30 July 2005

Common sense legislation on guns

Read about the U.S. Senate's legislation protecting lawful gun owners' rights at AmericanpolitiX.com.

The story can be found at http://americanpolitix.blogspot.com/2005/07/common-sense-legislation-on-guns.html.

28 July 2005

Republicans to abandon strict constructionism for slots legislation

Republicans love to talk about how they are strict constructionists when it comes to interpretting the Constitution. Too bad they fail to back their words up with their actions.

Florida House Speaker Allan Bense, who may challenge Congresswoman Katherine Harris in the GOP Senate primary next year, has announced that the Florida Legislature may call a special session to address the unfinished business of slot machines. As you may remember, the 2005 Legislative Session ended in its usual train-wreck manner, and the implementation of the slots amendment, which was approved by the voters in November of 2004, was left undone. Now, legislative leaders are realizing that they dropped the ball and would like to correct their mistake. Unfortunately, they may be too late.

Associate Justice Hugo Black was the most famous of strict constructionists on the High Court, and he wrote in the landmark decision Reid v. Covert that "[t]he United States is entirely a creature of the Constitution. Its power and authority have no other source." 354 U.S. 1, 5 -6 (1957). Essentially, he was saying that the courts, as well as politicians, cannot act in ways that are not explicitly authorized by the Constitution.

The constitutional amendment regarding slot machines that was passed by the voters in November 2004 states that "the Legislature shall adopt legislation implementing this section and having an effective date no later than July 1 of the year following voter approval of this amendment. Such legislation shall authorize agency rules for implementation, and may include provisions for the licensure and regulation of slot machines. The Legislature may tax slot machine revenues, and any such taxes must supplement public education funding statewide." Art. X, s. 23, Florida Constitution (emphasis added)

Based on the strict interpretation of this constitutional language, the time for the Florida Legislature to act was prior to July 1, 2005. That time has passed. Under the theory of strict constructionism, the Legislature is unable to pass implementing language for slot machines because the Florida Constitution specifically expressed the conditions which they were to follow, and our elected officials refused to obey the constitution.

What Speaker Bense intends to follow is the theory of broad constructionism, which is the opposite of the theory revered by most conservatives. Broad constructionism, a term coined by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, is the view that more liberal jurists have used in order to justify judicial opinions establishing civil rights, criminal rights, and most recently to justify the state recognition of same-sex marriage. Republicans, especially conservative Republicans, detest broad constructionism ... unless it is convenient I guess.

Conservatives love to talk about strict constructionism. President George W. Bush has pledged to only appoint men and women to the federal judiciary who follow this legal theory. Now conservatives in the Florida Legislature want to throw strict constructionism out the window, because they screwed up.

They had their chance to do the right thing, but the Florida Legislature blew it. So, what will they do?

The Florida Legislature will call a special session, and they will pass implementing language. Simple. But remember, those same Republicans who vote for the upcoming slots bill will no longer be able to claim that they follow the doctrine of strict constructionism. There are consequences for ignoring principles.

27 July 2005

Scandal-ridden politician commits suicide in Miami Herald building

Just after 6:00 PM this evening, former Miami City Commissioner Arthur E. Teele entered the Miami Herald Building, located at 1 Herald Plaza in Miami, intent to end his own life. He succeeded by fatally shooting himself in the head.

Teele, a Republican and prominent individual in the African American community, had been a leader in local government longer than any other official in Miami today, having serving on both the Miami-Dade County and Miami City Commissions. Unfortunately, he has recently been the subject of numerous investigations related to public corruption. Today's shooting comes just four days after Teele faced 26 indictments on counts of federal mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering.

As Teele entered the Miami Herald Building, he approached a security guard and asked that a message be delivered to columnist Jim DeFede. Teele asked that DeFede tell his wife that he loved her very much. Teele then removed a handgun from a bag and shot himself once in the head. Teele was transported to the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital, only to be declared dead at 7:50 PM.

