Kriseman bill would give people the power to recall officials listen02/23/11 Lisa Marzilli
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In Florida, a state official can only be removed from office by the legislature or the governor. Now one local lawmaker wants to put that power in the hands of the people.
Prompted by a rise in what he calls “ethical issues” by some Tallahassee legislators over the past couple of years St. Petersburg Democratic Representative Rick Kriseman filed a bill last week that would allow the public to recall state officials by petition. If passed Florida would become the 19th state to do so.
To recall a Cabinet member or Governor under House Joint Resolution 785 signatures totaling 15 percent of the total votes cast in the last election for that office would have to be gathered, including at least one signed petition from every one of Florida’s 67 counties. Legislative recall would require 20 percent. To date only two governors have ever been recalled, California Governor Gray Davis in 2003 and North Dakota Governor Lynn Frazier back in 1921. Kriseman says that’s because it’s not an easy thing to accomplish.
Kriseman’s announcement came on the heels of Republican Governor Rick Scott’s rejection of almost two and half billion dollars in federal money for a high speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. Kriseman says the timing was not intentional.
Some are suggesting that Governor Scott’s decision to reject the federal rail money has more to do with appeasing his Tea Party base and positioning himself for a future political run – possibly the 2012 presidential race - than it does with his concern for Florida taxpayers. Kriseman says people are justified in questioning that decision.
Last Thursday 26 state senators including one of Scott’s first senate backers, Lakeland Republican Paula Dockery signed a letter condemning his decision and asking federal authorities for time to come up with another way to keep the rail money from going to other states. On Friday U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood gave them a week to come up with a plan. 26 is a significant number in that the Florida Senate could over-ride any future veto of rail money.