Today is one of our least favorite times of the year: the final day of the Florida legislative session. It's like the dying moments of a drunken high school party, when everyone makes hasty, poor decisions that they will come to regret. So, how have our duly elected representatives spent the past five weeks? Passing crap they probably shouldn't have, like bills allowing handless bike riding and legalizing rabbit dye-ing while as usual ignoring the real problems afflicting the Sunshine State.
Here are the ten worst bills on their way to Rick Scott's desk:
10. Pastel Pets
For years, the only pink and yellow bunnies to be found in Florida were marshmallow peeps. Now, however, the Sunshine State is re-asserting its mastery over those poor, fluffy, little bastards. An amendment to a bill on honeybees will allow pet owners to die their animal companions whatever color they want. "We neuter dogs without their permission. I've never asked my poodle if he wanted a hair cut," Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff said.
9. No More Handcuffing Pregnant Inmates During Childbirth
Legislation passed by both houses would bar female inmates from being restrained during childbirth. Sounds great, but state correctional facilities say that they never do this. Of course, this being Florida, jailers can still 'cuff their pregnant prisoners if they deem them a "security risk."
8. Drugs Are Bad, Mmmkay
After refusing to pee in a cup for the Daily Show, Rick Scott is still all for drug testing his state employees. Bills in both the House and Senate allowing state agencies to screen their workers every three months still have an outside chance at passing.
7.Fast Tracking Deep Dredges
For a state as reliant on environmental tourism as ours, you'd think that more thought -- not less -- would be put into whether or not to deep dredge Florida's ports. But an amendment snuck into a stormwater management bill mandates that judges have only 30 days to weigh the merits of such momentous projects.
6. Teaching 9/11
For ten years, politicians have been telling us to "never forget 9/11." Now we have no choice. Florida Senate bill 1422 requires teachers to instruct their students about the terrorist attacks. An amendment to also require high schoolers to learn about the Civil Rights movement did not pass because, apparently, that would be Big Brother-ish.
5. School Prayer
Tim Tebow, eat your heart out. Florida high schools will soon be chock full of more prayers than Sun Life Stadium on a Sunday. If Rick Scott signs Senate Bill 98 into law, it would allow any student responsible for organizing a portion of any school event, including mandatory assembles, to deliver an "inspiration message." School officials can not "monitor or otherwise review the content of a student volunteer's inspirational message."
4. Look Ma, No Hands!
If there is anything that Floridians of political persuasions should be able to agree on, it's that people who ride their bikes without using their hands are annoying. Yet, apparently, some of those annoying a-holes have clout in Tallahassee. A law sponsored by Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff -- of purple puppy fame -- allows cyclists to peddle hands-free without penalty. Keep the gems coming, Ellyn!
3. No Food Stamps In The Champagne Room
A controversial bill blocking Floridians from using welfare debit cards at liquor stores or strip clubs could yet sneak through the legislature today. Again, however, HB 1401 could be solving a problem that doesn't exist. According to the Department of Children and Families, just .03% ($63,000) of $202 million in welfare debit transactions was withdrawn at establishments with liquor licenses over a two-year period.
2. High School Free Agency
As anyone in Miami already knows, high school sports in South Florida are a messy affair. Recruiting takes place left and right. But legislation soon to be signed by Gov. Scott will make it easier for high school students to transfer from one school to another in pursuit of sports trophies. For the first time, HB 1403 will put the burden of proof on high school administrators to prove wrongdoing if they suspect athletic recruiting. Expect Miami Heat-like superteams to pop up all over the state.
1. Political Redistricting
Florida politicians don't always follow their constituents' wishes. But rarely do they disregard them as blatantly as they did when drawing new congressional districts this year. Despite two constitutional amendments specifically demanding that they make districts fair, compact, and respectful to minorities, the new map looks as gerrymandered as the old one. The Florida Sureme Court is currently hearing arguments on the issue. If it strikes down the map, we could be in for a special legislative session. Joy!
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