Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, is sponsoring bills to help tackle violations of the Do Not Call list and give employees and job applicants more social media privacy.
Clemens also wants higher speed limits – he admits he’s a speeder – and he still likes red-light cameras, even though he’s been ticketed by one.
He wants charter schools to be different from traditional schools, and he thinks Floridians deserve access to medical marijuana.
Clemens filed a bill Monday to legalize the drug for medical purposes, even though voters will decide in November whether to approve it as a constitutional amendment.
“It’s our job to pass laws that protect people but also show compassion for people, and this is a compassion issue,” Clemens said. “This is a drug that is far less dangerous than OxyContin or any of the heavy narcotic prescription drugs. I receive weekly phone calls and emails from folks who are suffering and this helps them.”
Clemens’ bill would require the state to regulate the manufacture and sale of marijuana for medical use. Growers and dispensaries would have to be licensed and keep records for state inspections.
We sat down with Clemens to talk about legislation he is sponsoring, as lawmakers get ready for the legislative session that begins March 4.
WLRN: You’re sponsoring a bill to help tackle the top complaints of Floridians – violations of the Do Not Call list and telemarketing. Tell us what your bill would do.
CLEMENS: We already have a Do Not Call list in Florida. This would add texting to that list and make it a little bit easier for people to afford their monthly bill if they’re paying per text.
WLRN: You’re also concerned about social-media privacy. You're offering a bill that would give employees and prospective employees some rights when it comes to all of their social media accounts. Tell us about that.
CLEMENS: What we’ve found is that there are a few employers out there who are asking not only for people’s Facebook accounts, but for their passwords. It puts you in a very difficult position. Do you give them your password and give up that privacy, or do you basically give up your chance for this job? My bill would prevent people from doing that.
WLRN: You have a bill that would require charter schools to be different from traditional schools. They would have to provide something that isn’t already being offered in the district. You’re going up against Republicans that typically like charter schools and school choice in general. So, what prompted you to file this bill?
CLEMENS: Charter schools can offer a great alternative. In Palm Beach County, we have G-Star School of the Arts, where people can go to get trained to make films, commercials, things of that nature. We have a charter school that deals with autism – again, a great idea that the school district can’t really provide. But, we also have a lot of charter schools that are opening up across the street from our public schools.
It doesn’t make sense for us to be spending our tax dollars on charter schools when they’re offering the exact same thing. Charter schools in Florida are seven times more likely to fail than a public school.
WLRN: Do you think that charter schools are held to the same standards and accountability measures as traditional schools – like making sure teachers are certified?
CLEMENS: Clearly, they are not held to the same standards and that’s part of the problem. The idea behind a charter school is to give these schools some freedom to do things that perhaps a regular public school can’t. We exempt them from all kinds of requirements.
And while I know my colleagues on the other side of the aisle support choice and charter schools, I would hope they wouldn’t support wasting taxpayer money.
WLRN: You wrote an article in which you asked why we have speeding tickets on roads designed for high-speed travel. You readily admit you have some speeding tickets and some violations. Why do you think we need legislation to raise the speed limit?
CLEMENS: Several reasons, and I wrote that article to raise the point that all these speeding tickets that we’ve handed out over the years have not changed our behavior. People understand innately the speed that they’re able to travel safely on roads.
What we’ve done in Florida instead is politicians have gotten involved. That’s not the correct way to do it. The correct way to do it is to let the engineers decide what the proper speed for a road is, and let them make the decision based on the road conditions, the number of entrances and exits on the highways.
What my bill does is it simply raises the speed limit potentially 5 miles an hour based on the road conditions. In other words, the decision will be made by the Department of Transportation and the engineers – not by the politicians.
WLRN: You’ve also been ticketed by a red light camera, and you've been a big proponent of these cameras. There’s talk of cutting back on the use of these cameras around the state and possibly repealing them altogether. Has your position changed at all?
CLEMENS: Not really. The statistics are pretty clear. We’ve found that there is a decrease in fatalities and serious accidents. Now, there is a bump at least at the beginning in minor accidents – fender benders, people slamming on their brakes to not run through the red light.
But I think they do prevent people from engaging in dangerous behavior, and I’m a perfect example of that. You mentioned I’ve gotten a red light ticket. I now think about that when I approach a light.