When more than 3,000 bills are filed every year, you have to realize that some of them are just plain wacky — but not to the members sponsoring them, or the special interest groups for or against them. These are some of the issues that our elected leaders are debating – or want to debate – in Tallahassee.
Over the coming weeks, I will be looking at some of the more serious bills – election reform, property tax reform, etc. But today, I wanted to brighten the Monday with a look at ten bills that will make you go “huh”?
10. State Agencies/Automated Telephone Answering System
This bill will require all state agencies who use an automated answering system to provide an option for a caller to reach a live person within the first minute. Imagine that, calling your state government and actually getting through to a live person!! The bill also requires monitoriing hold times, to reduce the time spent on hold to less than five minutes. (Here’s a hint: If you’re ever having problems reacing a bureaucrat, call your state representative or state senator.)
9. Employee Fitness/Tax Credit
The bill grants a tax credit of 10% of the expenses related to employee fitness – from installing and operating an on-site fitness facility, to sponsoring an amateur employee sports team, to paying for employee memberships at the local health studio. Considering there is a contest among legislators and staff to lose weight, it seems they are considered about “rotundity” in the rotunda.
8. Off-Road Vehicles/Law Enforcement
This bill will actually permit law enforcement officers to drive golf carts on roads (well, golf carts, utility vehicls, and low-speed vehicles). This smacks of Reno 911 – and I’m not sure what prompted this, but Sen. Oelrich is the former Sheriff of Alachua County.
7. Illegal Alien/Use of Term
SB 2154 – Sen. Frederica Wilson (D-Miami)
This bill would prohibit the use of the term “illegal alien” in any official document of the State of Florida. Yes, yes. I know this is not a new story – Stuck on the Palmetto blogged about it last month, and newspapers (like the Fort Myers News Press) wrote stories about it. It’s not the adjective illegal that Wilson doesn’t like — no, it’s the noun alien: “I personally find the word ‘alien’ offensive when applied to individuals, especially to children,” said Sen. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami. “An alien to me is someone from out of space.” (Um, Senator, it’s OUTER space). Oh, the first two definitions for alien on Dictionary.com are 1. a resident born in or belonging to another country who has not acquired citizenship by naturalization (distinguished from citizen)… and 2. a foreigner. Go figure.
6. Students/Below-Waist Underwear
SB 2780 – Sen. Gary Siplin
This bill provides penalties for students who expose their underwear “in a manner that exposes or exhibits one’s covered or uncovered sexual organs in a vulgar and indecent manner” on school grounds. I would think the primary point of this is to get teenage boys to pull their pants up. I really don’t understand how it can be comfortable to wear pants with the waist at mid-thigh. Thankfully, that style came about after I graduated college (no comments about 80’s styles like the mullet or vest-jacket!).
5. Dead Bodies
SB 2554 – Sen. Victor Crist (R-Tampa)
This bill would allow the transport of “plastinated bodies” in the state of Florida. Tampa Bay area readers might recall the debate over the Bodies exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry. At the time, the state anatomical board had a problem because Florida law requires informed consent from the deceased for use of his or her body for science. The bodies in the exhibit came from China, and legal proof of this consent was in question. Ultimately, the exhibit was as success and was extended for some time. Oh, and in case you were thinking of bringing in a plastinated body, the bill limits this permission to members of the Association of Science and Technology Centers.
4. Airline Travel
I have to think that Senator Bennett was traveling at some point in the past year and ran into a problem – so he decided to file a bill to fix it. The bill would do two things. First, any ticket for any flight originating in Florida will never expire. Ever. Second, if your flight is canceled or delayed more than one hour by fault of the airline, you get a full refund plus whatever that airline’s fee would be if you changed your ticket. Given the Jet Blue fiasco, I almost expect a federal airline passenger bill of rights. But this will do in a pinch.
3. Motor Vehicles/Changing Lanes
SB 172 – Sen. Steven Geller (D- Hallandale Beach)
Okay, I know I am guilty of this – but the bill would prohibit anyone from enterting a line of traffic at anything but the end of the line. It’s basically for the idiots who – when stuck in a traffic jam – decide to either pass on the shoulder or try merging at the last possible second (or sometimes after that point). It would be a moving violation, not a criminal offense. (More on other traffic bills later this session.)
2. Food Labeling
SB 1220 – Sen. Jeremy Ring (D- Margate)
This bill would require all food sold in Florida to include a listing of all spices, flavorings, and color additives. Could it be that Sen. Ring wants to get his hands on top secret recipies? Well, I would say that it might be an issue of food allergies and wanting to know what, exactly, we are putting in to our bodies. (Along the same lines, SB 1628 and HB 309 would require restaurants to disclose whether or not menu times include or are processed with transfats.)
1. Food Services/Toilets/Inspection
Okay, this has to be one of the funniest subject matters I have seen in Tallahassee. The bill requires Department of Business and Professional Regulations health inspectors to include toilet facilities when conducting inspections of restaurants. It also spells out, in detail, the standards for restaurant bathrooms:
- restroom doors must close by themselves;
- customers can’t go through a kitchen to get to the bathroom;
- toilet facilities must be “clean, in good repair and free of objectionable odors;
- floors must be washed and scoured daily;
- trash receptacles must be provided, covered in women’s bathrooms, and emptied when necessary to prevent excessive accumulation of waste material;
- antibacterial soap or detergent and hot and cold running water must be available at each sink;
- paper towels or a hot air hand-dryer must be conveniently located near each sink;
- New automatic faucets must run for 20 seconds;
- A supply of toilet tissue must be provided at each toilet at all times; and
- Each toilet facility must be well-lighted and well-ventilated.
Gotta love our legislators!!
Oh, and one more for Tommy Duncan at Sticks of Fire:
Ads/False, Deceptive, or Misleading
The bill makes it a second degree misdemeanor for a person (or a band) to advertise a live musical performance that infers some relationship between the performer and another recording group. This usually affects cover bands, who might look to capitalize on the popularity of a major band.