(An earlier version of this column had an incorrect title for Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner.)
Today, we continue looking at foolish bills your legislators have filed in Tallahassee — and highlight some good ones.
Remember back in 1992, when Floridians decided legislators needed term limits?
Well, the politicians have now decided you were wrong.
Forget the 77 percent of voters who decided eight years was enough. The politicians want more — 12 years total, according to Joint Resolution 300 sponsored by Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton.
But that's not the truly galling part of this bill.
The part that may trigger your gag reflex is that, while these guys want to extend their own terms, they want to clamp down on the terms of local officials.
Yep. Longer terms for themselves. And new limits for others.
The hypocrisy of this idea is exceeded only by its audacity.
There may be legitimate debates about legislative term limits. The current system, after all, allows legislative lightweights and know-nothings to grab leadership posts before many of them have even found the washroom.
But we shouldn't even flirt with giving these guys more time in office until they first put an end to their sorry practice of gerrymandering that allows them to stay in office unchallenged.
And no matter what happens with legislative terms, our imperialistic lawmakers should stick to regulating themselves — a prospect with which many of them already seem to struggle.
It's not all bad news in Tallahassee. Here are a handful of good bills being pushed by local reps:
•Veterans courts. State Rep. Bryan Nelson, R-Apopka, wants to establish veterans courts (HB 17) for the growing number of vets struggling with mental-health and substance-abuse issues. Many of these service members face common problems. And in some places, the programs have been so successful that they boast impressively low recidivism rates — like the one in Buffalo, N.Y., that has reported zero repeat-offenders.
•Righting a wrong. Kudos also to State Senate President Mike Haridopolos and State Rep. Steve Crisafulli (SB 46) for continuing the fight to pay belated restitution to Bill Dillon, the Brevard County man who was wrongfully imprisoned for 27 years. Dillon is actually owed more than $1.3 million. But legislators lowered that amount to $810,000 last year — and then decided not to pay him at all last year, because times were tough. Dillon should get the full amount. But whatever happens, it should happen now — not when it's convenient. Because it sure wasn't convenient for Dillon to lose the majority of his life for a crime he didn't commit.
•Blood money. State Rep. John Tobia, R-Melbourne, is trying to pull back the curtains from the big-money business of blood collection. The parts of his bill (HB 199) that deal with better disclosure about executive compensation, conflicts of interest and precisely who profits from the blood are needed to help boost public confidence. Donors quite literally give of themselves. They deserve to know exactly who profits.
Last month, I wrote a column about how the state's jacked-up costs for licenses and IDs were a bad idea for everyone — but particularly for homeless and destitute people trying to get their lives back on track.
You can't get a job, receive benefits or generally get your life together without a valid ID. And while there are good, faith-based groups helping thousands of moms, dads, veterans and others get their hands on missing birth certificates and drivers licenses, they're going broke doing so.
Fortunately, several local legislators have stepped up to express interest in finding a way to help legitimate nonprofit agencies get IDs into the hands of needy residents for reduced or waived costs. Most notably, Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner said Tuesday that he's on the case. State Reps. Scott Plakon and Darren Soto have expressed interest as well.
Good for them. Aside from being the humane thing to do, this is also the crucial first step toward getting many of our neediest neighbors back on the path to self-sufficiency.
Scott Maxwell can be reached at email@example.com or 407-420-6141.