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Sen. Clemens, pushing 75 mph speed limit, knows his subject

Sen. Jeff Clemens, a first-term Democrat from Palm Beach County, has quickly established himself as somebody who generally asks astute questions and strives to learn about the details of legislation.

And it turns out that in co-sponsoring a bill to increase the speed limit on Florida's rural interstate highways from 70 to 75, Clemens, you might say, knows his subject first-hand. Clemens and Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg will be pushing the 75 mph speed limit bill, so a logical question was whether either lawmaker has a lead foot (the driving history of Florida motorists are public records).

Brandes, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, has a clean driving record. But Clemens, a 43-year-old Detroit native who's a professional musician and a former newspaper reporter, got two speeding tickets in one week in 2011 while on North Florida interstates. He was clocked at 79 in a 70 mph zone both times, in Marion and Leon counties. Not exactly fast 'n' furious, but a little too fast for the police.

"I don't know that I'd call it a factor" in his decision to sign onto the bill, Clemens said, "but I certainly question the need for issuing speeding citations on long flat rural roads."

The Brandes-Clemens bill (SB 392) would give the state DOT the authority to raise the maximum speed limit to 75 in areas where it is now 70 -- mostly long stretches of Interstates 10, 75 and 95, and parts of Florida's Turnpike, I-4 and the Suncoast Parkway in Tampa Bay. As written, DOT would set the "safe and advisable" minimum speed limit on those highways.

-- Steve Bousquet