Say this for the people who run the Florida Legislature: They're consistent. Arrogantly so.
Consider the series of bad laws that ruling Republicans rammed through a year ago: three new politically driven toll roads; allowing teachers to carry guns; imposing financial barriers on felons who want to vote; making it harder to gather petitions for ballot initiatives; a legally dubious ban on so-called sanctuary cities; and forcing citizens to pay developers' legal fees if unsuccessful in challenging proposed land-use changes.
This year, the soul-crushing parade of bad policy continues in a Capitol where a small cabal of senators and House members make most major decisions, and rank-and-file lawmakers are bit players who follow marching orders.
These are among the worst moves in the 2020 session:
• Climate inaction: The great challenge of our time, climate change, gets scant attention from a Legislature that's still in denial. But lawmakers want to give $3 million to Florida International University for an institute to study land subsidence — or the sinking of the land, not the rising of the sea.
Republicans have no interest in sensible, modest Democratic proposals such as requiring annual reports on the financial impact of climate change or a mandatory assessment of water infrastructure in cities and counties. If we have five- and 10-year work plans for state highways, why not for a plan to address water infrastructure needs? Because it would cost money, that's why. Better for Tallahassee to bury its head in a sinking land institute.
• Home rule: The Legislature's assault on cities and counties is back with a vengeance. It includes a renewed effort to preempt local laws on short-term vacation rentals of private homes — an idea even Gov. Ron DeSantis dislikes. Also targeted are LGBTQ employment protections, "ban the box" ordinances to help ex-offenders, and an anti-consumer repeal of local oversight of businesses. What happened to the core Republican value that government closest to the people works best?
• Power grabs: With no debate, senators slipped a provision inside a 112-page rewrite of an environmental bill (SB 712) that ends bipartisan Cabinet oversight of the Department of Environmental Protection. Instead, DEP would report to DeSantis. In a separate bill (HB 5401), DeSantis also would grab control of the Office of Energy from Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat. Have you heard DeSantis' energy plan for our low-lying state, which remains dangerously reliant on burning fossil fuels? Neither have we.
• Merger madness: From out of nowhere comes a slapdash plan to merge the smallest state universities — New College in Sarasota and Florida Polytech in Lakeland — with the University of Florida. This rash idea blindsided higher education policymakers, who had no input. Such backroom maneuvering makes a mockery of higher-ed policy.
• Gun-show loophole: Republicans abandoned a modest bill to close the gun-show loophole by requiring background checks on private gun sales, an idea supported by more than 90% of Americans.
The only law the Legislature is constitutionally required to pass each year is a balanced budget. Lawmakers have done enough damage this session. They might as well pass the budget and go home now.
This editorial was originally published by the South Florida Sun Sentinel.