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Diane Roberts: Welcome to Tallahassee's Festival of Bad Ideas

OCCUPIED TALLAHASSEE – Some Florida towns have a strawberry festival; some have a seafood festival or a jazz festival or even a frog leg festival. Here in Florida’s capital, we put on an annual Festival of Bad Ideas.

Its other name is the Legislative session.

Come spring, legislators swarm, careening madly down our narrow, pretty streets like palmetto bugs lit up with a big dose of Raid. They land first at the Motherhive on Adams Street: that is to say, the Associated Industries pre-session cocktail party, where lobbyists keep the nectar flowing, then settle in the capitol the next day to build their nests, venom sacs full of poisonous bills.

I know you can’t wait. Here are some of this year’s most impressive Bad Ideas:

• Last November, a disturbed person named Myron May shot two students and a librarian on the FSU campus. Cops arrived quickly and shot the shooter. How to make this better? More guns! SB 176 would repeal the ban on campus concealed weapons. Because young, drunk, sleep-deprived, immature, emotionally volatile Americans have rights, too.

Marion Hammer

Marion Hammer

Former NRA president and passionate barrel-licker Marion Hammer says the only people fighting this All-American legislation are communist egghead professors, the very ones who failed to embrace the “honorable statesman and scholar” John Thrasher as president of FSU.

That would be the same John Thrasher who opposes guns on campus.

• And speaking of statesmen, scholars, and minimally-qualified state university presidents, Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, doesn’t think Florida taxpayers should worry their pretty little heads over who might head our taxpayer-funded institutions of higher learning. SB 182 takes the selection process out of the public view. Citizens won’t be part of the process any more. None of that “asking questions” and “commenting” nonsense. The Board of Trustees (who always know best) will choose somebody and tell the rest of us when they feel like it.

Hays claims we need this sunshine exemption because we won’t get top candidates if their current employers know they’re applying elsewhere. Dang! If only we’d had this law last year, Elmira Mangum, president of FAMU, and Kent Fuchs, President of UF, wouldn’t have had a chance, what with them being losers from some loser college in New York. Cornell, I think they call it.

Never fear: Statesman and scholar John Thrasher would still have become FSU president.

• Sen. Anitere Flores of Miami keeps trying to make it hard for women to exercise their constitutional rights when those rights are SO WRONG. Her bill, SB 724, would force a woman seeking an abortion to wait 24 hours, adding to a law that requires doctors to tell women all about that cute little zygote.

• Suffering tobacco corporations would get relief from paying damages in 4,500 pending cases. Back in 2006, the Florida Supreme Court ordered plaintiffs who had been part of a large class action suit to file as individual plaintiffs. They did, but the wheels of justice turn slowly. Now Sen. Garrett Richter, with SB 978, wants the courts to stop picking on Big Baccy. They’re simply honest merchants of death, trying to make a living.

• Frank Artiles wants to save Florida from those who would violate the sacred space of the public restroom. HB 583 requires that only those who emerge from their mamas’ wombs packing lady-parts may use the facilities set aside for, you know, ladies. If you now sport, or ever did sport, dangly tackle, it’s the gents for you, sonny.

Miami-Dade County recently passed an ordinance forbidding discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression. So Rep. Artiles answered the call to action and crafted a bill which says anyone crossing the deep, God-ordained chasm of genital determinism can be jailed for a year. The citizen discovering the pervert – I mean, transgendered person – in the wrong stall, will be able to sue that transgendered person for damages and attorney’s fees. Plus, if the restaurateur or store owner fails to make sure no trans-type ever uses the wrong potty, he or she may have to pay damages to customers.

Obviously, it would be nerve-shattering to mosey up to the urinal, whip it out, and have the guy peeing next to you say, “Guess what? I was BORN A WOMAN!” Or what if you suspect that the woman refreshing her lipstick while you wash your hands there in the Little Girl’s Room is, was, whatever, in fact, a man?

I’m not clear on exactly how this would work: would an employee have to check out your junk before you entered the stall? Rep. Artiles isn’t sure, either. He’s just worried about the slippery slope: “A man such as myself can walk into the bathroom at LA Fitness while women are taking showers, changing, and simply walk in there. Someone can say, ‘What are you doing there?’ Under the ordinance, I don’t have to respond. It’s subjective. If I feel like a woman that day, I can be allowed to be in that locker room. I don’t know about you, but I find that disturbing.”

Me, too, Bro. Me, too.

Diane Roberts has been writing about the Florida Legislature since 1983. Her new book on college football, Tribal, will be out in October. 

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Diane Roberts teaches at Florida State University. Her latest book, “Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America,” will be out in paperback in the fall.

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