* The upside of the North Carolina congressional voter-fraud case is three-fold. First and foremost, legitimate–not faux–fraud has been outed. Second, there will now be a re-vote, where the Dems could pick up a 41st House seat from the 2018 mid-terms. And third, it puts somebody other than “Flori-duh” in the national media’s electoral cross hairs for being stupid, incompetent or worse.
* Democratic State Rep. Ben Diamond and Republican State Sen. Jeff Brandes, both of St. Petersburg, have filed identical civics-education bills that would create civic engagement courses in our public schools. The need–as often illustrated by discouraging voter turnouts and disappointing winning candidates–is obvious. Such courses should also, as has been noted here before, include a complementary primer on how to navigate contemporary media. An unengaged, under-informed, easily manipulated electorate that can ideologically cherry pick for validation is a major threat to meaningful democracy.
* Another state legislative tandem, Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, and Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, are also sponsoring critically-important legislation. In this case, outlawing distracted driving: making texting-while-driving a primary offense. “The focus of this bill is to save lives and get people’s behavior to change,” explained Toledo. “While you’re driving, you should be focused on driving.”
Of course. And it’s about time. Florida currently is one of only four states where texting is merely a secondary offense. As if those who are a threat to everyone else on the road is a secondary matter.
But this is the Florida Legislature and nothing is ever as easy as it is obvious, even if well- intended. To wit: a Senate committee has now broadened the bill to basically target any action that distracts a driver. It makes perfectly good sense in the abstract. In the real world of drive-by, law-enforcement scrutiny, much less so. “It’s completely subjective,” underscored Sen. Brandes. He’s right.
“What constitutes a distraction,” noted Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, “can open drivers up to profiling or discriminatory treatment based on culture or personal choice.” He’s right too. It’s paramount to do the right thing to save lives, but it’s problematic to introduce judgment calls about somebody munching on a hamburger, mouthing loud rap lyrics or looking emotionally addled while listening to talk radio.