Jim Norman, who has proven to be one of most distrustful members of the Florida legislature, is once again trying to make it illegal to photograph farms.
Last year, the republican state senator introduced a bill that would have made it a felony to photograph farms, even from the side of the road.
That bill failed, so now he is trying to sneak it through again by making it a misdemeanor to photograph a farm.
His current bill makes it a crime to step on the farm property without the owner’s permission to take pictures or make audio and video recordings.
In other words, it would tack on an additional charge to the already illegal act of trespassing.
His intent is to prevent animal rights activists from documenting any unscrupulous activity that go into the slaying of animals for food products.
It’s a safe bet that he is being funded by special interest groups who would prefer to keep that side of the business under wraps.
Norman introduced the latest version of the bill last week, only two weeks after federal investigators closed a case against him regarding a questionable “gift” of $500,000 from a Hillsborough County businessman.
Ralph Hughes, who died in 2008, gave the money to Norman’s wife, Mearline, who used it to purchase an Arkansas lakeside vacation home in 2006, while Norman was a Hillsborough County Commissioner.
Norman kept this arrangement a secret when he ran for state senate in 2009.
Then there was the questionable $95,000-a-year job he held at the Salvation Army that required him to only work weekends.
The job, which came with a vague job description, even came with a company car.
He ended up parting ways with the Salvation Army last year after he was accused of lobbying without registering.
So even though I wasn’t able to find any solid documentation that he is being funded by the agricultural industry, it’s not unlike him to keep something like that a secret.
After the feds closed their investigation against him last month into the $500,000 gift, The Tampa Tribune penned a scathing editorial against him, calling him a “deceptive, self-interested politician who has displayed little regard for ethical behavior.”
But if no laws were broken, Norman behaved with supreme arrogance, keeping secret his family’s financial dealings with a wealthy political power broker who frequently appeared before the commission, where Norman championed his agenda.
Once the secret arrangements were revealed, Norman did his utmost to mislead the public.
But federal investigators could find no “quid pro quo,” where it appeared Norman’s votes were intended to reward Hughes in exchange for the $500,000.
It is obvious Norman knew the financial tie to Hughes, who died in 2008, was inappropriate. Why else would he have kept the Arkansas deal secret — he did not list it on his financial disclosure form — or try to mislead the public about secret “investors?” Norman is not entirely out of the woods.
It should be pointed out that 80 percent of the Tampa Tribune’s op ed columnists – who decide what will be stated on the editorial page – are conservative.
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