For the past few weeks we've been looking at how our Tampa Bay legislators voted on a series of controversial bills since the last election.
In my admittedly biased opinion (and remember, this is my biased list of bills in the first place), it ain't pretty.
I figure we should give an "award" to the legislators with the most consistently bad voting records.
Of course, this award needs a name. My first idea came one morning while walking Louie the Dog and clutching my St. Petersburg Times plastic bag, waiting for Louie to conduct, you know, legislative affairs.
But my editors hesitated at anything called the "Poop Bag Awards." So we agreed to call them simply, the "Bags." (Between you and me, you still know what I mean).
The Bag Awards will be awarded in three levels: gold, silver and bronze.
• • •
First, let's recap the nine issues. One was a Senate-only vote, and one a House-only, so there are eight possible "yes" votes for each legislator:
• Senate Bill 360, passed in 2009, weakened Florida's growth laws by saying developers no longer have to pay for the impact of their growth on roads in most areas.
• Amendment 7, which the Legislature put on the ballot this year, was a "poison pill" intended to defeat two citizen amendments for "fair districts." The courts threw it out as misleading.
• Senate Bill 2080, passed in 2009, removed from the public process the awarding of permits for water use and environmental destruction.
• House Bill 1207, passed this year, created legal "leadership funds" so that special interests could pay direct, unlimited donations to the incoming leaders of the Legislature. The governor vetoed it.
• Under heavy pressure from the electric industry, the Senate this spring kicked out two members of the Public Service Commission who had dared to turn down $1.5 billion in rate increases. (I'm counting a "yes" vote for senators who voted to kick off either one, or both.)
• With zero study, the House voted on the fly in 2009 for HB 1219, opening Florida waters to oil drilling. Even the Senate balked at that one.
• The Legislature came into a special session in December to pass HB 1B, a sweetheart deal to buy track from the CSX Corp. — and to put the taxpayers on the hook for CSX's legal liability.
• In another last-minute surprise, the Legislature this spring passed HB 1143, requiring any woman seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound and view it, or listen to her doctor describe the fetus. The governor vetoed it.
• This spring the Legislature voted for SB 6, repealing tenure for schoolteachers and tying their evaluations to standardized tests (which were to be invented later). The governor vetoed that one, too.
• • •
Our most prestigious award, the Golden Bag, goes to those lawmakers — all House members — who willingly, obediently and eagerly voted for every one of these stinkers. They are:
• Kevin Ambler, R-Tampa.
• Rachel Burgin, R-Tampa.
• Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City.
• John Legg, R-New Port Richey.
• Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland.
• Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton.
• Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill.
• Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.
Our Silver Bag winners voted for seven of the eight. I'll add the one issue where they bolted from the pack:
• Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa (weaker growth law).
• Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey (PSC members).
• Rep. Jim Frishe, R-Belleair Bluffs (oil drilling).
• Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton (oil drilling).
• Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater (oil drilling).
Next we have the Bronze Bag winners, who voted for a measly six of eight. Listed with their no votes, they are:
• Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Brandon (growth law, CSX).
• Rep. Tom Anderson, R-Dunedin (drilling, abortion).
• Rep. Faye Culp, R-Tampa (abortion, tenure).
• Rep. Ed Homan, R-Tampa (abortion, tenure).
• Rep. Peter Nehr, R-Tarpon Springs (drilling, tenure).
Last, here are the also-rans from the Tampa Bay area, along with how many of these bills they supported:
Senators: Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland (2); Dennis Jones, R-Treasure Island (5); Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa (2); Charlie Justice, D-St. Petersburg (1).
Representatives: Janet Cruz, D-Tampa (0); Bill Heller, D-St. Petersburg (1); Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg (1); Janet Long, D-Seminole (2); Betty Reed, D-Tampa (2); Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg (3); Ron Schultz, R-Homosassa (5); former Rep. Mike Scionti, D-Tampa (2).
Congratulations to the winners. I am sure they all must be very proud.