Make a Difference: Support the First Amendment

JOE SAUNDERS’S BLOG | Posted: March 8, 2012 7:20 PM

The First Amendment Foundation has issued an email blast asking supporters to contact legislative leaders to demand passage of a Senate bill that guarantees the right of Floridians to speak at public meetings of their city councils, school boards, county commissions and before any other elected officials.

According to the blast, the bill, HB 355, sailed through all three House committees that considered it but hasn’t been placed on the calender for a vote by the full House. However, since a companion bill in the Senate, SB 206, has been passed, the House can vote on that in the session’s final hours.

The bill was initially opposed by the Florida League of Cities, but the organization backed down. Still, some cities — enough cities, I guess, or influential (rich) enough cities had enough “concern” to get it from making the House calender.

Now, I understand the “concerns.” In years covering local government, I’ve spent many, many hours listening to indignant blowhards rant about how their street needs a stop sign, why a road shouldn’t be widened or how their kid wasn’t getting enough coddling in school. With a deadline looming, I would wish heartily someone would make them shut the heck up.

(There was one guy in West Virginia named “Dixie,” believe it or not, who would show up at every city commission meeting — generally pretty drunk — and have his say about the matter at hand. He could make a reporter’s life miserable, believe me.)

But I’ve never seen a citizen silenced, and to be honest, until I heard about Sen. Joe Negron’s bill guaranteeing the right to speak at public meetings, I didn’t know a citizen could be. You know why I didn’t think they could be silenced? Because I remember something from school about “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech …”

I understand that the Constitution was written for the feds but that doesn’t mean its core principles shouldn’t apply to all levels of government, right down to the local sewer board. Those principles are what we really mean when we say “proud to be an American.”

The First Amendment Foundation is right on the money on this. If you agree, contact:
House Speaker Dean Cannon                                                                  

850/488-2741                                                                                                    
or
Rep. Jimmy Patronis
Jimmy.patronis@myfloridahouse.gov

There’s still time to make a difference.

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