Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida lawmaker has the zeal to repeal

TALLAHASSEE — The boy couldn't believe what his lawmaker dad said on the phone.

Was it really illegal in Florida to ride a bike with no hands?

Bailey, 9, had a confession: "Daddy, I break the law every day I go to school. It's just for a second! Is that illegal?"

It is, said Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, and it's ridiculous.

Workman is on a mission to obliterate such illegalities buried in state law — like smoking clove cigarettes, coasting down hills in neutral and unmarried couples living in cohabitation or "open adultery" — even if he doesn't believe in them.

What's most important, he said, is restoring personal liberties chipped away by government.

"Now, I don't advocate cohabitation, I will kill either of my kids if they try that. I also don't advocate adultery, my wife would kill me if I advocated for that," he said. "But it still shouldn't be a law."

It also helps to please your boss.

The second-term legislator's repeal run started in November when House Speaker Dean Cannon told him he wanted to leave office with fewer laws on the books than when he started. Then Gov. Rick Scott made reducing state regulations a top priority.

Workman, a 37-year-old mortgage broker, took the hints. He asked the local Republican Liberty Caucus to mine the Florida statutes — five books and an index — for targets. He whittled down the group's suggestions to seven bills and also gave away a few to colleagues.

Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, is trying to repeal a law requiring diners to order a salad or vegetable, entree, bread and beverage to take home resealed wine. And Longwood Rep. Scott Plakon, a libertarian-leaning Republican like Workman, is proposing several of his own, including one that would repeal the unlawful roaming of sheep-killing dogs.

Workman presented four bills in committee meetings this week. An avid runner, Workman was so excited for one that he jogged to the lectern. He needed only six minutes to pass repeals on "arcane" rules for chauffeur's licenses and coasting.

There were just a few questions, including one from Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg: "Why do we need to get rid of it if it's not doing nothing?"

Said Workman: "Every law that we pass in some way takes a little piece of the liberties that we are supposed to protect for our citizens."

Another colleague pressed him on the original legislative intent of one of his targets: a provision that prohibits motor vehicles from coasting in neutral or with the clutch disengaged downhill.

"I think probably to take away liberties and freedoms of citizens," Workman said.

That got laughs.

"Are there any safety concerns, seriously?" Rep. Richard Steinberg, D-Miami Beach, continued.

Workman apologized and explained the outdated law applied to technology "that probably came with the invention of the horseless carriage." He was "just jesting" earlier, he said.

His business finished, Workman darted out of the meeting and into an elevator. As the doors closed, he told friends in the lobby, "I'm a pretty big deal. My Capitol office smells of mahogany and leather-bound books."

He was joking again — refashioning a line from fictional newscaster Ron Burgundy in Anchorman.

Actually, Workman's House office is dominated by a life-sized cardboard astronaut and space shuttle models. There's a portrait of Ronald Reagan and a snapshot with Jeb Bush.

What does Workman say to those who think he's goofing off when there are important matters to discuss?

Essentially, "please." He spends 15 minutes of his day on these repeals, he said, and it's worth it.

"It might seem insignificant, but it truly is good work," Workman said. "It does increase the freedom and liberties of our citizens. I'm proud to be taking the time to do it."

But in his zeal to repeal, he made a mistake.

It's from his office Tuesday that he makes a hasty call to his legislative aide to stop a bill meant to remove outdated tattooing laws that would be replaced by newer statutes taking effect Jan. 1, 2012.

Chalk it up to poor drafting or inattention, but the bill he proposed would have allowed minors to get inked without parental consent, at least for a few months until the new law took effect. Wanting to avoid a span of "Wild West tattooing," Workman withdrew the bill.

Workman had a favorite about dangerous fires. Florida statutes, as he understood them, require anyone who sees someone's house or property in flames to report it. He said he's the kind of guy who would rush in and put it out, but people have a "God-given right to go, eh, that sucks, and walk away."

Again, Workman hadn't stopped to read the fine print. The law only applies to those who started the fire or are legally obligated to put it out.

"It has become clear that the language proposed to be repealed does in fact serve a role in Florida law," he clarified in an e-mail.

He withdrew that one, too.

Katie Sanders can be reached at (850) 224-7263 or ksanders@sptimes.com.

Correction: State Rep. Richard Steinberg is a Democrat. An earlier version of this story was incorrect.

.Fast facts

The Workman agenda

HB 4007: Repeals provisions on chauffeur's licenses, which were phased out with the arrival of commercial driver's licenses.

HB 4009: Removes provisions relating to outdoor theaters constructed after June 1953 for movies, plays and operas. There are guidelines for parking, entrances and exits, screens and lighting.

HB 4017: Removes language that prohibits open adultery and unwed couples from "lewdly and lasciviously" associating or living together.

HB 4019: Repeals a provision that prohibits motor vehicles coasting down hills in neutral or with the clutch disengaged.

HB 4021: Repeals regulation of machines that dispense water into containers. There are 106 water vending machine operators in the state, Workman said, and they are already covered by federal law.

HB 4113: Removes a requirement to keep at least one hand on handlebars while on a bicycle.

HB 4121: Repeals prohibitions against sale, use, possession, transfer or other disposing of clove cigarettes.

Florida lawmaker has the zeal to repeal 02/11/11 [Last modified: Saturday, February 12, 2011 11:43am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Jones: Bucs need success to get national respect

    Bucs

    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.

    No respect

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  2. Hopes fade after landslide destroys Chinese village (w/video)

    World

    Crews searching through the night in the rubble left by a landslide that buried a mountain village under tons of soil and rocks in southwestern China found 15 bodies, but more than 110 more people remained missing.

    Vehicles and people line a road leading to the site of a landslide in Xinmo village in Mao County on Saturday in southwestern China’s Sichuan Province. More than 100 people remained missing after the village was buried under tons of rocks and soil.
  3. Rookie Jake Faria dissatisfied with performance in Rays' loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The rookie pitcher walked to his locker Saturday after tossing the fourth quality start in as many tries to begin his career. He held the potent Orioles bats to three runs and for six innings gave his team a chance to win.

    Orioles third baseman Manny Machado tags out the Rays’ Mallex Smith at third after a rundown in the first inning.
  4. Thousands converge in two St. Pete locations celebrating LGBT rights

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom Rockhill didn't know what to expect Saturday, but by noon people were knocking on the door of his bar Right Around the Corner in Grand Central.

    (From left to right) Emma Chalut 18, gets a rainbow sticker on her cheek from her sister Ellie, 15 both of Jacksonville before the annual St. Pete Pride parade in downtown St. Petersburg on Saturday. This year the route was changed from the Grand Central and Kenwood area to Bayshore Drive.
[EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  5. Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald dies

    TALLAHASSEE — A former Florida Supreme Court justice, who wrote a decision that prevented lawyers from excluding jurors because of their race, has died.

    Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald died Saturday, the court said in a statement. He was 93.