Yachts! The Florida Legislature is going to pass a new tax break for buying luxury yachts and private airplanes.
Let's hope this passes in the same year that the Legislature hurts the K-12 schools, guts the universities, makes it harder for Floridians to vote, drains the Lawton Chiles tobacco trust, kills Florida Forever, weakens wetlands protection, repeals a quarter-century of growth management law, deregulates the telephone companies and tries to paper over the indictment of the immediate past speaker of the House of Representatives and a damning grand jury investigation.
• After last week's indictment of that former speaker, Ray Sansom, several legislators grumbled that the grand jury didn't understand How The System Really Works. Particularly hilarious was the comment of Rep. Kevin Ambler, R-Tampa, who said our system of campaign contributions has "transparency."
We have the opposite of "transparency." We run a money-laundering scheme. I would rather allow unlimited contributions to politicians from interest groups, on the condition those contributions were immediately and truthfully published on the Internet, rather than our current scheme of filtering money through bogus "committees" set up by individual lawmakers, or funneled through the political parties.
• The argument for St. Petersburg's annexation of big developments in Tierra Verde is that they'll generate property taxes. Does it undercut that argument if all the owners aren't actually, you know, paying those taxes?
• When we say that "Tampa Bay Water" faces a $1 million fine for pumping too much water, do you think that money will come out of the pockets of the local officials who sit on that board and who, by definition, have failed at their job?
• While the idea of raising Florida's cigarette tax is getting the most attention, the big tobacco issue in Tallahassee is a bill that would limit the industry's exposure when it appeals smoker lawsuits. Although the industry is potentially on the hook for tens of billions, the Legislature will change the law to say that the industry only has to post a total of $100 million to appeal any verdicts it loses.
• Could there be a worse example of what's wrong with our Legislature than this last-minute, little-debated, simply awful bill to make it harder to vote? Really? This is the big pressing problem in Florida, that it's too easy to vote? The governor is already threatening to veto this bill — heck, I hope he vetoes it twice.
• Every time I criticize the Legislature, I get complaints that I do not use the word "Republican" to put the blame on the party with the most seats. It's a deliberate choice. I was there when the donkeys were in charge, too, and believe me, they would still be every bit as wicked if they had the most votes. The system is corrupt, not one party.
• The Legislature's budget for K-12 education is worse than advertised — even if lawmakers claim that the overall dollar amount is the same, they get there by hurting textbooks, transportation, advanced placement classes and international baccalaureate programs. But cheer up; the university budget is even worse.
• There's a controversy in Hernando County over a clothing-optional dude ranch. If the critics also allege that its patrons tell dirty jokes and possess lots of body art, would it be a booed, crude, tattooed, nude dude ranch?