More Waiting

October 4, 2010

Today, I had the honor of partaking in the civic duty of jury duty once again. If you’ve never experienced it, imagine waiting in your doctor’s waiting room the whole day instead of just a few minutes — minus the part at the end where you get something to make you feel better.

I wrote a column for the Tampa Tribune several years ago on my first experience with this mind-numbing process lamenting the amount of hours jurors are required sit in a large room on uncomfortable chairs waiting on their name to be called. The lucky ones are those who get to wait the whole day without their name ever being called — sort of sadistic isn’t it?

After that first experience, imagine my surprise this morning when I was in the first group to be pulled out of the large waiting room to go through the actual juror selection process. Regardless of if I was going to be picked or not, I would be getting through this quickly this time!

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Obamacare and Federalism: Hillsborough

March 28, 2010

There’s already evidence of Obamacare’s negative effects on federalism in Hillsborough County. A recent St. Petersburg Times report notes that county officials are already looking at ending the county’s tax used to pay for health care for the indigent.

While such a move would potentially reduce the sales tax burden on county residents by eliminating the half cent used to cover the care (unless, of course, those proposing to use the half cent on other programs get their way), it would also represent a shift in authority to the federal government. Along with that shift comes a host of new taxes used to pay for health-care “reform” from everything to taxes on medical devices to taxes on individuals who do not obtain the government-approved level of health insurance.

It’s an old adage that the government closest to you governs better. Proponents of health-care “reform” don’t really seem to care about what actually works better, though.

Hillsborough Web Site Gets Transparency Award

March 12, 2010

Kudos to the Web site for Hillsborough County (Florida) Public Schools for being among the 14 Web sites to obtain a perfect score on the Sunshine Review’s “Sunny Awards” — recognizing the most transparent government Web sites in the United States. Sunshine Review is a non-profit organization, and wiki, that reports on transparency in state and local government.

Also, consider this post a break from the cynical as we head into the weekend. At least one government department/agency is doing one thing right.

More Auditor Problems

February 26, 2010

Here’s a new report on problems in the Hillsborough County (Florida) internal performance auditor office from the St. Petersburg Times: “Report rips Hillsborough’s performance auditor.” This time, the fuss is over the office not meeting professional standards.

I wrote a column on the auditor position last year when there were problems raised about its performance. It can be read here.

Government Benefits Up?

July 19, 2009

A recent article comparing government employee benefits in Florida to the private sector notes the widening disparity. The Sun Sentinel report points out that although the pay is often lower in state government, the benefits are often better. One notable summary of the article is this:

Florida’s 127,000 state workers still enjoy free or inexpensive health care, rich retirement benefits and such perks as free college tuition and ready access to financial planners.

It also points out the following:

In all, taxpayers paid $1.19 billion for employees’ health care last year, including a 15 percent increase from two years prior. Employees’ contributions declined slightly during that time, to $154 million.

Another mushrooming expense: retirement benefits.

The state’s contribution to workers in the Florida Retirement System is virtually unmatched in the private sector, at 9 to 19 percent of each worker’s salary. The bill for taxpayers has almost doubled in five years, to $1.1 billion. Employees don’t contribute anything.

This comes around the same time as reports on the newly appointed Hillsborough County (Florida) Supervisor of Elections collecting a $167,948 pension from his previous work in the county schools while being paid a $132,000 salary in the elections post. You read that right: $167,948 per year is his pension.

All of this occurs while, as the Sun Sentinel report notes, government has taken steps to increase taxes and fees on residents to make up budget shortfalls resulting from the down-turned economy. Meanwhile, the private sector has “been laying off workers in droves, cutting salaries, forcing furloughs and dropping health care contributions and matches to 401(k) accounts.”

These are just two examples of how not having to make a profit allows government to be tone-deaf to economic realities. To survive, private companies need to make a profit (the exception being those who dubiously receive government bailouts). To succeed, government need only force an increase in taxes and fees on its citizens.

Click-It or Ticket?

July 1, 2009

Hillsborough County, Florida, under the implementation of a new state law, just started actively looking for drivers not wearing their seat belts today. In their first day, they ticketed more than 200 people. Each ticket amounts to $101 in the county. One officer was quoted as saying:

“People think we’re like Big Brother, that they should be able to do whatever they want,” sheriff’s Cpl. Ed Raburn said before writing his sixth seat belt violation of the afternoon. “I’m not going to reach in there and force you to put it on, but if you choose not to, you choose to accept the consequences.”

Gee, I wonder why people would think the police stopping and ticketing people who are doing nothing to harm others is “like Big Brother”? The word paternalism comes to mind. Government, despite its legitimate function of protecting individuals from other individuals who seek to violate their rights, tends to always overreach to the point to where it treats its citizens as children in need of protecting from not just others but from themselves.