07 May 2005

L.G. judge target of harrassment

Over the last few week, Florida witnessed another spectacle that was fueled by the extremism of the religious right. L.G., a thirteen year old girl under the care of the Florida Department of Children & Families who was seeking an abortion, was sued by Governor Jeb Bush and his political appointees who sought to stop the procedure. The judge who oversaw the case ruled against the governor, stating that the girl was exercising her constitutional right to control her own body. Current Florida law supported his decision. Of course, a judge who follows the law is many times the enemy of activists within the religious right. Now, one in particular is taking action.

Remember the words of Congressman Tom Delay. "This loss happened because our legal system did not protect the people who need protection most, and that will change. The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today." These words were meant to threaten the judiciary after the Terri Schiavo saga, but this quote could easily be applied to the case of L.G. Unfortunately, one religious extremist in Florida has taken Delay's words literally.

Don Kazimir, who heads the Respect Life Office of the Palm Beach Diocese, apparent doesn't wish to respect the life of Juvenile Judge Ronald Alvarez. Judge Alvarez ruled in favor of L.G. last week, granting her, instead of the government, the right to make decisions pertaining to her own body. News reports have not indicated whether Judge Alvarez supports abortion rights or not. They do however clearly state that the decision was firmly rooted in Florida state law.

Now Mr. Kazimir is attempting to contact Alvarez's priest and convince him to deny communion to the judge. Alvarez was outraged by the phone call, stating "This isn't a religious state yet." Obviously embarrassed, the diocese was quick to distance itself from Kazimir's harrassment and denounced his activities. "The Diocese of Palm Beach has never made any statement in regard to the recent action of Judge Alvarez," wrote Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito.

Kazimir has since backed off his crusade against Alvarez, but one should expect similar behavior in the future. He has a history of such activism. In 2003, Kazimir attacked Florida Atlantic University for their intention to conduct stem cell research.

This recent story seems to have died down, but it does show that Delay's words have motivated some extremists in our community. Religious leaders claim to support a "culture of life." Let's hope that they don't inadvertently create a "culture of crazy."

06 May 2005

Democratic Party's rules cannot be waived

The individual who forwarded the email from the Democratic Party email list followed up last night with answers to questions regarding the ability of the Florida Democratic Party to waive its rules this Saturday in Orlando. The short answer is that the rules cannot be waived. On the condition of anonymity, the author has permitted FloridapolitiX.com to publish portions of the email. I have added links (and corrected a couple of typos) for the readers' convenience:

I read your blog about the rules today and I thought I would follow up. The email about waiving the rules is troubling and could result in another violation of the FDP Rules. I personally am rooting for Karen Thurman to be the next chair and I feel strongly that if she were elected under questionable circumstances it could hurt her ability to do the job of chair. There is no doubt in my mind that she will be the next chair. I think a lot of us would just like to see her get it the right way so the Party can just unite behind her instead of the infighting continuing into her term.
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Regarding the waiving of the rules, the FDP Charter does not list a set of rules except for some basic procedural stuff. When the charter or bylaws don't specify the rules, it is best to consult Robert's Rules of Order to fill in the gaps. Robert's Rules clearly state that rules cannot be waived for things issues of substance like eligibility of candidates, who calls a meeting, which meeting is called, and other similar issues, unless the charter or bylaws says that these specific requirements can be waived. The Executive Committee could waive the rules dealing with procedure only if they get a 2/3 vote, but this would not be the case here. If the FDP State Executive Committee waives the rules, charter or bylaws on Saturday, they would be creating more controversy and undercutting the legitimacy of the Party's election.
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I found the rules dealing with waiving of bylaws on the Internet. Robert's Rules of Order, Rule 67 (Article 11) state that "By-laws should include all the rules that are of such importance that they cannot be changed in any way without previous notice, except those placed in the constitution and the rules of order." The same rule also states, "If it is desired to permit the suspension of any by-law it should be specifically provided for. By-laws, except those relating to business procedure, cannot be suspended, unless they expressly provide for their suspension. By-laws in the nature of rules of order may be suspended by a two-thirds vote, as stated in in 22.".

