The State Senate Democratic Caucus is meeting this morning to discuss several issues that will be taken up by the Senate today. One of those issues is a Republican proposal called SB 7086. Tber GOP is still trying to figure out what to do with felon rights.
You might recall that Florida voters voted overwhelmingly in favor of Amendment 4 in the last election, telling lawmakers to restore the civil rights of convicted felons who have successfully served their time. Politicians will give you a million reasons why they just can’t do what they’ve been instructed to do.
Voters vote and tell the lawmakers what they want, and then politicians successfully conspire about how not to do what the people have clearly told them to do. (Yes, I said “conspire.”) How many voters thought that after medical marijuana was approved in the state, lawmakers would re-interpret “marijuana” to mean not the plant but its chemical derivative, THC? I suspect it is because there are no real repercussions for their ignoring us. And that’s on us.
So, here we go again. Nearly six months after the people spoke, Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, the sponsor of SB 7086, is leading the charge for delay. He and a number of other legislators are still squirreling around trying not to do what “the people” clearly told them to do. Instead of simply directing the Supervisors of Election to open their doors and allow ex-inmates the right to register and vote, they’re arguing about whether or not felons should have to pay restitution and other costs before they can have their rights restored. I don’t know about you, but that sounds frighteningly similiar to a poll tax to me.
This is especially intentional since in the state of Florida (and a number of others) inmates are paid nothing for cooking, cleaning, janitorial work, washing laundry and generally doing the work necessary to keep the prisons in operation.
The matter has garnered serous national attention, because prisoners don’t just clean each other’s dirty laundry:
“Prisoner labor — with no union protection, overtime pay, vacation days, pensions, benefits, health and safety protection or Social Security withholding — also makes components for McDonnell Douglas/Boeing F-15 fighter aircraft; Bell/Textron’s Cobra helicopter; and General Dynamics/Lockheed Martin’s F-16. Prisoner labor produces night-vision goggles, body armor, camouflage uniforms, radio and communication devices and lighting systems and components for battleship anti-aircraft guns, along with land mine sweepers and electro-optical equipment for the BAE Systems Bradley Fighting Vehicle’s laser rangefinder. Prisoners recycle toxic electronic equipment and overhaul military vehicles. (www.alternet.org)”
So just to make sure we’re on the same page: Republicans want the former slave laborers to fork over some cash they likely don’t have after laboring for years in the slammer just to cast the vote the rest of us approved. Hmmm.
These are the kinds of political shennanigans that will have most of these newly restored voters voting Democratic in their first trip back to the polls– whenever Republicans decide that the will of the people gets back to center stage. According to workers.com:
“Nationally, 39 percent of African-American men in their twenties are in prison, on probation or on parole. In major urban areas, an astonishing one-half of Black men have criminal records. The U.S. imprisons more people than South Africa did under apartheid.”
So, potentially, an awful lot of Democratic votes are on the horizon. Republicans will without a doubt try to continue delaying felon voting for as long as they can– or at least for as long as the rest of us continue keeping them in their cushy jobs.
Call, write or email your state legislator and demand that they vote against
SB 7086. Insist that felons rights be restored without delay!