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Florida ACLU director on Maddow: State is ‘ground zero’ of civil liberties fight

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida’s executive director, Howard Simon, appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show last night to talk about a host of personal freedoms he says Gov. Rick Scott has infringed upon since taking office early this year. #

Last night, Maddow ran through a list of Scott’s recent actions. Her breakdown included Scott signing a budget with federal stimulus money even though while campaigning he railed against the stimulus, and a recent mandate requiring random drug-testing of state employees and welfare beneficiaries. #

The bulk of last night’s focus, however, was on legislation aimed at infringing civil liberties in the state. Maddow and Simon listed the recent recent elections overhaul and slew of abortion-restricting bills as the biggest culprits. #

Simon said that the ACLU of Florida has just begun its fight against the long list of legislation Scott is signing. #

“This is ground zero for a battle on numerous personal freedoms and civil liberties issues involving abortion rights, voting rights, religious freedom, mandatory drug-testing,” he told Maddow. “We are just trying to do our job and protect the personal freedoms and civil liberties from the abuses of power from this government and this governor.” #

The ACLU of Florida recently sued the governor over a bill that requires random and suspicion-less drug-testing of state employees. The organization is also currently gearing up to fight the elections legislation. Simon said that the ACLU was not stopping there, but the fight is taking a lot out of the organization. #

“There are only so many lawsuits we can deal with a week,” Simon said. #

The ACLU even beefed up its legal staff in response to the past legislative session. As Simon, puts it, “the check [on this Legislature] has got to come now from the courts.” #

“That is the work that we have begun doing,” he said. “It’s now time for the courts to step up and protect the personal freedom and rights of the people of Florida.” #

When asked about the five laws passed by the state legislature aimed at restricting abortion rights in the state, Simon said the legislature passed the laws simply because there was no one to stop them. #

“We all benefit when there is divided government, when both parties have a little bit of power,” he said. “Now they don’t have to answer to anybody, whatsoever. They are emboldened and they set the agenda — and now for the first time, maybe ever, they can do whatever they want without any check.” #

Yesterday Scott signed the first abortion rights-restricting bill into law. #

Watch the Simon/Maddow segment: #

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy #

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