Now, we'll have to see what Chairman Scott Maddox and the state party does. Be sure to read your Sunday newspaper for the results or visit Sayfie Review which provides a daily list of stories around the state.

Students saved; Jeb humiliated

During his 2002 reelection campaign, Governor Jeb Bush claimed that if the class size amendment was passed by the voters, he had "devious plans" of how he would deal with it. The class size amendment was meant to limit the size of Florida's overcrowded classrooms. This year, Bush revealed those plans, and yesterday Democrats in the Florida Legislature dealt the governor his most humiliating defeat since taking office.

Just prior to the legislative session, Governor Bush announced his education plan that would have raised teachers salaries, which is long overdue, but only if the increase were coupled with a repeal of the class size provision in the Florida Constitution. The plan was brilliant yet despicable, pitting the teachers against the students they devote their lives to teaching.

The "bait and switch" constitutional amendment, House Joint Resolution 1843, was filed by Representative John Stargel (R-Lakeland) and passed the Florida House with a vote of 76-34. While the vote appears lopsided, this is simply because the Democrats are greatly outnumbered. House Democrats however were extremely aggressive in fighting against the governor's "Devious Plans" bill and are probably ultimately responsible for its demise.

Because of the House Democrat' efforts, a number of GOP Senators joined a unified Senate Democratic Caucus yesterday morning in shooting the legislation down in flames. Since it would have been a constitutional amendment, the resolution needed 24 out of 40 votes to pass, but the governor didn't even get a majority vote. The governor's "devious plans" legislation was defeated with by vote of 19-21.

While this vote was a big victory for Democrats in Tallahassee, it was a bigger victory for Florida's school children.

05 May 2005

Will Florida Democrats ignore their own rules?

Following reports in the Tallahassee Democrat and the St. Petersburg Times regarding the disagreement within the Florida Democratic Party, concern is growing regarding Saturday's election for a new state chair. Current chairman Scott Maddox intends to resign following the legislative session and is expected to announce his candidacy for governor or some other statewide office. His smooth ride to the governor's mansion however has hit some bumps in the road after reports have emerged that the rules of the party are not being followed.

Numerous members, including three Florida members of the Democratic National Committee, are expressing their irritation over the lack of professionalism involved in the handling of this weekend's meeting. The latest bombshell regarding this issue involves a message sent to a Democratic email group this morning. A member of the party's State Executive Committee has stated that he/she believes the rules can be waived and the body can vote on whatever they deem appropriate.

The Florida Democrat who forwarded this email to FloridapolitiX.com expressed great concern over the willingness of a member of the state party's executive committee to simply ignore their rules when they are inconvenient. The text of the email, with personal information omitted, is as follows:

From: name omitted
Sent: Thursday, May 05, 2005 10:53 AM
To: name omitted
Cc: Dec-florida@yahoogroups.com, LCDEC@hotmail.com, name omitted
Subject: [dec-florida] Re: Fw: Meeting Sat.
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If I were a betting man, I'd give you 100 to 1 odds that (the Rules Chairman) will tell us that, as an Executive Committee, we have a right to waive the rules established by Constitution, Charter or Bylaws, particularly when as here, even accepting everything (a different executive committee member) says, the Central Committee's action is intended only as a temporary (30+ day) solution until the next meeting of the Executive Committee. I would further bet that, if (the Rules Chairman's) ruling is challenged, the Executive Committee will vote overwhelmingly to sustain (the Rules Chairman).

The sender of the email, who claims to be a Thurman supporter, questions whether the rules may be waived simply by motion without any notice.

Parliamentarians are encouraged to send their input to floridapolitix@yahoo.com or comment below.

