May 5, 2010
So who won and lost in Tallahassee?
Well, if you're a super-wealthy blood-bank exec who wants to keep secrets — and buy a yacht — then you hit the jackpot!
But if you're just a poor college student hoping your tuition wouldn't go up, things don't look as good.
Nor are things rosy if you happen to be one of the legislators who was chanting "Drill, baby, drill!" a few months ago — and who are now watching rescuers pluck crude-covered pelicans from the Gulf.
But there were many more highs and lows this past legislative session. And since you're too busy to read all the bills, here's a quick-hit guide to what went down.
Tax breaks for yacht buyers. Thank goodness somebody finally stood up for the rights of this long-neglected class. Lawmakers may not have enough money to fund schools properly, but they still managed to find money to give a tax break to people who buy yachts that cost more than $300,000. They claim it will spur sales. I'd like to meet the guy who can afford a million-dollar yacht — but not the tax on it.
A lot less money for land preservation. In years past, Florida has spent $300 million a year buying land for preservation. This year, legislators reduced that amount by ... well, almost all. The new total for Florida Forever is $15 million, representing a 95 percent drop. So, if you want to visit newly preserved land, perhaps you should sail that new yacht to another state.
Drill, baby ... um, never mind. Not only did drilling proposals not go anywhere this session, but the state's biggest drilling proponent also announced a complete about-face Tuesday. "I don't see anything happening for the next two or three years," said House speaker-designate Dean Cannon, noting that time period would cover all of his tenure as speaker. That constitutes a pretty significant change for a guy who, just last year, jammed a plan through the House to allow drilling three miles off the coast. In fact, if the Senate hadn't applied the brakes, that might have been law right now.
Hope for imprisoned innocents. State Sen. Mike Haridolopos took an important step toward righting one of this state's most shameful wrongs — imprisoning the innocents. The Republican from Brevard managed to snag $200,000 to help create an Innocence Commission within the Supreme Court. Good for him.
Shuffle up and deal. Lawmakers finally inked a deal with the state's gaming interests — one that essentially limits gambling to where it already exists, but allows the Seminole Tribe to offer card games and cuts taxpayers in on more than $1 billion worth of the action. This one was such a win-win, it should have been approved years ago. And it might have been — if not for reps like Republican Charles Van Zant who said the deal was "evil and brings evil upon Floridians." I'll tell ya what's evil, Charles: standing on a soft 17 when the dealer has a face card showing. That's the devil's work.
Send money, Mom. Tuition at all public universities goes up. At least 8 percent. Much more in some cases. Because that's what you want to do during a recession — make it tougher for people who have lost their jobs to get trained for new ones.
Shhh, the blood banks have secrets. Efforts to shed light on some of the shady business practices at nonprofit blood centers never passed ... in part because the blood centers lobbied to kill them.
Pants: Drop 'em if you got 'em: For something like the fifth year in a row, Democrat Gary Siplin failed to pass his "Droopy Drawers" bill — the one that aims to make kids keep their pants pulled up. You know, it sometimes feels as if Central Florida is the one that has its collective pants pulled down — every time our hometown senator makes this his signature priority … and fails.
Scott Maxwell can be reached at email@example.com or 407-420-6141.
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