Behind the News, Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation

Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation: Denying financial aid to visa-carrying students

Most states, with the exception of maybe Vermont, revel in their diversity. It’s a quality that state leaders sell to the citizenry, prospective businesses and the federal government. Although many institutions strive for more diversity, none seek it out more than universities and colleges. Diversity in the student population is a major selling point for institutions of higher learning.

That’s why SB 1294 is such a surprising bill to propose.

This law would prohibit any university from using state funds (directly or indirectly) to provide financial assistance to students with a F-1 or M-1 visa. The legislation, introduced by Ronda Storms (of course!), is couched in saving money and providing more assistance to Florida residents seeking a higher education. The irony is the bill would also require universities and colleges to provide a detailed account of where their funds go every year, which would create another layer of bureaucracy and erode any money saved.

Rating: 2 bong hits bongbong

(Read about my rating system here.)

Behind the News, Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation

Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation: Ronda Storms hates public art

stormsThat State Senator Ronda Storms is a very talented woman. I mean, what other Florida politician can create such disdain among large swaths of the state’s population? She’s pissed off gays, First Amendment champions, librarians, science teachers and now, art lovers.

SB 1104 seeks to repeal the 30-year-old Art in State Public Buildings Program, a state provision that requires a small percentage of money for public buildings go into artwork for said structures. In an interview with a Tampa Tribune reporter, Storms says the bill is only fair while the state deals with a tough budget crisis:

“While I certainly believe art and culture provide wonderful benefits to Florida, I do not believe that at this time most Floridians want to continue this luxury when people are losing their jobs and seniors and children are losing health services.”

But is the outlay of money for public art really harming the state’s coffers? The Tribune had some interesting findings:

Under the program, the cost of the art can’t be more than half of 1 percent of the total cost of the building or $100,000, whichever is less. The average the state paid for a work of art was $7,955. The state spent a total of $406,725 for public art in 2005; $294,069 in 2006; and $701,389 in 2007.

The statute applies only to buildings with public access. It excludes prisons, secure areas, maintenance sheds and other structures the public normally would not visit.

Under the statute, more than 1,000 works of art have been purchased and installed in state buildings, including universities, state parks, Department of Transportation district offices and state agency buildings.

Just like parks, recreational facilities and libraries, art adds a quality of life to a city. Considering public art money is a fraction of Florida’s budget, and may even generate money by impressing tourists and possible new businesses, this bill is positively ridiculous.

That must be why Storms recently added a sunset clause to the bill that would allow the public art program to return in 2011. A huge outcry among art lovers probably prompted that change of heart. Maybe repeated calls and e-mails to her office (and to your own state lawmaker) would nudge her away from the bill altogether.

(By the way, the House sponsor is Republican Rich Glorioso from Plant City. I don’t want him to get off the hook either. Contact his office here.)

Rating: 4 bong hits bongbongbongbong