Saturday, January 20, 2018
Opinion

King Scott and his legislative minions

A few days ago members of the Florida House gaveled themselves into session, spent 11 minutes gazing at their collective navel, slapped each other's backs while spinning around in their leather chairs and then promptly adjourned.

Some good-government nitpickers regarded this exercise as an absurdly ridiculous waste of time and money, which it most certainly was. But historians might well regard those glorious 11 minutes of public service as the high water mark of the Legislature.

If anything, the House proved that it is quite capable of actually being efficiently unproductive for 15 minutes vs. the majority of its annual 60 day session.

Why waste time with antiquated concepts like a legislature, since the House and Senate agreed to anoint Gov. Rick Scott as the High Regent Plenipotentiary and All-Around Big Shot of Florida?

Normally heads of various state agencies determine how to implement the laws they are tasked with upholding on the assumption they are the experts. How quaint.

Thanks to a legislative abdication, the Shah of Tallahassee has been handed the power over state agency rulemaking, as well as the authority to remove members of local workforce agencies and, just for the fun of it, given a $101 million slush fund to spend as he likes on economic incentives.

As Mel Brooks once said: "It's good to be king."

Why bother having the state's surgeon general be the leading voice on wellness or disease prevention since, as a doctor, he or she has expertise on health stuff? That should be the Potentate of the Apalachee Parkway's job, whose own expertise on matters of health extended to running a company that paid the record fines for Medicare fraud.

You can't deny that, when he's not taking the Fifth Amendment, the Maharajah of the Governor's Mansion knows of what he speaks.

As for the workforce agencies, His Excellency Scott can now boot the executive directors or board members. That ought to really attract candidates who know what they are doing since they'll know their job is vulnerable if the governor wakes up in a cranky mood.

Whew! For a minute there one might have concluded politics might find its way into state rulemaking and personnel decisions.

Now you might be thinking the Legislature has about as much spine as the Vichy Government. Not so! When the Crowned Head of Naples asked for $250 million to spend as he wishes on economic incentives for corporations, the Legislature said: "No, a thousand times no. We'll only give you a lousy stinking $101 million to get by on. So there."

Who is really running the state since the Legislature opted to turn itself into the equivalent of a middle school student council?

Aside from the Mikado of South Monroe Street, you have Tallahassee's lobbyist corps, which a recent State Integrity Investigation report concluded is about as transparent in its activities as the Skull and Bones society.

Florida received an overall grade of "C-" for openness, dragged down in part because of lax laws allowing those trying to sway legislation to make unlimited contributions to political parties. If this were regarded the same way Tallahassee penalizes schools for lousy FCAT scores, you would have to shut down state government for its incompetence.

There are about 2,000 registered influence peddlers in Tallahassee's $127 million lobbying industry, writing and promoting legislation. There are 120 House members and 40 Senate members, part-timers and term-limited, most of whom aspire someday to become a lobbyist. Well, we all have to have our dreams.

So who do you think has the most clout, Caesar Scott and 2,000 checkbooks? Or 160 lambs willingly slouching to the slaughter?

Perhaps it's unfair to suggest the Florida Legislature has all the work ethic of Fredo Corleone. The body did pass a groundbreaking bill authorizing the creation of a specialty license plate for retired members of the House and Senate. As if this would be something one of these folks would want to advertise?

The exact design hasn't been determined yet, although it's hard to imagine a final image that doesn't include a leash.

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