Voters in Florida and nationwide sent a strong message to their elected officials in 2012: They want balance, moderation, a move to the middle.
They want, in essence, leadership instead of predictable partisan wrangling.
Whether it’s the need for Washington to fix the nation’s broken immigration laws or Tallahassee to stop usurping voters’ constitutional rights and having all levels of government look at sensible ways to stanch our culture of violence, there is much work ahead for 2013.
We preview the new year with the Editorial Board’s annual goals for creating a vibrant South Florida.
Gov. Rick Scott failed to secure the most precious of rights for Floridians in 2012. By obstinately limiting early voting days — a strategy employed by GOP governors and legislatures throughout the nation — and creating a faux crisis of immigrants illegally voting when in fact the real scandal continues to be questionable absentee ballots, Mr. Scott and Florida’s Republican leadership attempted to suppress the votes of Democrat-leaning voters like college students, blacks and Hispanics.
We will be looking for leadership in Tallahassee from the Miami-Dade and Broward delegations to push to restore early voting days.
They also should require that absentee ballots not be handled by so-called brokers who work for political campaigns or other special interests like Committees of Continuous Existence, which now get special access to the state’s lists of voters who have requested absentee ballots.
Requiring a witness signature on absentee ballots should be standard practice, too, as a Miami-Dade Grand Jury has once again recommended.
For a decade now, Washington has wrestled with immigration reform. An open door is not feasible, of course, but a rational way to legalize the status of some 10 million to 12 million longtime, undocumented immigrants is warranted. “Self-deportation” is a campaign slogan, not a sensible solution.
That doesn’t mean those here illegally should get to the front of the immigration line, which would punish those who are playing by the rules and applying for legal entry. It should mean that those living here, if they pay a fine, learn English and stay out of trouble, should qualify for an eventual path to citizenship.
How to attain that balance while also continuing to strengthen U.S. borders so as not to encourage illegal immigration should be a priority for South Florida’s members of Congress.
U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart has been working with a bipartisan group in Congress to find the right balance. Excellent. By contrast, Sen. Marco Rubio has been talking up immigration reform for months but hasn’t even drafted legislation yet. Sen. Rubio, a shining star in GOP ranks nationally, can’t stay on the fence any longer. We’re looking for you to lead, senator.
Culture of violence
The December massacre at a Connecticut elementary school that resulted in 20 children, ages 6 and 7, among the 28 dead has served as a wake-up call to Americans. They’re looking for sensible regulations that balance Second Amendment rights with the need to protect the public from violence.
The NRA blames mental illness, and certainly that is one element of various mass shootings throughout the years. Funding treatment and prevention programs to combat mental illness is needed.
But the easy accessibility to rapid-fire, assault-style weapons — and sales at gun shows that don’t require a basic background check of the buyers -- are culprits, too.
Nor can Hollywood producers and video-game inventors not see how violent games (often linked to sell brand names of assault-style weapons) are contributing to our youth embracing violence and coarsening our culture.
It remains troublesome that Gov. Scott has a “see no evil” attitude toward Florida’s anything-goes gun culture. The state’s Stand Your Ground law has resulted in the death of innocents, yet the governor and Legislature seem to think it’s just fine. The governor also has chosen to defend a state law that quashes the rights of pediatricians and other physicians to ask their patients (or a patient’s parents) about the accessibility of guns in the home or suggest safety measures. He should drop the state’s appeal and put children’s health first.
In 2013, we will be looking at what’s working to stem violence in our communities and prodding Congress and the Florida Legislature to act on gun laws that balance rights with responsibilities.
Coming next Sunday: Moving forward on the region’s economy