Friday, January 19, 2018
Politics

Temper tantrums in Tallahassee

At least once a month, I have a conversation with my 8-year-old that sounds something like this:

"Stop that.''

"Why?''

"Stop that.''

"How come?''

"STOP THAT!''

I imagine this is going on behind closed doors in Tallahassee, too. Because it seems like our governor and the Legislature want to fool around in things that judges and the federal government keep telling them to stay away from.

Privatizing prisons without actually enacting a law?

You can't do that.

Drug-testing state workers and welfare recipients?

It's unconstitutional.

Making it harder to vote in an election year?

STOP THAT!

This voter crusade is just the latest example of our state's leaders believing they know better than anyone else. And by anyone else, I might include the Founding Fathers.

Just in the past year, the governor was told by the Florida Supreme Court that he "overstepped his constitutional authority'' and "violated the separation of powers'' when he decided no one could pass any new rules without his authority.

He's also been sued by doctors and schoolteachers and state workers. Word is, King Juan Carlos of Spain would love a shot at a deposition, too.

Just to be clear, this isn't about liberals fighting conservatives, or the right sticking it to the left. This is about coloring inside the lines. This is about following rules and laws and the Constitution.

If Republicans are in power, they have the advantage in pushing their agenda. Ditto for Democrats. But that doesn't mean you get to trample on laws already in place.

Seventeen months into his tenure, maybe Rick Scott is frustrated that a governor does not have the same powers as a CEO. Sorry, but that's how it works.

Those rules make governing ponderous and sometimes inefficient, but they also make it the greatest and most equitable government in the land.

Take the voting issue, for example. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the state's intention to remove noncitizens from the rolls. And if minorities and Democrats are disproportionately represented, so be it.

But you would hope somebody in the administration would have realized that the deadline for purging the voter rolls had already passed for the 2012 election cycle.

And you would hope the Legislature would have known better than to discourage voter registration with unnecessary and unfair rules that were eventually struck down last week by a U.S. district judge.

In the end, it doesn't matter whether you agree or disagree with drug testing. It doesn't matter whether there are 2,000 or 200,000 noncitizens registered to vote. And it doesn't matter if the governor thinks of himself as the boss of bosses.

The bottom line is no one gets to ignore the law.

It's like the line in A Few Good Men when Tom Cruise is telling Demi Moore that an attorney's opinion is irrelevant. It doesn't matter what he believes, he says, only what he can prove.

Around here, we like to ordain first and read the Constitution later.

It makes our politicians look decisive and righteous.

It also makes our state look foolish and backward.

So please, for the last time, stop that.

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