Heck, what fun is having a Legislature if you can't second-guess it? Here are some of the bills passed in the just-finished session that Gov. Charlie Crist should consider vetoing.
At the top is Senate Bill 360, which loosens Florida's growth rules. The biggest change is that developers would no longer have to worry about their impact on traffic in urban areas.
If that's not enough for a veto, there was a sneaky last-minute addition. In the name of "affordable housing," this bill also requires every county in Florida to allow the conversion of RV parks to residential developments of the same density. Check it out in lines 1,600-1,605 of the bill.
Another pro-development measure is House Bill 227, which says that local governments that impose impact fees on growth have the "burden of proof" if a builder challenges their validity. This is a weird and unnecessary reversal of legal tradition. The bill also puts a two-year ban on any increases in impact fees, no matter whether a local government has done a good or bad job of imposing them.
Next up is SB 2626, which goes a long way toward deregulating old-fashioned, wire-in-the-wall telephone service in Florida. The state Public Service Commission would no longer have any say over customers' service or repair problems, operator charges or just about anything else. A lot of traditional customers will be surprised to learn they've been shoved into the deeper waters of the free market.
HB 903 is the latest round in the eternal battle over workers' compensation in Florida. The Legislature already cracked down on legal fees in 2003. This led to a 2008 Supreme Court ruling saying the fees at least have to be reasonable. This bill tries to reverse that ruling; the governor should let it stand.
SB 2198 says that no matter how much money tobacco companies lose in smoker lawsuits, they only have to put up a total of $100 million in appeal bonds while they fight on. Since their potential liability runs to tens of billions, requiring them to put up only a tiny fraction is an awfully big favor.
Here's an odd little bill: HB 1065 grants state immunity to airports and their employees, no matter what methods they use to get rid of wildlife. For sure, we have seen the dangers of wildlife around airports, but — a total blank check? Really?
SB 2276 creates a DNA database for every person arrested in Florida on a felony charge. It would be a crime to refuse to provide a sample. And even if the person is never prosecuted, is acquitted, or wins an appeal, he or she would have to go through a petition process to be removed from the database. Why not require the samples upon conviction, with automatic removal if the conviction is later reversed?
SB 1248 is a silly example of micromanaging — the subject is how much Florida schools should charge students or their parents for lost textbooks more than 1 year old. The bill changes the standard from 50 to 75 percent of the original cost to 100 percent. This is just seat-of-the-pants meddling, given that the Legislature didn't bother to figure out whether it would actually save any money.
Whoops, out of space, although certainly not out of bills. Forgive the self-horn-tooting, but I also have an essay on the cover of today's Perspective section, arguing that our Legislature is "historically bad" and making suggestions on how to improve it.