Palm Beach Post Editorial
June 14, 2017
A modest proposal: For efficiency’s sake, why don’t we just tell the Florida Legislature to stay home and let the state’s laws and spending be decided by only the governor, the president of the Senate and the speaker of the House?
Because that, in essence was the story of the 2017 legislative session. To a remarkable degree, the outcome was the product of the personalities and priorities of just three men: Gov. Rick Scott, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President
Joe Negron. More worrisome, they made key decisions largely in secret, mocking Florida’s landmark Sunshine Laws and the ideal of open, transparent government.
The end result of last week’s three-day special session, which seemed on the brink of collapse before some frantic backroom trading saved the day, gave each of the men the big prizes they wanted.
Democrats, hugely outnumbered in both the House and Senate, are used to being reduced to spectators. But this year, even Republican members were left out of the action. When Scott and Corcoran, joined by a later reluctant-sounding Negron, said at a June 2 Miami news conference that they’d reached a deal on unsettled issues and announced a special session to ratify it, Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, was caught flatfooted.
“Other than a press release, I haven’t talked to anyone about it,” the chairman of the Senate budget panel on tourism and economic development said. “Is this how the process is supposed to work? There has to be a better way.”
There must be. We elect, and pay for, 40 members of the Senate and 120 members of the House of Representatives, not 160 rubber stamps. As the Sunshine Law reflects, the people’s business is meant to be in the open. It’s time for bypassed members — and voters, too — to speak out, shrink back the powers of the chambers’ leaders and insist upon a far more transparent, participatory and representative process. [READ MORE]