published: Friday, April 13, 2012
Votes on public policy should be decided solely on merit of issue
I was outraged to read that state Sen. Alan Hays had deliberately voted against a measure that he co-sponsored, not because it had been changed in some offensive way but in order to prevent its passage solely so that he would have a bargaining chip to force a vote on an unrelated measure that he wanted considered.
Just as shocking was the revelation by Sen. Paula Dockery that this was a common practice in Tallahassee that she had been trying to change for the last 10 years.
Recently, Dockery described the frustration she felt when members of the Senate routinely ignored sound, reasoned and logical presentations of fact and instead followed the dictates of "leadership," who granted or withheld favor based on whether a member obeyed their direction.
So much for honest government. So much for the promises of candidates that they would be responsible stewards if elected.
I view such actions as corrupt. The "sale" of an entrusted power is.
Votes by elected officials on matters of public policy should be decided on the individual merit of each measure, not used as tools to manipulate the operation of a republic, given and withheld in order to achieve some result unrelated to the underlying issue. I believe that this practice should be criminalized to the extent that existing laws do not already prohibit it, although I believe they do.
I call upon Hays to repudiate this action or to resign from the Senate. Should he choose to remain in office, he should publicly reject this manner of conducting the work of the people and affirmatively pledge to expose it when it is made known to him. If he fails to both repudiate the "sale" of his votes and pledge to expose the practice in the future, then he should be removed from public office.
No amount of rationalization is sufficient to justify this evil, and now that we know that it is pervasive in the Florida Legislature, we should make our condemnation of it felt.
If this practice is as widespread as has been suggested, then the Florida Attorney General should convene a grand jury to investigate it as it appears to be a clear violation of Florida Statute Section 838.015, which provides:
"Bribery" -- Means corruptly to give, offer, or promise to any public servant, or, if a public servant, corruptly to request, solicit, accept, or agree to accept for himself or herself or another, any pecuniary or other benefit not authorized by law with an intent or purpose to influence the performance of any act or omission which the person believes to be, or the public servant represents as being, within the official discretion of a public servant, in violation of a public duty, or in performance of a public duty."
We must insist that our elected officials conduct the business of the people in a fair, honest and transparent manner.
While some quid pro quo might be tolerable when exercised in context of negotiations of discrete measures being considered by a public body, the extension of "something for something" beyond that limited context should be harshly punished.
Maybe then we will have a Legislature that we can be proud of rather than the one we have now that is generally viewed with derision.
Mark Fisher | Mount Dora