There are so many astoundingly bad things happening in Tallahassee these days that it's easy to get overwhelmed and depressed.
But I'm not going to let that happen.
Think of today's column as a verbal dose of Prozac — a pick-me-up in the form of empowerment.
I'm going to highlight a bunch of rotten bills that have already died — thanks to citizens like you getting loud. And then I'm going to tell you how we keep this train running.
•Golf courses in state parks. You'd need a Great Big Bertha driver to tee off on all the boneheaded parts of this bill. State Sen. John Thrasher, R-Jacksonville, wanted taxpayers to underwrite construction of new golf courses, even as privately run courses are going bankrupt. More galling, he wanted to do it inside state parks, allowing bars and hotels on pristine parkland — and awarding the entire deal to a single developer, Jack Nicklaus, shutting out other bidders. The media exposed this bad idea. The people spoke up. And the bill died.
•Prison for pediatricians. This bill by Rep. Jason Brodeur, R- Sanford, was so out there that it sounded like something from Ray Bradbury. Brodeur wanted to imprison pediatricians and psychiatrists who asked their patients about gun-ownership — whether it was to keep children safe or to see if a mentally disturbed patient might kill someone. This plan to criminalize free speech was derided nationally — and by most sensible gun owners — forcing Brodeur to holster this unconstitutional pandering to the NRA.
•60 percent for judges. House Speaker Dean Cannon's has been trying to weaken, reshape and overpower the judicial branch ever since the courts had the audacity to rule against his plan to protect gerrymandering. Cannon's anti-court crusade continues. But one part that's now history is the Winter Park Republican's proposal that some judges must get more than 60 percent of the vote to keep their seat — an interesting premise, considering Cannon himself didn't earn 60 percent in his last election.
•Local issues, state control. Legislators love to scream bloody murder whenever they think the federal government is overstepping its bounds. But that hasn't stopped them from trying to overstep theirs. Among the inappropriate power grabs were legislative pushes to dictate term limits for city councils, spending at county commissions and pay for local school board members. Fortunately, residents and local officials told them to butt out.
•Muzzling the watchdogs. Gov. Rick Scott and some state legislators continue to try to weaken the state's nursing-home watchdog program where volunteers visit the elderly and report cases of abuse, neglect and mismanagement. But thanks to vocal advocates and public outrage, the most dangerous part of the attack — one that would've made it harder for volunteer ombudsmen to make spot checks — has died.
There's always a chance some of these bad ideas could come back. Zombies have nothing on bad legislation in this state when it comes to rising from the dead.
But so far, people have made a difference. The public spoke up. Activists organized. Sometimes, sensible legislators overruled their less-sensible peers.
Still, there should be no rest for the weary — because there are still rotten schemes happening in Tallahassee.
I'm not talking about things that are bad only to liberals. Or only to conservatives. We're talking about things that should upset anyone who cares about Florida's quality of life.
There are still bills that would make it easier for nursing homes to neglect the elderly, for unqualified mechanics to rip you off, and for new development to crowd your schools and roads.
There are ongoing efforts to transfer the tax burden from corporations onto the shoulders of individuals.
There are even continuing assaults on democracy, itself, with legislators spending your money to overturn your vote for Fair Districts and trying to shorten the amount of time you have to vote.
These changes aren't being championed by regular Floridians, but by vested interests.
They don't have to win. As we showed above, speaking up can make a difference.
Public input and awareness can be a powerful antiseptic.
Learn who represents you in the state Senate and House.
When you hear about a bad idea, tell them how you feel.
Tell them you want your state back.
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