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Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

Senate Sponsor of Amendment is a Good Reason Not to Extend Term Limits

This in from the St. Pete Times Buzz:

Legislators like to help veterans — especially on Tuesday, Florida National Guard Day. And some of them despise the eight-year limit on terms. So a proposed constitutional amendment to fix a tax-break glitch for disabled veterans became a vehicle for Sen. Mike Bennett to attach a proposal to stretch term limits from eight to 12 years.

“(Voters) never got a chance to vote on 12 years,” Bennett said at a meeting of the Senate Community Affairs Committee he chairs. “We’re asking that we take one more look and give voters the opportunity.” Bennett’s amendment would take effect in November 2010, so it would affect many incumbents if it is approved by voters.

Forget for a moment about Jacksonville politicians, like Mayor Peyton and others, that would benefit from such an extension. Let’s first check some facts about Senator Bennett and that alone may justify why you wouldn’t want to extend term limits from 8 years to 12 years.

Senator Bennett is widely famous for two things:  

First, he’s famous for the fact that he is one of the most, if not THE most, prolific legislative bill sponsors and/or co-sponsors.  For example, this year alone, Senator Bennett has already filed or co-introduced 70+ bills that are now clogging the legislative system.  The average legislator only introduces 26 bills during the legislative session.

Second, Senator Bennett is widely recognized as a mouthpiece for developers and builders.  If a builder or developer wants it, just ask Senator Bennett, and he’ll be sure to introduce the legislation for you.  He’s apparently never met one of their ideas that he didn’t like. 

For example, Senator Bennett is sponsoring a major rewrite of growth management legislation so that it will be easier for builders to build more homes, offices and stores.  Nevermind that there are currently 300,000 homes and thousands of strip malls sitting empty in Florida in a year that Florida’s population is projected to only increase by roughly 39,000 people.   Hmm…let’s see….300,000 empty homes, 39,000 new Floridians….you do the math.  And those empty homes, storefronts, and offices are often the subject of numerous code enforcement actions and havens for criminals and crimes.  Btw, Senator Bennett should already know that well.  His hometown of Bradenton and the surrounding area has some of the highest foreclosure rates in the state. 

In addition, Senator Bennett is sponsoring a bill that would provide a three year moratorium on impact fees charged by local governments so that builders can flood the market with new buildings without having to pay for any of the services that would be needed by these buildings – such as police, fire, roads, sewer, water, and schools.  Apparently, Senator Bennett thinks that it’s okay that costs for providing those essential services fall on existing taxpayers.

Sen. Bennett has also sponsored a bill that would require random drug testing of 10 percent of applicants for jobless benefits. Anyone who applies for benefits would have to agree to be tested before becoming eligible. The costs of the testing would be borne by those who are tested (as if the homeless and/or jobless have that kind of money).  Not surprisingly, the bill is not a hit with the state’s top substance abuse official.  Bill Janes, director of the Office of Drug Control, said “the legislation is punitive and does nothing to reduce the ranks of the addicted.”

And Senator Bennett is sponsoring another bill that would reduce the number of nursing home inspections.  Consumer groups fear that fewer inspections could lead to lower quality care.  And if you’ve ever had a relative living in a nursing home, then you know there are alot of issues with trying to find a good one that treats and cares for their patients well.

Florida is at an opportune time to diversify its job base and economy – from homes and tourists, to something more sustainable.  But politicians like Senator Bennett can’t seem to escape the old rut of “Build it and they will come.”  So, Senator Bennett – 4 more years of your ideas of what’s good for Florida?  Please forgive me, but I think I’ll take a pass.

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Filed under: Florida, Florida Legislature, Florida Politics, ,

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