Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Popularity Eludes the Legislature These Days

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Popularity Eludes the Legislature These Days

Article excerpt

Byline: Ronald L. Littlepage, Times-Union columnist

For all of you who were too preoccupied with Jacksonville's mayoral race to pay attention to the 60-day regular session of the Legislature, don't worry: You didn't miss anything.

Legislators only managed to pass two bills of significance -- one that could very well double your telephone bill for basic service and another that will give Big Sugar polluters more time to clean up the Everglades.

How did those bills get passed when very little else was accomplished? Both had mega-money and armies of lobbyists pushing them, that's how.

The phone bill hike is particularly galling as the main mantra from the House has been that state government has "to live within its means," which in this sputtering economy will mean slashing critical services.

The same belt-tightening apparently doesn't apply to communication conglomerates that have hired guns to wine and dine legislators to get their way to put more money into their tills.

And just as galling is the fact the Big Sugar-sponsored Everglades bill could end up costing the state $4 billion in federal funding for the cleanup of the River of Grass.

While those two bills passed, left undone during the regular session were such things as implementing the voter-approved smoking ban and the mandate for smaller class sizes, malpractice insurance reform and the only thing the Legislature is required to do by law -- approve a state budget.

I'm reminded of the famous comment made by high-powered Republican lobbyist Mac Stipanovich after the 1999 legislative session: "I don't know what the poor people got," he said, "but the rich people are happy and I'm ready to go home."

Legislators are back in Tallahassee this week for a special session to try once again to pass a state budget. …

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