Crist does the right thing, and other topics

Gotta give credit. It took gumption for Gov. Charlie Crist to veto one of the Republican Legislature's favorite bills — maybe contrary to his own political interests.

The bill would have revived a form of organized payoffs to politicians in Tallahassee known as "leadership funds."

These funds involve direct payments by special interests and other donors to the incoming speaker of the state House and president of the state Senate.

In turn, the top legislators use the money for politics and power, especially by supporting candidates for the Legislature who will be loyal to them.

Even the Legislature grew ashamed of these funds 21 years ago and banned them.

But times change, and times become more shameless. These days, lots of legislators have their own fundraising committees that do the same thing. (We ought to ban them, not increase them.)

There was even the argument in Tallahassee that reviving the funds would be better than the system that we have now — more "transparent." As if we were talking about clean-government reform, instead of a new avenue for paying off the Legislature.

Still, it would have been easy for Crist to sign the bill. After all, he's in the fight of his life in the Republican U.S. Senate primary against Marco Rubio (who raised an impressive, if not stunning, $3.6 million for the first quarter). This veto made Crist enemies among his party leaders.

Some people saw Crist's veto as a signal he might bolt the Republican primary after all and run as an independent. I don't believe it. But I was dead wrong about the veto, too, so what do I know?

A footnote: The bill that Crist vetoed also had some reasonable rules on "electioneering communications organizations," or third-party groups than run attack ads in campaigns. Maybe the Legislature can still figure out a way to get that part done.

Other stuff:

• If anybody ever tells you that it doesn't matter which side wins or loses in politics, just cite Senate Bill 6, a Republican revolution in the field of public education. The bill would end traditional tenure for teachers and tie part of their pay to student progress. If you're for it, thank the Republican Party; if you're against it — well, it's going to pass, and barring another veto by Crist, your best recourse is to get more votes next time.

• The state has produced 44 pages of objections to a 4,280-acre development called "Quarry Preserve" on former mining land north of Brooksville. This comes on top of objections from the county's own planning staff that the idea would create urban sprawl and stress the county's resources. But the Hernando County Commission approved it anyway. I am glad we have wise elected leaders; who knows what damage the crazy public would do under Hometown Democracy?

• Do we really need to have a statewide straw vote on whether the people of Florida support a balanced federal budget, as the Legislature is considering? It's a waste of money done for show in an election year, by a Legislature that gobbles up as much federal dough as it can.

• Astute readers will remember my Jan. 24 column about the U.S. Forest Service's proposal to cut back "lifetime" discounts that it sold to the public over the years, including a "Golden Age Passport" to senior citizens. So many people complained during the comment period that the Forest Service recently announced: never mind.

Crist does the right thing, and other topics 04/07/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 8, 2010 12:03am]

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