BREAKING NEWS: Thurman ineligible for FDP Chair

According to this morning's article in the Tallahassee Democrat, state chairman of the Florida Democratic Party, Scott Maddox, declared that the meeting scheduled for this Saturday in Orlando is an "organizational conference." By this statement, Maddox may have just forced former congresswoman Karen Thurman out of the race for state chair of the party.

According to the anonymous former rules chair, who emailed FloridapolitiX.com last week and has provided a digital copy of the party's rules for verification, Maddox has called an "organizational conference," which does not exist in the party's rules. The former chair speculates that Maddox meant to say that the meeting on Saturday is an "organizational meeting," which is actually defined under Article II of the party's charter. Additionally, he/she points out that under the rules related to organizational meetings, the eligibility requirements for chair candidates are clearly spelled out. Article II, Section 3 of the state charter reads in part:

Officers: The State Executive Committee, at its organizational meeting, shall elect a Chair, a First Vice Chair, who shall be of the opposite sex from the Chair, a Secretary, and a Treasurer, who shall be of the opposite sex from the Secretary, each of whom shall be elected from among the county chairs, state committeemen and state committeewomen.

The former chair writes, "As Scott has made clear, Jeff Ryan is ineligible under Article II, Section 3 of the state charter, because he is currently not a local chairman or a local party's state committeeman. If Scott is to disqualify Jeff under this rule, he must also disqualify Karen for her failure to meet the requirements established in the very same section. The rules clearly state that the chair and first vice chair elected by the state executive committee's organizational meeting must be of the opposite sex. Since Diane is currently the first vice chair of the party, only a male candidate is eligible to run for the position."

The email continues, "Karen's campaign could make the argument that the meeting on Saturday is not an 'organizational meeting,' under the state charter. If this argument is made so that Karen would be eligible for chair, then Jeff would also be eligible to run . The bigger problem, however is that the wrong meeting has been called by Scott."

No official announcement regarding these inconsistencies. Stay tuned ...

Democratic Party election blowing up!

As reported this morning by the Tallahassee Democrat, the election for state chair of the Florida Democratic Party , planned for this Saturday in Orlando, appears to be unraveling. The article confirms that party Chairman Scott Maddox has failed to follow the rules of his party and may have improperly called a meeting to elect his successor. These technical problems were first reported by FloridapolitiX.com.

First Vice Chair Diane Glasser, of Broward County, voiced her concerns that Maddox was not following the rules. According to the Tallahassee Democrat, Glasser cites those rules specified in Article II, Section 2.7 of the FDP Bylaws, which states that one, the election may only be called in the event of a vacancy, and two, that she was the only one authorized to call the meeting. Glasser also noted that since Maddox still holds the office of state chair, the meeting should not have been called. "I couldn't sign papers to call an election because no vacancy exists," said Glasser.

The outcome of this debacle is still in limbo. Whether Maddox will follow the rules of the party or simply go ahead with the election is still an unanswered question. Stay tuned ...

04 May 2005

Rod Smith fixes flawed election law

Democrats are still fuming over the partisan witch hunt in Orlando that landed Mayor Buddy Dyer in jail and led to his suspension by the governor. The prosecution, which was overseen by State Attorney Brad King who was appointed by Governor Jeb Bush to investigate Dyer and others, came to an end last month and Mayor Dyer was returned to office. Democrats and Republicans agreed that the law that King used as the basis of his prosecution was vaguely written, and yesterday Senator Rod Smith (D-Gainesville) proposed language that would fix it.

Senator Smith, who is a Democratic candidate for governor, proposed an amendment to Senate Bill 2176 which would require a prosecutor to prove a candidate intentionally hired someone to commit fraud when collecting absentee ballots. Smith said, "You'd have to have the intent to hire someone who is going to alter, modify or do something wrong. Hiring somebody in and of itself to do something is just simply not unlawful."

