Red states aren’t following Florida’s lead on gun control

“Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature passed a law, later signed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott, that raised the age to buy long guns, including AR-15-style rifles, from 18 to 21; required a three-day waiting period between when a firearm is purchased and when the buyer can get access to that gun; allowed trained school staff to carry guns; and put $400 million toward mental health services and school security.

It also created an extreme risk law, or “red flag law,” that can bar individuals who are believed to pose a danger to themselves or others from possessing firearms — a measure that has gotten increasing attention in the wake of the recent streak of mass shootings as a policy solution that could draw bipartisan support nationally and in other states.”

“Florida’s red flag law allows the police to petition a judge for what’s called an “extreme risk protection order,” which can temporarily bar an individual from having a gun for up to a year. Police have to provide evidence that the individual poses “significant danger” to themselves or the public, which can include recent violent acts or threats of violence. If the individual continues to pose such a danger after one year, police can seek a one-time extension for another year.”

“Florida’s red flag law has been identified as a potential model for other red states. But at the moment, it doesn’t seem as though there is a critical mass of Republicans who are interested in enacting red flag laws in states that don’t already have them. That’s true even in Texas and Oklahoma, where Republican lawmakers haven’t budged in the wake of the Uvalde and Tulsa shootings.”

No, Florida Republicans Do Not Care About Crony Capitalism

“Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed legislation that strips Walt Disney World of its independent, special-district status after the company objected to the state’s new law regarding discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in classrooms. While the motive behind this action is problematic, some of its supporters argue that there is nothing to fret about, since it was time to revoke a cronyist privilege granted to Disney 50 years ago anyway. But if this is really a fight against cronyism, the legislation goes about it the wrong way.

Cronyism is the unhealthy alliance of business and government. It takes the form of government officials at the state, local, and federal levels granting special privileges to particular companies or industries. These privileges can include special tax breaks, government loans, direct subsidies, or—as in Florida—so-called “special districts.” I spend a great deal of my work hours researching the harm cronyism causes to citizens. That’s because, as my colleague Matthew Mitchell wrote a decade ago, “Whatever its guise, government-granted privilege [to private businesses] is an extraordinarily destructive force. It misdirects resources, impedes genuine economic progress, breeds corruption, and undermines the legitimacy of both the government and the private sector.”

So, is Disney benefiting from a handout that should be stripped away? Yes, Disney certainly has been getting an incredible privilege to act as its own government within the limits of Orange and Osceola counties. For instance, it runs its fire department, administers planning and zoning rules, writes building codes, employs its own inspectors, and is exempted from local regulations and some $200 million in taxes. It levies the remainder of the taxes it owes.

Removing special district status means these types of responsibilities would be absorbed by the two counties in which Walt Disney World sits. Local taxpayers would then shoulder the cost for all municipal services on the property—a cost estimated to be $1 billion. The company, in turn, would be subjected to the same subpar local government services and regulations that most of us are accustomed to. In addition, Florida will be tied up in years of costly litigation to figure out how to disentangle the company from the counties.

But maybe untangling this special treatment is worth the cost. Just don’t expect it to result in a fairer regime. Indeed, if this setup is so unacceptable—a claim most Republicans didn’t seem to make for the half-century the special district has been in place—it should also be unacceptable for the other 1,844 Florida special districts. Of these, 1,288 are, like Disney, independent districts. But we aren’t hearing significant Republican complaints about these.

In other words, GOPers want to continue the practice of extending privileges selectively. What legislators should have done is decide whether any such special districts are a good idea. If so, access to them should be made available to any company that meets certain minimum and clear criteria and denied to any company that does not.”

“This episode should serve as a warning for companies angling to score special privileges from government. Governments give arbitrarily and unfairly, and they take back with equal arbitrariness and unfairness. In addition, when a company’s profitability depends heavily on government largesse, it must make sure not to anger its government overlords. Disney obviously failed to do that.

This sad affair has done nothing to change cronyism in the state of Florida, but it has once again exposed the arbitrariness of government in our lives and the cost of depending on its favors.”

Florida, Tennessee Ban Ranked-Choice Voting Despite Citizen Support

“On Monday, Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a massive election bill into law that creates a special squad to investigate election fraud and crimes and increases some criminal penalties for some election-related violations.

But that’s not all. Buried on page 25 of the 47-page bill is a complete ban on the use of ranked-choice voting anywhere in the state, regardless of what voters might want. In this case, it’s the voters of Sarasota, who overwhelmingly decided in 2007 (with 77 percent in favor) to switch to this type of voting for local elections.

A similar ban was passed in February in Tennessee. There the target was the city of Memphis, where voters first decided they wanted ranked-choice voting back in 2008. The City Council itself resisted the change and attempted to get voters to repeal the system in 2018, but voters instead still chose to keep ranked-choice by 62 percent. Nevertheless, S.B. 1820 will stop Memphis (and any other municipality or county in Tennessee) from using ranked-choice voting to determine election results.

