Thursday, November 23, 2017
Opinion

States' rights don't supersede civil rights

RECOMMENDED READING


Imagine this:

You lived in Minnesota your entire life. Over the years, you managed to acquire a few traffic tickets. Nothing major, just a few speeding tickets and one moving violation. Your offenses were adjudicated by a judge, you paid the assessed fines, and that was more or less the end of it. Of course, you did have a bump in your auto insurance premiums, which, over time, cost you more than the fine levied by the judge. Insurance companies never miss an opportunity to boost the bottom line at customer expense.

After retiring, you couldn't endure another one of those dreadful Minnesota winters. The Sunshine State beckoned. It was all sunshine and light until you applied for your Florida driver's license.

After filling out the required forms, the attending clerk asked "Did you ever receive a traffic ticket when you lived in Minnesota?" Surprised you replied, "Why, yes. I don't know. Over 45 years maybe I had two or three. Why?"

Here came the shocking news: "In Florida, we assess our own penalty for any tickets you may have received before moving here. According to my chart, you will need to pay Florida an additional $200 in order to get your Florida driver's license."

You protest, "How absurd is this? These offenses did not occur in Florida. These offenses were adjudicated in Minnesota. I satisfied all the requirements levied by the court. In my mind the matter is settled and Florida has no business violating the statutes and courts of Minnesota in this matter."

The clerk replies, "Well, here in Florida, we have our own laws. We believe in states' rights. We don't care what they do in Minnesota. We play by Florida's rules. Pay the $200 or no license."

Of course, this doesn't happen. Or does it?

Suppose you are registering to vote. Or trying to register. The clerk will ask you to verify that you have never been convicted of a felony anywhere at any time. Florida's laws ignore the adjudication of felony offenses by other states. Florida refuses to recognize the right of any state to restore voting rights to persons who have committed a felony and have satisfied all the judgments against them.

Florida systematically denies rights that most U.S. citizens simply take for granted.

In the Pledge of Allegiance we say, "one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." But Florida thumbs its nose at the courts in other states and deprives thousands of their right to vote. Not only is this unconscionable, to a large extent it defeats one goal of our criminal justice system.

Certainly criminal law exists to punish offenders and hopefully provide a deterrent to re-offending. However, the primary purpose of criminal law is to rehabilitate offenders and restore them to full and complete life within society. A law which provides a life-long denial of civil rights for offenses, even offenses committed by foolish and misguided youth, is obscene.

It is long past time for Florida to restore ex-offenders their full civil rights. When Florida ignores the legal actions of other states, it is an un-American denial of our national union.

Florida is simply misguided, flawed and immoral. When offenders have completed their sentence and paid restitution, their civil rights must be restored automatically.

The Legislature needs to redress this outrage during the 2013 session.

C.D. Chamberlain lives in Spring Hill.

Comments

Another voice: Wall isnít a lifesaver, itís a boondoggle

The first stage of President Donald Trumpís controversial border wall project ended last week, while the prospects for any more construction ó and even what type of wall ó remain uncertain.A Border Patrol agent was killed and his partner seriously wo...
Published: 11/21/17
Updated: 11/22/17

Another voice: Time for Republicans to denounce this tax nonsense

Mick Mulvaney, the phony deficit hawk President Donald Trump tapped to oversee the nationís budget, all but admitted on Sunday that the GOP tax plan currently before the Senate is built on fiction. Senators from whom the public should expect more ó s...
Published: 11/20/17
Updated: 11/21/17
Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

In a state with the nationís highest portion of residents over 65 years old and more than 80,000 nursing home beds, public records about those facilities should be as accessible as possible. Yet once again, Florida is turning back the clock to the da...
Published: 11/20/17

Another voice: A time of reckoning on sexual misconduct

Stories about powerful men engaging in sexual misconduct are becoming so common that, as with mass shootings, the country is in danger of growing inured to them. But unlike the tragic news about that latest deranged, murderous gunman, the massive out...
Published: 11/20/17

Another voice: Trump does the right thing for elephants; he shouldnít back down now

There is bad timing, and then there is this. Last week, an apparent military coup placed Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in custody, ushering in a new period of political uncertainty. A few days later, the Trump administration announced that Zimba...
Published: 11/19/17
Updated: 11/22/17
Editorial: Fighting the opioid crisis on many fronts

Editorial: Fighting the opioid crisis on many fronts

From birth to death, opioid addiction is ravaging the lives of thousands of Floridians. Drugmakers, doctors, state lawmakers and insurance companies all have a role to play in slowing the epidemic. Lately some more responsible answers, including mill...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/21/17

Editorial: Good for Tampa council member Frank Reddick to appeal for community help to solve Seminole Heights killings

As the sole black member of the Tampa City Council, Frank Reddick was moved Thursday to make a special appeal for help in solving four recent murders in the racially mixed neighborhood of Southeast Seminole Heights. "Iím pleading to my brothers. You ...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: Itís time to renew communityís commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: Itís time to renew communityís commitment to Tampa Theatre

New attention to downtown Tampa as a place to live, work and play is transforming the area at a dizzying pace. Credit goes to recent projects, both public and private, such as the Tampa River Walk, new residential towers, a University of South Florid...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: A time for real thanksgiving

Editorial: A time for real thanksgiving

By now the guest list if not the table is all set, and the house will be warmed with the noise of loved ones and the smell of that dish with cream of mushroom soup. Tucked between the sugar rush of Halloween and the sparkle of Christmas, Thanksgiving...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/22/17
Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

The Rays definitely like Ybor City, and Ybor City seems to like the Rays. So what could possibly come between this match made in baseball stadium heaven? Hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of millions of dollars. Rays owner Stu Sternberg told Times...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17