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Florida Senate to the people: Pay more, drop dead

You and I just got the ultimate shaft from the Florida Legislature.

In broad daylight on Wednesday, with no shame, the Florida Senate voted to ax two members of the state Public Service Commission because they voted against higher electric rates.

They will be replaced with new PSC member-stooges, hand-picked and forced upon the governor, who must choose from a list the Legislature gives him.

The Florida Legislature has gone insane. It is hurting the people of Florida on purpose.

Here is what the Republican leaders of the Legislature think: that the people of Florida are too stupid to know it. Too disconnected from politics. Too busy watching American Idol.

And now you and I will pay for it.

Progress Energy Florida wanted $500 million more a year from customers.

Florida Power & Light wanted $1.3 billion more a year.

In January, the Public Service Commission said no.

But two of the PSC members had just been appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist — and they had to be confirmed by the Senate to keep their jobs.

As my colleague Mary Ellen Klas recently reported, the electric industry was the second-largest campaign contributor to the Legislature in the first quarter of this year.

So on Wednesday, the Senate rejected David Klement on a vote of 21-17, and Ben A. Stevens on a vote of 23-14.

This was a Republican deal, done under Republican control, although some Democrats participated in the mugging. Members of both parties get utility money.

The excuses were pious. Some senators claimed Klement and Stevens were "unqualified." Others declared the PSC should be more "diverse," because the governor had replaced a more pro-utility black member.

• • •

Before we talk about which Tampa Bay senators voted which way, understand this:

Even those Republican senators who voted for the nominees still support the regime in Tallahassee. They choose and they enable the leaders who did this.

Of our Tampa Bay area senators, four voted to confirm both Klement and Stevens.

Those four were: Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey; Dennis Jones, R-Treasure Island; Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland; Charlie Justice, D-St. Petersburg.

There was an interesting pattern among senators who split their vote, yes for one and no for the other. This was most convenient: It still resulted in the defeat for both nominees, of course.

Charles Dean, R-Inverness, voted against Klement and for Stevens.

Three other Tampa Bay area senators voted for Klement but against Stevens: Ronda Storms, R-Brandon; Victor Crist, R-Tampa; Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa.

The president of the Senate, Jeff Atwater, voted "yes" for both. He is running to become the state's chief financial officer. No doubt hundreds of thousands of Floridians who were just robbed by his Senate will vote for him anyway.

I wonder if the Legislature might have just handed the U.S. Senate race to Charlie Crist. He should spend the rest of the year ramming this odious vote back down the Legislature's throat.

The session ends Friday. Your senator is going to come home from Tallahassee and brag about what he or she did.

Remember the truth.

Florida Senate to the people: Pay more, drop dead 04/28/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 28, 2010 8:17pm]
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