Two Republicans state senators — Paula Dockery of Lakeland and Mike Fasano of New Port Richey, both noted for their independent streaks — broke party ranks and voted against a controversial elections bill, which is headed to the governor after getting final approval from the House on Thursday.
Two Republican state senators — Paula Dockery of Lakeland and Mike Fasano of New Port Richey, both noted for their independent streaks — broke party ranks and voted against a controversial elections bill, which is headed to the governor after getting final approval from the House on Thursday.
Fasano, who served as House majority leader in the wake of Florida’s 2000 election debacle, said that since then, Florida has had a policy of making its elections more accessible.
“We should be encouraging our young people, all the people in the state, to register and to vote. I believe that this bill that passed today takes away some of that,” he said.
Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, made the opposite argument during Thursday’s floor debate, saying that people should know where and how to vote and that making voting too easy for people diminishes its importance.
Fasano also offered an amendment on Wednesday that would have eliminated so-called leadership funds, also known as “affiliated party committees,” pots of campaign cash controlled by legislative leaders that have banned for two decades, which lawmakers have voted to reinstate.
Dockery said that the amendment would have made the bill better, but she had other objections.
For one thing, the bill would reduce the “shelf life” of signatures collected during ballot initiatives from four years to two, which would make it harder for citizens to amend the state constitution. At the same time, lawmakers this session have proposed a slew of constitutional amendments of their own, from a limit on state revenues to a revolt against federal health care reform.
“If we think amending the Constitution is such a bad thing, we should make it harder for ourselves,” Dockery said.
According to a recently released study by the Everglades Foundation, the agriculture industry is responsible for 76 percent of the phosphorus pollution entering the Everglades. But despite passage of a Polluter Pays amendment to the state Constitution in 1996, the ag industry isn't paying for even half of the cost of phosphorus removal, leaving the balance of the burden on the shoulders of taxpayers.