In the case of Dyer, he was found to have hired an individual during his reelection campaign who collected absentee ballots in the African American community. No allegation of fraud was ever made. It was also noted that Republican Senator Mel Martinez and Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood, a Bush appointee, had also committed the same act as Dyer.

03 May 2005

Maddox's party problems continue

Following reports of good news yesterday regarding endorsements in Palm Beach, Florida Democratic Party state chairman Scott Maddox is continuing to draw criticism from members of his own party. Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat wrote a devastating piece this weekend over the sad shape of the party under the leadership of Maddox, and now it appears as if the news may get worse.

This Saturday, the Florida Democratic Party's State Executive Committee is scheduled to meet at the Plaza Theatre, located at 425 N. Bumby Avenue in Orlando. The purpose of the 11 AM meeting is to elect a new state chairman, because Scott Maddox is resigning to run for governor or some other statewide office. Maddox's plans to exit the party appear to be well choreographed; however, according to one party insider, the move may not be permitted under the Florida Democratic Party's rules.

According to a former rules chair of a local party, who sent an email to FloridapolitiX.com and wishes to remain anonymous, the planned election for state chair may be a blatant violation of the Florida Democratic Party Bylaws. The anonymous chair points to Article II, Section 2.7 of the Florida Democratic Party's Bylaws, which reads:

In the event of a vacancy in the office of State Chair, the First Vice Chair shall call a meeting of the Central Committee within thirty (30) days for the election of a new State Chair who shall serve until the next regular meeting of the State Executive Committee.

"The election next weekend has three major problems," writes the former rules chair. "First, the special election for a new state chair may only be called in the event of a vacancy." He/she continues, "The March 16 release by the party states that Scott's resignation will not take effect until after the legislative session, therefore no vacancy currently exists. Therefore the meeting call was not authorized."

The email continues, "Second, the bylaws only authorize the First Vice Chair, or Diane Glasser in this case, to call the meeting. Scott called the meeting for this Saturday, therefore another violation has occurred."

"Third and most important, Scott called a meeting of the State Executive Committee, not the FDP Central Committee. Section 2.7 establishes a clear procedure for replacing a state chair who resigns in the middle of his term and that section says that the central committee must act first." He/she continues, "The Executive Committee is authorized to vote for state chair in two cases: one, during their organizational meeting that occurs immediately following the presidential election or two, when the vote follows an election held by the central committee. Neither of these cases apply here."

The email admits that the party election may occur regardless of the bylaws. "There are no real leaders on the executive committee and I can't see any of them trying to stop this," says the anonymous chair. "They are mostly just sheep who go along with what they are told." Still, this information may be greeted with hard feelings after reports this week that Maddox ran the party on a $200,000 deficit during the past quarter and has arranged for a fat party contract with a company owned by Maddox loyalists.

Stay tuned ... Cotterell said that this is a roller coaster, so be ready for it to take us for a wild ride.

02 May 2005

Maddox takes lead in Gov. race, not even running yet

Despite an embarrassing tenure as state chair of the Florida Democratic Party, Scott Maddox remains the Democratic frontrunner in the race for the governor. The irony is that he isn't even a candidate ... well, not yet. Most party insiders expect him to announce his candidacy after stepping down as chair this weekend, when party leaders meet in Orlando to elect Maddox's successor.

As today's Palm Beach Post reported, Congressman Robert Wexler and various local Democratic Party leaders have decided to back Maddox to be their nominee for governor. Of course, one may easily dismiss this endorsement since in Palm Beach County, the Democrats are considered to be somewhat of a joke. For the past few years, Palm Beach Democrats have played the part of the Washington Generals while the local GOP has assumed the role of the Globetrotters, dancing around and playing games with the Democrats almost at will. Still, it would be unwise for state Senator Rod Smith (D-Gainesville) or Congressman Jim Davis (D-Tampa) to ignore this move, because Congressman Wexler does carry some weight in the county. Whether they want to admit it or not, this endorsement is a major coup for Maddox.