In Tennessee, the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Brian Kelsey (R–Germantown), made a typical claim by ranked-choice opponents—that it’s a “very confusing and complex process that leads to lack of confidence.” This is belied by the fact that voters keep choosing it when given the option to do so.

There’s a lesson here on how some of the resistance to certain election reforms is actually about entrenched political interests protecting themselves from electoral consequences.

Ranked-choice voting is a system where voters don’t just choose a single candidate over the others. Instead, voters are invited to rank candidates by preference. In a slate of five candidates, a voter can choose a favorite, then rank the rest as a second-choice, third-choice, et cetera.

When votes in this system are tabulated, a single candidate must receive a majority of the vote, not just the most votes, in order to win. If a single candidate doesn’t surpass the 50 percent threshold, the candidate receiving the least number of votes is disqualified. Then the votes are retallied. For those who chose that last-place candidate as their first pick, instead their second choice is now their vote. The process repeats until a single candidate gets the most votes.

One of the stated goals for proponents of ranked-choice voting is to avoid a situation where, due to the size of the candidate pool, a person is declared a winner with just 30 percent of the vote or even less. Under the status quo, a candidate with polarizing positions that appeal to a small but committed group of voters can overcome the majority if votes get split among three, four, or more candidates.

Ranked-choice voting therefore also creates a system where third-party and independent candidates can have impact without voters having to worry about allegedly “throwing their vote away” or choosing a so-called “spoiler” who can’t win but can draw votes away from a similar candidate. A voter can select a Libertarian Party or Green Party candidate or an independent candidate as their first choice. Then, the voter can select a more conventional Democrat or Republican candidate as the second choice, knowing that they can have their values reflected in initial results without losing their voice entirely.”

“Unsurprisingly, politicians who benefit from a highly polarized environment wouldn’t want an election system that encourages alternatives. Florida’s politics these days can most certainly be described as “polarizing.””

The Extreme Bias Of Florida’s New Congressional Map

“the Florida Legislature finally caved to DeSantis’s wishes and passed one of his proposed congressional maps — the last major piece in the national redistricting puzzle. And befitting DeSantis’s national reputation (and ambitions), it is a dream map for partisan Republicans, single-handedly adding four new Republicans to the U.S. House of Representatives. But while DeSantis’s uncompromising insistence on maximizing Republican power may give him a nice story to tell if he runs for president, it could also be the map’s undoing in court.”

“This map will significantly shake up Florida’s congressional delegation, as it virtually guarantees that Democrats will lose three of their House seats in Florida”

“The map has an efficiency gap of R+20, which means Republicans would be expected to win 20 percent more seats under this map than under a hypothetical, perfectly fair map. Because Florida has 28 congressional seats, that translates to a 5.7-seat Republican bias — right on Texas’s heels for the “honor” of having the biggest bias of any state.”

“it didn’t have to be this way. Republicans in the Legislature initially passed maps that were significantly less biased. The state House passed a map in March that would have created 15 seats that were R+5 or redder and had an R+13 efficiency gap (though according to the inventors of efficiency gap, that would still qualify as gerrymandered). And in January, the state Senate passed a map that was close enough to fair (an efficiency gap of only R+6) that even most Democratic senators voted for it.
But DeSantis pledged to veto them both, insisting that only one of his uber-aggressive proposals would do.”

DeSantis Calls for End of Walt Disney World’s Self-Rule

“By calling for the revocation of the Reedy Creek Improvement District while making note of the special exemption that the Republicans themselves gave Disney in the first place, DeSantis leans into using his office in an overt attempt to punish political opponents in the private sphere.

It may be good for culture war politicking, but one does have to consider whether Orange and Osceola counties are even interested in taking responsibility for providing mandatory public services to the massive Disney resort empire. Disney is the biggest employer within the two counties and most certainly their largest source of tangential and indirect tax revenue through tourism. Right now Disney—through Reedy Creek—actually contracts with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office for millions each year ($15.8 million to outside law enforcement agencies in FY 2017) for protection. That’s a benefit to the counties that could end up becoming an expense.

It’s a bit simplistic to think that giving Walt Disney World Resort the power of self-rule is some sort of gift or privilege. That the park, given self-governance, has managed to maintain itself as a generally safe and stable environment that people flock to from across the world is a pretty good indication that the company knows what it’s doing.

Any contention that DeSantis is eliminating some sort of “special treatment” for Disney comes with it the perhaps mistaken assumption that the two counties suddenly in charge of all of this infrastructure will somehow make the park better and not worse. In reality, putting Disney parks at the mercy of two different counties with different laws will be a huge mess for everybody involved, and that’s the point. It’s not about what’s fair or what’s best for the citizens in the area. It’s about punishing political foes and centralizing government power (a very nonconservative approach) to do so.”

Why Disney World has a self-governing district — and why DeSantis wants to end it

“Walt Disney Co. proposed the Reedy Creek Improvement District in the mid-1960s in a remote area of Orange and Osceola counties. It allows Disney to operate like its own county government and is responsible for municipal services such as power, water, fire prevention and road maintenance. It also means Disney doesn’t need approval from local planning commissions if it wants to build new structures.

