Lawmakers favor loud music over Florida neighborhoods
Credit state Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, with the most memorable quote of this past session of the Florida Legislature. “I believe in the healing power of music, and if I want to drive down the street and heal everybody around me, I should be able to,” Clemens said, while arguing against a proposed ban on loud noise from cars. Too bad Clemens, who is in a rock band, was not as interested in common courtesy as dispensing his personal brand of medicine. Thanks to Clemens and his Senate colleagues who voted against the reasonable bill, Floridians will have little defense against deafening music that is more likely to shred the psyche than soothe it.On a 19-19 vote, the Senate failed to pass legislation aimed at protecting citizens from inconsiderate drivers who play music loud enough to rattle windows, shake walls and disrupt neighborhoods. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, sought to restore a statewide standard that banned loud noises from vehicles that could be plainly heard from 25 feet away or more. The state Supreme Court found the previous law unconstitutional because it contained exceptions for political and commercial broadcasts from vehicles. Simpson’s bill covered all loud sounds from a vehicle and allowed police to stop violators and issue $30 citations — hardly a crippling penalty, but one that would make a driver hesitate about cranking up the volume. Clemens and other opponents dismissed the law as excessive and unnecessary. Tell that to Mary Jones, a 73-year-old Hillsborough resident, who earlier this year told the Tribune’s Mike Salinero that she is awakened several nights a week because of young people who park near her home and play music as loud as possible. Such complaints are hardly isolated. The Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office receives more than 6,000 complaints about excessive noise a year, many of them involving vehicles. Deafening music is not only an annoyance to others, it can be dangerous, as Simpson pointed out. “You may not hear ambulances coming in your car,” he said. Simpson is considering pushing the law again next year, but may propose that it only be a secondary offense, where police would only ticket individuals for a noise violation if they were pulled over for another reason. That may be better than nothing, but lawmakers should see that allowing a vehicle to play bone-jarring music threatens the public’s safety and peace of mind. No one should have the right to administer their blaring brand of “healing” medicine to unwilling patients.