7:30 PM EDT, April 20, 2010
Are you sick of scandals? Tired of rising power rates and rigged elections?
Well, you're obviously not a Florida legislator.
Because at a time when most of us are craving reform, politicians in Tallahassee are actually fighting it.
The latest scams have flaw-makers attacking the watchdogs who try to keep your utility bills down, as well as your right to fair elections.
And the assaults are being launched in bipartisan fashion — because nothing unites usually divided politicians more than a shared desire to protect their own rear ends.
Calling off the watchdogs
The first attack has to do with your power bills.
As you probably know, they've gone up in recent years — a lot.
Not surprisingly, many of the politicians who get big checks from the power companies are OK with that.
In fact, one of the few state officials to make a stink about rising power rates — and the cozy relationships between power execs and public officials — was Public Service Commission member Nancy Argenziano.
So now you understand why the politicians and their power-company cronies want Nancy gone.
Their clever gimmick: A new law that would ban anyone without a college degree from serving on the Public Service Commission in the future.
Nancy, as you may have guessed, lacks a college degree.
She dropped out of pre-veterinary college to raise her son and work as a veterinary tech before going on to become a Republican legislator. Then Nancy proceeded to take on special interests with reckless abandon.
You can see why she must be stopped.
And keep in mind: You don't have to have a college degree to be governor of this state.
So whom do legislators want on the PSC? Well, the bill sponsored by Orlando's Steve Precourt places a premium on nominees who have lots of experience in very specific fields, like … wait for it … the utility industry!
Because that's who I want regulating the utility industry — someone who's part of it.
Now, if this doesn't sound like a good deal for you, then you're obviously not a politician — because Precourt's bill is enjoying wide and bipartisan support as it sails through committees.
In fact, the richest part, as discovered by an intrepid reporter at our sister paper, the Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, is that some of the very legislators who want to block those without college degrees don't have college degrees themselves … other than perhaps a master's in hypocrisy.
Stacking the deck
The other attack is on democracy itself.
It comes from politihacks who want to preserve their right to gerrymander.
Both parties have done it — drawing snake-like districts that slither through dozens of communities, sometimes splitting neighborhoods in two, so that politicians can get precisely the districts they want.
The result: Corrine Brown gets lots of black Democrats in her district. John Mica gets lots of white Republicans in his. And neither one of them has to worry about competition.
It's why incumbents rarely lose in this state. In fact, we've had years when not a single legislator or member of Congress was ousted.
That's why the Fair Districts amendment will be on your November ballot. It will force legislators to draw geographically sensible districts that are more compact and politically balanced — just like our state.
But legislators don't like fair.
So they're trying to pass another amendment that would basically neutralize the Fair District one. It would essentially allow them to continue using race and demographics in certain instances.
It would be like passing a law to ban drunk driving — except for when legislators really want to drive drunk.
This time it's mostly the Republicans such as Dean Cannon and Mike Haridopolos who are trying to prevent you from having fair elections, because they like the status quo. But there are some Democrats, including Brown and Gary Siplin, involved as well … proving that hackery knows no party lines.
If you want to tell your representative how you feel, you can get their contact information at leg.state.fl.us or call the legislative switchboard during work hours at 850-488-4371.
Scott Maxwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-6141.
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