Depending on the color of your political tie, March 8 is either a damning red circle on your futility calendar or the beginning of the most well-funded spring- break frat party you’ve ever imagined. That Tuesday marks the beginning of Florida’s two-month legislative session in Tallahassee, which this year is likely to find Democrats shouting themselves down in bathroom mirrors and Republicans attempting to appear humble while they get just about everything they want. In an era when state fiscal matters are of the utmost concern – and a year that finds the state under the titular leadership of a questionable Republican businessman who is a self-professed political novice – it would only make sense that state representatives would be reigning in the fringes when crafting their limited bill entrants into the legislative stakes. But, as with every year, there are some pointed anomalies already creeping their way through the committee maze – little reminders, if you will, of how hard your government is working for you. Here are some of our personal favorites.
HB 125/SB 344 – Sexual Activities Involving Animals
This old bestiality trope raised national eyebrows two years ago when state Sen. Larcenia Bullard, D-Miami, flipped out at a previous incarnation of the text that included the term “animal husbandry” as an exception. The bill died of laughter. Now, in yet another effort to finally make screwing your dog illegal, state Rep. Marty Kiar, D-Davie, has authored a graphic two pages of rules pertaining to animal sex organs (plus anuses!) and the things you might do to them. “Accepted animal husbandry practices” are excluded. Uh-oh.
HB 385 – Obscenity
Firebrand freshman state Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, grew disgusted when he learned of a school principal who was doctoring images of children’s heads onto lewd adult photos and then, erm, pleasing himself. To remedy his moral unease, Grant hopes to write “simulated” acts into the state’s obscenity laws. So, “simulated” lewd exhibition and/or “simulated” contact with clothed or unclothed genitals, however unimaginable, will be illegal.
HB 217/SB 576 – Gambling Devices
Another moral crusade, this one centering on the irresistible temptation of sweepstakes gambling on electronic gaming machines; “addressing the deleterious effects cause to society,” in other words. State Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, has long been afraid of shiny things (he has previously fought against suggestive cigarette lighters), so this assault on fake poker is totally in his wheelhouse. The machines are shredding our moral fiber.
CS/HB 4013 – Television Picture Tubes
Apparently, regulation on the labeling of replacement tubes in television sets – both black-and-white and color – has been a suitable distraction for State Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, R-Orlando. He doesn’t think that companies should be required to mark certain TV parts as used before they are sold to the public. Television was not made to be transparent.
HB 625/SB 760 – Public Food Service Establishments
State Rep. Gwyn Clarke-Reed, D-Deerfield Beach, is a big fan of a healthy breakfast. So much so that she wants it written into law that those places that serve waffles and pancakes must offer sugar-free options to toppings like syrup and jelly on their menus and signage.
HB 4125 – Frozen Desserts
State Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, has a different problem: desserts. Apparently acquiescing to the heretofore nascent frozen yogurt lobby (TCB-why?), Workman is proposing that standard milk-based dessert regulations already on the books do not include nondairy frozen desserts. Somebody’s getting free food.
HB 165/SB 202 – Ice Skating Rinks
Because Florida is a noted hub of ice-sport, State Rep. Peter Nehr, R-Tarpon Springs, thinks it’s high time that the legislature crack down on the invisible killing gases that taint Ice Castles air quality. You know, things like nitrous oxide (ha!), hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide; things that just happen when people skirt a giant ice cube.
HB 451/SB 392 – Commercial Parasailing
Speaking of things no one does, the people who make money off of yanking you into the air with their speedboats are past due for some serious regulation. Actually this bill, titled the Alejandra White Act, is really depressing as it involves a Georgia woman whose parasail rope snapped in Clearwater leaving her to be impaled on a volleyball pole. Carry on.
HB 4111 – Sheep-Killing Dogs
This joins another Plakon bill, HB 4109, in a bizarre dog focus that seeks to remove liability from the laws governing the odd situation where dogs attack livestock, specifically sheep and cattle. What? In related canine news, State Rep. Luis Garcia, D-Miami, is pushing legislation to remove dogs that were previously used in dogfights from the state’s dangerous dogs list. Dogs rule.
HB 681/HB 645 – State Symbols
You may be crouched in a cold corner thinking about how your kids are going to survive pending education cuts, but at least two of your legislators – state Rep. Doug Broxson, R-Gulf Breeze, and state Rep. Chuck Chestnut, D-Gainesville – have loftier concerns. Broxson wants to name the official state flagship to be the schooner Western Union, a 130-foot historic sailboat from Key West, because, well, awesome. Chestnut, a little less ceremoniously, would like the state amphibian to be the Barking Tree Frog. It’s the little things that matter.