Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tallahassee - Bought and Sold (business as usual)

If you don’t think the Florida Legislature is being bought and sold, you’re naïve.  If you think it’s okay how they take money in exchange for favors, you’re part of the problem (and probably a Republican).  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, heaven help us.  This state and country is in big trouble.
Here’s a graphic and nauseating example.
Small, so-called craft beer makers, microbreweries, are now allowed to sell their beer in half-gallon sized containers and in quart-sized or smaller containers.  Recently, they decided they needed to also sell beer in gallon-sized containers like the big boys do because of its popularity.  A reasonable business strategy - responding to the needs and wants of their market.
To do so, however, the law would have to be changed.  So they went to T-Town, of course, expecting it to be a simple and positive thing to ask of their esteemed elected leaders.  It would help the small guys grow their businesses and the craft beer industry in general.
Enter some cagey, less than ethical, competition-hating, opportunists of the dark side of “free” capitalism, the beer distributors.  With fists full of green they ask their “friend” and president of the senate, Don Gaetz, to help.  The outrageousness of what he agreed to do is exceeded only by his actually doing it.  Simply put, it flies squarely in the face of acceptable ethics, honest free enterprise and the thoroughly American spirit of a competitive, open and free market place.
President of the senate, Gaetz, eager to help his friends, sponsored Senate Bill 1714, that would force the microbrewers to first sell their product to the distributors and, after they mark it up, buy it back from them regardless of whether or not they actually distribute the product!
Sound crazy?  It’s a true.  Google it.  You’ll find the legislators supporting this idiocy are those who have received heavy political contributions from the distributors.  It is nothing short of bald-faced bribery and if you’re not outraged, you need to move to some other place where such activity is considered part of the culture, because it's not here … yet.
Thank goodness there are some house members like Representative Dana Young (R-Tampa, House Majority Whip) who are calling this what it is, “punitive” and “absurd.”  
She asks, “Why would the Senate want to do this? It goes against every free market, small business principle we have?” 
We’ll see what happens.
Meanwhile, it leaves you with something  ofa deficit of warm and fuzzies about the ethics of our elected reps in T-Town and those governing our lives, doesn’t it?
Now, here’s my point in telling you about this.  Carry the thought to the topic of water and the state’s dependence upon an adequate flow of unpolluted, salt-free, and affordable quantities for its future.  Without it, we are in very deep trouble.  People living here now and in the future; tourists who want to visit us; current and future businesses large and small from every sector of our economy; and, fundamentally, a healthy and beautiful natural environment that makes Florida such a uniquely attractive place to live, work, and have a bit of fun; all, must have and continue to have, adequate clean, fresh water to thrive.
I’m confident you cannot rationally disagree with that last statement.  Thus, I urge you place this base display of failed governance regarding microbreweries in context with what’s happening to the Senate’s Springs Protection bill, Senate Bill 1576, sponsored by Senators Simpson, Dean and others.  It is in serious trouble.  What began as a rational and thoughtful approach to an aggravated problem that is growing worse by the day, is being systematically pricked apart and weakened.  If we want to know by whom, the situation of the microbreweries is instructive.  Just follow the money.
It would be my guess that big agriculture, mining companies, power companies, oil companies and land developers of all descriptions are tossing big green at those who will openly or covertly oppose this bill, Senate Bill 1576.  Include, if you will, a review of House members who fit this wrap, especially House Speaker, Will Weatherford.
The fate of this much needed legislation is unfolding in Tallahassee even as I write this.  The Bill is scheduled to be considered for further amendments by the Senate Appropriations Committee sometime between 9 until 6 today, amendments that will render its purpose either meaningful to the future of the state or just another destroyed opportunity for the legislature to do something good for Florida and its people rather than the ever-writhing and slithering moneyed special interests.
If you care, do something.  Call and/or email your Tallahassee representatives and the Governor today … now.


  1. I was shocked to see the comment "If you think it’s okay how they take money in exchange for favors, you’re part of the problem (and probably a Republican)." As a conservative and Republican I can't believe you think corruption in government is related to party affiliation. I am just as outraged by these crooks as you are. What a terrible bias you just revealed. It puts in question your judgement as much as revealing a racial bias or other emotional responses to serious issues would. As Americans we all want our government to be honest, ethical people and are so frustrated by the corruption we see at every level. We need to band together to fight it rather than dividing ridiculously along a party line each thinking the other is the cause of the problems. I think you should apologize to 50% of your readers for that comment!

