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  1. Florida Politics

Romano: Imagine how much better life could be without a Legislature

House Speaker Richard Corcoran began the 2017 Florida legislative session by questioning the wisdom and the need to continue funding the state's tourism agency.

To hear Corcoran explain it, money was being wasted, accountability did not exist and the state would get along just fine without so many slackers at Visit Florida.

What puzzles me is why Corcoran stopped there.

If his goal was to root out the tone deaf and the useless in Tallahassee, the past few weeks have revealed an even more obvious target for elimination.

Why not get rid of the state Legislature?

Not the whole thing, of course. Corcoran is clearly the most powerful man in the state, so he has reason to stay. Sen. Jack Latvala and a handful of others have some influence, so they should have a place, too. But that leaves 150 or so other lawmakers who are doing nothing but killing time before Happy Hour.

No offense, but what good are they?

Just to be clear, that's a serious question. I might be offering a silly solution, but that doesn't mean the underlying point isn't valid.

Consider the evidence:

1. Once again, the Legislature failed to come up with a new plan for gambling in Florida. If you're counting, this is the third consecutive session that lawmakers have been talking about revamping an agreement with the Seminole Tribe and yet have accomplished squat. Not that it's important, or anything. It's only a billion-dollar industry.

While we're at it, the Legislature also failed to address a workers' compensation issue that is supposedly a crisis. And Florida remains one of the rare states without a meaningful driving-while-texting law. And the implementation of the medical marijuana amendment, which should have been a slam dunk since two dozen other states have already blazed that path, was never completed. Oh, and by the way, we're still waiting for that Florida version of expanded Medicaid that Corcoran promised a few years ago.

These are basic issues. Critical issues. And yet this Legislature is too inept to do its job.

2. More than ever, legislators have proven to be a spineless group of lemmings. Other than a handful of rare exceptions, these people are either too scared or too dim-witted to think for themselves. Republicans are lap dogs for Corcoran, and Democrats seem to think whining is an actual strategy. Neither party has enough independent thinkers.

3. The most important thing they do — the one thing they are required by law to do — was apparently done without the input of 99 percent of the legislators. The budget was hammered out in private with negotiators from the House and the Senate, while the rank-and-file tried not to look like wallflowers.

It's almost comical when you think about it. The Legislature is set up to create autocratic leaders who can make or break careers. So that means the most feared man in government is not the governor in 2017, but the House speaker. Corcoran has never topped 10,000 votes in his own Pasco County district, and yet has 20 million Florida residents at his mercy.

So we are left with legislators who pander on gun bills, posture on education reform and ultimately whistle and turn their heads as party leaders tell them how they should vote on every issue.

If that's the best we're going to get out of our Legislature, we could probably save a lot of money and embarrassment by just telling them to stay at home.

The only downside is we'd have to look elsewhere for guaranteed laughs.

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