Informed Voters Make Better Choices

Sep 11, 2016 by

One of the fascinating aspects of writing a weekly statewide opinion column is the feedback that I receive.

For years I’ve been getting comments on the issues I’ve covered and on the political process. A new development is that I’ve been getting a lot of questions. How can I help change things? Who can I contact? How can we get the governor and Legislature to listen to us? How do we know what’s going on? Who can we turn to for factual information?

And recently those who write me ask about the upcoming election. Who should I vote for? Which elected officials can I trust? How have incumbent legislators voted and did they really do what they claim they’ve done?

The voters I hear from try to stay informed but get so much conflicting information they are unsure of who or what to believe. While I’m happy to share who I’d recommend, I’d rather offer good sources of information and let you come to your own informed conclusions. You’re off to a good start by reading your local paper.

There’s an untapped army of Floridians who want to be more engaged but don’t know how. They’re unhappy with the elected officials who are supposed to be representing them and want to know how to influence them and hold them accountable.

Write them, call them, and visit them. Write letters to the editor to thank them if they are representing you well and call them out if they aren’t.

Three recent environmental issues that I wrote about generated a lot of interest.

Readers were angered by the failure of Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature to develop a long-term solution to polluted water discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River and the Indian River Lagoon that caused harmful algae blooms. Incoming Florida Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, has offered a possible solution but faces an uphill battle. Contact him and offer to help.

Readers were also upset with the Environmental Regulation Commission’s 3-2 decision to allow more carcinogens to be released into our surface waters. State Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, tried to get Gov. Scott to fill two vacancies—the local government and the environmental seats—which could very well have changed the outcome. Contact him, thank him and ask what can be done going forward.

Floridians are disappointed that the governor and Legislature have failed to properly fund Amendment One—supported by 75 percent of voters—which required a third of all documentary stamp revenue collected to go to fund land acquisition and management and water protection and restoration. They were to spend over $700 million last year but chose not to. Contact the governor and your state senator and representative to make your voices heard.

Gov. Rick Scott’s link is http://www.flgov.com
The Florida Senate’s link is http://www.flsenate.gov/Senators
The Florida House of Representative’s link is http://www.myfloridahouse.com/Sections/Representatives/representatives.aspx

The Sayfie Review is an excellent source of state political information read daily by elected officials and political operatives. It’s an aggregated news source of the day’s top political stories and editorials, the state’s top columnists and blogs, a running feed of popular tweets and links to legislative information and state agencies and officials. The link is http://www.sayfiereview.com.

You can follow the 60-day legislative session—usually in March and April but occasionally earlier—on the Florida Channel at http://thefloridachannel.org.
The committee meetings leading up to session are open for public comment if you want to appear in person.

You can follow legislative action on bills in each chamber through session or research bills from past sessions. These links show the bill language, amendments filed and how legislators voted: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bills/2017, and

http://www.myfloridahouse.com/Sections/Bills/bills.aspx.

The Division of Elections site lists candidates for each seat and their contributions and
expenditures: http://dos.elections.myflorida.com/candidates/CanList.asp.
To help you decide if you want to support incumbent legislators, you should look at how they voted on issues important to you. There isn’t one easy place to follow how legislators voted, but there are some groups that highlight key issue areas.

The League of Women Voters has a good site for voter rights issues at http://thefloridavoter.org. Integrity Florida is a trusted source that offers a site for ethics in government information: http://www.integrityflorida.org. Florida Conservation Voters questions candidates on their environmental positions and lists those they consider conservation supporters at http://www.fcvoters.org. A good source for criminal justice and prison reform is FL-Cure at http://www.flcure.org.

I’ll highlight how legislators voted on key issues in future columns or on my website at www.PaulaDockery.com.

You get the government you deserve. Take charge by being an informed voter.

Paula Dockery is a syndicated columnist who served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years as a Republican from Lakeland. She can be reached at PBDockery@gmail.com.



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