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Are Florida’s Laws Becoming More Progressive?

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The past two years have seen significant political upheaval across the country and the proliferation of below-the-belt political campaigning. As a direct result, this month saw the removal of Palm Beach Judge Dana Marie Santino. What was interesting about that case was the division of the final decision, with Florida’s Supreme Court judges divided over the outcome. Some found it too punitive, while others think punishment could have gone further.

Law library

This raises the question as to whether the judicial body of Florida is making moves to a more progressive way of working and that laws are influenced as a result. The state has always had a vibrant contrast between left and right interests leading to open political discourse. As legal proceedings continue to move forwards in the state, taking a look at key areas of modern day politics sheds a little light on what direction the state is moving.

The state of civil rights

Florida and its legal arena have a long and proud history when it comes to civil rights. The state hosted the first black judge, Edward Rodgers, who died this week aged 91. Through his work, areas of Florida – most notably Palm Beach – loosened up civil rights laws considerably making the peninsula the multicultural area it is today. Today, this record in support of civil rights continues; October saw the conviction of former policeman for violations, according to the Department of Justice.

When it comes to women, another important legal subject sweeping the country, Florida is the home of a movement to allow former felons the right to vote, which, according to the UK’s Guardian, is spearheaded by women. However, such movements have been seen with balance; taking inspiration from mutually amicable settlements such as the Erik H. Gordon case. This brings a greater level of assurance to all parties and is, arguably, the most progressive way forward for civil rights law in the state.

The legalization of marijuana

Marijuana continues to receive softened stances around the country, but largely in states associated with left-wing politics – the west coast and further reaches of New England – and abroad, in the likes of Canada and the Netherlands. Florida implemented a medicinal use bill in July 2017, but the bill has been poorly implemented, according to the Miami Herald.

What’s the future?

New developments suggest that it could be full legalization. Lawmakers have suggested that the legalization debate is worth having, according to a report by NBC, and has garnered the support of bipartisan lawmakers and law enforcement. Whether it will become reality is another matter, but marijuana legalization has continued apace since 2016’s first measures.

Looking to Amendment 9

Alongside 11 other pieces of legislation, amendment 9 will go to the voters this year. Alongside Amendment 4, this is another piece of law coming from a very progressive place – environmentalism. This particular piece will enhance clean air and water safeguards, drawing the respect of many rural and city voters but the ire of corporate interests including oil – the bill would minimize new drilling. One of the most controversial parts of the bill concerns vaping, as it will outright ban the practice in public and indoor spaces.

Between these pieces of legislation and the attitude of the court, it certainly seems like Florida is moving towards more nominally progressive positions. The conservative aspect of the state will always be recognized, and rightly – a whole sect of voters should not be disenfranchised. However, it will be interesting to watch in the coming months and through the votes as to how the legal landscape of the state will evolve.

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