Tallahassee can be a surprisingly nonpartisan town, campaigns aside. That may sound very strange when talking about a state capital, but it is amazing how many pieces of legislation pass with unanimous or close to unanimous votes. I have observed that only the most divisive of issues, those that tend to draw a clear line between the major political parties, are the ones that crack that unanimity. Most others, which tend to be based more on a general understanding of what society as a whole believes or needs, is where the two sides come together.
When people say that “you can’t legislate morality” they may be well-intentioned and actually believe that, but in fact all laws are built on morality; someone’s version of morality anyway. Whether that morality comes from a Biblical worldview, another religious perspective or a philosophical school of thought, morality is the basis of nearly every decision we make, whether in public office or not.
Criminals are punished because society believes that it is morally wrong to rob, assault or murder another person. Thus, laws are created to bring consequences upon those who commit such acts. Criminalizing or legalizing street drug use is a position built on one’s moral beliefs. People have come to their position on this issue because they have a moral base that either sees legalizing drugs as dangerous to society, children and the vulnerable, or they believe that legalizing drugs will reduce criminal behavior or allow more access to potential medications. The list goes on.
People on both sides of the aisle tend to agree, or at least have very similar views, on a vast majority of issues because society in general tends to be in agreement on the basics of what is right and wrong. That’s not to say that there are not issues of contention (i.e. the right to life, school vouchers, taxation), but when it comes to legislation that makes it to the floor of the respective chambers, the legislature tends to speak with a united voice more often than not.
Here is but one example. Senate Bill 704 from the 2012 legislative session is a 51 page bill that made major changes to building construction and inspections in Florida, an industry vital to our state’s economy. This legislation passed the Florida Senate with a vote of 40-0 and the Florida House with a 114-0 vote. Unusual? Not at all. The history books are full of votes similar to this.
One is left to ask, what is the difference between the two parties if they tend to vote the same way? The answer is found in the bills on which lawmakers tend to vote along party lines. I believe we define our individual political affiliation by those issues which are important to us and the platform of our identified political party. We tend to vote for those people we trust will advance those shared values. Does this lead to dysfunction? Not in Tallahassee. There may be disagreement, there may be heated discussion, and sometimes things don’t pass because of these differences. However, Tallahassee has proven, year after year, to be a functional capital that gets things done despite partisan divides.
Do you agree with my thoughts, or not? What are your observations? I welcome your comments and questions about the legislative process, state government or any related matters. Please feel free to leave your questions in the comment section and I will answer them in an upcoming post. If there is a specific topic you would like me to write about please let me know as well. I look forward to responding to your comments!