Florida Rep. Ritch Workman: Cohabitation may be immoral but shouldn't be illegal listen09/07/11 Lisa Marzilli
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The push to repeal a little known Florida statute that makes it a crime to live together without being married is coming from an unlikely source - a Republican lawmaker. Over half a million couples in Florida are probably unaware that they're breaking the law simply by virtue of their cohabitation.
So why is a Republican state lawmaker who believes living together out of wedlock is not only immoral but is undermining marriage trying so hard to have a law prohibiting it, repealed from the books? Because, GOP Representative Ritch Workman is, in his words, on a "mission" to remove the numerous outdated statutes that have been cluttering up our state constitution for far too long. During the last legislative session Workman filed HB 4021 which would have repealed the statutes penalizing adultery and cohabitation.
"When Florida became a no-fault divorce state most of these kind of laws were removed. This was one that was overlooked and left on the books. It's not enforced, it's unenforceable for that matter, and I don't think anyone is going to have a problem with removing a law that's simply taking up space in the books."
Even though he believes cohabitation is morally wrong, Workman says it shouldn't be illegal.
"Well, you know I've spoken to my pastor and many other conservative leaders and the reality is I don't really think there's this much controversy over this bill. This bill by no means 'incentivises' adultery or cohabitation, it doesn't even acknowledge it's a good thing. It simply decriminalizes the act. As far as it being immoral, it remains that way as far as I'm concerned. As far as it undermining a marriage, I believe it still does but that's something you deal with with your spouse or your God or both, not with the statutes or the criminal justice system."
HB 4021, which was one of a dozen "repealers" filed by Workman, failed to get a hearing during the last legislative session which he says was entirely his fault because he failed to get a co-sponsor in the Senate. But the Melbourne Republican is not giving up and says he plans to re-file the bill next year.
Workman was also the sponsor of the new law which now requires state workers to contribute 3 percent of their pay to their pension. He acknowledged that even though the fund is 90 percent solvent, the state "simply cannot afford to raise taxes on the backs of unemployed citizens and struggling businesses" to subsidize the remaining 10 percent.
"My druthers would have been to leave it alone. However, when you're cutting four billion dollars from the budget you're you're you're removing senior citizens out of nursing home beds, you're you're cutting education, you're you're you're cutting funds that uh disabled children. You cannot have a sacred cow. And I could not, in good conscience, allow myself to vote on a budget that cut so many um significant uh services and allowed a five hundred million dollar liability to be untouched."
WMNF asked Rep. Workman why state lawmakers continue to try to close the budget deficit on the backs of state workers who earn less on average and haven't had a pay raise in years, rather than trying to close some of the numerous corporate tax loopholes as a way to generate more revenue. Workman claimed the state is actually getting more money today with less people than it did in 2006 and reiterated the Republican mantra that Florida's budget deficit problem is the result of overspending not revenue shortfall.
"So in my opinion we can not consider at all, and I've never signed a pledge so this is not coming from somebody who has signed a pledge and and and cannot move this is from a guy who says until we are back at the levels we were before the artificial boom we cannot consider new revenue streams to a state who spent too much and now is paying the price. The expenses haven't gone up, just the amount of money we spend has gone up."
According to a report by the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy Floridaâ€™s tax system is the second-worst in the nation in terms of fairness. Due primarily to the elimination of taxes on wealth, along with other regressive choices made in setting up the stateâ€™s revenue structure, the report recommends closing tax loopholes as a way of minimizing cuts in services and making the system fairer for all.