Saturday, April 4, 2009

Florida pol uses disabled vets for cover

I thought that this year's booby prize for hubris was securely held by South Dakota's attempt to cripple term limits just months after a statewide voter referendum reaffirmed them. But that was before news arrived from Florida.

A bill has been floated in the Florida State Senate by Sen. Dave Aronberg (D-Greenacres) that would extend a popular property tax discount to a broader group of disabled veterans. Who could vote against that, right? Well, that's what Sen. Mike Bennett (R-Bradenton) thinks too, so he's used his power as chair of the Senate Community Affairs to tack on an unrelated amendment to extend term limits from eight to 12 years!

Never mind that Florida voters labored to put the 8-year term limit on the ballot and then approved it at the polls by 77 percent in 1992. Or that the legislature's last attempt to gut the law in 2005 was timidly retracted in the face of active citizen outrage. Or that for most of Florida's term limits period, the state has been considered among the best managed in America.

Sen. Bennett claims that he is not doing this just for himself, and there is surely truth to this. After all, Sen. Bennett has distinguished himself as a special interest robot, submitting legislation at the behest of nearly every lobby under the Florida sun. So far this session, he has submitted over 70 bills, more than any other legislator.

Sen. Aronberg is not an innocent victim either, in case your wondering. He is on record supporting the amendment, which makes you wonder if this bill's only real purpose is to serve as cover for these guys' political machinations.

Fortunately, the bill would have to go through the House first, and House Majority Leader Adam Hasner (R-Delray Beach) is skeptical. "I think this is disrespectful to those men and women who have served our country and are disable veterans," he said, predicting its demise in the House. But, if it passed the House, it would still have to be approved by a 60 percent majority of the voters on the 2010 ballot.

Fat chance! But in spite of the fact that the outcome of such an election is nearly certain, experience from other states indicate that millions would be spent by special interests to topple term limits and a good deal of personal contributions of time, money and effort of voters would be required to defend the law.

Isn't this kind of arrogance part of the reason we support term limits in the first place?