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Archive for the ‘Florida House’ Category

It’s been over a month since the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion, which killed 11, injured many others and caused the still gushing oil “spill” that threatens to devastate wildlife, along with the fishing and tourism industry in Florida.

Aside from a lot of political posturing in the past over the issue of oil drilling in the Gulf Of Mexico, not much was done about it beyond talk.

What did it take to get people’s attention? Probably the fact that most recent evidence places the oil plumes in the “loop current” in the Gulf, which will eventually carry the oil into the Florida Keys and then on around South Florida, into the Atlantic where most say it will likely land on beaches in Palm Beach County first.

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to head up to the Florida Panhandle where I met people who live and work where, at the time, most thought the oil was headed next. I talked to people whose entire livelihoods were, and still are at stake.

One of those people I met was a man who didn’t just talk about it. He actually did something about it, and he did it long before the BP disaster unfolded.

Last summer, the Florida House passed bill #1219 which lifted the ban on near shore oil drilling in the Gulf Of Mexico, which allowed drilling to take place as close as ten miles off the coast of Florida. The bill first came to the attention of restaurant owner Dave Rauschkolb in Seaside, FL during a meet and greet at his restaurant with Florida House candidate David Pleat. Rauschkolb said that Pleat explained in layman’s terms what actually was proposed in the bill.

Dave Rauschkolb, Founder of “Hands Across The Sand”

“What they were really asking for was carte blanche to give them a free ticket to drill anywhere they wanted three to ten miles off shore and that would also give the county jurisdiction from the waterline to three miles. The county said they could run pipelines wherever they wanted” Rauschkolb explains. “I was knocked back on my heels.”

At the end of Pleat’s explanation Rauschkolb “got this flash of an idea” that went beyond merely writing to legislators in opposition.

“Earlier I had said “we need to draw a line in the sand over this” and that kept running through my head. I looked at my wife and I said “I know what we can do.” I got this simple idea to have Floridians go to the beaches, join hands and create human lines in the sand to protest this legislation and try to convince legislators to drop this proposal.”

Rauschkolb’s “flash of an idea” became a now familiar environmental awareness movement in Florida called “Hands Across The Sand.”

Hands Across the Sand is a movement made of people of all walks of life and crosses political affiliations. This movement is not about politics; it is about protection of our shoreline, our waterways, our tourism, our coastal military missions and our valuable properties. Let us share our knowledge, energies and passion for protecting all of the above from the devastating effects of oil drilling.

The idea was simple: Go to an event beach at the appointed time for one hour, rain or shine, join hands for ten minutes forming a “line in the sand” against oil drilling in coastal waters, and leave only footprints behind.

Rauschkolb went to work on the idea and designed a website, a 30 second radio commercial and a newspaper ad. The website was subsequently contributed by CYber SYtes in Panama City Beach, and posters were designed by local artists as well as T-Shirts that were given away free of charge.

Before long e-mails started to come in, and in just two months Rauschkolb says “we had 80 beaches organized from Jacksonville Beach to Miami and from Key West up to Pensacola.” Thousands of Floridians joined hands at he first “Hands Across The Sand” event that took place on February 13, 2010. “The largest group was in the Tampa, St. Petersburg Beach area with around 3,000 people. In Seaside, where Rauschkolb owns and operates his restaurant “Bud & Alley’s” there were 500.

Talking to Rauschkolb just over two weeks after the BP oil spill, he speaks about his frustration over President Obama’s stand on oil drilling. ” I knew the moment (Obama) said the word “Oil” in his State Of the Union address that he was throwing a bone to the Republicans. I counted how many times he said “clean energy,” 12 or 15 times. He mentioned oil once.” A strong signal in Rauschkolb’s mind that “this is something that is not near and dear to his heart.”

“To me after this spill, it’s going to be awfully difficult for those pro-drilling politicians in Florida to wash oil from their hands and I can’t imagine that (Florida Republicans) Dean Cannon and Mike Haridopolos will continue this folly and bring this legislation back to Floridians in the next session after the election. So I’m imploring them to stop it and stop it now. I’m hoping in the near future they will come out and say they’re dropping the legislation for good.”

