Drunken sailors vs. bug-eyed fanatics

No pop. The week in Tallahassee did not start with pop.

It was, at least, Girl Scout Day in the Capitol. It fell to our lieutenant governor, Jeff Kottkamp, to meet the scouts. He did it in the chamber of the state Senate, given that the Senate was not using it.

(In fact, the Senate is not using its chamber until Thursday, in case you are looking for a hall to rent.)

I can report to you firsthand that the lieutenant governor did a fine job, greeting the Girl Scouts with warmth and enthusiasm, and then posing for photographs at the podium with the whole assembly. After that, he went off to speak at an event promoting Safe Teen Driver Week.

If you compare the Monday schedule of the lieutenant governor to the governor's, it is clear who had the more glamorous deal. Charlie Crist was off in Miami touring a health insurer, dropping by the set of the television series Burn Notice, and attending a ceremony to retire the jersey of the basketball star Alonzo Mourning.

All of this meant Monday was not what you would call a day crackling with Important Policy Action from the executive branch. On the other hand, the legislative branch also took a while to get going, with nothing much happening before lunch, and then only a few meetings in the afternoon.

Still, everybody insists that the place is on Super Crisis Red Alert. This week we will see the Legislature's specific ideas for how to fix the state budget, which is a huge mess, since the state expects to take in billions less next year than it would otherwise spend.

When it comes to the budget, the most important division is not between Republicans and Democrats, but between the Senate Party and the House Party. Each side pooh-poohs the other like this:

The Senate (they say in the House) is run by drunken sailors. The Senate wants to expand gambling, tax cigarettes and maybe even increase the state sales tax on sort of a whim. After that, all the senators will go to the bar, get pie-eyed, put all the money in a big pile and set it on fire.

The House (they say in the Senate) is run by reality-denying, bug-eyed, tax-hating fanatics who think we can get by with digging money out of the sofa. They're gonna have to agree to tax something, and come around on some gambling too, or else the lights are going to go out.

Monday afternoon I went to this long and boring meeting of a House "council," sort of a super committee. All the House councils have goofy meaningless names like "Council on Economic Reform, Groceries and Super-duperness." (That's just a made-up example. I think.)

The big fight was about a bill to teach more algebra and chemistry in high school. The trouble was, the bill also would raise the passing grade for the 10th-grade FCAT. So the Democrats and Republicans got into a long squabble, which the Republicans naturally won, there being more of them. Keep an eye out for what happens to this bill, CS/HB 1293, if you are the parent of a future 10th-grader.

They say that a lot of bills will die soon, given that the committee deadlines are approaching and the Legislature is running out of time. On top of that, next week the Legislature will be here only two days or so before leaving for the Passover and Easter holidays. It's a good thing we're on Super Crisis Red Alert.

Drunken sailors vs. bug-eyed fanatics 03/30/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 12:18am]

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