Letters to the Editor

State Sen. Pizzo wants answers

Ex-felons celebrate Amendment 4, which restores their voting rights

Hundreds of former felons celebrated Amendment 4, which restores voting rights to more than 1.2 million Floridians, on the steps of the state Capitol on March 11, 2019.
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Hundreds of former felons celebrated Amendment 4, which restores voting rights to more than 1.2 million Floridians, on the steps of the state Capitol on March 11, 2019.

After Amendment 4 passed last November, voter registration for those who had completed their “sentence,” and whose convictions were neither “murder” nor a “sex offense,” was set to open on Jan. 8. Then Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis, who campaigned against the amendment, called for the Legislature to pass an implementing bill. I joined in the dismay, believing the amendment to be self-executing, and knowing our Legislative session wouldn’t begin until March, and bills wouldn’t pass until April.

On Jan. 7, to quell interim confusion for my constituents, I held a conference call with the Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections, Public Defender, State Attorney’s Office and County Clerk. I wanted assurances that applications would be accepted, court costs would not disqualify registration, and no criminal penalty would ensue. Everyone agreed.

On Jan. 22, prior to a Senate Criminal Justice Committee meeting, Secretary of State Mike Ertel, and Division Director Maria Matthews came to my office, where I inquired as to which criminal statutes they believed were applicable to the amendment. Already aghast with their overreach, Matthews later told my committee that she was “siloing applications.” Two days later, Ertel resigned after pictures emerged of him posing in blackface.

When a Supervisor of Elections receives an application, it’s sent to the department for processing, where they are tasked with determining eligibility, either through their own criteria or presumptively through guidance from Attorney General Ashley Moody. Like DeSantis, Moody campaigned against Amendment 4.

On Apr. 11, in an attempt to elicit clarity for stakeholders, gauge whether to join (or resist) in bipartisan drafting of legislation, and obviate the slow crawl to a draconian Supreme Court ruling, I formally requested Attorney General Ashley Moody to opine on what constitutes a “sentence.” She has not responded.

If the Attorney General won’t reply to my request prior to the House and Senate bills, which are marching loudly to the floor in each chamber, it’s a tacit signal that interpretation without oversight, obstructionist legislation passed by the majority, and prolonged legal battles, are the preferred strategy. My conscience tells me to engage with my Senate colleagues, and fight for a bill which honors the will of the electorate.

Florida Sen. Jason W.B. Pizzo,

District 38

Earth Day

Today, Earth Day, millions of people will raise awareness and take action to improve the health of our planet. However, if humanity wants to rise above the issues threatening our livelihood, we need to make Earth Day an every day occurrence. Some believe climate science is new and unproven, but the data is almost 200 years old.

In the 1800s, scientists asked why the moon and Earth were different temperatures when both are the same distance from the sun. They discovered Earth’s atmosphere traps greenhouse gasses (GHG). In the natural amount of two trillion tons, GHG keeps us from freezing. However, today’s amount of GHG is three trillion tons, creating warming at unprecedented levels and rates. Using numbers published by energy companies, we applied basic math to discover that the 50 percent increase in Earth’s GHG is 100 percent attributable to human activity.

At the local level, some Florida leaders recognize the need for environmental policies. St. Petersburg has made a commitment to “clean energy” by 2035, including electric buses and LEED-certified buildings. Orlando aims to reach net-zero energy consumption by 2050, and Miami is investing $100 million in the next two years to install pumps and raise roads above projected sea level rise.

We urge the public to understand the environmental impacts of policies. If politicians are to enact legislation that makes a visible difference, they first must see that climate change is a priority for those who reside in this state.

Review facts, share information and make your voice heard.

David S. and

Thais Lopez Vogel,

founders, VoLo Foundation,

Jupiter

I’ll quit teaching

It is time to end this nonsense of arming teachers. This is a ridiculous idea that will only end in ruining innocent lives.

I am a teacher in a good school, but there will be teachers with a hidden bias who could retaliate against students. Some teachers couldlose their temper. Some students could overpower teachers with guns.

Well-trained policemen often have trouble shooting the bad guy, or worse, determining who is the bad guy. How would a teacher, with much less training, be able to do that job instead? The data doesn’t support the idea of more guns making people safer.

The only people who benefit from more people having guns are those who sell guns. I wonder who Gov. Ron DeSantis, State Sen. Annette Taddeo and Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez represent and serve? The people? Or gun makers?

If a bill to arm teachers passes, I will resign from public school. My students have a 98 percent pass rate on high level exams. I have had no parent complaints to the administration. I am a good teacher. But I will not work in a school that could potentially cause an innocent person to die.

Furthermore, I will pull my three high-performing children from public school, as I will not put their lives in more danger because of politicians who bow down to the gun lobby.

Stephanie Woolley, Miami

Buttigieg = Carter?

Does it not seem that rising-in-the-polls presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is this era’s Jimmy Carter?

He is a very well mannered, church-going, extremely bright, multilingual, military veteran; that is, the antithesis to our current president, just as Carter was to Nixon.

In today’s far more tolerant society, his sexual orientation and lifestyle is far less an issue than it was in Carter’s time, when Carter scandalously confessed to Playboy magazine of “having lust in my heart.”

Robert Kemper,

Pinecrest

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