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Florida repeal zeal extends to 'potty parity,' not to bad puns

TALLAHASSEE

The Florida Legislature loves bathroom humor.

Two decades ago, after a torrent of bad puns, the state passed its first "potty parity" law.

Lawmakers mandated three women's toilets for every two men's in sports stadiums, malls and other public buildings — though they soon backed down to equal treatment for both sexes.

A prime motivation for the bill was that women endured longer waiting lines than men at college football games — no trivial matter in this football-crazy state.

"Power to the women!" exulted Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach when it first passed in 1992.

Potty parity is going down the drain in Florida.

It's one of nearly a dozen laws being considered for repeal by the Republican-controlled Legislature, which wants to shrink the dusty law books by repealing statutes it considers obsolete or unnecessary.

Also likely to soon vanish are laws regulating frozen desserts, requiring bicyclists to keep at least one hand on the handlebars at all times and prohibiting motorists from coasting downhill.

Another repealer bill would deregulate water vending machines; another would remove regulations on access to drive-in movie theaters, only a few of which remain in Florida.

Yet another would repeal an 1889 law that any person summoned by a sheriff or deputy sheriff "who fails or refuses to assist in maintaining peace at the polls" is guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor.

State law enforcement officials said only one person has been arrested under the law since 2000.

Rep. Ray Pilon, a Sarasota Republican, former deputy sheriff and a history buff, said the law dated to a time when only one deputy was available to cover every voting place in a county, and if there was trouble the deputy needed citizen intervention.

"It was just an antiquated law," Pilon said.

Rep. Daphne Campbell, a Miami Democrat, has a bill to wipe out a more-than-century-old law that makes it a crime if an employer doesn't offer a seat to a worker on break who is required to stand most of the time.

"Since 1899, no one has been arrested for this," Campbell told the House.

Only one repealer bill attracted controversy — the one repealing a ban on sale or possession of clove cigarettes, made with a spice native to Indonesia.

Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, said an antitobacco youth group known as SWAT, Students Working Against Tobacco, urged him to vote against the bill, which he did.

"This makes it easier to make kids start smoking," Kriseman said.

But Rep. Richard Steinberg, a North Miami Beach Democrat, said a federal law already bans clove cigarettes.

In a continuing burst of repeal zeal Thursday, the House voted 116-2 to repeal potty parity, noting the law is redundant because the state building code already stipulates how many toilets must be in public buildings.

"Do you want to 'TP' this bill?" asked Steinberg, using legislative jargon for a bill that's temporarily postponed.

"No, I prefer to wipe it out," said the sponsor, Rep. Ana Rivas Logan, R-Miami, as the House let out a collective groan.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at bousquet@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

Florida repeal zeal extends to 'potty parity,' not to bad puns 04/29/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 29, 2011 7:49pm]

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