The Florida State Legislature is a part time organization which pays $30,000 a year to the elected representatives and per diems that max out at $6,000 extra dollars for lawmakers who show up to the annual part time sessions at the beginning of each year. Low paid part time work ensures only wealthy people will run for office in the Sunshine State, a situation that is leading a major South Florida news paper to despair.
Florida used to be a Democrat stronghold like the rest of the former Confederacy after the Republican Party led abolition in the Civil War. It was a centrist party in a calmer era when Governors who knew and cared about Florida grew up in the state they came to lead. Bob Graham and Lawton Chiles were my heroes from that era who steered a course that appealed to the steady center in a state that has seen vast amounts of immigration from people seeking sunshine and not local politics.
Since 1996 the revolution initiated by President Nixon who shredded the social contract that held Democrats together, Florida has been an all Republican state gerrymandered to keep the GOP in power despite a majority Democrat electorate. I had high hopes for Governor DeSantis, a native Floridian who started out with similar political positions to those Democrats in the political center 60 years ago. Then he got ambition and switched his allegiance to a national political agenda on the radical right, which puts him in the odd position of pushing sensible environmental legislation supporting Florida's delicate ecosystems, while charging ahead with an exclusionary political agenda to support his run for President in 2024.
Florida is a pivotal state in national elections but seems oddly incapable of bringing home the bacon. Those good old fashioned pork barrels of yesteryear seem to have passed Florida by, and as someone who used to wonder critically about the give and take of politics in my firebrand youth, I wonder how incompetent are our politicians become. Reliable, dependable support used to be worth some infrastructure dollars or education grants or something, but modern Florida is run by blowhards who never learned to negotiate. Oh well!
Back to the Sun Sentinel linked above. Granted it's the newspaper of record in the blue dot that is southeast Florida but still, their list of ten outstanding accomplishments for the state legislature this year does not speak well to Florida's state legislative process.
For sheer cruelty, this one beats them all. Republicans revived a bill thought dead and used their raw power to ram through a ban on transgender female athletes competing in girls’ and women’s high-school and college sports (SB 1028), sticking it in a charter school bill. This heartless ostracizing of a marginalized community took place despite protests from Democrats, such as Sen. Victor Torres, D-Orlando, who made a deeply moving speech about his trans granddaughter. “We don’t need this!” Torres shouted. “But obviously some don’t care.” No, they don’t.
There is no real reason to expect Democrats will win, especially as the party is doing a sterling job of alienating Latino voters so more of the same can be expected in the next session next January. Until then the Cabinet governs with the Governor and only the Secretary of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs is a Democrat. Imbalance is the rule in Florida.
For me the good news is Florida is fiscally sound and has among the best funded pension plans in the country. They don't pay a ton of money but the money is there for the pay out, which seems a better outcome than a huge pension with no funds to back it in the style of California and Illinois. I feel slightly guilty that poor Floridians bear the bulk of the cuts in the budget but I have long been a believer that term limits come at the ballot box so voting seems more crucial than ever for those seeking change.
I'd like to change the minds of people who park at trail heads in the turning space instead of parking 50 feet back on the side of the road. I will surely fail:
I suppose it's obvious that I rather like this funky strange state of mind, the place that the rest of the country makes fun of, or despises by turns. Things can always be improved and silly lawmaking can be overturned but as we wait for a change in the will of the voters we have that other side of the state to enjoy, and the weird stories and the bizarre eccentricities to keep us amused as sea levels rise and all this lovely weirdness faces the very real possibility of one day being submerged, much to the relief of strait laced people everywhere, them and those who hate mosquitoes and fear alligators.
Lane Pittman from Jacksonville Beach went viral when this picture of himself preceded a hurricane of national interest. He sent the money he made to hurricane relief. That's the other side of the Florida Man stories, the good stuff no one tells you. This is still the state where the interesting stories come to be turned into legends.