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While it's meeting next week, Florida Legislature should shut down the 'Taj Mahal'

Nobody, not even the chief judge in the $48  million "Taj Mahal" courthouse scandal in Tallahassee, lost an election because of it.

It was not that big a deal in the scheme of things. Not enough to change the outcome of a single race in the Legislature, let alone a statewide election.

In other words, they Got Away With It, which is what they counted on.

The judges of the 1st District Court of Appeal can congratulate each other now over their 20 miles of African mahogany and granite countertops.

Unless …

This is a long shot, but you know, the Legislature does come into a special session next week.

Our newly elected lawmakers will meet to choose a new speaker of the House and president of the Senate. While they're in town, they're also planning to override some of Gov. Charlie Crist's vetoes as sort of a parting gift.

So here is what else they should do while they're there:

Kick those judges out of the Taj Mahal.

What better statement could come from the new Senate president, Mike Haridopolos, who has been critical of this courthouse anyway?

What bolder warning shot could new Speaker Dean Cannon fire across the bow of Tallahassee-as-usual?

The story is well known by now. To win their palace, certain judges of the appeals court worked the halls of the Capitol like grubby lobbyists and used their connections to arrange a sneaky, last-minute deal that most legislators didn't know about.

A contractor flew the chief judge (who even had his own personalized hard hat) on free junkets to check out other state courthouses.

A state audit blasted the whole thing, saying the project spun wildly out of control. Even our new Senate president, Haridopolos, was so disgusted he called for the head of the state Division of Management Services.

The new Legislature should block the occupation of the Taj Mahal pending a full investigation. It should study other uses for the building, too.

You know, I wouldn't mind sticking the Florida Supreme Court out there. After all, it certainly is a grand courthouse with "wow factor," more fitting for a state's highest court than a mere appeals court, which can meet in a garage for all I care.

True, the Supremes would not want to give up their prestigious perch across the street from the state Capitol. But they could get used to it.

Or make it the new Florida State University law school.

Or make it the new headquarters of the state Division of Administrative Hearings.

Or just take any number of overcrowded agencies and divvy up the space.

Or just sell it.

I know, I know. They already built the thing, so there's no sense letting $48 million go down the drain. But that rewards the calculation that in the end, they could get away with it.

What a statement it would be for the Legislature to stop this! Every Floridian would be impressed.

Me, I promise to go to Tallahassee and shine their shoes, wash their cars and stand on the floor of the House or Senate and sing a song praising them.

There's a week left until the session. If you run into your legislator, who just got elected or re-elected and is in a good mood, you should suggest it.

One final time, with feeling: Make them move.

While it's meeting next week, Florida Legislature should shut down the 'Taj Mahal' 11/08/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 9, 2010 12:12am]
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