Students gathered Friday at the Capitol to ask for an investigation into whether an unwritten gag order exists barring state employees from discussing climate change or global warming.
The protesters, who wore duct tape over their mouths with “climate change” written across it, dropped off petitions with more than 43,000 signatures calling for an investigation by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Office of Inspector General. They also filed an open-records request for all communications between the Governor’s Office and DEP with the words “climate change” or “global warming” to see if there’s proof such a ban exists.
“Many Department of Environmental Protection staff have come forward in recent weeks claiming there’s an unwritten policy to not discuss climate change (or) global warming in official communications,” said Ralph Wilson, a member of Forecast the Facts. “The executive branch has denied these claims, so we feel like this is fairly easy to resolve. All we have to do is figure out who’s telling the truth.”
The protesters’ numbers were modest — about 15 showed up, roughly the same number of Capitol Press Corps members who came to cover it. Doug Miller, an organizer with the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network, was among the young people who duct taped themselves as part of the protest. He said making a home in Florida may become difficult as climate change becomes more of a reality in future years. “For us to deal with this adequately, we need state government to be thinking scientifically and to be taking all the facts,” he said. “And if there’s a possibility thatthere’s political censorship going on here, that’s really serious and that really concerns me and my generation because this is our home.”
Gov. Rick Scott has denied any such gag order or ban exists, as have DEP officials.
Earlier this month, a DEP employee was reprimanded, sent home and told not to return to the office until he was medically cleared by his doctor after publicly sharing his views on the Keystone XL pipeline and climate change during a coastal managers forum in Tallahassee.
Before the employee, Bart Bibler, was disciplined, he emailed higher- ups at the department an anti-pipeline symbol. DEP officials said he was disciplined for poor performance, insubordination and conduct unbecoming a public employee. State law bans state agency workers from engaging in political activities on state time using state resources.
Original article here.