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Crank it up! Florida Senate kills ban on loud car music

Friday, April 26th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Drivers can continue to crank up the volume as loud as they like after the Florida Senate killed an attempt to revive a ban on loud music on a tie vote.

Some lawmakers wanted to reinstate a 1990 law struck banning drivers from blasting radios, tape decks or other devices at a volume that can be heard 25 feet away or more. The Florida Supreme Court last year struck down the law, ruling that it is unconstitutional.

This year’s proposal tweaked a problem in the law that included an exemption in the noise ban for vehicles broadcasting commercial or political messages, such as ice cream trucks or campaign vehicles. The ban violates the First Amendment by restricting certain kinds of speech while not restricting others, the court found. The latest plan would have expanded the ban to all types of vehicles.

The 19-19 vote on the measure (SB 634) came after an at-times tongue-in-cheek debate on the merits of rocking out in your car.

Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, called the proposal a “crime prevention” measure because when loud music rattling car windows at times “makes you want to kill somebody.”

The measure would have made playing loud music a primary offense, which rankled Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah. Lawmakers just approved a measure that would make texting and driving a secondary offense, meaning drivers could only be penalized if they are pulled over for something else.

“That kills people. This doesn’t kill anyone,” Garcia objected.

Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, sponsored the texting and driving ban and spoke against the noise prohibition.

“It’s life. I don’t intend to pass a law that says you can’t ruin your own hearing if you want to,” she said.

And Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, said making the prohibition a primary offense could open the door for giving law enforcement an opportunity to harass youngsters.

“Twenty-five feet is such a short distance to end up pulling over one of our young people and then something else escalates,” Gibson said. “You all remember when you were growing up maybe when you got your first car and you turned that radio up a bit, turned it up a little bit more.”

But Sen. Wilton Simpson, said that the loud music can be a distraction that can keep drivers from hearing ambulance sirens.

“This is a serious bill with serious implications,” he said.

Rick Scott clones, the black caucus and judges

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011 by Dara Kam

Black lawmakers gave Gov. Rick Scott a wish-list including minority business loans, more money for public schools and historically black colleges and restoration of rights for felons during an hour-long meeting this afternoon.

The most heated part of the session came during an exchange about putting more black judges on the bench. Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, pointed out that, of the 36 judges Scott appointed, just two are black, and one of those was a reappointment.

Scott agreed the courts need more minority representation but then used the opportunity to bash the courts, which have ruled against him in two recent cases involving drug testing of welfare recipients and a prison privatization plan. He said he wants judges who “think like me.”

“I remember in civics class I learned about the three branches of government. It appears there are only two. And maybe there’s only one,” Scott, a lawyer, said, adding that the legislature passed those bills, Scott signed them into the law, and judges ruled that they were wrong. “That’s not the way it ought to be. So what I’m not going to do is appoint people that think differently than I do…activists that think that they’re the legislature.”

Sen. Arthenia Joyner objected to Scott’s standard.

“Unless you back off of your ‘think like me’…we have monolithic thinking and there’s no room for a diversity of thought and then we all become Scott clones,” Joyner, a Tampa lawyer, said.

“I don’t see the problem, myself,” Scott joked before conceding, “the words ‘think like me’ might not be the best ones.”
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