Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: In voting district case, legislators should testify

Can Florida legislators be forced to testify to determine what they intended when they redrew district lines and whether they violated a constitutional amendment approved by the voters? That was the difficult question before the Florida Supreme Court on Monday, and several justices sounded skeptical about requiring that legislators provide sworn testimony on their actions during a redistricting process. But in a state with a long, sorry history of gerrymandering and new rules in the state Constitution to prevent it, the court should not let lawmakers hide behind their offices. The public interest in fair elections and upholding the state Constitution outweighs concerns that legislative activity might be chilled by the possibility of being hauled into court.

Three years ago, to end the routine and disgraceful practice of congressional and legislative districts being drawn to favor an incumbent or a political party, Florida voters overwhelmingly passed two constitutional amendments. The Legislature still draws congressional and legislative district maps every 10 years, but now it has to use neutral criteria, such as not slicing up neighborhoods. Lawmakers are barred from drawing districts with the "intent" to help or hurt a particular lawmaker or political party.

Internal emails of both Republicans and Democrats show that during 2012 there were efforts to get the best political outcomes from redistricting. The U.S. House seats and state Senate districts drawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature show signs that politics was a significant factor. The districts are being legally challenged by a consortium of groups headed by the Florida League of Women Voters.

The Florida Supreme Court is being asked to referee a technical fight that significantly affects the lawsuit. The League of Women Voters wants to depose lawmakers and their staffs and obtain relevant documents for their court fight. Florida lawmakers claim a broad legislative privilege from having to testify or turn over information on their lawmaking function. They say public officials shouldn't be harassed in court by people who don't like their legislation, and the courts shouldn't be interfering with the job they do, on separation of powers grounds.

A legislative privilege has long been recognized by the courts, and it makes sense in most situations. But in this narrow case an exception is warranted. Florida voters approved the amendments to end the days of Tallahassee power brokers deciding elections by drawing districts to protect themselves and their political parties. Enforcing the constitutional amendments that specifically mention "intent" will require more information about how district lines were drawn through depositions, emails and other key documents. Otherwise how can legislative "intent" be proven?

A trial judge ruled that some legislative discovery was permissible, but that was overturned by a divided three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal. There is no higher public purpose than ensuring fair elections. It is the foundation of our democracy. The court should stand on the side of protecting that interest, even if it means carving out an exception to the concept of legislative privilege.

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Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.íí A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he wonít raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trumpís claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nationís 14 million hard-working restauran...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18
Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

The city of Tampa should have taken Tanja Vidovic seriously from the start when the Tampa firefighter complained about her treatment in the workplace. Now that a jury and judge have spoken, itís time for City Hall to cut its losses, learn from its mi...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

The dark cloud enveloping Tampa Bayís job placement centers keeps growing. There are accusations of forged documents, evidence of nepotism and concerns about grossly inflated performance numbers that could be tied to receiving more public money and b...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Even before the victims of another mass shooting at another public school were identified, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state legislators and members of Congress rushed to South Florida or to social media to offer their thoughts and p...
Published: 02/15/18
Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

The Florida Department of Children and Families is right to call for a timely and "comprehensive" review of Hillsborough Countyís foster care system. Though the probe is a reaction to a recent case involving a child who was left unattended, the revie...
Published: 02/14/18

A Washington Post editorial: Modernize 911 calling before it becomes an emergency

This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the first 911 emergency call placed in the United States. Since then, uncounted lives have been saved and people helped. It has been a great accomplishment of government.But even as an estimated 240 million 9...
Published: 02/13/18
Updated: 02/14/18
Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Gov. Rick Scott always has been grudging and imperious about restoring the voting rights of felons, requiring them to wait for years before begging the governor and Cabinet to be recognized again as citizens. That arrogance is on full display in a le...
Published: 02/13/18