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Do we have a "government by the people for the people"?

05/9/2011
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BY

The legislature passed and failed to pass a number of bills during this legislative session. Some have said that the session demonstrated a great deal of work on the part of legislators, while others have said it amounted to a session about cutting business deals.

Some bills of importance:

Bike Safety (SB 118/HB 981): Failed. Legislators do not see as important the requirement that childrens’ bicycle helmets comply with federal safety requirements.

Booster Seats (SB 238/HB 11): Failed. Legislators saw no need to specify safety requirements for children 4 to 7 years old.

Doctors & Guns (SB 155): Passed. Legislators found it necessary to pass a law prohibiting physicians from asking about guns in the household. This often comes up when pediatricians are counseling young parents about household safety for children.

Expansion of Charter School Programs (SB 1546/HB 7195; SB 1388/HB 965; SB 1822/HB 1331): Passed. In one way or another, legislators promoted private charter schools and “demoted” public schools.

Virtual Schools (SB 1620/HB 7197): Passed. This bill is the legislature’s attempt to expand on-line schools and opens the door for the use of tax payer money to go directly to a private corporation, Florida Virtual School, without education professionals’ oversight. Anyone who has taken on-line instruction knows that we are not quite “there” yet, at least for children.

Citizen Challenges (SB 1382/HB 993): Passed. The state and polluters no longer must prove that a project will not harm the environment. The bill shifts the burden to citizens for the very expensive task of proving a project will be environmentally damaging.

Blind Trusts (SB 86): Failed. Would have required the governor and three cabinet members to place personal assets into blind trusts to avoid conflicts of interests when passing legislation, which will directly benefit them.

Elections (SB 2086/HB 1355): Passed. This bill provides for very serious and unnecessary limitations to early voting.

Ethics (SB 2088/HB 1071): Failed. This bill would have prevented lawmakers from voting on legislation that would benefit the lawmaker or an employer or relative of the lawmaker. One would have thought basic good character would prevent this.

Gun Control (HB 45): Passed. Prohibits local government from regulating firearms.

Medicaid (SB 1972/HB 7107, 7109): Passed. All recipients are to be placed into managed care corporations. The bill also places a limited value for the life or injury of Medicaid recipients negligently treated by physicians and hospitals.

Property Insurance (SB 408/HB 803): Passed. Significantly impairs consumers rights in the area of sinkhole insurance coverage and improves insurance companies’ ability to increase cost of coverage if provided. The bill also provides for a shorter time in which consumers can bring claims for damages resulting from hurricanes and windstorms.

Union Dues (SB 830/ HB 1021): Failed. Would have prevented unions from receiving dues through payroll deduction even if employees request them to be paid in this fashion.

Corporate Income Tax (HB 7185): Passed. Provides corporations with additional tax breaks.

Unemployment Compensation (HB 7005): Passed. Cuts state benefits to unemployed Floridians by reducing weekly compensation and limiting the total period in which compensation can be collected.

Leadership Funds (HB 1207): Passed by overriding previous veto. Allows the leaders in the House and the Senate to maintain campaign funds that are permitted to raise and spend unlimited amounts of cash.

Claims Bills: Failed. (5) cases in which awards were given for egregious injuries caused by the negligence of governmental instrumentalities. The bills would have provided for some amount of payment for these individuals; many who have waited over a decade for justice.

You should carefully read the bills and their various outcomes and draw your own conclusions, but, all in all, the legislative session seems to have been particularly good for lawmakers, lobbyists and corporations; but not particularly good for consumers or citizens of Florida.

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