One of the great pleasures of living in Tallahassee is the ability, every Friday, to read Paul Flemming’s article in the local newspaper, the Tallahassee Democrat. Flemming is the state editor for Gannett’s Florida newspapers and floridacapitalnews.com. Before we get into his article from yesterday, a little observation:
There must be some states in the great U.S. of A. who pride themselves on scandal-free government. I’m guessing maybe…Vermont. Does anything really bad ever happen in Vermont? The rest of us are in a race for the title of Most Corrupt. My top nominees (in no particular order) are Louisiana, Illinois, and South Carolina. New York and Florida are runners-up. With the exception of South Carolina, which has nothing resembling a city in the established definition of the word, all the other states in the Most Corrupt race have something in common. They are composed of one large city and all else is the hinterlands. There’s New Orleans…and then there’s Louisiana. Chicago, Illinois. New York City, New York. Miami, Florida. They also have something else in common: in every case, the largest city is not the capital. I might want to throw Georgia into the race, since it is composed of Atlanta and not-Atlanta, but in this case, Atlanta actually is the capital.
One of the things I always love (not!) about political campaigning in Florida is the statement that begins with “Those people in Tallahassee….”. Usually followed by some form of “just don’t get it”. Every time I hear it, I want to take out a full-page ad in the paper saying, “Those people in Tallahassee are the people you sent here. And by the way, you can have them back.”
Very soon, starting in March, the State Legislature will begin meeting for two months, as it does every year. Our mayor is fond of saying that we have two seasons here: football and legislative.
So Flemming talked about two bills that will come before this year’s Session. One state senator is proposing a bill (for the third time) to prevent legislators from voting on legislation which will benefit them or their families personally. No brainer? I refer you back to the fact that this is the third time she’s proposed it. As it stands now, the legislator only has to declare his or her personal interest 15 days before the vote. And this is in a state which has one of the toughest laws in the nation regarding gifts from lobbyists. You cannot even buy a legislator a gin and tonic. As I understand it, this has been a big boon for the bars and restaurants which offer twofers for Happy Hour. Since the second drink was technically “free”…well, you get the picture.
The second bill will prohibit anyone under 16 from getting a tattoo, and will require a parent to be present for anyone under the age of 18 to get a tatto0, and will require licensing by the Department of Health. Flemming says, “A Tallahassee shop tweeted its advocacy for the legislation–that’s how we roll in the Capital; even tattoo artists lobby.”
He also believes the second bill is far more likely to get a hearing, since the hepatitis lobby is far less powerful than the crooked politician lobby.
In other news from the capital of Florida, Bumper sticker of the Year so far: “If ignorance is bliss, why aren’t more people happier?” On the same vehicle: “My Catahoula Leopard Dog is smarter than your honor student”. Outside the South, who do you guess ever even heard of a Catahoula Leopard Dog? You gotta love it.