Conservative Republicans claim to be the party of fiscal responsibility, and yet Rick Scott threw away taxpayer dollars along with stimulus money and the promise of jobs when he rejected high-speed rail, a project that was years in the making. That money is now in California, where Floridians will have to go if they want to experience a ride on the rails after it's completed.
Republicans in the Florida legislature are also poised to throw away more of those tax dollars when they likely will do nothing about Medicaid after turning down federal dollars to expand it in Florida for those who really need it.
And all because President Obama favored both.
They also profess to hate "big government," and yet one of their latest moves has them wearing their hypocrisy on their sleeves, and they don't seem to care if Floridians who are flailing desperately in this economy know it, simply because they have the power to say "no."
Last Friday the Senate passed a bill that will prevent local governments from enacting their own sick-time policies for workers. Because nothing says "small government" like a bunch of Republicans stepping in to block the will of the locals when big businesses whine over having to give employees paid time off when they're sick.
Now the bill goes back to the House, where they'll have to act on it by May 3.
The sick-time battle in Florida has been a long, drawn out struggle between activists, voters, employees, and big businesses who have fought against them from the get go. When voters finally won the latest battle to get a sick-time measure on the ballot, along came the Republicans in the legislature who stepped in on behalf of large employers who are against it, like Darden Restaurants, the owners of Red Lobster and The Olive Garden, Walt Disney World, and of course, on the behalf of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
Let there be no doubt who Republicans are standing up for in this fight:
"We cannot have a patchwork of local governments trying to impose upon private employers a set of requirements for employee benefits,' said Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, who is carrying the Senate version of the bill. "This is a situation that cries out for uniformity across the state."
Supporters in both chambers have argued the Orange fight has inspired them to at least temporarily preempt the "patchwork" of local government sick- and medical-leave policies in order to provide "certainty" to businesses.
This lends a bit of certainty to employees as well: The certainty that unless they want to lose their jobs, they'll be showing up every day, sick or not.
Advocates haven't given up, but in an added punch in the gut from Mickey Mouse, the group MomsRising was turned away when they tried to deliver a letter signed by 6,000 supporters asking Disney to stop opposing sick-time measures.
Representatives for MomsRising.org attempted to deliver the letter, signed by more than 6,000 people demanding Disney stop working to block earned sick time initiatives in Florida to the Disney Team Resources building yesterday. A spokesperson for Walt Disney World informed the moms that they would not be allowed to deliver their letter and asked that they leave the premises.
That's right, the "happiest place on earth" does not extend that emotion to their employees, and just like magic, they want to make that letter disappear.
There's no shortage of villains in this story. Helping the Republicans out in the fight is another group who professes to subscribe to "small government" policies, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), who write the legislation for lawmakers in the first place. ALEC has had an active role in the sick-time fight as well through "preemption bills" like this one, and in addition to Florida, similar model legislation has been "written" in New York, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Mississippi.
ALEC does the bidding for their funders like the Koch brothers, and for their members. Darden Restaurants was an ALEC board member until this month, when they claimed to have cut ties with ALEC. Disney is not listed as a member. Of course, just because they aren't technically members, it doesn't mean they won't benefit from any ALEC legislation passed by the Florida GOP in the legislature.
The theory behind paid sick-leave is that it would drive up costs for companies who provide it, but studies have shown this not to be true. Forcing employees to work when they're sick, or give up pay if they can't, is bad for business, not only for a decrease in productivity, but time and money spent on turnover, especially when the same companies don't want to pay decent wages or provide benefits. It's also bad for business when you consider the potential to spread an illness to customers.
How many would want to be served a meal by a sick service worker given the choice? How many tourists coming to Disney World would want themselves and their children to be exposed to something easily passed on to them by a hug-friendly life-sized Disney cast member? When it comes to contagious illness, you could say it's a small world, after all.
The Florida GOP can say they're for "small government" all they want, but this is really a big government overreach that's also bad for big business and tourism.
That's not fantasy, it's reality.
(Photos: Florida Senate, Martha Jackovics)