fresh voices from the front lines of change







Florida State Sen. Thad Altman describes himself as a “conservative Republican” and a “strict constitutionalist.”

Unlike so many conservative Republican lawmakers and judges who claim to abide by the constitution while skipping the clauses that get in the way of their partisan agenda, Altman is walking the walk.

Today, he joined a Democratic counterpart in the Florida state senate and sued Republican Gov. Rick Scott in the Florida Supreme Court for violating the state constitution when he ignored Florida law and refused federal funds for a democratically approved high-speed rail project that would create an estimated 24,000 jobs.

The Miami Herald quickly reported that “details of the suit are sketchy,” but Altman laid out the basic rationale last week. From the St. Petersburg Times:

“We have a law on the books,” he said, and quoted the portion of the Florida Constitution that reads: “The Governor shall take care that the laws of Florida are faithfully executed.” “The governor has completely ignored that,” Altman said.

Florida legislature passes law. State constitution says Governor must abide by law. Governor does not. Governor violates Constitution.

Of course, Rick Scott embraced the Tea Party during his campaign, and supported its idea that all bills should cite the specific clause in the constitution on which it is based. In turn the South Florida Tea Party lauded his decision to kill the high-speed rail project, while not bothering to square the unconstitutional act with its own charter to support “constitutionally limited government.”

That’s because for most conservatives, waving around a constitution is just a way to cloak their blind anti-government agenda.

State Sen. Thad Altman, on the other hand, recognizes that even a conservative who believes in a government more limited than I or other liberals do, can identify areas where a government role is essential, such as infrastructure. And that you can’t violate the constitutional basis for our government to achieve your political ends.

In other words, Altman understands that if you truly support “constitutionally limited government,” you have to acknowledge the first and the third words.

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