A dirty deal, but you can stop it

By Howard Troxler, Times Columnist

Published Wednesday, February 3, 2010

As you might recall, the public just won historic victories against Florida's two biggest electric companies.

Progress Energy Florida and Florida Power & Light came in asking for something like $1.5 billion in annual rate increases. They lost.

Now, amazingly, here is the reaction of the Florida Legislature:

The Legislature is threatening the job of the public's lawyer who won the rate cases, Public Counsel J.R. Kelly.

In an unprecedented move, the Legislature has reopened interviews for Kelly's job while he still holds it.

Make no mistake — this is a new trick. Never, under the state's venerable old public counsel, Jack Shreve, did the Legislature dare such a thing.

Laughably, the Legislature claims this is just a sudden burst of good government.

I have a two-syllable reply, and the first syllable refers to the male version of a cow.

At the least, this is a thuggish attempt to warn Kelly not to fight so hard for the public.

At the worst, they really mean to fire him. All it would take is a flick of a wrist from an obscure committee.

The control of this committee alternates between the Senate and the House. This is the Senate's year.

The president of the Senate, Jeff Atwater, is in charge. This is his doing.

Atwater is running to be Florida's chief financial officer. Is this his platform? Threaten the public's lawyer for being too effective against the electric companies?

I see that the utilities' surrogates are pounding the blogs and the Internet with anonymous attacks on Kelly, calling him a "hack" and so forth.

In the first place, he just helped stop $1.5 billion in rate increases. Hard to call him a hack.

In the second place, I know Kelly a little and believe him to be dedicated, smart and competent. Best of all, he has kept a talented staff.

In the third place, everybody in and out of Tallahassee whom I ask for an honest opinion says exactly the same thing that I just said. But if you disagree and are not too gutless to use your real name, then I am all ears.

The people of Florida should not let the Legislature get away with this.

You should not let the Legislature get away with this.

We should make all 40 members of the Senate, and all 120 members of the House, personally responsible.

We should demand that every member of the Legislature stand up and protest to their leaders in the Senate and House, even if it hurts their standing with their Tallahassee buddy-buddies.

People often ask: What can I do? Here's the answer. Don't waste your time this morning writing me to complain. Do this right now: Get your legislator's e-mail address or office telephone number from the phone book, or off the Legislature's Web sites:



And tell them to stop it.

Your legislator, or his or her staff, will try to deny responsibility. The Republicans, who are in charge of the Legislature, will say they can't do anything because they are not on the committee. The Democrats will say they can't do anything because the Republicans are in charge.

See? That is how they have set it up — they can do dirty deeds and deny responsibility.

But you know better. Tell them that every one of them, Republican and Democrat, had better rise up against their leaders in Tallahassee, lest the people back home rise up against them.


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