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COLUMN

Happytown

The week where prison privatization took a beating, only to place the prisoners of hospitality incomes on the defense; also, amid all the heated religious debate about your ladyparts, the Holy Land Experience became an experience worth getting sued over. Are you experienced?

Photo: Patricia Hofmeester, License: N/A

Patricia Hofmeester


It was the thrill of victory and the agony of three feet last week as master-in-miniature, Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos, ate crow when his beloved plan to privatize 27 state prisons (leaving 3,500 corrections jobs up in the air) died an unseemly, bipartisan death on Feb. 15. How the hell did that happen? Well, Haridopolos had already been publicly cringing about the whole private dancing affair – one that he and his “analysts” had been projecting would save the state $16.5 million – muzzling any senator who dared to decry the plan based on the livelihoods of their respective communities, public safety and accountability, because sometimes running a prison isn’t quite as situationally comedic as running a bawdy hotelin rural 1970s England. Fortunately, 10 Republicans rained on Haridopolos’ foppish parade, sending speculation flying that Gov. Rick Scott would find a(nother) clever way around representative democracy to get his way. As for Haridopolos, he threatened, as usual, to take more cash from health care and education.

“This is what bold ideas are about,” he told the Sunshine State News. “While I was knocking on doors, no one was telling me that we should spend more money on prisons, or that it’s our obligation to keep everyone in the state employ.In fact, it’s the opposite. Our goal is to move forward and try to create a better overall private sector environment so that more jobs can be created.”

But, in the wind-up world of leg-islative lockstep, timing – or, rather, juxtaposition – is everything. Turns out that some of those attempts to “create a better overall private sector environment” are worse than you could possibly conjure in your own dark alchemy basement or temporary sweatshop. On Feb. 15, the Florida House passed HB 7087 doubling the state’s corporate income tax exemption from $25,000 to $50,000 (following last year’s leap from just $5,000), meaning that 3,500 fewer businesses – or a total of 11,500 – would be on the hook for the corporate tax. Though the bill is draped around the notion that this will somehow catalyze a booming manufacturing future for Florida – there are further exemptions for machinery, turbines, electricity and gas – the real sticking point comes in the caveat that in order for a business to qualify for the tax breaks, that business must swear on its dusty old ledger that it does not employ union members. Class war!

“This bill does nothing to sweeten the potsof working families in this state,” Florida Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, told the Florida Current.

Oh, and what about those working families? Well, if they’re working in Florida, odds are they’re working for pennies in the hospitality industry, right? That sucks, because on Feb. 16, the Senate’s Commerce and Tourism Committee voted to move forward with SB 2106, a bill that would lower the base pay of tipped workers – bartenders, servers, everyone else in Florida– from Florida’s current minimum of $4.65 an hour to the federal minimum of $2.13 an hour, so long as an employer could “guarantee” that those employees would still make $9.98 an hour with tips included.

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