Fred Grimm

Fred Grimm: Even more payouts from the land of the loser lawsuits

So this is why Bambi must die.

It had been perplexing, trying to figure out why Rick Scott’s political advisors hadn’t snuffed out an unpopular proposal to allow hunters to stalk half-tame deer, bears, rabbits and squirrels who’ve found refuge in Florida’s state parks.

Why was the Scott administration so desperate to extract new revenue from the park system that it was willing to grant access to hunters — along with timber companies and cattle ranchers?

Now we know. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees the park service, has been docked with some rather unnatural expenses.

The governor intends to extract $445,000 from the DEP’s miserly budget to help settle open-records lawsuits prompted by his penchant for flouting Florida’s Sunshine Laws. Not that the suits had much to do with the environment. Scott had been sued because he and his staff used private email accounts to keep the public from monitoring official communications.

As my colleague Mary Ellen Klas reported last week, Scott’s office has agreed to pay lawyers more than $1.3 million to settle a series of open-records disputes. The settlements seem to have sent Scott’s minions scouring through agency budgets, looking for money to cover his losses the way gamblers rummage for change under sofa cushions.

So the Attorney General’s Office will pay $75,000, the Department of State loses $60,000, the governor’s office will pitch in $120,000. But DEP takes the big hit: $445,000. All of this is taxpayer money, of course, which means the public will be paying a penalty to atone for the governor’s refusal to allow that same public to have access to public records.

Loser lawsuits have become this administration’s speciality. We taxpayers have underwritten the Scott administration’s quixotic crusades (with the help of high-priced private law firms) to sue Obamacare into oblivion, and to defend its nefarious voter purge and other election measures designed to tamp down voter turnout. Taxpayers were dunned $1.5 million in legal fees after Scott’s unconstitutional attempt to force welfare applicants and state workers (though not the governor or state legislators) to submit to drug tests.

The state is hemorrhaging even more money as Scott and the Legislature hire lawyers to fend off environmentalists who’ve challenged their obstinate refusal to allocate the money for conservation land purchases. (Voters thought they had settled that last year when they approved Amendment One.)

Scott could have saved voters a passel of money if he had simply vetoed the Legislature’s clumsy and unconstitutional attempts to redraw congressional and legislative district maps. Instead, the legislative leadership hired silk-suit lawyers to defend yet another indefensible lawsuit.

So far, the big dogs in the state House and Senate have wasted more than $8 million in legal costs. For their money, they’ve been slapped with two ignominious court rulings declaring that lawmakers had drawn “tainted” districts designed for partisan advantage.

Now, they’ve got to find the money to pay for two special redistricting sessions. (With no bipartisan consensus in sight.)

Experience tell us that kind of futility gets pricey. Bambi should be very nervous.

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