Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Legislative Update

"When a legislature undertakes to proscribe the exercise of a citizen's constitutional rights it acts lawlessly and the citizen can take matters into his own hands and proceed on the basis that such a law is no law at all." - William Orville Douglas

"Online Sunshine" is the theme for the Florida Legislature's website, so why does it seem like legislators are trying to keep us in the dark?

Open Government

TCPalm - Public access to Florida Legislature is paramount

Far too much of the people’s business is being conducted in secret — far removed from the scrutiny of taxpayers and the media, as well as a majority of legislators.

Here’s how it works.

House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, and Senate President Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, and their lieutenants meet behind closed doors and hammer out agendas and agreements in advance of a special session. In many cases, key issues are resolved even before fellow lawmakers have had an opportunity to discuss, debate and vote on them.

Florida Times-Union - Public deserves better

Lawmakers have made it literally a crime for local governments and for citizen members of related government boards to discuss most public business outside of a noticed meeting where the public can attend and minutes are taken.

Yet, lawmakers have excused themselves from the same standard, leaving the public in the dark about the creation of policy.

The budget cuts have the same trappings - backroom deals and exclusion of the public - as the history-making changes lawmakers engineered to the state property tax system earlier this year.

Florida Attorney General's FAQ's on Florida's Open Government Laws

Q. Does the Sunshine Law apply to the Legislature?
A. Florida's Constitution provides that meetings of the Legislature be open and noticed except those specifically exempted by the Legislature or specifically closed by the Constitution. Each house is responsible through its rules of procedures for interpreting, implementing and enforcing these provisions. Information on the rules governing openness in the Legislature can be obtained from the respective houses.

Property Taxes

Orlando Sentinel - Crist debuts retooled property-tax trims, Herald Tribune - Some camps lukewarm to proposal

If the letters to the editor over at Florida Today are any indication, people are more upset over insurance than property taxes as they are raging over rates:

The Florida Legislature is pandering to the insurance companies. Failing to address the high insurance premium issue and morphing it into property tax reform has only served to hurt the little people in this state. - Terry Haugen

As a recent story on the front page of FLORIDA TODAY showed, Gov. Charlie Crist and the state lawmakers are in session, grappling with a $1.1 billion budget shortfall.

The solution to their problem may have been on that same front page.

Just below the budget article was another about insurance companies making record profits -- $30.6 billion for the first six months of 2007. - Walter Gruver

Fran Hall Lambert may have the best suggetion: "Vote them all out in next election."