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We’ve got that civics test DeSantis wants—for state legislators | Editorial

The governor wants to give a civics test to high school students. He should aim higher and require one of state lawmakers.
The manuscript of Florida's constitution from 1885. The current version was revised and ratified in 1968. [Florida Memory]
The manuscript of Florida's constitution from 1885. The current version was revised and ratified in 1968. [Florida Memory]
Published Dec. 13, 2019

Gov. Ron DeSantis has a good idea about requiring high school seniors to take a civics test. After all, high school graduates should know how government and the political process work. But so should members of the Florida Legislature. In that spirit, here are potential questions all state lawmakers should be required to answer before they can sponsor legislation.

1. Amendments to the Florida Constitution that have been approved by voters:

Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office staffer Sheryl Jackson counts ballots during a manual recount of the State Senate District 18 race between Janet Cruz and Dana Young in November 2018 at the Supervisor of Elections Office in Tampa, Fla. [MONICA HERNDON | Tampa Bay Times]

A. Take effect only if state lawmakers also approve them.

B. Are merely suggestions that lawmakers can ignore. See the state lottery, environmental spending, high-speed rail, felons rights, etc.

C. Can be tied up in the courts forever until voters forget about them.

D. Reflect the will of the voters and should be carried out by the state.

2. Eight-year term limits for state lawmakers are good because:

New House Members take the oath of office from Florida Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Bell, right, in 2004. [COLIN HACKLEY | Tampa Bay Times]

A. Legislators don’t know and don’t care what happened in the past.

B. Lobbyists have all the power.

C. They are not really limits, because House members can serve eight years and move to the Senate.

3. Public schools are:

A tutor teaches math in an after-school session in Plant City.

A. Publicly owned institutions paid for with public money and staffed by teachers and administrators paid with state and local tax dollars.

B. Private schools that receive public tax dollars.

C. Whatever the Legislature says.

4. The Public Service Commission is

A. The appointed panel that regulates electric utilities and looks out for consumers.

B. A wholly owned subsidiary of Duke Energy.

C. A launching pad to a lucrative career at Florida Power & Light.

5. Is it the governor and his Cabinet, or the governor and Cabinet?

SCOTT KEELER | Times Florida Governor elect Ron DeSantis, center, laughs when he is acknowledged in the Florida House, with other members of the Florida Cabinet. Left to Right are: Agricultural Commissioner elect Nikki Fried, and Attorney General Elect Ashley Moody, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, and Attorney General Pam Bondi. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]

6. Felons should be allowed to vote

In this Oct. 22, 2018 photo, people gather around the Ben & Jerry's "Yes on 4" truck as they learn about Amendment 4 and eat free ice cream at Charles Hadley Park in Miami. [WILFREDO LEE | AP]

A. After completing all terms of their sentences.

B. Never. Ever.

C. Only if they register as Republicans.

7. Local governments have control

Largo City Hall

A. Only when Tallahassee says it’s okay.

B. Only when Tallahassee says it’s okay.

C. A and B.

8. Florida Supreme Court justices must be vetted by

Members of the Florida Supreme Court listen to a speech by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Tuesday, March 5, 2019 in the Florida House during a joint session of the Florida Legislature. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]

A. The Federalist Society

B. The Florida Bar Association

C. The Judicial Nominating Commission

9. Under Florida law, guns can be carried.

A. Anywhere.

B. Almost anywhere.

C. Everywhere but the state Capitol.

10. Public officials who use their offices for private gain face the following:

A. Removal from office.

B. Public censure and reprimand.

C. Civil penalty not to exceed $10,000.

D. Full exoneration by the Florida Commission on Ethics.

Answers: Watch the Florida Legislature when the session starts in January.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Editor of Editorials Tim Nickens, and editorial writers Elizabeth Djinis, John Hill and Jim Verhulst. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news

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