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The good bills they passed (no, really)

Let us now praise the Florida Legislature.

No, really.

What, did you think every bill that passed this year was a bad idea? Impossible. Even if legislators tried, they would do some good, if only accidentally. But they did even better than that.

The rules for this list are simple: It's not enough that the Legislature merely refrained from doing something bad. No, we're talking about an actual, constructive act of do-gooding.

Heck, you can find a couple of dozen things off the bat. For example:

• A firefighter in Volusia County was killed during training in 2007 and his family was denied death benefits. The Legislature made sure training is covered, too.

• The Legislature passed tougher penalties for con artists who sell annuity scams to the elderly.

• It helped struggling Floridians by cracking down on abuses by debt collectors.

• It put $200,000 into the state budget for an "innocence commission" to investigate cases of possible wrongful conviction.

• It spared Florida employers who were going to be socked with a ridiculous increase in unemployment taxes. (We still have to pay for it later, but putting people out of business in a recession seemed like a bad idea.)

• The Legislature passed higher standards for high school graduation, especially in math and science, and also moved away from the reviled FCAT in favor of other end-of-course testing.

• It cracked down on "pill mill" prescribers and banned the sales of "reptiles of concern" (no jokes about me, please), in particular the invasive Burmese python.

• It gave the state more tools for investigating Medicaid fraud.

• It passed much-needed rules for shadowy political advertising groups after the state's old law was thrown out.

• The Legislature voted to require its own members, along with 27,000 other higher-level state employees, to start contributing toward the cost of their health insurance. It's not that much, but it was zero before.

• After two decades of failure and deadlock, the Legislature and governor finally approved a gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The state gets $435 million now and $1 billion over five years.

Of course, the biggest "law" the Legislature passes each year is the state budget. This year's is $70.4 billion.

Nobody likes all of the budget, and you can argue that the state should be spending more on X or Y. But this budget avoids widespread, brutal cuts, and even actually chips in a little more for education.

The Legislature restored $21 million for public libraries originally targeted to be cut. It put $15 million back into the Florida Forever land-buying program, better than last year's zero. It set aside a state reserve fund of $1.4 billion.

I know, I know. They robbed trust funds and took a lot of federal stimulus money to pull it off. Next year's budget shortfall will be a disaster. And so forth. All I'm sayin' is, this could have been a lot worse this year.

Lastly, please turn your attention to Senate Bill 765, making it a third-degree felony with mandatory punishment for illegally transporting, distributing, buying or selling horse meat. In no way do I make light of that disquieting topic, nor abuse of the noble horse, by concluding: Given this list of bills, is the Legislature all bad, then? Nay.

The good bills they passed (no, really) 05/03/10 [Last modified: Monday, May 3, 2010 7:20pm]

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