Florida Watchdog’s Best of 2013, Part 2

By: William Patrick FloridaWatchdog.org | Posted: January 4, 2014 3:55 AM
Nicotine banned in Flagler

Nicotine banned in Flagler

Rest assured, there’s no shortage of government overreach in a state of 19 million people. For political reasons or for seemingly no good reason at all, public officials often put everyday people on the wrong end of their grand plans.

In the second part of Florida Watchdog’s best of 2013, we take a look at a few of the more outrageous examples of everyday Floridians and taxpayers caught in the crosshairs of government.

Pure Manure: City uproots Florida couple’s 17-year-old garden

This story went viral almost instantly, landing Florida Watchdog a Drudge Report hit and 21,000 Facebook likes.

The reason? Outrage. A local government targeted an everyday couple for growing vegetables in their garden.

Without giving a reason, the city of Miami Shores passed a new ordinance and started threatening Hermine Ricketts and her husband with daily fines -- the type they eventually couldn’t afford.

Sadly, the garden is gone, but justice may still be done.

We interviewed their lawyer from the nonprofit Institute for Justice on the morning they filed suit against the city. The case is pending.

Union no-show jobs cost Florida’s largest county millions

In Florida’s most populous county, union representation comes at a steep price for taxpayers.

Rather than show up for their government jobs, dozens of county workers are going to work for their union instead.

Fair? Not to taxpayers, it’s costing millions. But here’s something to consider: public officials agreed to the practice.

For Obamacare group Enroll America, campaigning in Florida remains job No. 1

Like him or not, Barack Obama’s Florida re-election effort was a well-financed, data-driven, pavement-pounding success. So what happened to that famed ground-game?

Part of it was recycled into pushing support for his legislative agenda. In the past year, that means Obamacare. And a group called Enroll America took the lead.

Staffed from top to bottom with political operatives, Enroll America has some wondering if the Obamacare effort is also an attempt at laying swing-state groundwork ahead of future elections.

In one Florida county, nicotine is a banned drug

As if it’s not hard enough for people to find good jobs these days, one Florida county has taken the extreme step of banning workers who use tobacco in any form -- at work or at home.

Beginning Oct. 1, prospective Flagler County employees were required to take nicotine tests in addition to pre-employment drug screening tests to prove they’re clean.

A failed test would also prohibit employment with the county for another 12 months. And to think, nicotine is legal.

Florida Watchdog contacted the County Commission and asked if their new rule applied to them. Answer: Not on your life -- or, your job.

Florida county’s anti-nicotine hiring policy may be unconstitutional

Follow-up: Florida Watchdog contacted an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, questioning the legality of Flagler’s nicotine ban.

The response: “likely unconstitutional.” If anyone is denied a job because of a failed nicotine test, they may have a strong case against their local government.

For the IRS, one tax-exempt group comes served on a platter

DOUBLE STANDARD: The Restaurant Opportunities Center and its multistate affiliates allegedly violate their tax-exempt status. Will the IRS investigate?

While the Internal Revenue Service was targeting conservative nonprofits, this labor-leaning 501(c)(3) somehow escaped scrutiny.

The Restaurant Opportunities Center has been accused of 13 instances of lobbying, including attempts by their Miami affiliate to influence Florida lawmakers into passing mandatory benefits legislation for private-sector restaurant workers.

Florida Watchdog shook the bushes until we landed an interview with the Miami group, and on the record a spokesman all but admitted to lobbying -- a violation of their nonprofit status.

IRS? Where are you?

(This was the second story in a two-part series. Click here to read Part 1.)

Contact William Patrick at wpatrick@watchdog.org or follow Florida Watchdog on Twitter at @watchdogfla

Tags: News, Politics

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