The reason special districts were created was so taxpayers who don’t benefit from the services of the special district aren’t required to pay for it through taxes.

A huge benefit of special districts is making tax-exempt purchases for the services they provide and issuing municipal bonds for major infrastructure projects at a much lower interest rate, said Chris Lyon, an attorney who deals with special districts.

The measure lawmakers are considering would not permanently terminate the Reedy Creek Improvement District, but it would phase it out on June 1, 2023, and allow the special district to reestablish on or after that date.

If legislators approve the bill, as is expected, Disney would be able to go to the state Legislature in Tallahassee next year and request it be reestablished, likely under more limited capabilities and powers.”

A bold new experiment out of Florida: Guaranteed income for the formerly incarcerated

“While this is the first experiment in giving unconditional cash transfers to formerly incarcerated people, numerous studies in the US and elsewhere have shown how guaranteed income can benefit vulnerable members of society.

Stockton, California, gave 125 people in neighborhoods at or below the median income $500 per month, which led to mental health improvements and increased likelihood of finding a job. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Casino Dividend in North Carolina gives all tribal members a cut of gambling revenue that amounts to $4,000 to $6,000 per year; research has seen improvements in mental health and education and decreases in crime and addiction. Other studies around the world have shown benefits to health and food security, and reduction in crime.

Studies consistently show that recipients aren’t more likely to spend money on alcohol and drugs (as some have feared) — in fact, spending on “temptation goods” decreases in many cases. People also didn’t stop working in the vast majority of guaranteed income experiments (though there have been studies that tilted in the other direction).

The Florida experiment is especially intriguing because it will chart how guaranteed income can affect outcomes for a group that’s especially at risk of financial calamity.

A similar study shows promising results: Vancouver gave people experiencing homelessness $7,500 and found recipients moved into stable housing faster and were able to save money. The program was designed by formerly incarcerated people, and the team decided that the first month out of prison is particularly important because of the search for housing and a job, which is why it starts with an initial higher payment of $1,000 and then goes down to $600 in the following months. (Durham, North Carolina, is also running a similar guaranteed income pilot for formerly incarcerated people starting this March.)

There are also broader benefits of guaranteed income for families, communities, and society. A guaranteed income experiment in Kenya found benefits to the entire local economy as people spent money on neighboring businesses. While Alachua County in Florida is not Siaya County, Kenya, the researchers are hopeful that guaranteed income can help mitigate the negative effects incarceration has on communities.”

““I think the question is,” says Couloute, “do we all deserve safer communities? If the answer is yes, then that means we want to do everything we can to ensure people with felony records live crime-free lives and don’t recidivate. If we can help folks leave our criminal justice system and get jobs, pay taxes, and become great tenants and homeowners, and so on and so forth, that only contributes to our society rather than detracting from it.”

These are lofty goals, and we won’t know the effects of this program for another couple of years. Scott hopes that this pilot can draw attention to the linkages between incarceration and poverty while Couloute discussed potential wide-ranging implications for anyone struggling with economic stability and social disadvantage.

The benefits are most obviously targeted at the 115 recipients. But if the results pan out, this experiment could bolster the case for a broader policy shift.”

Florida’s Civil Asset Forfeiture Reforms Haven’t Stopped the Shakedowns

“despite tightening the rules for when police can keep seized property, Florida remains one of the most prolific practitioners of civil forfeiture. The Sunshine State took in more revenue through forfeitures than any other state in 2018, according to a survey by the Institute for Justice, a libertarian-leaning public interest law firm. Local and state police can evade the new restrictions by working with the federal government, just like the Miami-Dade police did in Salgado’s case. In return for calling in the feds, they get a cut of the proceeds.

“The federal government is literally paying state and local police to circumvent state law,” says Justin Pearson, managing attorney for the Institute for Justice’s Florida office. “That’s not the way things are supposed to work.””

Biden’s cash fuels DeSantis’ budget wishlist

“The Florida governor..unveiled a $99.7 billion proposed spending plan that comes as DeSantis gears up for his 2022 reelection and continues to generate buzz as a top-tier potential 2024 White House hopeful. The governor’s budget is packed with federal stimulus funds from the Biden administration that DeSantis wants to use for his most politically popular programs, including a gas tax break and $1,000 bonuses for police and teachers.

The governor made it clear..that he wants to use $3.5 billion from Biden’s American Rescue Plan to help fund nearly every high-profile piece of his budget, setting up a scenario where the Biden administration could pay for policies DeSantis will use to campaign on during his reelection bid.

“I think the most ironic piece about his budget is that the governor wants to take $1.2 billion in American Rescue Plan money and use that for the gas tax break,” state Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando) told reporters after the budget announcement. “As the governor continually attacks President Biden, the reality is we could not balance this budget, or give out tax breaks without President Joe Biden.””