Rick Scott's Ridiculous Legal Challenges Have Already Cost Taxpayers Almost $1 Million

When it comes to pushing new laws, Gov. Rick Scott has developed a predictable routine: 1) Propose clearly unconstitutional and possibly insane new law. 2) Get sued. 3) Inspire heavy Daily Show mockery. 4) Lose over and over again in court.

While we all love the Daily Show fodder, steps two and four actually come at some expense to taxpayers. This morning, the Orlando Sentinel tallied up how much cash Scott's blown on lawyers to defend his ridiculous ideas, from his ban on doctors talking about guns to his attempts to drug test everyone in Florida. Turns out he's already spent nearly $1 million in court.

The Sentinel found that, while the Florida Attorney General's Office handles much of the Sisyphean task of defending Scott's ideas in court, the state still farms out hundreds of thousands of dollars to big firms in Atlanta and D.C. for help.

Since Scott took office, the total legal tab -- including the time billed to the state AG's office -- is $888,317.51, the Sentinel reports.

That tally "far exceeds" what Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist spent in court defending their initiatives, the Sentinel found -- probably because Bush and Crist mostly didn't propose clearly illegal ideas.

Speaking of which, here's the Sentinel's breakdown of how Scott's padded the wallets of his attorneys:

Drug Testing Welfare Recipients
Florida's attorney general has handled the challenges, spending $88,782.80 so far preparing for a federal trial currently scheduled for next spring.

Docs vs Glocks
Scott's ban on doctors discussing gun ownership with patients ran up against a little problem known as the "First Amendment" and was killed by a federal court last month after costing almost $28,000.

Voting changes
The Scott-approved plan to limit early voting on Sundays (a naked attempt to keep down black voting) and limits on voter registration so strict that noted rabble-rousers like the League of Women Voters were banned is still working its way through the courts with a running tab of more than $144,000.

Obamacare challenge
Scott's attorney general, Pam Bondi, was among the first to challenge the president's health care reform. In her losing fight to the Supreme Court, which upheld the bulk of the law last month, Bondi's challenge cost the state almost $70,000.

The paper also tallies the costs for some legislature-led legal fights, including changes to state retirement plans -- which has already cost a whopping $499,000 to fight for -- teacher pay and prison privatization, which have tallied about $20,000 in combined court costs.

Hey, at least Scott can point to one industry he's helped to revive (at least in Atlanta and D.C.): high-powered legal firms.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink