Monday, December 18, 2017
Opinion

Droppings from the lamest of lame ducks

It is axiomatic that not much happens in Tallahassee until toward the end of the legislative session when the final deals are cooked, the last minute conspiracies are hatched and, of course, the annual rite of back-stabbing begins in earnest.

This isn't democracy in action. It's a good old boy junta, taking names, settling scores and extracting revenge. Think of this as the reign of the Borgias, only without the sense of whimsy.

So it's a fair question: Why even bother with the charade of legislating? Why not dispense with filing bills, holding committee hearings and voting on stuff and put Senate Budget Committee Chairman JD Alexander in charge of everything, since it certainly appears the Big Daddy of Lake Wales is firmly in charge of establishing Florida as the Dogpatch of the nation?

This is like handing the car keys over to the talking E*Trade baby.

You don't need the CSI: Tallahassee forensics experts to find Alexander's oily fingerprints all over the smarmy effort to do a parliamentary end-run around the Legislature's committee process to grant the rump campus of Lakeland's USF Polytechnic full immediate independence.

Alexander went into a full Old Yeller mouth foam a few months back when his plot to hand the runaway campus its independence was slowed down by USF president Judy Genshaft and the Board of Governors, which oversees the state university system.

Even the USF Poly faculty opposed independence.

Imagine the gall of it all. People who actually understand how universities work had the gumption to tell the Boss Hogg of Polk County that his idea was bad.

It wasn't as if the board wasn't willing to consider emancipation for USF Poly. But these things take time, most notably the lengthy and detailed scholarly accreditation process, which can run anywhere from three to five years.

Indeed, USF Poly is on the road to independence once certain benchmarks are met involving accreditation, campus construction and enrollment levels. Seems fair enough.

Not to Alexander, a term-limited lame duck in more ways than one. But even the lamest of lame ducks can leave plenty of droppings in its wake. So late last week, Sen. Evelyn Lynn, the body's Miss Teschmacher to the Lex Luthor of letters, stuck language into a budget conforming bill that would grant USF Poly immediate autonomy.

But the petulant poltroon of the Apalachee Parkway was only getting started. Under Alexander's ham-handed authority, next year's state budget includes a $104 million reduction in money appropriated to USF, which translates into only $2,401 per student. By contrast, Florida State University is set to be funded at a rate of $5,470 per student. Could Alexander's Captain Ahab single-minded obsession for retribution be anymore obvious? Or odious?

"Say, you have a pretty nice university there, it would be a shame if something happened to it," is Alexander's position. So consumed with making Genshaft's life miserable, Alexander either doesn't know or doesn't care what he is attempting to do is actually create Podunk U.

What student is going to want to attend a nonaccredited university? What professor is going to be willing to take a job with a school with less credible academic standing than the University of Moe, Larry and Curly? And what potential philanthropist is going to donate to a laughingstock of an institution born from the petty hubris of a declasse soon-to-be former pol?

Ignoring appropriate committees to further pet projects or to punish difficult to deal with legislators has become common practice in Tallahassee. And it's also a sure sign the legislation being passed without proper vetting is more of a train wreck waiting to happen than Rick Perry's presidential campaign.

What else explains bypassing the Florida Senate Higher Education Committee to create the state's 12th university?

Lynn, doing her best Howdy Doody impersonation, channelled her string-puller by feebly explaining it was simply taking too long for USF Poly to meet its benchmark standards. It would seem she knows even less about the accreditation process than the Col. Kurtz of the Capitol.

"And things happen," she cryptically added. And none of it very good when JD Alexander's Florida Senate is in session.

Comments
Looking back at 2017 through the eyes of editorial cartoonists

Looking back at 2017 through the eyes of editorial cartoonists

The annual Editorial Cartoon Round-Up is a thought-provoking recap of a momentous 2017. The gallery containing 32 cartoons from some of the best editorial cartoonists in the country is made available by the Washington Post News Service & Syndicat...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Editorial: Warren’s smart approach on guns, domestic violence

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren would make it safer for victims and police alike with his plan to remove firearms from defendants charged with domestic violence. These cases are toxic enough, and having guns at the ready only adds to a dang...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

The St. Petersburg City Council made the difficult but correct decision this week to reject the proposed sale of a local nonprofit’s minority stake in Bayfront hospital. Despite months of negotiations, there were too many questions, a few suspicions ...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

With misconduct allegations rippling through all levels of government, Gov. Rick Scott has taken the prudent step of ordering uniform sexual harassment policies throughout state agencies. The executive order strengthens protections for victims, which...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17