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Sex is not the only scandal in Florida's Capitol

When did dysfunction become our default?

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John Romano
, Tampa Bay Times Columnist, Tampa Bay Times

When did dysfunction become our default?

Or is it normal for the first day of a legislative session to begin with everyone peering through a peephole, then bowing their heads for a two-minute prayer on the House floor?

Really, is this what we've come to expect?

Have politics become so nasty in Florida that we find ourselves choosing between the lesser of two sleazes? Do you condemn the state senators seemingly caught in an extramarital affair, or direct your disgust at the anonymous creeps who broadcast a pinhole-sized video of the couple's rendezvous?

Either way, the choice is indecent.

And yet, it's business de rigueur in Tallahassee. It's not just the politicians swallowed up in sex scandals, it's also the provocateurs pulling the strings behind the scenes.

Even before Politico broke the story of the sexual harassment allegations against former Sen. Jack Latvala, there were powerful people talking about a scandal coming. And in recent weeks, there have been players covertly strategizing about the when/where of future bombshells.

Just to be clear, this is not a defense of a senator resigning in the wake of sexual harassment allegations.

Or another senator resigning after acknowledging an affair with a lobbyist.

Or the two married senators carrying on a romance.

Instead, this is a lament of a system gone wrong.

Collegiality has been replaced by backstabbing, power-hungry opportunism. It's not about constituents. It's not about the greater good or a course for the future.

It's about who controls the money and who is running for higher office.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran opened the session with a speech that could be called passionate if it wasn't so cynically disingenuous.

Corcoran talked about the different types of legislators and heaped praise on what he called the "reformers."

"Ask any single reformer, 'How many legislators does it take to pass a bill,' and they will tell you in a second. It takes one. It takes one single legislator," Corcoran said. "One legislator willing to have the courage to take on the status quo."

Except everyone knows that no legislator in the House can accomplish anything without Corcoran's approval. It's a 120-member body where his voice is the only one that matters.

He decides what bills will get buried in committees and what bills make it to the floor. He even influences how Republicans vote because he holds their future in his hands. He claims to invite debate while simultaneously declaring war on ideas he doesn't like.

That's not courage, and that's not reform.

It's also not the way government is supposed to function.

Yes, recent scandals in Tallahassee have been unfortunate and illicit. They have debased the integrity and the esteem of an institution that has included many bright and decent public servants. And they are part of a larger issue of entitlement and abuse.

But they're not the only problems in Tallahassee.

They're just more visible and salacious than backroom deals and dirty tricks. They're more attention-grabbing than the campaign donations.

The 2018 legislative session got off to a sad, scuzzy start on Tuesday, but it doesn't have to be that way. Lawmakers have 58 more days to prove they care more about voters than their own pleasure and glory.

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