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COLUMN

Happytown

The week where halftime in Tallahassee brought a snippy House budget and the egregious (if boring) yawn of a redistricting debacle; also, Orwellian un-persons can't run for city office! We are all invisible now.

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Oh, we’re halfway there. Our glass is half-empty/half-full, our eyes are half-open and that half-and-half (not the hooker kind!) is half-chilling our halfhearted cup of coffee. Just one month into its two-month work year, the Florida legislature pulled out some half-baked fireworks, a Haridopolos wigand absolutely no surprises last week to celebrate session halftime. Are you excited yet? Even half-excited? No.

One half of the biggest news to come across the Tallahassee transom was the news that your state House of Representatives had staged a mass love-in and moved forward with a completely reasonable budgetagreement on Feb. 9. Except, as expected, it wasn’t so much an agreement as an audacious Republican Party steamroll. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the House’s version of what a budget should look like – the Senate is taking its sweet “brah” time on this – includes a full litany of awesome indecencies. Sure, House Speaker Dean Cannon’s band of bullies may have tried to make the whole $69.2 billion budget palatable by hooking it around Rick Scott’s $1 billion education increase lie (it doesn’t quite make up for the $1.3 billion in cuts last year, reason argues), but mostly the whole thing – which passed squarely on party lines, natch, 79-38 votes – is a Running With Scissors take on cuts, cuts, cuts: crazy people included.

The House is proposing a broad-based cut to hospitals amounting to 7 percent, a 2.5 percent cut to nursing homes (because that’s smart when the whole world is looking at how horrible our nursing homes are) and absolute removal of podiatric and chiropractic care from Medicaid coverage. Aspiring college students will be happy to know that their tuition will be raised by 8 percent while their Bright Futures scholarships will endure a 9.3 percent hacking. But the biggest news – amid Senate President Mike Haridopolos’ flagging attempts to get his shiny, new, unaccountable private prisons plan to fly with his own party’s rank and file – is the House’s intention to shave nearly 1,500 jobs from the prison system out of 4,500 total public sector state jobs. Let’s see, what else. The budget still includes $2 million for “crisis pregnancy centers” – the little prayer circles of lies intended to misinform pregnant women in crisis – and another $55 million in Public Education Capital Outlay funds that will not be going to traditional public schools; instead the money will exclusively aim to “equalize” privatized charter schools with new-construction money. Democrats – who, let’s face it, are just there for the abuse at this point – balked, of course, but proposed amendments shifting some of the money to public schools instantly died in the fetid Republican air.

State Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, issued a statement on Feb. 9 after voting down the proposal, which he says “pits grandmothers against their own grandchildren and public schools against public hospitals.”

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