“So many politicians like Sarah Palin and John Boehner are just drilling themselves a hole into oblivion in my opinion and I hope they stay down there. They can live with the oil as far as I’m concerned. I’ve lived here since 1970 and it’s one of the most beautiful places that I’ve ever been. I’ve made my life here, I’ve raised my family here and this is a very special place.  It’s the natural beauty of this place and the fact that 30% of our seafood comes from the Gulf.”

Rauschkolb becomes emotional at the thought of what could become of the community where he’s made his home for 24 years.

“Florida beaches are America’s beaches and they should hold them dear. I’m sorry, but drilling should not be occurring in the Gulf of Mexico, period. The Gulf should be a national park. It’s an abomination that our seafood industry is going to be destroyed for a very long time, and that entire coastal economies and ecosystems are about to be devastated. No one industry should have that kind power because of their mistakes.”

“Perhaps destiny will determine through this accident which way our country goes.”

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So the GOP is in a bit of trouble right now. They are steadfast in their determination to be the “Party Of No,” or as I refer to them as the “Grand Obstructionist Party.” They are determined to prevent anything proposed by President Obama and the Democrats until they can win back both Congress and the White House. The latest evidence was yesterday when they blocked debate over financial reform, adding to their title: “The Party Of Wall Street.” For some warped reasoning on their part (I can only assume, given that we’ve yet to hear any reasonable explanation for it) they seem to think this will win them votes? More like win them campaign cash, but I digress.

When the GOP is in trouble, what do they do? Well, if they aren’t winning over the voters, they try other things. A couple recent examples?

They’re having fundraising problems, probably due in part to the way they spend the money for things like the lavish $340K spent on a semi-annual meeting in Hawaii, for one thing.

Another reason, and I would guess the bigger problem, is that they aren’t doing anything. They are now the “Party Of No” and they prove it over and over by trying to prevent health care reform, and blocking financial reform to name just two examples. After all, why would people want to contribute to a Party who does such things, with the exceptions being the health insurance companies and bankers who would benefit from those very actions? If they can’t get voters to donate, they find other ways.

Recently they’ve sent out fake “Census” letters in hopes of getting donations. We’ve received lots of those in Florida and I’ve written about them several times here. They recently came back for a third round in Florida and another nationwide, even after congress passed a law saying they were misleading and couldn’t do it anymore. No such law will intimidate Michael Steele, no sir! Keep it up! Using tricks to get donations is one way to gain a foothold, but that’s not all.

In Florida there’s a proposed constitutional amendment, “Fair Districts” which voters in Florida are in favor of and showed overwhelming support in the form of petitions. Yesterday the GOP-controlled House voted to “clarify” that initiative. Why? Because it would favor competitive elections in Florida and increase minority representation in legislative and congressional districts. After hearing that news yesterday, there were probably a lot of voters in Florida having flashbacks to the nightmare that was the Florida 2000 election in which Florida’s Secretary of State (and dare I say the “wicked witch of the south”) Katherine Harris, along with the U.S. Supreme Court handed the Office Of The President to a disaster in the making: George W. Bush. We all know how well that worked out.

How about the U.S. Attorneys scandal? Several were fired when they wouldn’t investigate what Republicans claimed were instances of “voter fraud?” Or another more recent scandal that was in the news. ACORN anyone? I don’t know about you, but when I hear the Republicans whining about things like “voter fraud” I am immediately suspicious about their motives.

This brings us to Arizona. Last week as you’ll recall, the GOP Gov. of Arizona, Jan Brewer signed into law the “Papers Please” immigration bill where people now have to prove their citizenship, which has rightfully caused a great deal of outrage over discrimination and racial profiling. That’s been the focus in the media. However, there might more to it just under the surface.

Jan Brewer was appointed Gov. when former Governor Janet Napolitano was chosen by Pres. Obama to become Director Of Homeland Security in January 2009. Before she was appointed Governor of the state, Brewer was Arizona’s Secretary Of State. In 2004, while holding that office, she had the opportunity to purge voter rolls of 100,000 voters. Most of those were hispanic voters. There’s an interesting history behind this purge written by BBC investigative reporter Greg Palast for Truthout.org. (In 2008 Palast joined law professor Robert F. Kennedy in investigating voter integrity and the American voting process itself.)

