Ocala Star Banner Editorial
June 14, 2017
The Florida Legislature began this year with its leaders proclaiming their commitment to the most transparent process ever. After a blizzard of back-room deals during the regular session that ended in May, and a special session that concluded Friday, lawmakers were reduced to defending business as usual.
“Everybody was a winner,” Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, told assembled media Friday at the Capitol. “It’s what’s been going on for time immemorial.”
“It’s always been done that way,″ House Speaker Richard Corcoran told Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee Bureau. “We moved in a transformative way to improve the process but there is always more work to be done.”
That’s an understatement. So much got accomplished behind closed doors, in secret meetings between a select few lawmakers without input from the rank and file, let alone the public, that it’s a wonder they don’t simply tell most legislators not to bother showing up until they’re needed to cast their pro forma votes at the end.
All of this is more or less legal. Florida’s open-government laws apply much more loosely to state government than they do local ones; the Legislature exists in a vast gray area in which lawmakers have latitude to define the terms of their procedures. Although that makes it difficult to prove they run afoul of the letter of the law, they often blatantly violate the spirit of the Sunshine.
Apparently transparency is a virtue only until it is superseded by expediency. All those prying eyes slow down the sausage factory. What matters most to lawmakers is how much filler they can pack into so many casings. [READ MORE]