FL laws challenge U.S. Constitution, state coffers

Gov. Scott and state legislators are testing the boundaries of constitutional protections.

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— Paid the Washington, D.C., law firm Wiley Rein $148,000 to represent it in one of several voting rights lawsuits in which the state is involved.

— Hired GrayRobinson P.A. for $70,000 annually, plus expenses, to help with discovery in the case involving drug tests for welfare recipients and another $8,500 for an expert witness.

The bills could get much higher if the state loses any of the federal suits, because federal law allows for the recovery of legal fees in cases alleging government violations of the U.S. Constitution. The statute is designed to deter legislators from writing unconstitutional laws in the first place, and to make sure citizens can challenge the government when they do. If these lawsuits are ruled against Florida at the appellate level, the state could lose millions.

Gov. Scott and his legislature appear unbowed by the controversy and criticism. He recently signed a new law allowing students to give inspirational messages at school assemblies, including prayers.

The law takes effect in July.

Again, civil rights groups vow to sue.

The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting is a nonprofit news organization supported by foundations and individual contributions. For more information, visit fcir.org.

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