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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

For Sale: The Sunshine State

Ah, Florida. A state near and dear to my heart - I lived there as a child. It is said that once you get Florida sand in your shoes, you'll always return - and I'd love to go back some day!

Remember ALEC? I've blogged about this organization before. I've written about the "cookie cutter" legislation that they espouse for states, about state legislators being involved in this organization - the American Legislative Exchange Council.

If you have not read previous blogs and do not know of ALEC, it is a secretive organization that was started in 1973 by large corporations and extreme right-wing groups - many of them funded by the Koch brothers.

Large corporations - household names. General Electric. General Motors. Walmart. Pfizer. Koch Industries (in fact, the Koch brothers were among the original members). Exxon. BP. Wackenhut. I could go on, but I think you get the drift. These corporations pay various amounts of money to be members of ALEC - $5k to $25k, plus additional amounts for other privileges. The amount they pay determines how involved they can be in crafting legislation that will result in more profit for them. They fight against any legislation that protects the environment, if it requires them to spend money. They fight against alternative energy such as wind energy - oil and coal mining companies obviously do not profit from these. They fight against legislation that would curb the pharmaceutical companies' current ability to charge whatever they wish for drugs. Many members will directly profit from privatization of services currently provided by government: prisons, health care, public schools. There is much, much more that they are promoting - all of which will support their interest.

They sit down with state legislators, the vast majority of whom are Republican, and together, they write "model legislation".

If you smell a rat - if you have concluded that corporate agendas are not concerned with anything but profits - you are in good company. The public is slowly coming to realize the extent of their agenda.

Florida is among the states whose legislators and governor are implementing their "model legislation".

Some of this will sound VERY familiar to those of us who live in Wisconsin and other states -

Florida has turned down a federal grant that would create high-speed rail service between Tampa and Orlando... just as Wisconsin has. This would impact oil companies - less dependence upon gasoline. Many jobs would be created by high-speed rail service, but that is not part of the ALEC agenda - the oil companies are not considering that a priority; their only motivation is profit.

Florida is enacting legislation that heavily impacts public education. Members of ALEC include companies that run private schools - of course, they don't want the public schools, K-12 or publicly funded universities - to survive. State governments cut funding to public schools... enact legislation that will serve the interests of private, for-profit schools.

There are many other things that Florida is doing that you'd recognize, if you live in Wisconsin or other ALEC (read: big business) -run states.

Democrats, as a whole, don't think that corporate interests, solely interested in profits at the expense of living-wage jobs, environmental protection, development of alternative energy sources - serve the people of their states or our country. Notsomuch.

Now I'm going to focus on perhaps the most damaging legislation that Florida is doing. They are introducing legislation that will serve to disenfranchise voters. Yes, Wisconsin is doing the same - our legislators are, as I write this, considering a bill that will enact the most stringent voter ID requirements in our country.

Florida will doubtless go there, as well... but right now, what they are doing is a bit different.

In Florida, there are groups that get together to help folks to register to vote. The groups include Boy/Girl Scouts and others. They can pick up voter registration documents and set up stations in public areas, at retail establishments, etc. and encourage unregistered folks to get registered. They then drop these off at government offices for processing.

The new law will severely hamper any of these efforts. There will be a 48-hour requirement: if the registration forms are not dropped off within 48 hours they will be invalid. In addition, the organization running the drive for registration will be fined for each individual who registered and whose forms were not turned in during that 48 hours - $50 per individual, up to a max of $1000.

The new law will also make it a very onerous task for people who move to a different district to change their address and re-register under their new address. Certain groups (some of whom are listed below) are more mobile than others.

The effects of this are obvious to any thinking person. People who have not registered to vote - students, young people, minority groups, the homeless - tend to vote on the Democratic side of the political spectrum.

The side that thinks that corporations should NOT run our government, our states, our country.

All of this serves only to lessen the chances that these groups have an opportunity to cast ballots that may not be supportive of the ALEC/corporate agenda. To exercise their right and privilege to have their voices heard.

Our country was founded on principles that enable all voices to be heard. Democracy.

Any attempt to hamper those voices is an affront to everything that our country stands for. It is wrong. I will go out on a limb here and say that if you think this is okay, you are supporting a corporate takeover of our states and our country.

In the end, if you are not part of the upper crust of our nation, it will hurt you, your friends, your family... your children.

The Sunshine state has fallen to the ALEC agenda.

Will you allow that to happen in YOUR state without a fight?

I hope not. I truly hope that you will contact your legislators and your governors to tell them that your state is NOT FOR SALE.  Not on your watch.

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