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Frankly, he can't run away from phone issue

By HOWARD TROXLER
Published July 9, 2006


I am reading a brochure mailed by Frank Farkas of St. Petersburg. He is a Republican running for the Florida Senate after serving eight years in our state House.

Naturally, Farkas' brochure is full of great things that he did, and does not mention any crummy stuff. But I can vouch that the good stuff in his brochure is indeed true, including:

- Helping repeal the intangibles tax on stocks and bonds.

- Voting for increases in education spending.

- Blocking the government from seizing private land for private development, in the wake of a bad U.S. Supreme Court ruling.* Passing better protections for people with long-term care insurance.

- Passing tougher laws on e-mail fraud.

- Blocking a bill to allow legal loan-sharking of up to 264 percent interest in the car-title loan industry.

All true. I congratulate him.

Let's not today venture to the other side of the equation, and bring up assorted scandals, anticonsumer votes or just plain bad bills from Farkas' eight-year career in the House. Maybe later.

But ...

There is ONE item in Farkas' brochure that screams for immediate rebuttal. Here it is, in its entirety:

 

Local phone rate increase repealed

 

Consumers won a big victory this past session, thanks in part to Rep. Farkas. House Bill 817 makes several pro-consumer changes to the Telecommunications Act of 2003.

It takes away the possibility that basic local phone rates could increase by 20 percent a year.

Thanks to the work of Rep. Farkas, the 2003 Telecommunications Act is a much more consumer-friendly piece of legislation, and moves telecommunication services toward a more competitive marketplace.

 

When I saw this, my first reaction was to laugh out loud.

Then I turned kind of purple and started sputtering. I struggled to think of an appropriate expression of amazement.

Sweet juicy peaches!

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego!

Let's set the record straight.

First of all, Farkas eagerly and stubbornly voted FOR the Telecommunications Act of 2003, which jacked up local telephone rates in Florida, just as he had voted for an earlier version in 2002 that the governor vetoed.

Farkas was with the telephone companies all the way.

He voted for the bill - which was written by telephone industry lobbyists - knowing full well what it would do.

He voted for it in the face of every consumer argument against it. The opponents told him exactly what was going to happen if the bill passed. But he wouldn't listen.

Farkas was a member of the House leadership under Speaker Johnnie Byrd. He not only voted for the bill, but he helped get it passed. He strongly defended it afterward.

Second, the new law that Farkas is bragging about did NOT repeal the big rate hikes that he voted for in 2003.

Those rate hikes already have been approved. The first round took effect last fall. There are more to come, and they can't be stopped.

All the 2006 bill did was repeal future, hypothetical rate hikes even further down the road - rate hikes that the phone companies said they probably weren't going to ask for anyway.

The phone companies got what they wanted in 2003. They didn't even strongly oppose the 2006 partial repeal. The cows were long since gone from the barn.

For the record, Farkas is running in the Republican primary against a fellow state representative, Kim Berfield of Clearwater. Berfield voted against the 2003 rate hikes, but it wasn't exactly a profile in courage. She waited until the bill had passed on the House floor and recorded a "no" vote afterward.

The winner of the Farkas-Berfield primary will take on yet a third state representative, Charlie Justice, D-St. Petersburg, in the November general election. Justice voted against the 2003 bill.

Farkas' bragging about repealing part of a wicked law that he helped pass in the first place is like a bank robber who wants to be praised at his sentencing for giving back the loose change.

[Last modified July 9, 2006, 01:52:18]


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