In Palast’s view, the real story isn’t just immigration and racial profiling. He concludes that the real story is voting and the legalities of registering to vote as a citizen of Arizona. Not to mention the fear of the Republican Party that a minority might favor one party over another in a state where there is an overwhelmingly large hispanic population like the state of Arizona.

Is all the outrage over immigration, racial profiling and the “Papers Please” law obscuring another possible voter purge in Arizona? One that could favor a lean to the right in an election where many hispanic voters favor democrats? You can read Palast’s article here and decide for yourself.

Is this just one more incident in a long line of attempts to “game the system” under the guise of immigration and matters of civil rights for a Party which is failing voters in every other way?

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It’s election season again, although these days it’s difficult to define a line of demarcation between election cycles. That being said, there’s a lot going on as we’re drawn closer to November. The GOP has been at it making the rounds with their endorsements. Here is Florida the “true” Republicans have lined up to endorse Marco Rubio instead of Charlie Crist to try to intimidate Crist in his decision on whether to go it alone and run as an Independent and not a Republican. There’s no better way to intimidate than to bring Dick Cheney out of his bunker and into the daylight to say “Weh, weh, I’m with Marco Rubio, weh.” (As Jon Stewart so aptly mimics big Dick.) Of course Cheney would endorse Rubio. He’s under investigation over his alleged spending of GOP funds, so it’s only natural that an endorsement would follow from the man who tells any Democrat (or anyone else for that matter) who dares to question him: “Go f— yourself.” As he mentioned just the other day, that is one of the best things he ever did and he’s quite proud of himself.

As Floridians know only too well, election season brings about many interesting voter and ballot issues (cough Florida 2000, cough, cough.) and it’s already starting.

Just yesterday the Republican controlled legislature in Florida passed a proposed constitutional amendment that would “clarify” a citizen driven “Fair Districts” proposal. (HJR 7231) It passed 74-40, two more than the minimum votes to get on the ballot.

The proposal would allow legislators to craft districts using “communities of interest,” such as race or coastal communities. Supporters say the legislative amendment is needed to preserve minority gains in the statehouse.

The Fair District amendments “will in effect eliminate the Legislature’s ability to draw many of the minority-access seats that are in effect today,” said Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami.

Never mind that voters in Florida are very much in favor of the initiatives. More than one million voters signed the Fair District petitions.

A key provision of the legislative proposal would allow lawmakers to continue basing districts on “communities of common interest.”

Republicans argued it’s needed so districts can be drawn with sufficient numbers of minorities to give them a fair shot at winning legislative or congressional seats.

Democrats said it’s nothing more than a loophole to let lawmakers sidestep requirements in the initiatives, one for legislative and the other for congressional redistricting, designed to prevent them from drawing maps to favor incumbents or particular political parties.

The initiatives also say districts must be contiguous and cannot be drawn to deny racial or language minorities from having an equal opportunity to participate in the political process.

Finally, districts lines “where feasible” would have to follow political and geographical boundaries.

And note these statements near the end of a story from the Miami Herald:

Fair Districts campaign chairwoman Ellen Freidin said the House vote was a perfect example of why the initiative amendments are needed.

“Those in power will do everything they can to protect their seats, avoid truly competitive elections, and maintain the ability to manipulate districts for political gain,” Freidin said.

Democrats stressed that more than 1 million voters signed the Fair Districts petitions, but Republicans derided the campaign because the organization used paid signature collectors.

“This is the most arrogant, preposterous disingenuous attempt to thwart what the people of this state have already said by their signatures that they want,” said Rep. Janet Long, D-Seminole.

Rep. Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, responded that it was arrogant Long and other opponents to assume voters have already spoken because the initiatives have yet to pass.

Because isn’t that what the Republicans are afraid of, that “Fair Districts” would pass? What better way to confuse and misguide voters in Florida than by gutting the amendment in the first place?

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