The primary election for governor is almost a year and a half away, but Maddox has already positioned himself to take the nomination. Most believe that Maddox is unelectable in the general election, especially if Charlie Crist is the GOP nominee, but that is not Maddox's concern right now. He knows that his first hurdle is in September 2006, and he appears poised to clear it with room to spare.

01 May 2005

L.G., Rush Limbaugh and our right to privacy

This past week, the media reported gross violations of the constitutional rights of two Floridians. L.G. is a young girl in the care of the Florida Department of Children & Families who is seeking an abortion but is being denied this right by Governor Jeb Bush. The other is Rush Limbaugh, the right-wing radio host who is the subject of a criminal drug investigation, whose constitutional right to privacy may have been violated by the state when his medical records were seized. Unfortunately, Floridians are so engulfed in raw partisanship that those who stand with L.G. are gleeful over the misfortunate of Limbaugh and those that decry the acts against Limbaugh refuse to voice their concerns over the state's treatment of L.G. Only the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida has shown any consistency and sided with both parties in defending their rights under the law. It is a shame that more Floridians don't exercise the same consistency and choose to not necessarily side with either L.G. and Rush Limbaugh, but join both in the fight over protecting the constitutional rights of all Floridians.

L.G. is a 13 year old girl who has been in the care of DCF for many years. During this time, DCF lost L.G. five times, a pattern that reminds Floridians of the tragic Rilya Wilson case. The last time that L.G. was lost by DCF, she was gone for approximately one month. DCF never made any significant effort to find L.G. during that time, and unfortunately during this time, L.G. became pregnant. When L.G. returned and discovered that she was pregnant, she consulted her DCF case worker. Together, they decided that it would be in L.G.'s best interest to terminate her pregnancy. Under Florida law, a female patient, regardless of her age, has the right to decide whether to carry a pregnancy to term or not. Even under the parental notification legislation that is currently being debated by the Florida Legislature, a minor patient would never need consent before terminating a pregnancy. If the pending legislation were in effect today, L.G. would have satisfied its requirements because her guardian, the DCF case worker, has been notified.

Governor Bush, who adamently opposes a woman's right to reproductive freedom, has decided to ignore Florida law and has sued 13 year old L.G. to stop her procedure. Regardless of how one feels about the issue of abortion, all Floridians must recognize that the governor is violating the law in order to push his own political agenda. Just as he used Terri Schiavo as a political pawn last month, Governor Bush appears to have no qualms with using a 13 year old girl for his own political purposes as well. The silence by conservatives, who typically oppose frivilous government intervention into private affairs, is absolutely deafening.

The issue with Rush Limbaugh is slightly different, but still should cause concern to those Floridians who believe in protecting the constitutional right to privacy. In October 2003, Limbaugh's former housekeeper revealed that she had been supplying her boss with large quantities of prescription pain killers. Shortly thereafter, Limbaugh admitted that he was addicted to drugs and underwent treatment for his addiction. Subsequently, the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office began an investigation into whether Limbaugh violated Florida law. Limbaugh is accused of violating the Florida statute which prohibits doctor shopping, the act when one visits numerous doctors to fill the same prescription. Upon commencement of their investigation, State Attorney Barry Krischer's office obtained a warrant and seized Limbaugh's medical records. Limbaugh was never given the opportunity to challenge the validity of the warrant. On this basis, Limbaugh's attorney filed a motion to exclude the medical records, stating that the prosecutor's action violated his clients right to privacy under Article I, Section 23 of the Florida Constitution. Last October, the Fourt District Court of Appeals ruled against Limbaugh, and this week the Florida Supreme Court upheld the decision.

If the facts show that Limbaugh violated the law, he should be given some type of punishment for his crime. However, law abiding citizens should also recognize that violating Limbaugh's constitutional rights was not the proper way for the prosecutor's office to proceed with this investigation. Liberals tend to strongly support the right to privacy; therefore, while they may gain some satisfaction over the downfall of Limbaugh, they should be up in arms over the far reaching ramification posed by the courts' flawed decision. Howard Simon, Executive Director for the ACLU of Florida said, "The consequences of this ruling affect the privacy of medical records for every person in Florida. Some of the most personal things in our lives are contained in our medical records and if they're not related to what a government agency is investigating, then it should remain nobody's busines."

