Florida’s Republicans who have been a governing majority in both houses of the legislature for the last 18 years have some nice fluffy rhetoric about “big government”. Yet, the party which has become drunk on power have time and again proven to be hypocrites when it comes to this theory. We’ve spoken extensively about “preemption” in recent days, a theme we have constantly hit on. Quoting from our article on Friday:
Here in Florida, the Republicans gained complete control of State Government in 1999 and immediately began concocting ways to undue local efforts or laws that might have conflicted with the ideology of the GOP. Late in the 1999 legislative session, Conservative Rep. George Albright (R-Ocala) whose other great cause that year was to prevent the St John’s River from being designated as an “American Heritage Waterway” took on Miami-Dade County. The county led by Mayor Alex Penelas was suing gun manufacturers for creating a public health crisis. Fortunately for the citizens of Dade County, the bill had to be pulled from the House floor thanks to the Colombine Massacre which had taken place just hours before second reading.
Over the course of the next sixteen years various measures including HB 655 in 2013 have been pushed by the legislature and elected officials at the state level. The legislature have in time, also become experts at passing on unfunded mandates to local governments while the House and Senate constantly attempt to thwart the will of the voters in Florida’s urban areas with various measures that protect special interests from local ordinances and initiatives. HB 583 continues this long-standing pattern of behavior from the legislature.
However preemption is just one example of the Republican hypocrisy and legislative overreach that has consistently on display in Tallahassee since the late 1990’s.
Republicans came to power with a single goal in mind – not to reduce the size of government but to “defund” the left. While in some cases defunding the left involves privatization such as private school “choice” to weaken the teacher’s unions in others it involves the expansion of government.
Take tort reform for example. Upon gaining control of Congress in 1995, the Republicans quickly pushed Product Liability Reform and here in Florida they passed Tort Reform in 1998 which was vetoed by Governor Chiles, but passed in 1999 and enthusiastically signed by Governor Bush. Tort Reform and all its elements were considered the cornerstones of “defunding the left.”
Republicans often rail against “judicial overreach” and “legislating from the bench.” But thanks to Tort Reform, and then the 2003 passage of Medical Malpractice Reform the GOP and its Democratic allies put in place a mechanism in this state that violates the sanctity of juries and takes away proper judicial discretion from judges.
The political result of the various Tort reform measures has been two-fold –
1- Trial Lawyers have less disposable money to give to Democrats
2- Professionally, Trial Lawyers have less money and get less in the way of rewards to take risks in doing research for cases that involve suing corporations or doctors. The result has been fewer landmark lawsuits in Florida on these issues. The ultimate losers are consumers and patients.
A net result is that corporations have more leeway to design and market fault products and more incentive to de-emphaisze safety than ever before. Average citizens of the state have less recourse against large companies now than ever before.
The Republicans often talk about taking risks and entrepreneurship . However those tenets and the free market itself do not apply to personal injury cases, product liability cases or medical malpractice cases. It’s not mystery why – a simple look at who has funded the GOP in Florida especially since the 1980’s finds insurance companies, large corporations, medical doctors and corporate attorneys among the list of top contributors.
Republican overreach and over-legislating also applies to the criminal justice system. Minimum sentencing standards have much like Tort Reform taken objectivity and discretion away from juries and judges and placed the power in the hands of the legislature.
It goes without saying that the GOP’s obsession with chipping away at the reproductive rights of Florida’s women goes against the smaller government mantra. It is also exceedingly sexist and misogynistic when a body comprised mostly of men, with the vast majority of its leadership is of the white male variety dictates to women throughout Florida what types of medical procedures they are allowed to undertake.
Leaving the legislature for a moment, Florida’s Junior Senator Marco Rubio, a former Speaker of the Florida House has advocated a foreign policy that is dangerous and could be considered “liberal interventionist” by most objective standards. Senator Rubio advocates policies which would see the United States mired in constant war, meddling in internal conflicts throughout the globe. The burden of these policies would fall on taxpayers leading to massive expansion of the government and federal deficits much like the 2003-2011 conflict in Iraq did.
Senator Rubio learned these tricks of the trade as a leader in the Florida Legislature, on one hand advocating the outright repeal of the intangibles tax as he did in 2001, but the next year he led the fight along with Speaker Tom Feeney against the simplification of the tax code in the state which would have relieved the burden the sales tax places on working class Floridians. In fairness, when evaluating this current legislature, Senator Jack Latvala was a leader in laudable the 2002 to reform Florida’s regressive tax system. However, in this political climate Latvala who aims to be Senate President has not revived the proposal, at least not yet.
Rubio’s hypocrisy is shared by those he served with and their successors in the legislature. If Republicans see an opportunity to expand the scope of government and crush local initiatives they do it. If they can concoct a way to help corporations while hurting Democrats they will. If they can exploit certain judicial decisions, while ignoring the 99% of rational decisions made by the court system they will.
Simply put, power corrupts and this Republican legislative majority has had a run in power governing this state similar to many third world dictatorships and the Soviet communists. In time, the arrogance, cronyism and hypocrisy of the Florida GOP has grown to Soviet-style levels.