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Lawmakers don't rise above edge of sandbox

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© St. Petersburg Times, published May 8, 2001

Some things you just can't let go by.

The incident in which Florida Rep. Nancy Argenziano, R-Dunnellon, sent a box containing 25 pounds of cow manure to a lobbyist in Tallahassee, twice, is one such thing.

First of all, the concept of any politician sending any lobbyist any amount of manure as a form of expression is humorous.

Cowflop is so much the principal medium of exchange and primary product of Florida politics that it would seem to have little significance simply to send someone a pile of it.

Why not send something of which there is not already an obvious surplus in the state capital, like brain tissue or common sense?

And, to paraphrase a colleague of mine who knows a lot more about state government than I, the concept of a legislator and a lobbyist in this kind of a sophomoric snit is extremely analogous to watching two skunks back up to each other: fun, but something you might want to do from a distance.

Capitol police were involved immediately when the package arrived at the office of Jodi Chase, a lobbyist who had been at odds with Argenziano over nursing home legislation. The person who delivered the box was reportedly the former Argenziano aide who wrote a letter in 1999 that she signed criticizing several government workers by name and suggesting that problems at the Southwest Florida Water Management District might be solved by exploding a nuclear device over that agency's Brooksville headquarters.

I'm glad to see that the weapon of choice, at least, has changed.

And I'm equally glad to see that the politicos have taken to having boxes of it sent back and forth between their offices rather than their earlier considered injection of stormwater runoff containing fecal coliform bacteria from cow and other manure (there are dairy farms in the area near Lake Okeechobee they were talking about) into the aquifer.

They were pretty sure that the dirty water wouldn't dirty up the clean water and promised to apologize if it did, but the public outcry persuaded them, apparently, to find a more creative use for manure.

By the way, for those of you who have only lived in Florida for a couple of years, I should clarify some things.

Storms are meteorological events (like forest fires but up in the air) where the sky gets very dark and there is a lot of lightning and then large amounts of water fall to the ground, heading for the nearest coastline, pond, stream, lake or low-lying area, carrying some of what is picked up along the way.

I point this out because it has been a long time since some of us have seen a storm or water running along the ground or in any other form other than bottled and sold in convenience stores.

I know that our Legislature deals with many important issues, and I fully expect them and the people they deal with to have senses of humor and irony and, as we all do, to sometimes behave like children.

It would be nice, however, if those involved at this point would make nice, come on out of the sandbox, stop slinging mud and other things at each other and get back to dealing with the problems of Florida.

I fear, however, that they will next start hitting each other over the head with bags of school vouchers, sending each other actual barrels of pork (and in this heat too!) and actually looking for troughs to which to belly up.

Then, on the other hand, if they all start behaving properly, Port Richey government experiences an outbreak of sanity and the Citrus County School Board goes an entire year without doing something stupid, it could have very serious implications for me.

I might, at this late stage of life, have to go look for a real job -- probably in Washington.

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