DECEMBER 27, 2006
A Florida legislator who could not vote in last month’s elections because he is a convicted felon, has introduced a bill that will automatically restore voting rights to his fellow convicts in the sunshine state.
Criminals in Florida don’t automatically get their voting rights restored after completion of a sentence. Instead, the rights can only be restored by a clemency board and now the state’s first lawmaker to remain in office after a felony conviction wants to change Florida’s constitution to help his brethren.
State Senator Gary Siplin, an Orlando attorney and two-term Democrat, was convicted earlier this year on felony grand theft for having employees work on his 2004 reelection campaign on state time. The illegal activity, which prosecutors said amounted to grand larceny from the people of Florida, went on for about three months and cost taxpayers thousands of dollars.
Regardless, Siplin was sentenced to just three years probation and 300 hours of community service. The felon legislator actually saw prison time for a brief moment last month when he was arrested for traveling without informing his probation officer.
Incredibly enough, Siplin has unconditional support from the state’s top Democrats and even Florida Senate President Ken Pruitt, a Republican who picked the corrupt legislator to help lead two committees–one that focuses on education and the other on fiscal policy and military affairs. The state’s top Democrats – including Senate Minority Leader Steve Geller–are actually helping Siplin raise money to get reelected.
One prominent Florida Senator, Democrat Frederica Wilson, who hosted a fundraising event for her convicted friend, downplayed his months-long lawbreaking fiasco saying that it differs from “egregious crimes where people are maimed or killed or hurt or suffer as a result of your action.” This is the same legislator who demanded that a Republican state representative resign after using a racial slur earlier this year.
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