conservatives are like tigers waiting to “pounce” on any little indiscretion by the other side. Sad!

        1. CONSERVATIVES POUNCE!!!

          1. Look, it was obvious that everyone took his remarks out of context…

            “Embattled state Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, already under fire by Republicans for his “kill them now or kill them later” remark on abortion, said Thursday that Donald Trump, Jr. is “evidently retarded” and should have been aborted.”

            https://www.al.com/news/2019/05/rep-john-rogers-calls-donald-trump-jr-the-r-word.html

            Dude, you’re not helping.

    1. Regardless, that Alabama law is going to be found unconstitutional. It clearly conflicts with Roe v. Wade.

      1. Well, maybe that case will make it to SCOTUS and at least some of RvW can be stripped out as it is unconstitutional itself.

    2. Yeah, that is messed up. The Vox take on this said:

      He led up to his inflammatory remarks by talking about black children in the state who are taken from their parents by Child Protective Services and end up committing crimes, going to prison, and being executed.

      If the kids are in the custody of Child Protective Services, their bad upbringing is probably the result of poor customer service from government employees there. Rather than demand better service from state employees, the Democratics’ answer to this problem is to insist that the children of some couples deserve to die.

      Perhaps it’s time to revive the chant: “Hey, Hey, LBJ. How many babies did you kill today?”

      1. LBJ did eat a lot of infants. He was a hungry fucker.

    3. I think this could be a new slogan for left wing groups looking for a narrative “kill me now or kill me later”

      1. The chant for that is “Hoo hoo Ceauscescu, how many felons will you produce in two decades?”

      2. He doesn’t have to shoot you now.

  5. “But this week the state legislature sent DeSantis a bill that would prohibit those same people from voting unless they have paid all court fines and fees as well as completed any restitution payments associated with their crime.

    That’s a direct rebuke of the will of the voters. It’s also a nakedly political maneuver that will likely keep many individuals who have served their time from being able to participate in future elections.”

    It’s not a direct rebuke of the voters (unlike the deep state efforts to oust Trump that Boehm and his Reason comrades like to cheer on). Fees, fines, and especially restitution are parts of a person’s sentence. There is no logic behind restoring voting rights prior to the sentence being fulfilled (but there’s feelz)

    1. Exactly.. until the terms of the sentence are fulfilled your have not paid your debt.

      1. Especially the restitution to victims. I am fine with a parolee petitioning a judge to relieve some of the sentence (do not know what FL law is on this) and this would allow the victims one last chance to make their case on what the are owed.

  6. So the news from Florida is good for the most part. Cool.

  7. I can’t believe the Florida legislature is all “men.” What am I missing here?

    1. A sense of humor.

  8. restricting the voting rights of felons (boo! meh)

    1. After all, they likely won’t be Republican voters, so why should a libertarian give a shit?

      1. Tony that is a dilemma. Going out of our way to let people vote that will likely vote to cut our throats is a problem. Why do you think I’m always saying what a problem it is to have millions of idiot progtards running around inventing ways to infringe on our rights?

        So maybe you can see where this isn’t a big priority for libertarians. To restore voting rights to felons isn’t really a priority.

        1. Libertarians are ideologues focused on individual liberty.

          If that doesn’t mean maximizing civil rights for ex-prisoners, it seems like to me, perchance, that it doesn’t mean fuck all.

        2. It depends on the crime. Back before my great-grandparents were born, most felonies were acts that grossly violated the rights of other people. I see no reason whatsoever to allow such a person to vote on when and how the government would use its powers of coercion, backed up by violence.

          OTOH, these days a felony is as likely as not to be running a business that the government did not approve of, or something else that involved neither force nor fraud and was not even a crime before “Progressives” started poking their snouts into everyone’s business. Those “felons” should never have lost any of their rights in the first place.

  9. Isn’t the needle exchange one of the primary things that have made LA and Portland such literal Shitholes lately?

    1. Don’t forget Seattle (King County).. Although it is coupled with other benefits designed to appeal to out of work addicts and the mentally ill. All these cities are vying for the homeless. They add so much.

      1. Now they’re trying to do the same thing to Spokane. The city council is now run y six progtards out of the seven council seats. At least the mayor isn’t an idiot.

        Please make an effort to spay or neuter your progtards.

  10. I am seriously hoping to move to Florida. They have a Libertarian Party and no state income tax.

  11. “Florida men” Fortunately they did not have women holding them back with progressive idea and were able to work unhindered on making Florida great for white men.

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