    1. The writer is a Republican...

    2. Okay, so you’re outraged. I’m hoping a lot more Republicans will be outraged, because it means they might still have some sensitivity toward the ugliness you apparently agree is becoming rampant in this state and country, i.e., the fact that big money is corrupting our representative democracy form of government. Political leadership is no longer about representing The People. It’s all about serving the interests of those who give you the most campaign dollars. I took a shot at my own Republican party because it is so obvious that decisions coming out of Washington and Tallahassee that are generated by Republicans mostly serve big moneyed interests. I don’t deny that when Democrats are in control campaign contributions can be just as corrupting but at least they have a Party mission that requires them to be more sensitized to the voices of The People and not so much dollars. The historic conservative Republican who can participate in reasonable and effective compromise, who can see the need to significantly reinvest in the country’s decaying infrastructure, who understands the genuine health needs of America, and who wants to genuinely reduce the country’s debt and trade deficit by smart cost reductions … has been pushed into a closet. He/she no longer has voice. They have been overwhelmed by demagoguery. I’m glad you are outraged and that you are willing to speak up, but understand, unless I’m mistaken, we are outraged about the same thing. At least we should be. Thank you for the comment, Pat.

      PS – Sorry but I don’t get your reference to racial bias. Nothing I said had any racist bent to it that I can discern. Certainly none intended, anyway.

    3. Clearly Patricia's comment is well intended, but it exemplifies the fact that she is a minority within her own party. If indeed she is a "conservative Republican" and is as 'outraged by these crooks as you are' then maybe she should put her money with mouth is and start a grassroots effort to stop it. These environmental bills that begin as well meaning in the House are so watered down by special interests by the time they reach the Senate, that they have a grand title and no substance. Your average Joe Voter doesn't understand how watered down the legislation is, but because it has a grand sounding title they will vote 'yes', no matter how watered down the law is or what (meaning who) it 'really' protects. Rick Scott has systematically destroyed all of Florida's environmental agencies and the statutes and regulations that took decades to enact. He has done all of this in 4 short years. I vote Democrat, and any candidate with a personality (Scott's is absent) and a 'true' unselfish desire to preserve or State's ecology while building our infrastructure will get my vote. I will 'organize' knock on doors and make this happen. Anything to undo the damage our elected crook of a Governor has done in his 4 year tenure! His one and only term. Mark my words, 'only term'!

    4. Poor Patricia. She probably didn't read the part about the Republican legislators who are sycophants, being bought by ALEC (see ALECexposed.org--a nonprofit, bipartisan organization which has finally been able to expose graphically to the naive public how ALEC's BigCorporate owners have jollied-up your REPUBLICAN legislator-customers so they file ALEC-written bills all over the nation AGAINST YOU,PAT and all of us.

      Just Go there and click on your state to see a Partial list of those sycophants including FL Speaker Weatherford and probably most of your own FL Republican legislators! I personally see that in action every day I am in Tallahassee! IT's NOT DEMOCRAT-RUN, it's REPUBLICAN'S LINING UP TO LINE THEIR POCKETS FROM ALEC AND BIG-BAD-BOYS , THE KOCH BROS.
      If all this is brand new news to you, JUST go Google these names.

      Wake up. Sweet Naive Child Pat! from another deceived Floridian--BUT I stay UP on the news. See DailyKos online etc.

  2. sonny! brilliant commentary, once again. i shall call the guv, again, today. his leadership on this is missing in action.

  3. I love your words, passion and directness when describing what is happening in Tallahassee. I wish you would get this in multiple newspapers around the state...pronto! Keep it up!

  4. Sonny, this is great writing and analysis.... You are right - money trumps all else.

  5. Kudos Sonny. Every governmental agency which has been around for a while has been captured by the regulated businesses, including the SEC and the FBI. It is documented that that control is corrupt and that It will be very hard to dislodge. What do you suggest? It is not a democrat or republican issue. Power corrupts.

    1. RIGHT, Anonymous Kudos Sonny, about power corrupting in many cases (just that I myself Never went there because I was on a Mission for the average American, period).

      WRONG on saying it's an issue for both major parties: GO LOOK AT WWW.ALECexposed.org, click on the list of legislators lining up to do ALEC'S bidding---> ALL THOSE ON THAT PARTIAL LIST IN FLORIDA ----THEY ARE ALL REPUBLICANS as well in other states.

      So, tell me again that Dems are in ALEC up to their knees? WRONG

  6. Sonny,
    As much as I read and often support our mutual concerns about water issues affecting Florida, it doesn't encourage me to continue doing so when you put a wet blanket on me and many others for being Republicans! (See your 1st para) it's like me saying only Marines would over-pay to buy jug beer from a distributor, and then ask you to buy me one too. HOORAH!

    1. Yes, I appreciate and respect that. It’s just that even though I’m a Republican like you, I believe the party has gone far awry. The concept of being a Conservative has been robbed from us. It has been morphed by the likes of Grover Norquist into the thought that any means of making money is justified no matter what consequences result upon The People. And pity the poor soul who suggests that investing in the health of our natural environment, the health of our society and its people or even something as fundamentally important to the country’s future as highways, bridges, mass transit, alternative water development and wastewater facilities, for he will be accused of spouting Socialism. Am I upset? Yes, sir. And it’s the unethical disbursement of big money (a la Koch brothers) to receptive politicians that’s corrupting this country. It has gotten a strangle hold on America.

