Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

This stuff really does matter, after all

If someone walks up to you and says, "I'm going to take your money this second," it's probably a robber.

But if someone says, "I'm going to take your money two years from now," it's probably a member of the Florida Legislature.

There's a hard lesson to be learned in the current anger over higher electric rates in this part of Florida, especially for Progress Energy's proposed nuclear plant in Levy County.

Boy, are people mad! They're calling and writing and e-mailing. They're sounding off in letters to the editor and on the Internet.

They're mocking the title of the Florida Public Service Commission, especially the "Service" part. They want to know what they can do.

Well, there are only three answers:

(1) Elect a different Legislature.

(2) Spend a bunch of money on a challenge that doesn't have a prayer.

(3) Nothing.

It is a done deal. The fact is that for each of the last three years, our Legislature has passed a big "energy bill" that has put the law of this state sharply in the favor of Florida's electric companies.

• In 2006, the Legislature passed the first law allowing early billing for nuclear power plants that are just a gleam in the electric company's eye.

• In 2007, more of the companies came back and got a law giving them the same deal for certain coal plants, too.

• And in the 2008 session this spring, they came back yet again and got a law making it easier for them to run new lines, and harder for citizens to fight them.

The net effect has been to put Florida in the forefront of the pro-nuclear, pro-big-power-plant movement.

And although nobody loves to gripe about the Public Service Commission more than I do, now the PSC is mostly just obeying the Legislature.

People are asking:

"Who voted for this? I want to know their names!"

The answer is, all of them. The first bill back in 2006 (which was pretty much written by the industry) passed by a vote of 39-0 in the Senate, and 118-1 in the House.

There wasn't much controversy. In fact, everybody congratulated one another.

"Why didn't I know about this," angry citizens ask.

Don't look at me. I was right here, waving my arms in the air and yelling, "HEY! THEY'RE PASSING A LAW TO BILL US IN ADVANCE FOR NUCLEAR PLANTS!"

So, here is the lesson. If you're a teacher, tell your pupils. If you're a student of civics, learn this by heart.

The lesson is that what the Legislature does affects us all — even if it doesn't affect us right now. We have to care about what happens beyond today.

The lesson is to read the newspaper like a citizen. The lesson is to reconnect with the town square and to take ownership of our own state. The lesson is to speak up when there's still a chance.

This isn't very comforting, is it? Sorry.

This coming spring the Legislature meets again. Odds are that somewhere along the way, there will be an idea that you like or don't like.

When that day comes, say something. Look up your legislator on the Internet or the phone book. Call or send a letter or an e-mail. Tell them, "I am a Florida voter, and I think this is a bad idea." Or a good idea, as the case may be.

It's the only way.

This stuff really does matter, after all 11/22/08 [Last modified: Friday, November 28, 2008 7:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays beat Orioles, but tough stretch looms that could change their plans (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tuesday was a step back in the right direction for the Rays, who halted a season-high five-game losing streak by hanging on — and we mean that pretty much literally — for a 5-4 win over the Orioles.

    The Rays’ Tim Beckham celebrates with Mallex Smith after hitting a three-run homer in the second inning for a 5-0 lead.
  2. Diaz, Taddeo win easily in special Miami Senate primaries


    Two Miami state Senate candidates who raised and spent the most in their respective primaries — Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Democratic businesswoman Annette Taddeo — notched easy victories in a special election Tuesday night.

    Republican candidate Jose Felix Diaz is surrounded by supporters after he won the primary for Florida’s Senate District 40 race. Democrat Annette Taddeo, right, celebrates her victory with supporter Venus Lovely at BJ’s Restaurant in The Falls.
  3. In live debate, Kriseman and Baker ask St. Pete: Is the city better off?



    Mayoral candidates Rick Kriseman and Rick Baker made their best pitch to voters in front of a live television audience on Tuesday night. The candidates essentially asked this: Is the city better off now than it was four years ago?

    Incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker debate in front of a live television audience during the City of St. Petersburg Mayoral Debate at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg on Tuesday evening. The event was sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times and Bay News 9. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  4. Romano: It all comes down to sewage in this mayoral race

    Local Government

    Well, poop.

    Nothing else really matters, does it?

    Schools, economic development, public safety? Pfft. The Rays stadium, affordable housing, the pier? Ack. When it comes to the St. Petersburg mayoral election, sewage is the yin, the yang and the yuck.

    At Tuesday’s debate, incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman said responsibility lies on him regarding the sewage crisis.
  5. Shooting sends man to hospital in St. Pete


    ST. PETERSBURG — Police were investigating a shooting that occurred around 4:40 p.m. on Tuesday and sent a man to the hospital.