25 July 2005

Fineout reports of a possible blackout for Democrats

This weekend, the Miami Herald's Gary Fineout wrote an article that should have scared the bejesus out of every Florida Democrat. According to Fineout's article, the Republican Party of Florida has mathematically calculated a way to destroy the Florida Democratic Party. Fortunately for everyone who cherishes a two-party democracy in the Sunshine State, the Republican Party's claims were greatly exaggerated and didn't portray an accurate assessment of the current political climate in Florida.

According to the Herald article, Florida Republicans believe that a pick-up of five percentage points among minority voters will destroy their opposition. This feat, however, may well be outside the GOP's reach.

The Black Vote

Florida Republicans are pleased that they increased their share of the black vote in Florida. In 2000, President George W. Bush received 9 percent of the black vote. In 2004, he received 11 percent. Bush actually received 13 percent of the black vote in the Sunshine State in 2004, nearly doubling his totals from 2000.

Florida is not a red or a blue state; it is a purple state, where political control is definitely up for grabs. These black vote numbers may not appear to be much call to celebration for the GOP, but Republicans know that the state is so narrowly divided that every vote counts. Democrats should be concerned, but Republicans do face some major hurdles.

Two weeks ago, Republican National Chairman Chairman Ken Mehlman made a shocking admission when he conceded during the NAACP's annual meeting that the Republican Party had in fact carried out a Southern Strategy. The Southern Strategy allowed Republicans to encourage "disaffected Southern white voters to vote Republican by blaming pro-civil rights Democrats for racial unrest and other racial problems." This admission by the head of the national Republican Party sent shockwaves throughout the country.

Most people knew that the Southern Strategy existed. It was started under President Richard Nixon, but perfected under President Ronald Reagan. In a show of disrespect toward African Americans and those who support civil rights, Reagan actually held his first major speech in 1980 in Philadelphia, Mississippi, making a reference to "state's rights" which is a code term aimed at white segregationists. Philadelphia was the city where civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were brutally murdered by the Ku Klux Klan. This infamous crime was the subject of the 1988 film Mississippi Burning.

The Republican Party has never apologized for Ronald Reagan, and until they do, the Republicans will continue to have a credibility problem with black voters. Mehlman did however apologize for the Southern Strategy, so maybe he will also apologize for the actions of our 40th President.

The Hispanic Vote

This topic was the most curious of the Herald article. Fineout writes, "Republicans also say they picked up more Hispanic voters [in 2004]." This is a powerful statement that should have Democrats concerned, except for the fact that it is not true.

The NDN Political Action Committee, who conducted extensive Hispanic outreach in Florida in 2004, made the following observation. "Hispanics went for Bush 65% - 34% in 2000, but just 56% - 44% this time. With an estimated 1 million Hispanics voting in the 2004 election according to the exit polls, this represents a net shift of roughly 190,000 votes for Democrats." [PDF]

It's also important to note that the weakening of the hardline Cuban vote could spell trouble for the GOP in the long-term as younger Cuban Americans are willing to give the Democrats a chance. Non-Cuban Hispanics traditionally lean Democratic, so the GOP must play catch-up with this rapidly increasing demographic.

So the remark by the Florida Republican was misleading. He said that their party gained Hispanic voter, but the numbers show that the the GOP actually lost Hispanic voters. (Special shout out to Mike at the Florida News blog for pointing out this discrepancy.)

In the end, Democrats hold the edge with minority voters. As FDP Chairman Karen Thurman stated, Democrats share the values and principles of minority voters in Florida. But the Republicans are trying hard, and they will always have more money than their counterparts. There are no limits in what the GOP can afford to do. Democrats should expect to see much more.

Florida Democrats should not take the Herald article to mean that the sky is falling, but they should be concerned. The hiring of Luis Navarro as FDP executive director is definitely a great move for the party. Navarro is a veteran of minority outreach in other states and has a proven track record that Florida Democrats need right now. (Another shout out to Mike at the Florida News blog for mentioning the importance of the Navarro appointment.) Navarro's salary has been the subject of debate and criticism by some of Thurman's political enemies, but Navarro is exactly what the FDP needs right now.

If the Herald article shows anything, it is that the GOP is making a move for minority voters. Democrats should be able to counter it. The question is "Will they?"