Sunday, May 27, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: Tallahassee's bonfire of the alibis

You'll probably find this hard to believe, but there are some cynics afoot who are of the opinion that a lobbyist charm bracelet of Tallahassee Republicans might have cooked the books when redrawing the state's political maps in 2012.

Just where this sort of snarky distrust comes from is anybody's guess.

Opponents of the new lines accuse the Republican majority in the Legislature of pressing a heavy thumb on the scales of fairness, ensuring new districts maintained a Republican majority. These ditherers of democracy, the League of Women Voters and 11 other plaintiffs, have filed suit suggesting the redistricting process more closely resembled the victors carving up post-World War II Europe.

Needless to say, Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz got their jodhpurs in a wad over such accusations.

But any doubts about the legitimacy of the redistricting process could be easily cleared up before you could say "Where do I drop off my campaign check?" if Weatherford and Gaetz and all the other Republicans involved in redrawing districts would simply submit themselves to testifying under oath to sort out any misunderstandings. They could merely hand over all the documents, emails, voice messages and notes created during redistricting to prove once and for all that this effort was so apolitically Simon Pure, it made the Founding Fathers' Constitutional Convention look like a Raccoon Lodge meeting.

But Republican leaders claimed a special privilege from being grilled under oath on how they redrew districts, as if the Legislature was akin to the College of Cardinals.

To paraphrase last week's Florida Supreme Court ruling, the justices told the whining Republicans they had to stop all this privilege balderdash and start testifying.

Tragically, a series of unfortunate events happened. In a sort of "my dog ate my evidence" scenario, it seems untold numbers of emails, notes, voice messages and other Republican materials related to what went on behind the scenes in the redistricting toga party have been — alas — destroyed.

Great sorrow over the bonfire of the alibis arose from the Capitol.

Mouthpieces for the House and Senate tut-tutted that the shred-a-palooza was simply a "routine" document destruction process (much in the way that Cheech and Chong's "Dave's Not Here" is a routine).

The legislators' legal brain trust argues that such vaunted elected officials and their factotums can't be required to testify about their actions and (egad!) turn over all manner of communications, lest there be a "chilling effect" on the redistricting process.

But that is exactly the point. Lawmakers should know they will be subject to legal review under oath resulting in punitive sanctions if they attempt to finagle legislative districts to protect a disproportionate political advantage.

Federal courts have stipulated that when a party has a reasonable expectation of litigation it has an obligation to preserve any and all relevant records. Since redistricting efforts are almost always subject to legal challenges, Republicans certainly had to know that everything from complex documents to pizza receipts would be sought by various parties who viewed the process as if the Grand Old Partitioners of the Florida House and Senate were divvying up the early Italian city-states.

If Florida's Sunshine Law is supposed to allow the public open access to meetings, legislative bills, financial records and all the other elements of government and governance, then certainly citizens should also have a right to know how a bunch of self-interested partisan pols arrived at the decisions they made to draw squiggles on a map. And they should see the paperwork and digital records to boot.

Otherwise all you're left with is Government in the Punchline.

Comments
Editorial: Welcome Bayshore changes still canít stop bad judgment

Editorial: Welcome Bayshore changes still canít stop bad judgment

Itís human nature in following any tragedy to imagine: How could this have been prevented? On that score, the city of Tampa responded appropriately to the deaths this week of a mother and her toddler whom police say were hit by a teenage driver racin...
Published: 05/25/18
Editorial: Filling Rocky Point lagoon to build townhomes is an empty-headed idea

Editorial: Filling Rocky Point lagoon to build townhomes is an empty-headed idea

One of the worst ideas in a long time in the field of urban planning received a blessing this month when the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission approved a land-use change for a project that calls for filling three acres of water insi...
Published: 05/25/18
Editorial: Searching for the real Adam Putnam

Editorial: Searching for the real Adam Putnam

Send out an Amber Alert for Adam Putnam. The red-haired, affable fellow who has served capably as a state legislator, member of Congress and agriculture commissioner is missing. In his place is a far-right caricature who has branded himself as a prou...
Published: 05/24/18
Updated: 05/25/18
Editorial: A strong economic case for restoring voting rights for felons

Editorial: A strong economic case for restoring voting rights for felons

Floridians are paying a steep price for a system that makes it as difficult as possible for people who leave prison to reintegrate into civic life. Gov. Rick Scottís clemency process isnít just archaic and cruel ó it also wastes enormous public resou...
Published: 05/24/18
Updated: 05/25/18
Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Regardless of the reason, the cancellation of the U.S.-North Korea summit to address Pyonyangís nuclear program is hardly the worst possible outcome of this high-stakes diplomatic gamble. President Donald Trump was unprepared, North Koreaís Kim Jong ...
Published: 05/24/18
Updated: 05/25/18

NFL kneels before the altar of profits

The owners of the 32 National Football League teams sent a wrongheaded and, frankly, un-American message to their players Wednesday: Expressing your opinion during the national anthem is no longer permitted."A club will be fined by the League if its ...
Published: 05/24/18

Editorial: A positive first step in ensuring student access at USFSP

As a task force sorts out countless details involved in folding the University of South Florida St. Petersburg back into the major research university based in Tampa, ensuring access for good Pinellas students remains a concern. An enhanced cooperati...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/25/18
Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Legislation that waters down the 2010 Dodd-Frank law and was sent to President Donald Trump this week is a mixed bag at best. Some provisions recognize that Congress may have gone too far in some areas in the wake of the Great Recession to place new ...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/24/18
Editorial: Honoring our fallen soldiers on Memorial Day

Editorial: Honoring our fallen soldiers on Memorial Day

The rising tensions with Iran, the resurgence of violence in the Mideast and the uncertainty over a nuclear disarmament deal with North Korea combine to create an unsettling time this Memorial Day. These grave threats to peace are another reminder of...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/25/18

Another voice: The chutzpah of these men

A new phase of the #MeToo movement may be upon us. Call it the "not so fast" era: Powerful men who plotted career comebacks mere months after being taken down by accusations of sexual misconduct now face even more alarming claims.Mario Batali, the ce...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18