Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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FL's GOP: Passing Unconstitutional Laws Then Charging Taxpayers W/Attorney Fees

Republicans in the Florida Legislature are poised to create more damaging, expensive, unconstitutional laws that could take years to undo in the courts.

                                                                                                        Image: TexasMonthly

They’ve done it with the death penalty. They’ve done it with their drug-testing-without-cause laws for poor people. They’ve done it, most profligately, with their gerrymandered maps.

And they could do it again with a bill that, if passed, would ban nearly all abortions in Florida.

The Tampa Tribune reported on Jan. 26 that HB 865 cleared the Criminal Justice Committee. The bill defines “life” as beginning at conception and thereby criminalizes all abortions. The only way to get around the proposed law is for a woman to have two doctors certify that the abortion is necessary to prevent death or serious and permanent injury.

The bill’s author, Charles Van Zant, R-Keystone Heights, told the Tribune that Roe v. Wade “is not a law,” and that, even if it were, it would violate the constitution.

Certainly, it would violate his imaginary version of it. One can only speculate as to the elaborate, delusional scenario in which Van Zant’s bill would be vindicated in the courts.

Van Zant’s abortion ban is unconstitutional on its face.

But Republican lawmakers just don’t care.

The anti-abortion crowd has at least four other anti-choice measures in play in the Legislature this year: Medicaid prohibitions to clinics that perform abortions; mandatory hospital privileges for doctors who perform abortions; heightened licensure requirements for abortion clinics; and fetal-tissue research restrictions.

That last one is designed, no doubt, to revive the false allegation about “selling baby parts” that right-to-life videographers lodged against Planned Parenthood last year. Never mind that a Texas grand jury indicted the filmmakers, while exonerating Planned Parenthood.

The other proposed regulations appear to be more run-of-the-mill, unconstitutional restrictions on women’s rights.

But Republican lawmakers don’t care.

Just like they didn’t care when they ignored numerous warnings that our death-penalty sentencing statutes were running afoul of the U.S. Constitution.

An entire decade, and yet-uncounted millions of dollars — in the form of death penalty litigation — were squandered before the nation’s highest court could tell us what we already knew: our death-penalty-sentencing scheme violates the Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury.

Republican lawmakers would have done better to listen to one of their own back in 2013. That’s when state Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, tried to fix the problem that the Florida Supreme Court warned us of in 2005. The American Bar Association warned us again in 2006.

But Republican lawmakers didn’t care.

At the moment, in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Jan. 12 ruling in Hurst vs Florida, we have no procedure for sentencing convicted murderers to death.

That lack has prompted one Pinellas County circuit judge and the top prosecutor in Orlando to suspend death penalty proceedings under their authority until lawmakers repair the law.

But Jacksonville area State Attorney Angela Corey, a Republican, has said her offices won’t be halting their pursuit of the death penalty.

Squandering precious court time and taxpayer dollars has, after all, become a Republican tradition in Florida: Enacting a campaign promise made by Gov. Rick Scott in 2010, the Legislature passed a law mandating that welfare recipients be tested for drugs, without regard to probable cause.

“Cause, schmause,” lawmakers all but said out loud.

The 2011 law was stricken relatively quickly in 2014 by a federal appellate judge — but not before it cost taxpayers $1.5 million in lawyers’ fees.

The mac-daddy example of legislative disregard for the law, however, takes the form of the grossly gerrymandered electoral maps drawn by lawmakers in 2012. The redistricted maps were flagrant not only because they targeted the very heart of democracy — the electoral process itself — but also because lawmakers wasted so much money in their failed attempt to rig the game.

According to the Miami Herald, lawmakers’ map-drawing shenanigans cost taxpayers more than $11 million. It covered four trials, three special sessions and eight Florida Supreme Court rulings.

This is the way so-called conservatives burn money in Florida — by passing patently unconstitutional laws and charging taxpayers with the attorneys’ bills.

Who will stop Republican lawmakers before they pass any more disastrous, unconstitutional, litigation-inducing laws? The 2016 legislative elections, based on new, court-ordered maps, can’t come soon enough.

Julie Delegal, a University of Florida alumna, is a contributor for Folio Weekly, Jacksonville’s alternative weekly, and writes for the family business, Delegal Law Offices. She lives in Jacksonville. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Image added by the Observer

This piece was reprinted by the Columbia County Observer with permission or license.

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