      I know Marines who will overpay for a jug of beer if they have no other choice, me included. But lookout if they suspect they’re being played as fools.

    2. Sonny, I understand your strong feelings and stated position. There are more and more R's who agree with you, but believe there's no place to go. It's like trying to find things made in America - - totally frustrating!

  7. Sonny: I read your impressive Bio. I too have been involved with the environmental agencies in Florida, last as Administrative Assistant to Jay Landers and Acting Assistant Secretary of the Department of Environmental Regulation, Research Coordinator of the Department of Natural Resources Coastal Management Plan, former Environmental Law Officer & Biologist for the Department of Pollution Control and Director of the Division of Land Management and Bureau Chief of Environmental Permitting for the Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund. I also helped set-up the St. Johns River Water Management District and was sent to the Florida Keys by TIITF Director Joel Kuperberg to stop the illegal dredging and filling of wetlands and coordinated the establishment of the Florida Coral Reef Sanctuary with NOAA. I worked with Governor Reuben Askew and his environmental aide Ken Woorburn to draft legislation to save the marshes and wetlands in Florida. Returning to Florida after a 30-year absence I was astounded by how Bureaucratic and Political these agencies had become. For instance the SJRWMD under the guise of Coastal Restoration by Ron Brockmeyer of the SJRWMD has destroyed the mangrove wetlands in the Mosquito Lagoon by dredging and filling in the old mosquito control dragline ditches that were designed by Dr. Provost of the DNR-Entomological Lab. The silt generated by the Volusia County Mosquito Control District trackhoes was so bad that it smothered clams and oysters in violation of the GeneraL Permit issued by the DEP. I was the only person to oppose the channalization of the Kissimmee River by the Army Corps of Engineers which they tried to undo in the mid-1980s by spending $80-million dollars. As I fly over the Florida Keys in Google Earth I see that the mangrove islands have been dredged and filled to make marinas and canal-front subdivisions for the rich & famous - this could not happen without the approval of the Department of Environmental Protection. Subdivisions in south Florida have been constructed inside the impounded Everglades wetlands, again with the approval of the Southeast Florida Water Managagement District and the Department of Environmental Protection. The very agencies designated to protect the environment have become the destroyers of Florida's ecosystems. I too am a USMC veteran of the of the Vietnam War and expect a less biased opinion that you have shown on your BLOG. James W. "Buck" Carr

  8. It is an interesting read, folks. Everyone's comments have valid points and facts to back them up.

    However, both parties are riddled with corrupt politicians and are locked into place.

    I have been both a Democrat and a Republican, a long time ago when a Conscientious Objector and Draft Counselor opposing the Vietnam War. Currently, I am a registered Independent Voter who is voting against every single politician who now represents my area, in Ocala, Marion County, Florida. Not one is worth keeping, from the local city and county politicians to state and federal legislators. Not one up for re-election is worth keeping in office.

    To make my point, many years ago, we had to initiate a citizen's movement in Florida to dedicate public funds to save our public waters; along the coasts and fresh water sources inland. We just had to do it again; protecting our environment from the politicians and those who pay them to sell the rest of us out. Florida Constitutional Amendment # 1, our Land and Water Conservation law to certify and set aside public funds to protect our environment. I collected nearly 600 petitions myself, standing out in front of the Marion County Property Appraisers office, off Ft. King Street near the Veteran's Memorial Park.

    I also collected over 600 citizen initiative ballots for the Medical Marijuana use, Constitutional Amendment # 2. During those four months (October, 2013 through January, 2014) I had Democrats and Republicans sign these ballot petitions. I also had 23 people go inside the County's office to register to vote, just so they could come back out to sign one. I feel sure all will vote this coming November, 2014.

    And since our worthless politicians did nothing but try to stop our citizens' movement for both protecting our environment and for Medical Marijuana, I suspect many of those voters who signed these ballot petitions will join me and thousands upon thousands of other voters to turn out of office our current corrupt crop of Floridian political trash who do not support the common folks of our country . . . the 99%.

    Hope to see y'all at the voting polls . . . .

    Christopher M. Kennard

  9. My sole point in commenting on Mr. Vergara singling out "Republicans" as being the corrupt ones in government is that the problem isn't limited to a single party! Ok, Republicans are in power in Tallahassee at the moment, but you can bet the Democrats are taking their share of money offered and they certainly are at the national level as well. And it isn't limited to recent years, it's an historic problem. We send people to serve as honest men/women and then the system seems to corrupt them. I appreciate all the knowledgelable people who are commenting here, but it isn't fair to blame only Republicans for a government failing its people. It is certainly both parties failing all of us.

  10. If you are presented with a long set of small print while buying a business, it could be worth getting it checked out by a lawyer. Its better to be cautious if you’re not sure.