Treasure Coast Newspapers Editorial Board
June 21, 2017
The speaker of the Florida House.
The president of the Florida Senate.
There’s a reason the three are commonly referred to as the most powerful politicians in the state. That reason was on full display June 2 as Gov. Rick Scott, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, and Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, appeared together at a news conference at Miami International Airport.
After months of open disagreement on key issues, including funding for tourism and job creation, the triumvirate complimented each other while outlining their $83 billion budget agreement.
Secret deals had been negotiated — far from the watchful eyes of the public, media and most lawmakers.
It was all so cozy.
Such are the perks of membership in the “most powerful politicians” club.
This scenario begs a question: Why does our state go through the pretense of a 60-day legislative session — with 160 senators and representatives in attendance — when only three elected officials (and a handful of staffers) ultimately decide key issues in the final days of the session?
In the final weeks of the session, Barbara Petersen, president of Florida’s First Amendment Foundation, wrote to Gov. Rick Scott, urging him to veto Senate Bill 2500, the Budget Appropriations Bill. Petersen and her organization didn’t oppose any of the substantive programs and issues in the bill. Instead, they objected to the “lack of transparency” in the budget process.
“The secretive process precluded any opportunity for public oversight or input on major policy and appropriation decisions,” Petersen wrote. “Alarmingly, local government officials were also shut out of the process, as were many legislators who were ultimately asked to approve a budget decided in a manner closed even to them.” [READ MORE]