It's tough to sugarcoat Florida politicians' shenanigans

One thing about politics in Florida: They're never boring.

This past week, we saw everything from Rick Scott trying to make nice with the media inTallahassee to legislators making off with your money in New Orleans.

Throw in debt-ceiling debate and even Shaquille O'Neal muddying his own political future in Florida, and you've got just another week in the Sunshine State.

Let's start with the debt ceiling, where some of our reps in Washington proved to be about as useful as a concrete life vest.

There aren't many adults left in Washington. But Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown might as well be wearing wear Pampers. Those two were among a third of the state's delegation who apparently preferred national default to compromise.

Hardly anyone loved this deal, which the Republicans obviously won. But those who stuck by strident partisanship were not only on the losing side of the compromise, they were largely irrelevant.

Up next, Gov. Scott decided he's tired of playing the role of Voldemort in American politics. So to beef up his subterranean approval ratings, he redirected the "Reinventing Rick" tour to trying to make nice with the media he once loved to spurn.

He requested meetings with many of the editorial boards he ignored during the campaign — and even invited reporters into his office for doughnuts. (They might have been suspicious of shiny red apples.)

Here's the problem: Charlie Crist was masterful at pandering. When Scott tries to force a smile, it's just creepy. Besides, I don't think you win people over by cuddling up to the media. Nobody likes us. People do, however, like a politician who treats them and the state with respect. So maybe give that some thought.

Later in the week, Speaker Dean Cannon told Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, to pound sand.

Randolph had the audacity to ask precisely how the speaker was spending taxpayers' money in Cannon's effort to overturn the public's Fair Districts vote.

No dice, said Cannon, who apparently thinks how he spends your money is none of your business until the lawsuit ends.

In other news about your money, GOP legislators also spent it on a trip to New Orleans. (Mmmm, beignets.)

According to The Miami Herald, nearly 50 of these supposed fiscal conservatives — including future speakers Will Weatherford and Chris Dorworth — went to pay homage to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group that specializes in what's called "cheat sheet" legislation. That means lawmakers get copies of generic bills that target everything from unions to reproductive rights, which they can bring back to Florida and try to turn into law.

But apparently tax money didn't cover all the bills. (Final totals aren't in yet.) Republicans also turned to campaign accounts — and special interests — to pick up the tab. Sure, lobbyist-sponsored trips were outlawed a few years back. But they claimed they were using old, pre-ban money. Of course they were.

Remember: Not enough money for schools or the disabled. But when the pols want to take a trip to the Big Easy: "Laissez les tax dollars roulez!"

But there was more:

•A poll showed that, even though Rick Scott has one of the lowest approval ratings in America (35 percent approval), the Florida Legislature has one even lower (32 percent). This, my friends, is why lawmakers want to overturn your Fair Districts vote. They know that, if they ever have to run in fair, non-gerrymandered districts, they are toast!

•Shaquille O'Neal made bizarre news in South Florida, accused in a crazy-sounding lawsuit of asking police to help him frame an enemy. Let's hope it's not true, for Shaq's sake. Otherwise, it could put a real damper on his plans to one day run for Orange County sheriff.

•Gov. Scott continued his "Reinventing Rick" tour with a "workday" program where he has vowed to work alongside everyday Floridians to better understand their plight. Scott's first workday consisted of a few hours at a doughnut shop.

Hmmm. So we started the week with the governor serving doughnuts to the press corps. We later saw him selling doughnuts at a store. And we end the week with legislators taking a taxpayer-subsidized trip to the beignet capital of the world.

I'm starting to get the feeling that if we could somehow deep-fry the truly serious issues facing this state and then cover them with powdered sugar, the people we've elected would actually pay attention.

smaxwell@tribune.com or 407-420-6141

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