TALLAHASSEE - The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida has hired two more lawyers and is planning to add another to help handle an expected workload increase resulting from the Republican-led Legislature's recently ended session.
The ACLU, unions and some liberal and nonpartisan groups are gearing up for potential legal challenges to legislation and to at least one of Gov. Rick Scott's executive orders. They are reviewing measures that they say violate privacy, free speech, voting, due process, collective bargaining and other constitutional rights and requirements.
"I didn't realize at the time of the election that when Gov. Scott said 'Let's get to work,' he was referring to the lawyers in the state," Tallahassee lawyer Ron Meyer said. His clients include the Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers union, which is considering challenges to several measures.
"This legislative session has been maybe the biggest disaster for personal freedoms and human rights, and the list is long," said Howard Simon, ACLU of Florida's executive director.
The ACLU is targeting several changes to the state's election law that it believes would suppress minority voting and a measure that requires welfare applicants to get drug tests, saying it would violate privacy rights. The ACLU also may challenge a state constitutional amendment that would repeal Florida's ban on using public funds to aid churches and other religious organizations.
No final decisions have been made, but Meyer said "it's a relative certainty" the teachers union will sue over a new law linking teacher pay to student test scores and eliminating tenure for new hires.
The League of Women Voters and the ACLU may challenge an election bill that sponsors say would prevent fraud. Critics say the real intent is to discourage voting by minorities and others who tend to vote Democratic.
The league has decided to discontinue voter registration drives in Florida if the bill goes into effect.