Love, we are told, means never having to say you're sorry.
But does it mean having to share your lottery winnings?
That question, or a seriously twisted version of it, has been contemplated all week long in a Seminole County courtroom.
It's a classic he-said, she-said dispute, except the $1 million payday lends more of a he's-lying, she's-lying edge to it.
Here's where both sides are in agreement:...
The problem with Florida is not that its politicians are obsessed with whacked-out policies and brain-dead conspiracies. It's that they're obsessed with Texas politicians.
It's a subtle distinction, I know. Texas has a swagger, a history, an ingrained culture that celebrates anti-intellectualism in an almost endearing manner. On Florida, all of that homespun charm comes off as wanna-be posturing....
In Tallahassee, there are handshakes and back slaps. Lawmakers seem poised to fix the horribly flawed 10-20-Life law, and so justice in Florida will finally be saner.
Yet in the Polk Correctional Institute, life never changes. Not for a man given a 20-year sentence at age 23 for firing warning shots when a group of angry men surrounded his car outside of a bar.
Nor is the world any different in the Blackwater River Correctional Facility. Not for an aging man given a 20-year sentence for firing a warning shot into his living room wall to scare his daughter's abusive boyfriend....
When it came to outrage, the buffoonish abortion bill won easily.
Legislation that would effectively ban abortions in Florida, passed by a state House committee this week, got the big headlines and incredulous gasps from national websites.
Never mind that the bill is basically a joke since it has little chance of making it all the way through the Legislature, and even less chance of surviving a legal challenge....
01/25/16 Economic Development
The movie critic was on a roll. He was talking stars, discussing scenery in Daytona Beach and praising Robert De Niro in Dirty Grandpa. And then, out of nowhere, came his withering critique:
"This is a movie that really should have been (filmed) in Florida," state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Palm Harbor, said during a Senate committee meeting Monday. "It talked about Florida, it represented that it was in Florida, and it was done in Georgia....
01/23/16 Public Safety
Marijuana laws are changing all around us.
From a noneuphoric strain that will soon be grown legally in Florida, to a bunch of communities rushing to decriminalize small amounts of pot, to a proposed constitutional amendment that would greatly expand medicinal marijuana around here.
Like it or not, pot is about to become a larger part of society.
And Florida ain't ready for it....
God bless 'em, the parents came to fight.
They came to fight the status quo. They came to fight for their children.
They marched in Tallahassee on Tuesday carrying signs, wearing neon T-shirts and wielding passion for a tax credit program that helps fund private schools.
They see these vouchers as a chance for a better education and, in many cases, a path for their children to rise out of a lower economic station in life....
This is not a column about innocence. Or guilt, for that matter.
Even as the documentary Making a Murderer has inspired hundreds of thousands to sign petitions for the release of two convicted murderers in Wisconsin, that shouldn't be the story's legacy.
Instead, the conversation should be about recognizing and weighing the flaws in our legal system. It should convince us that no single conviction is more important than the principle of fair trials....
Find the right street corner, and you can be serenaded by the soundtrack of youth. The school bells and cellphones. The teenage drama and prepubescent laughter.
And, increasingly in Pinellas County, the sound of police sirens converging on a not-so-distant avenue.
Youths are being arrested in Pinellas County at a disturbing, and somewhat inexplicable, rate. During the past five years, felony arrests for juveniles in Florida have dropped by 20 percent, yet in Pinellas they have risen by 18 percent....
We are facing a conundrum. A real head-scratcher of a choice.
On the one hand, we can put our full faith and trust in government officials and employees. We can believe they will always tell us the truth and share whatever information we seek. We can count on them to be largely infallible and driven to serve the citizenry in all ways they possibly can.
Or, we can reserve the right to sue them....
01/11/16 Local Government
First, a history lesson:
It was May of 1993 when the subject of a new baseball stadium in South Florida was initially broached by the owner of the Marlins. It would take nearly 15 years and the team would be sold twice before financing and a site for a new stadium were secured.
Next, an observation:
The eventual location — on the grounds of the old Orange Bowl — seemed like a consolation prize after plans to build on the waterfront, in downtown Miami and adjacent to the team's original site all fell through. Subsequently, attendance at the new stadium has been underwhelming....
Here's what the state Board of Education did this week:
Rescued schools, superintendents and Education Commissioner Pam Stewart from a barrage of outrage that would have surely followed had noticeably low school grades been released.
As a bonus, they managed to undermine the entire accountability system.
Before you get the wrong idea, I'm not criticizing board members. Given the hand they were dealt, I think they made the correct decision....
No offense, but Florida voters make lousy revolutionaries.
On our best days, we might spring for an edgy bumper sticker or forward an incendiary email. But when it comes to doing something meaningful — like radically changing the direction and outlook of the state — we are hapless followers of the status quo.
That's not an exaggeration. Technically, it's not even an opinion. It's a quantifiable, if somewhat inexplicable, fact....
01/06/16 Local Government
The man on the phone is sincere. And passionate. He is sharp and reasonable, persuasive and kindhearted.
He is also wrong. Unfathomably wrong.
That last description is debatable, of course. He would argue — and did argue — that it was me who was on the wrong side of reason. And I would bet there are many, many people who would side with Greater Mt. Zion AME Pastor Clarence Williams in this regard....
01/04/16 Working Life
Unlike the previous four New Year's celebrations, the minimum wage in Florida did not go up when a new calendar was introduced last week.
This was probably good news to some (a lot of business owners) and devastating to others (a lot of poor schleps). As for everyone else, it should be instructive.
Here's what I mean:
Eleven years ago, Florida voters took it upon themselves to change the state Constitution with an amendment that immediately raised the minimum wage and also added a cost-of-living mechanism that could increase the rate annually when appropriate....