Five Takeaways from Tallahassee – the 'is it 2009?' edition

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Once again the week saved the biggest news for the end, as prosecutors unexpectedly announced Friday afternoon that they were dropping the theft charges against former House Speaker Ray Sansom and developer Jay Odom, reports Dave Royse of the News Service of Florida.

Sansom and Odom were charged in an alleged scheme to use a $6 million 2007 state budget appropriation for what is now Northwest Florida State College to build a hangar at the Destin airport for Odom, a friend of and contributor to Sansom, who at the time was the chief House architect of the budget.

Sansom and Odom? defense had said the money was needed for a joint-use emergency operations center and classroom building and there was nothing unusual about the way the money was put into the budget.

The bombshell on Friday dropped after Circuit Judge Terry Lewis rejected a key witness. Prosecutors were hoping to put the college? former president, Bob Richburg, on the stand. He had originally also been charged in the case, but agreed to testify against Sansom.

But to introduce testimony by Richburg, prosecutors needed to show evidence of a conspiracy, and Lewis ruled he hadn? seen that evidence. Without Richburg? testimony, State Attorney Willie Meggs decided he couldn? get a conviction and dropped the charges.

PARTY LIKE IT NEVER WAS 2010

The Sansom case being back in the news wasn? the only throwback to an earlier legislative session this week.

Legislators late this week overrode two vetoes by former Gov. Charlie Crist, continuing the Republican effort to erase his memory. One of the bills wasn? really controversial ?having passed the Legislature unanimously last year and then again in the veto override vote this week. That bill dealt with local farm regulations ?even Democrats agreed widely that the bill made sense, eliminating some local ability to make rules that could make it hard for farmers to do simple things like replace a fence without a permit.

But the other measure lawmakers restored was highly controversial.

That bill creates ?ffiliated party committees?to allow legislative leaders to raise money independently of the political parties and parcel it out to lawmakers they need to get elected to help them in their quest to control the legislative process.

The accounts will be controlled by both parties?leadership. And another word for account is fund. So in the generic, we might normally call them leadership funds. But when we do, we get a gentle, annoyed reminder from Republicans that these are nothing like ?eadership funds,?which were outlawed in 1989.

And in fairness, those funds were pretty opaque and may have been more accurately called backroom slush funds. The new funds are far more transparent than those were, and, backers say, more transparent than the current process even. That makes them a step forward for openness, the proponents of the new type of funds said.

Democrats argued against them, saying they were really just a return of leadership funds. But just as in 2010, Democrats are vastly outnumbered and so without Crist on their side they couldn? stop the return of whatever these funds should be called. In fact, they not only lost Crist as an ally on this particular issue, they have lost since the last election any ability to block it by themselves because Republicans now have 81 members in the House. The number of votes needed to override a veto: 80.

So why are leadership

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.