Unfortunately, the extreme partisanship that have taken over this country has prevented liberals and conservatives from realizing that they have a great deal in common. As more and more Americans hope to see bipartisan cooperation on issues that matter most to the country, liberals and conservatives should join one another in denouncing the abuses of Jeb Bush and Barry Krischer and fighting to preserve freedom from government for all Americans.

Democracy to be abolished in Florida

According to politicians in Tallahassee and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, who carries great influence in the state capitol, the Florida Constitution is being destroyed by "special interests" who have hijacked the state document for their own purposes. The example that those who oppose direct democracy continue to cite is the "pregnant pigs amendment," the provision that passed in 2002 which prohibits the use of improper confinement of pregnant pigs. Now in order to prevent unnecessary provisions from finding their way into the state's governing document, big business is pushing their own series of amendments that will make it extremely difficult for voters to change the state constitution.

In reality, these restrictive measures are being advanced by the business community as retaliation for the minimum wage and the smoking ban amendment, as well as those high-priced items like class size and universal pre-kindergarten, which will interfere with corporate tax cuts and business subsidies. The Chamber and other business lobbyists have convinced a number of politicians that these drastic steps are necessary in order to protect the people of Florida from themselves. Let's see if the voters fall for it.

Senate Joint Resolution 4, sponsored by Senator Jim King (R-Jacksonville), would limit constitutional amendments that are proposed by citizens groups to only those issues already addressed in the state constitution. It is important to note that the majority of constitutional amendments that have been voted upon by the people of Florida have been placed on the ballot by the Florida Legislature themselves. Of course, those amendments advanced by the Legislature would not be affected by SJR 4. Only the amendments that originate with the people would face these unreasonable limits. How would this affect the people of Florida? If this standard had been in place in 2002 and 2004, the class size, universal pre-K, and minimum wage amendments would not have been eligible for the ballot and the voters would not have been allowed to make a decision on these important issues. The companion in the lower chamber, House Joint Resolution 1727, is sponsored by Representative David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs). The Senate is scheduled to hear SJR 4 this Monday, May 2nd, and the House has already passed their version of the legislation with a vote of 88-27.

Senate Joint Resolution 6, again sponsored by Senator King, is another proposed amendment that would limit the voice of Florida's voters . This legislation would require a super-majority vote of sixty percent to pass a constitutional amendments instead of the current requirement of a simple majority vote. Like the previously discussed legislation, SJR 6 would have a negative affect on important issues in Florida. If this standard had previously been in place, the class size and universal pre-K amendments, along with the recent slot machines initiative, would have failed. The companion across the rotunda is House Joint Resolution 1723 and is also sponsored by Representative Simmons. The Senate will be considering SJR 6 on Monday, May 2nd, and the House has already passed HJR 1723 with a vote of 86-30.

These items, along with other legislation that would consolidate more power with the politicians in Tallahassee, are top priorities of the Republican leadership in the Florida Legislature. The Democrats, however, have not taken a position. Quite frankly, they should.

The initiative process, i.e., direct democracy, is the only opportunity for the voters of Florida to decide their future if they are saddled with an ineffective or unresponsive legislature. The Republican leadership has essentially locked out the issues that matter to middle-class voters and instead focused on the annual wish list from big business associations and corporate lobbyists.

Democrats are supposed to embrace the issues that empower the working people who make Florida great. Any Democrats who support these joint resolutions will not only disrespect the middle-class that they claim to represent, but they will dishonor the great Andrew Jackson, the Democratic Party's founding father who made them the Party of the People. When it comes time to vote, let's see if the Democrats remember their history.