01 July 2005

AP: Potential Candidates for Supreme Court

Read about possible replacements for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor at AmericanpolitiX.com.


Bense flip-flops on eminent domain issue

As the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives prepares to challenge Congresswoman Katherine Harris (R-Sarasota) in the GOP primary for the United States Senate, Representative Allan Bense (R-Panama City) is pronouncing himself a strong defender of private property rights. In the aftermath of the horrific United States Supreme Court opinion, Kelo v. City of New London [PDF], which grants local governments the right to seize any person's home through eminent domain and transfer the land to a large corporation, Bense and other politicians are rushing to the rescue of the average homeowner. Unfortunately, Bense may have trouble convincing voters of his new position, especially considering his strenuous support of legislation that would have displaced homeowners in Miami-Dade county through eminent domain this past spring. Bense's inconsistency on this important issue may hurt him if he decides to run for higher office.

Last Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered the now infamous Kelo decision, dealing a devastating blow to private property rights and the American dream. The opinion, issued by Justice John Paul Stevens, addressed the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and expanded the power of the government to take homes from private citizens. Justice Stevens, a Republican appointee, was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit by President Richard Nixon and to the United States Supreme Court by President Gerald Ford. Justices Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer joined the majority opinion, while Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.

Under the U.S. Constition, government has the authority to seize privaty property if it is to be used for a public purpose and adequate compensation is provided. The 5th amendment reads, in part, "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." Traditionally, local governments have interpreted the term "public use" to justify taking property to build roads, airports, etc. The issue in Kelo, however, was whether "promoting economic development" qualifies as a public use. The Court now says that it does. Additionally, the Court held that the local government has the authority to determine the meaning of the phrase "promoting economic development" absent any standards established by state legislatures.

Bense has now declared his opposition to the Kelo opinion. "I am extremely concerned by the United States Supreme Court’s ruling yesterday in the case of Kelo v. City of New London," Bense said last Friday. "Private property rights are a fundamental principle upon which our nation was founded, and government should only be allowed to deny a United States citizen those most basic rights under the most extraordinary circumstances." And last week, the Speaker announced the formation of a select committee to "review" Florida law and determine how it will be affected by Kelo. Bense chose Representative Marco Rubio (R-Miami) to serve as chairman of the select committee.

The Speaker's new position on eminent domain conflicts with his stance during the 2005 Legislative Session. House Bill 173, which was pushed through by Speaker Bense and received his vote on final passage, was the legislation that would have subsidized the Florida Marlins' move to a new baseball stadium. The bill also would have provided for local governments to remove residents, by eminent domain, from approximately 100 homes in the Miami-Dade County. Rubio was a major supporter of this bill.

Bense is now trying to have it both ways. During session when no one was looking, he opposed the protection of private property rights in support of big campaign donors. Now that the issue is in the spotlight, Bense has changed his tune. The fact that the man he hopes to unseat in Washington, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, has already sponsored legislation to protect homeowners has only complicated matters for the Speaker.

28 June 2005

Nelson fights offshore oil drilling

Following a flip-flop earlier this year by his senate colleague, Republican Senator Mel Martinez, who voted for an expansion of oil drilling and weakened the ban on drilling off the Florida Gulf Coast, Democratic Senator Bill Nelson is now taking his fight directly to the people of the Sunshine State.

On his senate web site, Nelson allows Florida citizens to sign an online petition that sends a clear message to the federal government and the Bush administration that Floridians "don't want big oil companies setting up rigs or using seismic explosions off Florida's coast."

Nelson, a former astronaut, congressman, and state insurance commissioner, has been a leading critic of the Bush administration's goal of increased oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. While Martinez has changed his position and says that he now opposes oil drilling off Florida's coast, Nelson has been consistent in his opposition.