The Florida Senate Is An Assembly of Elitist Embarrassments

 

One of Florida state senator Jack Latvala’s accusers has made her identity known. She is Rachel Perrin Rogers, the staff director of the senate majority office for Wilton Simpson. Simpson is a  future senate president.

As the story unfolds, Ms. Perrin Rogers claims senator Latvala sexually harassed her over a period of four years. She says he groped her in a senate building elevator and engaged in rubbing her leg in the Governor’s Club, a private watering hole for Florida’s political elitists. Latvala denies this. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. The investigation chips need to  fall honestly where they may.

What is also clear is Ms. Perrin Rogers is not baggage free in her own right. This past June she sought help for her surgeon step father from Latvala to get him out of jury duty. Her texted request was that Latvala use his influence with the Pinellas County Clerk to arrange this. Latvala is said to have texted her to tell her stepdad to simply not show up and it would be handled after the fact. She thanked him via text the next day.

If you have been called for jury duty, you know how inconvenient it can be. But you must go; unlike Florida’s political elitists and their friends and family who travel in the circles of Tallahassee royalty like senator Latvala and Ms. Perrin Rogers.

Stories regarding this brewing scandal in today’s Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald also reveal text messages in which Ms. Perrin Rogers refers to current senate president Joe Negron as a “douche bag,” and senator Anitere Flores as “Flwhores.”

Of course, none of this grants a license to be groped by anyone, senator or otherwise. It does call into question the level of dysfunctionality going on in at least one of our legislative chambers in Tallahassee.

As a constituent of Senator Simpson, I wonder where he stands on such terms being used by his staff director to describe his colleagues. Is he on board with the level of disrespect being directed at his colleagues? Does he also grant favors like getting friends and family out of jury duty or other accommodations? Is he part of a plan to drive Latvala out of the senate and the governor’s race? Who knows?

 

 

He is smartly silent on the issue for now but it’s time to stand and be counted senator.

Call out the disrespectful language used by your chief staffer. Issue a policy that such a lack of professionalism will no longer be tolerated by the majority office. If you can’t do this now, what are we to think of your standards when you are senate president?

As this embarrassment centered around senator Latvala grows, coming on the heels of former senator Frank Artiles’ resignation last year, and former senator Jeff Clemens’ resignation just weeks ago, one thing is clear. Despite their posturing, the Florida senate is no less a swamp than Washington, D.C. Indeed, it’s the farm club where players often go to make the big leagues and pick the harvest in  the D.C. money tree orchard. The people know this. We know we are governed by some, perhaps many, who are weak narcissists and psychopaths; craving power, sex and money- and not necessarily in that order. Our own failure is we don’t mind as long as the offenders match our preferred red or blue jerseys.

It’s time for the real leaders in the state legislature, whether they have formal positions of leadership or not, to take a stand; to demand a higher level of professionalism and a higher standard of conduct. Providing anonymous observations and falling back on the platitudes of official policy statements isn’t affecting behavior and it isn’t showing leadership. A future senate president would be an ideal person with whom to begin.

There are no FLORIDA POLITICIANS supporting “Your Second Amendment Rights”

Now that we have your attention, please continue.

This past legislative season saw several gun bills described as Second Amendment bills. Now, with the campaigns for Governor and Agriculture Commissioner taking shape, the “defenders” of the Second Amendment are heralding their bona fides.  Adam Putnam in particular has featured his “pro Second Amendment” stance in his social media ads. Putnam  touts his tenure as Ag Commissioner and the increase in CCW permits issued during this time. As for CCW’s, they are personal choices and not a function of who is Ag Commissioner. It just so happens the legislature has assigned this function to the Department of Agriculture. We looked for bills he introduced as a federal congressman that would roll back federal infringements on the Second Amendment and found none. But enough about Mr. Putnam.

Let’s deal with those gun bills in the recent legislative session. The “pro” gun bills if you will, had nothing to do with the Second Amendment. They were expansions of Article 1 Section 8 of the Florida Declaration of Rights in our state constitution. That document empowers the legislature to address the manner in which the bearing of arms  may be implemented. Open carry is an A1 S8 of the Florida constitution, Declaration of Rights issue, not a 2A issue. Campus carry, same thing. It is the Florida legislature, not the federal government prohibiting the open carry of firearms and the carrying of firearms on campus. Unfortunately, the term “Second Amendment” has become a generic marketing ploy for all things pro firearms. Along the way the meaning, purpose and prohibitions of the amendment have gotten watered down and forgotten. The truth is there’s more marketing going on here than actual substance.

The Second Amendment as written is a prohibition on the federal government. In creating the Bill of Rights, the framers, life and death familiar with the threat of standing armies, wanted to make sure the new government they were creating could not infringe upon the rights of citizens to be armed. (This right was recognized in the sovereign states prior to the creation of  the voluntary union.) Armed you see, because they not only believed in the natural right of self defense, but they also knew that local militias, comprised of armed citizens would be the only bulwark against an out of control central government with a standing army. As Rob Natelson explains in “The Original Constitution, What it Said and Meant” (page 175): ” The activity prohibited was to “infringe.” The meaning of infringe in eighteenth century dictionaries was to violate a law or contract. A few sources gave a second meaning of “destroy,” which would imply that the amendment interdicted only legislation that completely destroyed the right. However, most dictionaries defined “infringe” to include intrusions less than total destruction. This suggests that it breached the Second Amendment to reduce in any way the right to keep and bear arms.” 

