is facing a fiscal crisis. There's talk of slashing everything from public safety to help for the disabled.
So what burning issue are some of our legislators pushing?
Gifts for themselves!
Specifically, they want more freebies.
After all, what's the point in being a "public servant" if you can't get free steak dinners and open bar tabs?
But fear not, hungry, thirsty and gift-deprived lawmakers. Here comes Senate Bill 1322 to the rescue.
Filed by Tampa Bay area Republican
, this bill would take Florida back to the good ol' days when
politicians could suck up gifts of up to $100 from lobbyists or anyone else without seeking permission.
Apparently shame is no longer just an endangered emotion in Tallahassee; it's officially extinct.
Jones and his fellow legislators know they can't make a straight-faced argument about how they all deserve free rib-eyes.
So the heaping helping of hogwash they've come up with is to argue that they can't meet with well-meaning citizens groups at apple-pie festivals and hot-dog roasts when they're prohibited from accepting free meals.
Jones went so far as to describe the gift ban to the
Times as "the most destructive thing to interacting with our constituents."
Perhaps someone should give Senator Jones the gift of a lobotomy. Or at least a reality check.
Because this is very simple: Politicians are free to meet, greet, listen and speak with every single person on God's great green earth — as long as they don't take something from them.
And if you're incapable of meeting with people without accepting things from them, please give Florida residents and taxpayers a gift — your resignation.
For more on this one — including the argument for why problems with gifts pale in comparison to cash donations — check out the video version of the Malarkey Meter at OrlandoSentinel.com/takingnames.
You may have heard that some state senators recently defied Gov.
, telling federal transportation officials they still supported high-speed rail.
Wondering where your senator stood?
Well, among those still promoting rail were
Those not signing the letter and/or outwardly campaigning against high-speed rail include Republicans
and Senate President
Now for the fun part:
Both Lynn and Haridopolos now oppose high-speed rail (or at least refused to sign the letter of support), even though they voted in favor of the rail package back in 2009.
Conversely, Siplin opposed it back then — but signed last week's letter supporting it.
Still, none of those flip-flops top Panhandle Republican Sen.
, who signed the letter supporting high-speed rail on Feb. 17 — but changed his mind four days later after tea-party protests erupted.
Some of these people have the conviction of a weathervane.
A taxing issue
Wednesday's column about Florida's inconsistent sales-tax policies attracted a storm of support from business owners throughout the state.
I heard from employers from Fern Park to
— all of them frustrated that Florida forces them to collect sales tax without forcing their out-of-state online competitors to do the same.
"You so eloquently said what many of us have been saying for years," said
, the marketing chief of Shoot Straight gun dealer in
. "We are constantly at a disadvantage when our online competition is 6 to 8 percent cheaper right out of the gate. And on competitive, low-margin items, that could represent half of the profit. It's time to do the right thing."
Similar sentiments came from everyone from jewelers in
to appliance dealers in South Florida. Also those who sell pool equipment and flooring — many of the things where sales tax can make a significant difference in total price.
State law, after all, requires sales tax to be paid on online purchases. Florida simply doesn't enforce it, robbing public coffers of as much as $1 billion a year at a time when programs and services are being cut left and right.
Many business owners found this injustice — which costs them profits and ultimately jobs — particularly maddening, given our politicians' penchant for crowing about their "pro-business" policies.
If you want to encourage your lawmaker to speak up for Florida businesses — and ask the state to collect the online sales taxes it is already supposed to be collecting — the legislative switchboard is 850-488-4371. The governor's office can be reached at 850-488-4441.