1. Opinion

Daniel Ruth: There is evil afoot in Tallahassee

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran
Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran
Published Dec. 7, 2016

If you enjoyed our first heart-pounding thriller, Trumpzilla Eats Washington, then please stick around for the second half of our blood-curdling double feature, The Creatures of the Black Florida Lagoonature. You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll cringe in fear. But mostly you'll cry.

Our story begins in the dark shadows of the state capitol, where Richard Corcoran, the phantom of Tallahassee's soap opera of open palms, dwells in the Florida House speaker's chambers. Cue the pipe organ.

Corcoran is a cunning chap. In recent weeks, the speaker attempted to pass himself off as the St. Francis of the Apalachee Parkway by calling for a host of reforms. It would seem the speaker would require a size 7½ halo. Gregorian chant optional.

Corcoran urged greater civility among members, promised enhanced transparency, inveighed against sleazy backroom wheeling and dealing and promised to clamp down on the pernicious influence of the money-changing lobbyists who haunt the Florida Capitol.

And then he blessed everyone's Irish setters.

You could be forgiven if you were lulled into a false sense of confusing the coming Florida legislative session with the Enlightenment. Imagine, a House speaker suggesting it might be a good idea to impose some responsible governance. But this is Florida after all. This is Tallahassee, where hypocrisy is a treasured virtue.

For no sooner had Corcoran nailed his high-minded manifesto of political reform to the doors of Clyde's & Costello's, where many members of the Florida Legislature seek to be re-anointed during nightly services, did the speaker quickly turn into the Mr. Hyde of Land O'Lakes.

The speaker wasted no time casting aside those annoying olive branches to engage in some good old-fashioned demagoguery, lashing out at the state's largest teachers' group as "downright evil."

It seems the Florida Education Association got sideways with him when they opposed the speaker's support of the dubiously titled Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which diverts would-be public tax dollars from public education to a voucher program to allow low-income, mostly minority students to attend private (and largely unaccountable) schools. Or think of this plot as a corporate/private school welfare plan. How … Republican.

There is certainly plenty of evil in this world. Terrorists. Con artists preying on the elderly. Child molesters. Racists.

But a group dedicated to improving the lot of the state's teachers by advocating for better working conditions, better pay to do their jobs and protecting the funding of public schools, rather than forking over public money to the private educational/profit motive complex hardly rises to the level of suggesting the Florida Education Association is a subsidiary of SPECTRE.

Alas, this is Tallahassee, where sober judgment goes to die.

Or consider this disconnect from reality.

The speaker of the Florida House, the second most powerful figure in Florida government, has castigated a group of professional educators as the ISIS of the three R's merely because they reasonably have opposed him on a public policy issue protecting public school funding.

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You may not realize this, but do you suspect there is a secret law in the state that requires one of the first bills to be filed for any legislative session must be a measure to turn Florida into Mad Max meets The Wild Bunch?

That brings us to HB 6001, filed by Rep. Jake Raburn, which would allow concealed weapon permit holders to freely carry their guns in airport terminals, perhaps one of the most high-profile soft target opportunities for bad guys to do bad things. And now Raburn wants to make an already stressful environment for law enforcement even more anxiety-ridden.

Raburn's insane bill already has found a happy-happy-joy-joy cheerleader in Florida's upper chamber in the form of state Sen. Greg Steube, a staunch hot walker for the National Rifle Association.

Speaker Corcoran fumes that those Commies over at the Florida Education Association want public money to be spent on public schools. Oh the malevolence of it all. But more guns in airports? More guns everywhere? What a bully idea!

The speaker is right about one thing. There certainly is evil afoot in Tallahassee.


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