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My Turn
Other Views from Those in the Know
Al Mccray
Managing Editor
'Tis the Season of Political Gifts?

Mitt Romney introduced Americans to a different definition for the word “gifts.” Immediately after the 2012 presidential election, Mitt announced in a telephone call to his supporters that President Obama gave gifts to just about all groups to recapture the White House.

Mitt’s definition added a new meaning to the word gift. In the world of Mitt, programs, government benefits, proposed legislation, promises and pork projects given to voters are gifts. But according to his definition, the gift is given as an attempt to induce the voters into your camp at election time.

I had previously thought the word gift meant a present wrapped in gift paper and given out mainly at holidays, birthdays, graduations or other special occasions such as weddings or on parole dates.

Since Mitt’s gift definition became known, I have been closely observing what could nicely fit into Mitt’s definition as a gift – including gifts given out in Florida in advance of the 2014 governor’s race. It could be a strange coincidence, but it looks like this could be the season for gifts.

I first started noticing what could be called political gifts from Republican Gov. Rick Scott last year. The gift giving started, I think, when he announced a plan to lower the cost of some four-year degrees at state colleges and universities to $10,000 from around $25,000. Surely that was a gift for young college students.

His recent about-face on early voting days and increasing the number of voting places was a real shocker. It’s hard to figure out which group gets that gift. He blamed the Florida Legislature for that bill becoming a law in 2011, even though he spent state money to defend the bill that he signed into law. Let’s just say that was a gift of “Doing the Right Thing” for all voters.

Now our governor says he wants to invest in education by giving all classroom teachers a pay raise of $2,500. It’s easy to predict who this gift is for -- classroom teachers.

Were those political gifts to sway voters to support Rick Scott? Yes? No? Maybe? If they look like political gifts, quack like political gifts, and walk like political gifts, then they gotta be political gifts.

What other gifts could be in store to induce more voters into Rick Scott’s camp?

Those gifts announced so far don’t cover enough voters to rescue him from his 33 percent approval ratings. The next round of gifts must have a broader appeal to voters. I have a few suggestions for our governor’s Executive Department of Gifts:

-- Reduce the state’s gasoline tax by 10 cents per gallon.
-- Discount by 50 percent the state employees’ retirement contributions for new hires for the first three years.
-- Allow Florida to fully embrace all aspects of Obamacare.
-- Push the Judicial Qualifications Commission to nominate 11 minority judges, with four being black, four being women and three being Hispanic.
-- Eliminate sales taxes on all vehicles purchased by active-duty military personnel in Florida.
-- Simplify the process to apply for unemployment benefits.
-- Extend unemployment benefits for an additional 12 weeks.
-- Provide $250,000 in state-paid life insurance for first responders, law enforcement, detention facility staff and firefighters killed in the line of duty.
-- Perhaps appoint a commission to study the restoring of civil rights for convicted felons after a two-year period following release from prison.
-- Pay a snake hunter’s bounty of a flat $250, or $40 per foot, to help rid the Everglades of pythons.
-- Begin having five drawings in the state lottery until there is a winner.

My new gift suggestions should keep the governor’s office busy this year. I suspect the gifts will get bigger next year as we approach the 2014 election.

However, I think the best and greatest political gift that a politician can give to the people of Florida is simply this: Represent the people and not merely your political party.

Al Mccray is managing editor of www.TampaNewsAndTalk.com.  He can be reached at [email protected].

© Florida Voices

Published Tuesday, January 29, 2013