The most important decision facing Mike Haridopolos right now is whether or not he wants to be the Florida Senate’s version of Johnnie Byrd, circa 2012.
As the Palm Beach Post’s Dara Kam noted, last year, it took until the last day of the legislative session for Haridopolos to get embarrassed. This year, it happened with three weeks left.
Whatever legacy Hadidopolos thought he might be building ended with the rebuke Hardiopolos was dealt last week when a group of nine Republicans joined Democrats to defeat one of his priority bills: a revived prison-privatization plan to replace the one struck down last year by a Tallahassee judge as unconstitutional.
While there is little time left to the 2012 legislative session, there is now an anti-climatic feel to the agenda of the House and Senate. All that is left is the writing of the budget.
And a choice by Mike Haridopolos. How does he want to write the final chapter of his time as presiding officer? Hopefully, his answer will be more sophisticated than his previous work, the writing of Florida History & Legislative Processes, the sophomoric campaign manual for which he was paid $152,000 by a community college to write.
Over the weekend, I spoke with several of Haridopolos’ colleagues as well as some of the Legislature’s senior staff. What follows is the consensus of the advice they would offer Hardiopolos RIGHT NOW to ‘save the Session’ and whatever is left of Haridopolos’ legacy.
1. Decide right now that you’d rather be regarded like the late Jim King rather than the despicable Johnnie Byrd.
2. Remember that you are the President of the Senate until November. Do not let others – not JD Alexander, not Don Gaetz, not Andy Gardiner, not Jack Latvala, not John Thrasher – set the agenda.
3. Ask JD Alexander to move out of the condo you two share. The Senate President should not have a roommate. Another Senator should not be able to leave a note about legislative business next to the shopping list. Plus, if you follow through on the rest of this list, JD’s probably not going to be the easiest person to live with, anyway.
4. Reset the last three weeks of Session by publicly apologizing to the Senators you have pressured or punished. Even Mike Fasano.
5. Hold a press conference and announce that there will not be any legislative initiative coming from the Senate which would accelerate the development of USF Polytechnic. Say that you believe the process is best handled through the Board of Governors, not the Florida Senate. Say, as far you are concerned, the issue is dead in the Florida Senate.
6. Re-read the bullet about asking JD to move out of your shared condo. Or find a hotel room for yourself. After you announce that the USF Polytech issue is dead in the Senate, things might not be so good at home.
7. In the same press conference, commit to ending session on time. Drop all of that talk about the Legislature taking a break and coming back thirty days later. Since there have been less than ten bills passed by both the House and Senate and the issue of redistricting is done, it’s just impossible to justify to voters any delay.
8. Commit to funding Rick Scott’s “extra” $1 billion for K-12 education. You already agree with this, so why not play nice with the Governor.
9. Write a memo to your colleagues in the Florida Senate. Promise there will not be any conforming bills on the consent agenda. Promise conforming bills won’t be stripped of their language. Promise that appropriations sub-committee chairs will control their budgets.
In other words, promise to play by the rules — no late-night tricks.
10. Oh, and one more thing, now that his claims bill has passed a House committee, find Eric Brody and stand by him as he meets with members to plead his case one final time. Make sure his claims bill and those of William Dillon are passed out of the House.
In that single act of humanity, along with the other procedural moves, your legacy might find you regarded as, at least, better than Johnnie Byrd.