From casino gambling to mutant animals, we're covering a lot of ground in today's Friday Files — including an offer from the Maxwell family to share one of our more coveted possessions: our "Celebrate plate."
•We start with Florida's troubling take on gambling — proposing to expand it right after cutting funding to deal with gambling-related problems. That's a bad combination. As the Sentinel's Gary Taylor reported Thursday, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the state's $500,000 contribution to the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling, even as calls for help are on the rise. The Seminole Tribe still gives $1.75 million. And $500,000 would be a drop in the bucket of proceeds from the state lottery — which more than half of the callers to the hotline listed as one of their top two addictions. This isn't a diatribe against gambling. (Trust me. I, too, enjoy casinos.) It's a call for the state to responsibly deal with the very real problems that it helps foster.
•Speaking of the gambling, did you see that there's a new coalition of religious leaders opposed to casino gambling? Baptists are involved. Also the Catholics — which is nice, since they have plenty of room to meet in their bingo halls.
•I guess it's no real surprise that Florida politicians are again debating school prayer. Why deal with the pressing issues of today when you can rehash ones America settled half a century ago? Keep in mind: Kids can already pray on their own at school. So can groups. But state Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, and others want to expand prayer to events like graduation. My question for these guys is this: What part of "separation of church and state" don't you understand? I mean, my family worships and prays quite regularly. But you know where we do it? At church! And at home! When I watch the behavior of some of those who get loudest about religion, I sometimes think they should spend less time screaming about prayer and more time doing it.
•What's next — rehashing the debate over evolution? Oh yeah. I almost forgot last session's Senate Bill 1854 … a bill questioning evolution.
•On a side note, did you guys see that two-faced snake we had in the paper the other day? That thing totally skeeved me out. But enough about that. We've already gone on long enough about Florida legislators.
•OK, OK, not everything in Tallahassee is bad news nowadays. We have some public servants really buckling down on issues we can all appreciate. For instance, there's a growing coalition of state senators looking out for abused and neglected elderly citizens. It's bipartisan, too, with Republicans Paula Dockery and Ronda Storms and Democrat Nan Rich. Good for them. More substance. Less fluff.
•That last item reminded me of my family's Celebrate plate. The Celebrate plate is a brightly colored, hand-painted plate with the word "CELEBRATE!" in large letters above a smiley face. In our house, you get to eat dinner off the Celebrate plate when you've done something particularly good – like acing a test, turning in a school project early or helping a friend. We've found the kids really like this honor — enough so that they sometimes strive for it. That got me to thinking: I wonder if politicians would act better if we gave them the chance to eat off the Celebrate plate? I talked to my wife. And we'd be willing to send ours up to Tallahassee if it would make a difference. My concern, though, is that the joy of eating off my poor little plate would get lost in a sea of fine china at one of their $1,000-a-plate fundraisers.
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