With that in mind, it is easy to see the federal government has been infringing on the right to keep and bear arms since it determined that sawed off shotguns are illegal and automatic fire weapons require a federal permit. Going back to the  National Firearms Act of 1934, the central government has continuously been re-defining the words the Second Amendment. The federals reduced this unlimited right to a privilege and they dole out this privilege in doses with which they feel the people can be trusted. Even Justice Antonin Scalia, considered by gun people to be a hero said this regarding the Second Amendment-It will have to be decided in future cases what limitations upon the right to bear arms are permissible,” he added. “Some undoubtedly are.”  

So, back to our Florida defenders of the Second Amendment. Anyone currently holding office or running for office in Florida who accepts federal infringements is not a defender or protector of ” Second Amendment Rights.” All federal firearms “laws” infringing on, diluting or destroying RKBA are in fact no law at all. A Federal Firearms License to own an automatic weapon? Infringement.

The only acceptable stance for a pro Second Amendment Florida politician  is to first acknowledge and denounce all current infringements, and to sponsor and/or support legislation in our state that frustrates current federal infringements on the right to keep and bear arms.  This includes the National Firearms Act, National Instant Criminal Background Search (NICS) the FFL requirement and any BATFE “agency rule” that violates the Constitution’s requirement that Congress shall make all law; and that law must be pursuant to the  Constitution. If they accept these infringements “as the law of the land” they are being disingenuous.

The wording to just such a bill was introduced into the Florida House in 2013 as the Florida Second Amendment Preservation Act. For various reasons that won’t be visited here, it was withdrawn by the House sponsor and his ten co sponsors. It never did obtain a senate sponsor.

So let’s get back to those politician supporters of our “Second Amendment Rights.” Maybe they should change their position to “I support a Right to Keep and Bear Arms.” From this statement they can go on to explain to to what degree they believe your freedom to keep and bear arms should be allowed. Better yet, they could talk about our state constitution’s Article 1 Section 8 and what they intend to do to remove those limitations.

 

Medical Marijuana in Florida : Improving the health of liberty

 

In the November election of 2016, Florida voters catapulted the approval and implementation of medical marijuana into our state constitution. Almost 72% of the voters approved the use of medical marijuana in Florida despite the federal prohibition on marijuana for any use.

If not for the passage of this amendment, medical marijuana use in Florida would probably have not evolved any time soon beyond the  current “Charlotte’s Web” law. That bill (SB 1030) permitted some patients to use a strain of marijuana that is low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) but high in cannabidiol (CBD). This strain is known to reduce life threatening seizures suffered by children with a rare form of epilepsy. Rick Scott signed the bill into law despite this protocol not being recognized by the FDA. This law addressed two conservative concerns—CBD doesn’t make the user high, and “it’s for the children.”

Florida’s government is reluctant for the most part to run afoul of the federals. The federal government supplies 35% of the state’s budget dollars. Left to their own devices, the Florida legislature would never have moved forward on the expanded use of marijuana for medical purposes. Indeed, their inability to formulate the mandated implementation legislation in the 2017 regular session is seen by many as a move to frustrate the will of the people.

House majority leader, Ray Rodrigues, titular author of the House medical marijuana bill freely admits he did not vote yes on Amendment 2.  Rodrigues’ bill HB 1397 was and remains criticized as being crafted with biased influence from the Drug Free America Foundation and their lobbying division, Save Our Society from Drugs, funded by wealthy developer and Republican donor Mel Sembler. With Governor Rick Scott’s call for a special session, medical marijuana supporters are hopeful their cause will appear on the special session agenda.

This drama will play out as it will.

A more important point has already been established.

Amendment 2 was passed because Florida’s voters believe in the merit of marijuana as medicine.  That is fine by itself. What isn’t being talked about, and it’s due in part because even the voters don’t realize what they have done in passing Amendment 2.  Ignorant of this or not, Florida voters have enshrined non-compliance with federal prohibitions into our state constitution. True, it is only for one item but the ice has cracked, the dam has a leak, the river has been forded and there is no going back.

This is significant. For one thing, legislators can no longer tell their liberty minded constituents “Federal law is supreme and there is nothing we can do.” The voters took away this excuse. “Nullification is illegal,” a message received in an email from no less than Richard Corcoran himself prior to his assuming Speakership, no longer holds any water.  The voters took away this excuse too. Perhaps best of all, the excuse that “The Civil War decided who is superior once and for all,” the position held by former Florida state senator Don Gaetz, who also said that he agreed with the sentiment attributed to Andrew Jackson when Jackson is said to have proclaimed he would “hang all the nullifiers” is history. Well, Senator Gaetz, do you plan on hanging 72% of the voters?

Thanks to Amendment 2 it can no longer be written in Florida stone that the federal government is supreme and the people cannot invalidate federal laws that are in violation of the Constitution.

Even with A2 passed and some form of regulatory implementation from the legislature, or the Department of Health, medical marijuana still has one more step needed to close the loop. Donald Trump’s attorney general Jeff Sessions is not a supporter of medical marijuana and may seek selected enforcement against some or all of the medical marijuana states. Our legislature is bound by our state constitution and must protect the supply chain and the end user. While it would be a giant pill to swallow for them, the legislature must write one more chapter to  the medical marijuana saga.

The legislature must enact legislation prohibiting any state officer, any sheriff, any police department and any and all law enforcement in Florida, including judges from assisting the federals in enforcing legal action against anyone in the medical marijuana business, prescribing doctors and their patients. This means no sharing of intelligence, no use of jails, no muscle in the form of SWAT teams, no warrants, nothing! Not one list of licensed, prescribing doctors or patients. NOTHING!

Without this last step it will be impossible to have confidence that federal pressure will not cause our legislators and the governor to cave and find some way to convene an over throw of Amendment 2. Medical marijuana is already improving the health of liberty in Florida. It will be up to us to continue to improve that health and to make sure our elected officials don’t cause a relapse.