By Ralph De La Cruz
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
When Florida lawmakers decided to pass legislation that made ideological statements about things such as gun ownership, unions and welfare, groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union warned that there would be legal challenges.
Well, the lawyers have indeed been called in. And things haven’t been looking very good for legislators or Gov. Rick Scott.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke blocked a new law that had restricted doctors from asking patients about firearms in the house, much as they might ask about other household risks, such as drugs or pools.
Pending are lawsuits by the state teachers’ union and the Florida Education Association that challenge the constitutionality of the new law that does away with teacher tenure and institutes merit pay.
The union has already filed another lawsuit against the state to keep a measure off the 2012 ballot that would repeal language in the Florida constitution forbidding the state from giving money to religious organizations.
Welfare recipients have taken the state to court over a new law requiring welfare applicants to take a drug test. That case was no doubt bolstered by the fact that, in the first month, just 2 percent of those tested came up positive. Ninety-six percent tested negative.
Scott has already lost a case challenging his authority to freeze all rule-making at state agencies — a move he made shortly after taking office.
And then there’s the case of the two politicians who sued the voters of Florida. Democrat Corrine Brown and Republican Mario Diaz-Balart claim that the recently passed Fair Districts Amendments, which forbid gerrymandering during the current re-districting process, are unconstitutional because Florida voters are assuming responsibilities that belong to the federal government.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro ruled against the two and affirmed the constitutionality of the Fair Districts Amendments. Brown and Diaz-Balart promised to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Scott also said Cooke’s decision blocking the law restricting doctors’ questions about firearms would be appealed.
Meanwhile, state legislators have already squirreled away tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to fight any legal challenges — by taxpayers — to the re-drawn districts.