Not to pick on the Sunshine State, where I was reared and the 2000 election was sorta decided, but it's always been the crazy-news nexus of the universe...and that was before last year's elections, which handed legislative supermajorities and every state cabinet office over to the GOP—including the governorship, to tea party-friendly (and common-sense-challenged) Gov. Rick Scott. In recent weeks, we've detailed the hilarity that ensues when tea partiers decide to dismantle the protections of government that had been assembled by Democrats and Republicans alike in this, the fourth-largest state in the union. Included in the fun:
But wait! There's more! Here's a roundup of the latest Tallahassee terror from just the past three days. If we have time, this will probably become a regular feature. There should be no shortage of down-South silliness, at least until the 2012 elections.
1) The anti-government, anti-tax GOP has finally found a solution to its budget woes: Hike up the cost of state education! College tuition will likely rise 15 percent next year (again), the maximum permitted by law. But reducing access to public colleges for the worst-off students may not be enough to kill off the state's deficit woes, so other steps will need to be taken, like:
2) Killing off tenure for college professors! It took all of a few minutes Tuesday for a state House committee to approve a measure that would force all professors into one-year renewable contracts and leave them vulnerable to firing for "poor performance," however that's defined. (We guess it has something to do with how much pro-union email you forward.)
3) What's another quick way to "save" government money, steer contracts to friends, and mess with a Democratic state stronghold? Privatize the jails—especially in blue counties! On a straight 15-8 party line, the House appropriations committee approved language to turn all of the Broward and Miami-Dade County jails over to private firms. Hopefully, they can be filled with freshly convicted felons before the next election, amirite?
4) GOP senators are also moving forward on a bill to make evictions of tenants easier in Miami-Dade, which is ground zero for the mortgage bust...as well as a Democratic bastion where it's much harder to vote when you don't have a place of residence. (Maybe they can ship transients to those newly privatized jails.) Even law enforcement was against this one. But hey, they're unionized public employees! Who can trust 'em?
5) God, it's so hard to become a barber in Florida, what with needing a license that costs money! Thank goodness GOPers this week are speeding a "Deregulation of Professions" bill, which would get rid of the state's agencies for licensing and regulating
"yacht & ship brokers, auctioneers, talent agencies, athlete agents, persons practicing hair braiding, hair wrapping, or body wrapping, interior designers, professional fundraising consultants & solicitors, water vending machines & operators, health studios, ballroom dance studios, commercial telephone sellers & salespersons, movers & moving brokers, certain outdoor theaters, certain business opportunities, motor vehicle repair shops, sellers of travel, contracts with sales representatives involving commissions, & television picture tubes..."
How much will this triumph of deregulation save state taxpayers? It will save them negative $6 million, and negative 100 jobs. Which is to say, it will cost $6 million and 100 jobs extra over not deregulating (also known as, you know, regulating). Buy with confidence, Floridians!
6) Also worth not doing, according to GOPers: requiring tire sellers to tell you how old the tires are when you buy them. This bill was sponsored by a Republican senator, who lost sight in one eye due to an accident caused by blowout on tires that were too old. His party overruled him.
7) Florida Republicans would like to pass a "fetal pain abortion bill" soon. Because, you know, everybody's doing it.
8) Speaking of public employees, have we cut $1 billion from their pay and benefits yet? Are they still getting raises to match the ever-rocketing cost of living in Florida? Yeah, let's get on that, shall we?
9) Also, GOPers are not going to kill state workers' rights to bargain collectively, since they don't really have that right in Florida anyway. But what they can do is make it illegal to have workers' union dues directly debited from their state pay. The sponsor of this bill says tons of union members have called and written him to support the plan. Too bad they couldn't find a record of a single supportive union member when the St. Pete Times requested said records.
10) Finally, Rick Scott's got problems. First, the good news: His approval rating has remained steady since he took office...at 32 percent. The bad news: His disapproval rating has skyrocketed to 55 percent, which "makes him the least popular currently serving governor," according to Public Policy Polling (pdf).
Also, one of his showcase plans is in serious danger of imploding, again: As his first act in office, this prophet of deregulation signed an executive order to freeze all new rulemaking in every state government office until his administration could review and approve each one. Too bad he never announced how the myriad rules would be reviewed or by whom...but then, that would be creating a new rule for rules, wouldn't it! Damned government waste! In any case, Scott's rulemaking freeze is now being challenged in court: He's being sued by a blind woman in Miami who lives on food stamps, who says her ability to reapply for food stamps online would have been improved by one of the rules Scott's office is sitting on. The woman is being represented by Sandy D'Alemberte, an ex-president and law professor at Florida State University whose penchant for bowties, suspenders, and playing the simple Southern lawyer could spell even more trouble for the beleaguered governor. Hell, he could even see his popularity slide further. Wait...no he couldn't. No, really, it's statistically unlikely to happen.
But if it does, rest assured, dear reader, it will be in the next Sunshine State roundup!