1. Opinion

Editorial: Less is better from the Florida Legislature

Published Feb. 26, 2016

It's not over until it's over. But with any luck, the 2016 legislative session will be best remembered for the bad ideas state lawmakers are killing rather than for the good public policy they are approving. With two weeks left before the scheduled adjournment, let's hope the dead are not miraculously brought back to life and that the trend continues.

Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, has killed several bills, including the National Rifle Association's wrongheaded efforts to allow concealed weapons on college campuses and let 1.5 million gun owners with concealed weapons permits to openly carry their guns virtually anywhere. The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman also refused to hear legislation that allowed stronger action against illegal immigrants. This is not an ideal tactic, but it is in the legislative tradition and in line with the sensible values that seem lost in the gun-mad and xenophobic culture in the House.

An effort to make it more difficult for the public to hold the government accountable for failing to produce public records also appears dead. The Senate approved reasonable adjustments to legislation that would have eliminated the requirement that judges award legal fees in cases where governments illegally withhold public records. But the House appears unwilling to take up the issue at all — which is just fine to leave existing law in place.

The Senate has virtually killed a bill to allow fracking, the practice of blasting water and chemicals under ground in order to release trapped oil deposits. Imagine how chipping away at Florida's brittle topography would harm the state's drinking water supply. And the House sided with public safety and law enforcement by rejecting a measure that would have made self-defense claims virtually impossible to challenge in deadly "stand your ground" cases.

Of course, the final weeks are a lifetime in a legislative session. The Senate should not revive the fracking bill (SB 318) and reject a massive rewrite of state educational policy that has been mashed at the eleventh-hour into two bills (SB 524 and SB 1166). The Senate also should reject the House's attack on the judiciary, a constitutional amendment (HJR 197) that would set term limits for state Supreme Court justices and other appellate judges. The House should reject a Senate bill (SB 250) that would largely tie the hands of judges in deciding child custody in divorce cases.

The less the Legislature accomplishes in the next two weeks, the better for all Floridians.