Florida is one step closer to examining the Republican's severe voter restriction laws, in part to look into whether or not they are a part of a nationwide GOP coordinated effort towards voter suppression.
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who asked for an investigation by the Justice Department, also asked for committee hearings in Florida, and that request has been granted by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on civil rights and the constitution. That hearing will be held in Florida at yet an undecided date and time.
Durbin also held a similar hearing in September on laws that disenfranchise voters which included the Florida laws, after which Durbin made a request to Gov. Rick Scott as to how he might ensure that voters in the state wouldn't be disenfranchised.
He said he wrote to Florida Gov. Rick Scott after that hearing to ask what steps Scott’s administration plans to take to ensure Florida’s new laws don’t disenfranchise Floridians, and hasn’t received an answer yet.
Durbin said he’ll hold a hearing in Florida, with no details yet available on where or when, “to explore the impact of Florida’s law as well as the impact of similar laws recently passed in other states.”
Nelson had asked for the field hearings in Florida and 13 other states where similar laws were passed, and has also asked for a U.S. Justice Department investigation, to check into whether efforts to pass the legislation were part of a coordinated nationwide effort, and whether that’s illegal.
Democrats believe this nationwide effort comes at the hands of model legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC as it's become more visible in recent months. ALEC, which is partially funded by Koch Industries, writes legislation which is distributed to Republicans who bring it home and basically "cut and paste" it into state legislation. Legislators from Florida are no exception. (See the website ALEC Exposed for a documented list of model legislation from The Center For Media And Democracy.) ALEC holds meetings which have been attended often by lawmakers from Florida.
It's interesting, although not surprising, that Scott would be silent on this issue. It seems anytime anyone questions his "governing" they are either ignored, or in the case of court rulings, merely pronounced "wrong" by the governor. I wouldn't expect Sen. Durbin, or anyone else, to hear from Scott anytime soon.
Meanwhile, the effort goes on to redraw maps for redistricting in Florida, which in and of itself has become almost a farce. Legislators recently held hearings throughout the state, which had no maps, and lawmakers wouldn't speak during the meetings.
Oh, and by the way, the Republican's little redistricting game is costing taxpayers plenty while they play it. Yesterday Democrats complained that they had to make trips to Tallahassee at taxpayers expense, only to find that Republicans had canceled those meetings. A trip to Tallahassee is a good long and costly trek and a time waster for many of those lawmakers.
"I get up here today and I find out when I got here that my meeting for tomorrow has been canceled ...," said Rep. Gwyndolen Clarke-Reed, D-Deerfield Beach, and member of the House redistricting subcommittee. "But we come up here and it is strenuous. I want to tell you, it is not easy for people, particularly coming from South Florida, to get here to Tallahassee. And I'm just concerned with the amount of money that's being expended. We've got all these deficits and what have you, but we're able to spend all this money coming back and forth and nothing happening."
"I'm concerned about getting these maps going and getting these maps out to the public," said Rep. Dwayne Taylor, D-Daytona Beach, who sits on the House congressional redistricting subcommittee.
The canceled meetings go beyond redistricing committees, though. Rep. Luis Garcia,D-Miami Beach, suggested a boycott of committees since they are not yet taking up substantial bills or maps.
"Just don't come to Tallahassee," he said. "You know, folks, we are stealing the people's money right here."
Garcia said even a two-day trip to Tallahassee costs the state about $1,300. He was supposed to have two committee meetings -- Education, K-20 Competitiveness and Health and Human Services Access -- on Wednesday that were scheduled but will not be held.
Your taxpayer dollars at work, brought to you by your "fiscally conservative" Republican legislature some of which can't seem to find the time, or simply don't care to actually write the laws themselves were it not for ALEC, which is eager to shoulder much of that burden for them.
You're welcome. Ka-ching.
And if that's not enough, they seem to be hard at work in their effort to keep you from voting them out of office, and they, nor the governor care to hear you complaints.
With help from Sen. Nelson, Sen. Durbin, and democrats, it's time we all complain just a little louder.