For the past several months Floridians have wondered if our state legislature accomplished anything during the recent 2012 session. Initially, it seemed they didn’t do much at all beyond slashing higher education funds and furthering the agendas of various special interests. But immediately following the session, we discovered that they actually did a lot… of damage.
Back in March, just as state senators were returning home to their districts (travel financed by taxpayers, of course), state senators were forced to do a U-turn back to the capital in Tallahassee for a special emergency session (once again, at taxpayer expense) because the Florida Supreme Court found that 10 of the new Senate districts they had just redrawn unconstitutionally favored Republican incumbents. Now the state is embroiled in lawsuits challenging no less than seven of this year’s signature legislative “achievements.” And, naturally, Florida taxpayers are stuck with the legal fees to defend these potentially illegal laws with the current tab at over $888,000 and counting.
To add insult to sodomy, the state has lost the first round in virtually all of these cases. They include challenges to laws such as requiring welfare applicants to submit to drug tests (a federal judge granted a temporary halt to the program pending further litigation), a prison privatization scheme that a judge shot down, and the so-called “Docs v. Glocks” suit against a law that disallowed doctors to ask patients if they owned a gun (this was declared a violation of doctors’ free speech rights in court).
In litigation, the only winners are the lawyers, who will, no doubt, return some portion of their fees to the politicians who hired them in the form of campaign contributions. Ah, the circle of life!
I realize it’s borderline quixotic to demand our lawmakers make laws that are, y’know, legal, in Florida, where there are two simple steps to governing: Taxpayers pay the government to make a mess, then taxpayers pay to “clean it up.” Again and again.
Welcome to This Week in Florida.
-In 1984, struggling to generate start-up money for Bain Capital, Mitt Romney traveled to Miami, to meet with a group of cash-rich Central American oligarchs (Miami has more Central American oligarchs per capita than Central America). A recent report reveals that some of those early South Florida investors were families that also helped finance Salvadoran death squads, responsible for the slaughter of nearly 35,000 in the early 1980s. Oops!
- Girls Scouts beware: It’s not safe to knock on doors in Florida anymore. For the third time in two weeks, a person just trying to do their job was threatened with a gun. In one case, a door-to-door meat salesman was shot and killed by an irate homeowner.
- The handful of Floridians who don’t own firearms will use just about anything as a weapon. On Tuesday, a Palmetto man shoved dog feces in his mother’s face after an argument over vodka. Well, that’s one way to get shitfaced! (Cue rim shot.)
- This didn’t happen this week, but it’s important: Miami-Dade County politicians manage to fork over hundreds of millions of public dollars for a baseball stadium to enrich the private enterprise of wealthy businessmen, but can’t seem to find the dough to repair our swiftly deteriorating infrastructure. There is a ticking sewage leak "time bomb" in Biscayne Bay that local leaders have been warned about for years. They finally took notice when someone brought to their attention the impact that a shit-covered shoreline would have on the tourist trade.
- Here’s a headline that might disprove the adage, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity”: Orange City councilman says child-sex fantasy email was just a joke.
- No one is immune here in America’s foreclosure capital: The parents of American Olympic gold medalist swimmer Ryan Lochte are facing foreclosure on their Volusia County home. Fortunately, there’s a pawn site offering interest-free loans to financially strapped Olympians who put their medals up as collateral.
- Someone should tell Spirit they don’t have to do anything more to prove that they’re America’s worst airline. The Miramar-based company is now the defendant in a class action lawsuit accusing them of deceiving passengers over a “usage fee.” Which sounds about as useful as Ticketmaster’s “convenience fee” is convenient.
- City of Miami Beach taxpayers discovered they have to pay even more money (on top of severance and a lifetime pension) to their fired city manager, a man who oversaw the town’s descent into absolute corruption. This happened the same week that the former lead code compliance inspector for the city announced he’ll plead guilty in a nightclub shakedown scam uncovered by the FBI. And the same week a carpenter working for the city attacked a co-worker with a machete. South Florida: Where Carl Hiassen novels come to life!
- A security guard in the Manatee County School Board building led police to a naked man sleeping on a couch in the Parent Information Center. 43-year-old Barry White (really) told the officers he thought he was in his hotel room. The officers suspect bath salts might be involved. Because why not?
- Security cameras captured a man going door-to-door at an Orange Park Motel with an infant in his arms, allegedly trying to trade the baby for food. Fortunately no bath salts were involved; otherwise, he might have just eaten the baby (who was later found safe by the cops). And no charges were filed against the man, so everything turned out okay, I guess?
- A New York man who cleaned out his wife’s bank account and faked his own drowning death off Long Island was found alive in Florida. His wife is pretty pissed.
- Florida Justice: Over the last two weeks, Lee County Sheriff’s deputies captured a killer, released him, he killed again, then they shot him dead.
- HCA, the nation’s largest for-profit hospital chain, which Florida Governor Rick Scott ran while they committed over $1 billion in Medicare fraud, is in trouble again. This time, doctors at several of their Florida hospitals are accused of performing unnecessary and even dangerous cardiac procedures to drive up profits while needlessly putting patients’ lives at risk.
- Homestead: America’s worst town? Just this week, the State Attorney’s Office released a video of a Homestead cop allegedly assaulting an unarmed 70-year-old man outside a bar for no reason, a Homestead Chinese restaurant was shut down after inspectors found 75 live cockroaches in the kitchen, an armed female suspect was shot and killed as Miami-Dade police rescued two kidnapped teenagers who were being beaten and tortured in a Homestead trailer park, and another Homestead cop was fired for pulling over a woman, putting her into his squad car, driving her to a dark lot, and threatening her with arrest unless she showed him her breasts.
- Former Minnesota Vikings player Michael Bennett plead guilty in a South Florida tax refund and identity theft scheme that feds say also involved former Oakland Raiders and New York Giants defensive tackle William Joseph.
- It’s a tough real estate market in South Florida right now. A house in Indian Creek Village, originally listed for $60 million in 2011, was just sold for $47 million. I feel for the seller, having to take that hit. Though they still managed to break the record for the price of a single-family home in Miami-Dade County. Oh, and the buyer was an unnamed Russian who closed the deal in cash. We might be hearing more about that later.
- A speeding woman in Marion County led police on a car chase before hitting an oak tree. The reason she fled from cops? She was driving topless to surprise her boyfriend and was too embarrassed to pull over.
- Just made available: incredible audio recordings of police interviews with Miami Causeway Cannibal face-eating victim Ronald Poppo, in which he vividly describes his gruesome attack and the frenzied mental state of his attacker, Rudy Eugene.
- Eighteen Cubans came ashore on Riviera Beach in a homemade boat using a 1950s Russian car engine.
- What a bloody mess: A woman is suing the Citrus County Sheriff’s Department, claiming she was pulled over for rolling through a stop sign and strip searched at the side of the road (in front of her two children), when an officer forcibly yanked out her tampon.
Billy Corben is the co-producer and director of Cocaine Cowboys, The U, and the upcoming Broke for ESPN 30 for 30 Vol. II, among other films. He also runsThe Billy Pulpit.