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Sarasota Thursday, Mar. 14, 2013 4 years ago

Holland, Lumpkin hold keys


It’s probably not too surprising that Susan Chapman garnered the most votes in Tuesday’s Sarasota City Commission election. The one thing you can say about the neighborhood associations is they are better at persuading their constituents to vote than other coalitions.

So now it’s anyone’s guess how the runoff elections will turn out May 14.

In spite of her first-place finish with 24.5% of the vote, there’s no guarantee Chapman will be one of the top-two vote-getters in May. Incumbent Mayor Suzanne Atwell and Richard Dorfman, respectively, the No. 2 and No. 3 vote-getters Tuesday, could well have a better chance at winning than Chapman. Let’s take a look:

Say voter turnout stays at 6,144 (which is not likely; it probably will drop for the runoff).

Now, let’s assume Chapman will pick up the 434 votes that went to Pete Thiesen. He and Chapman were most closely aligned on some development issues.

And let’s assume the 2,971 votes that went to Linda Holland and Kelvin Lumpkin are split evenly between Atwell and Dorfman — not likely, but let’s assume. Holland and Lumpkin’s views on growth and development are more closely aligned with those of Atwell and Dorfman than with those of Chapman.

Given those assumptions, the final results would look like this:
Atwell: 2,606 + 1,485 = 4,091
Dorfman: 2,311 + 1,485 = 3,796
Chapman: 2,705 + 434 = 3,139

Unaccounted for are the roughly 630 people who voted only for one candidate. If Chapman took all of those votes, she still would finish third.

Nonetheless, although Holland and Lumpkin did not qualify for the runoff, they can be king and queen makers. Our guess is they will urge their constituents to back Atwell and Dorfman. That will make the key battlegrounds between now and the runoff North Sarasota.

In the end, we predict Atwell will be one of the two winners. The bigger test is for Chapman and Dorfman: Whoever is more effective getting the vote out will win.

+ Limited government?
These are dangerous times: The Legislature is back in session.

And that means we are all at risk. There’s no telling what our lawmakers will do to us each spring when they meet for 60 days.

Count on this: There’s a high probability they’ll pass a law or two or three or four that will reduce your freedom and expand government’s intervention into your life.

It happens every year. Lawmakers just can’t help themselves. They cannot resist succumbing to the political aphrodisiac that overwhelms them — power.

As always, they just feel compelled to do something … to make more laws and dole out whatever favors are required to get re-elected.

But too often, they want to do too much. For instance, in the 2012 legislative session, lawmakers introduced and filed 2,052 bills. (Both houses approved only 292 bills last year.) For 2013, as of Sunday, lawmakers had filed 1,635 bills.

No wonder we all need lobbyists. It’s unrealistic for any of us to track all of the mischief and damage lawmakers can wreak on us. They can’t help themselves from meddling in our lives, to have us live the way they think we should live.

Take a look at some of the goofy bills lawmakers have filed for this session (see box). It’s amazing how they want to “intervene” in our lives.

Consider the ban on texting while driving. Sure, it’s not a good idea to text while driving. But it also not a good idea to put on mascara while driving. Why aren’t we banning that? It’s not a good idea to plug in GPS coordinates while driving. We’re not banning that, either.

All of this reminds us of Milton Friedman’s rule of lawmaking. It’s never ending. Here’s why, as Friedman explained it:

“A law is born when some aggrieved party seeks to solve an alleged problem in a way that benefits him. But once the law goes into effect, unintended consequences occur. This causes lawmakers to come back and address the unintended consequences with more laws. Which, of course, beget more laws and more laws.”

There is no way to end this.

But maybe there’s a way to truly “limit” government. Go back to the old model of allowing the Legislature to meet every other year; require it to pass a balanced budget; and do its business in 30 days, not 60 days.
That certainly would limit the meddling and damage lawmakers could do.

+ The next Marco Rubio?
Here’s the next rising political star to watch in Florida: 33-year-old House Speaker Will Weatherford.
From Wesley Chapley, north of Tampa, Weatherford is the older brother of Drew Weatherford, former quarterback for the Florida State University Seminoles.

It was refreshing to hear Speaker Weatherford in his speech at the start of the legislative session. He outlined a tightly focused agenda of three priorities:

• Restoring trust in government — with ethics changes and campaign financing transparency, including eliminating those nasty “CCEs,” slush funds for lawmakers.

• He said, “Protect our fiscal future” — and that means changing the state-employee pension system to one that is sustainable, i.e. more rational benefits for state employees, a system that resembles private-sector defined contribution plans.

• And third: “Foster upward mobility through education reform.” For Weatherford that means establishing an affordable, branded, accredited, “singularly focused” online university.

If you look at his latter two goals, they are freedom oriented. When you send less money to the government to pay for pensions, you have more freedom. If you can get a great college education at less cost than the cost today, that’s greater freedom.

At the end of his speech, Weatherford showed he understands what the Legislature’s role should be:

“As your Speaker,” he said, “I would ask that we consider the following questions as we approach our work for the next 60 days:

“Will we leave the people of our state more free, or more dependent?

“Will we give them more opportunities to shape their own destiny, or will we narrow their options?”

We’ll see over the next 60 days and next two years whether he walks the talk of the freedom agenda. We hope so.

Here’s a sampling of some of the wackadoo bills lawmakers have filed for the 2013 legislative session:
• Ban plastic grocery bags.
• Require all Florida gun buyers to take at least two hours of online or face-to-face instruction in anger-management techniques.
• Require all service stations to provide an attendant to fill the gas tanks of disabled drivers. The bill also would require service stations to post a blue sign of at least 15 square inches with the telephone number of the attendant who will be required by law to answer the phone and come out of the station and pump the gas.
• Removes provision in law that limits height of motorcycle handlebars or handgrips. (Why is this a law to begin with?)
• Repeals authority of the governor to appoint a private secretary.
• Requires hospitals to establish policies concerning safe lifting and handling of patients; requires committee to develop and evaluate the policies.
• Specifies that local authorities may regulate time, place and manner automobile sound devices may be used within their respective jurisdictions.
• Provides that a student’s parent has the right to request that student be exempted from instruction in English language proficiency; requires school district to exempt student from participating in instruction in English language proficiency if student’s parent requests exemption in writing.

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