Romano: 2015 in the running for most pathetic year in Florida politics history

Published Aug. 23, 2015

It is the uncompromising devotion to folly that you have to applaud.

In the face of judicial demands, public ridicule and private heartburn, legislators still managed to end a special session on redistricting Friday in complete disarray.

More importantly, they kept alive the distinct possibility that we may soon be able to proclaim 2015 as the most pathetic year in the history of Florida politics.

Sacrilege, you say!

After all, this is a state that single-handedly held up a presidential election in 2000. It bungled the 1876 presidential election, too. For crying out loud, this is a state that elected Rick Scott as governor. Twice!

Considering such an inglorious history, how could 2015 possibly be in the running as the worst of the bunch?

Simple. It is the consistent stupidity. The relentless undermining and backstabbing. It is the utter dedication to self-interest in the guise of public service.

Truly, it has been a remarkable eight-month run in Tallahassee. Scandal followed by embarrassment followed by ineptness. And all of it without a hint of shame or remorse.

Think I'm exaggerating?

We began with a bang in early January when Scott kept insisting that Florida Department of Law Enforcement chief Gerald Bailey had resigned a month earlier. Turns out, that was a crock. Bailey told the Tampa Bay Times that he had refused to politicize investigations at the behest of the governor's office, and Scott later sent a henchman to force him to resign or be fired.

The problem with that scenario is the governor doesn't have that power. He needed someone from the Cabinet to sign off on it. Except Cabinet members were under the impression, fostered by Scott, that Bailey was resigning on his own.

So the governor lied to cover up the fact he was defying the Constitution to fire a law enforcement official who was guilty of having too much integrity. Yup, the governor Auld Lang-ed Syne the heck out of that New Year's party.

The state House followed by ending the legislative session early — technically, another constitutional no-no — because it refused to accept billions of dollars in federal money so poverty-level residents could buy private health insurance.

That required spending additional tax dollars on a special session to agree on a budget that included even more state spending to make up for the federal money we refused.

As if one special session weren't enough, the state Supreme Court sent legislators back to Tallahassee this month to redraw congressional maps that had been influenced by political consultants in violation of the Constitution. Noticing a trend here?

And still the Republican-controlled Senate and Republican-controlled House could not agree on a map as the Republican governor and the Republican Cabinet looked on.

Yes, while the rest of the country worries about the lack of bipartisan cooperation, Florida is mired in uni-partisan gridlock.

Then there was Attorney General Pam Bondi refusing to back off a same-sex marriage lawsuit that even a first-year law student knew was a loser. There was the gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe that lapsed and still hasn't been resolved.

There was the constitutional amendment protecting wetlands that the Legislature did a do-si-do around to ignore the intent of voters. These are the same lawmakers, by the way, who were gung-ho about allowing guns on college campuses, but unhappy about a request to ban backyard gun ranges in residential neighborhoods.

Finally, there is the governor sticking taxpayers with a $700,000 bill because he got caught violating the state's open government laws.

Granted, none of these episodes matches the attention-grabbing headlines of the 2000 recount. And, let's face it, the rest of the nation has come to expect a certain level of goober-ness out of Florida.

But I still say it's hard to ignore the consistent and widespread insanity coming out of Tallahassee so far in 2015. Hard to imagine what encores our elected officials have planned in the next four months.