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Mitch Perry Report for 11.23.16 – Real reform in Tallahassee

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Florida’s new legislative class of 2017 is presumably back home for the holidays today after spending the first part of this week in Tallahassee.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron welcomed their troops by discussing their respective goals for the 2017 session. In the case of Corcoran, his proposals for lobbying reform have been well publicized in the past week. He also said repeated his pledge yesterday not to accept any spending projects that are not filed as House bills on the very first day of the session. Negron said he won’t be following suit.

“We have tens of thousands of our constituents who come to Tallahassee during session to bring us all kinds of ideas, some which relate to the budget,” Negron said. “And I think it’s perfectly appropriate for the Senate during the legislative session to make decisions on items that will be included in the budget and, by the way, things that will be stricken from the budget.”

The Democratic Senate Leader, Miami Gardens’ Oscar Braynon, had some very interesting things to say about Corcoran’s lobbying proposals.

“To me, that’s not a real change. Most of that is illegal or is not allowed anyway and if it is it’s disclosed,” Braynon told the Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas. “Real change is changing the dynamic where bills are not heard, where ideas are stifled, where people are forced to vote against their conscience. If they change that, then he’s doing a real change. the rest of this is — since Trump got elected I guess I can say this — it’s bulls*it.”

Braynon also referred to an underlying issue that can only be changed by the public – the fact that the s0-called “part-time” Legislature with a part-time salary is the single biggest reason why only the wealthy and/or privileged can actually serve in our “citizens legislature.”

“What do we really want our Legislature to look like?,” Braynon asked. “Do we want it to be wealthy, older guys who are so far along in their professions that they can take six months out of a year to come to Tallahassee for $29,000. What is wrong with a teacher being able to come here? What is wrong with somebody who spent most of his career as a bus drivers coming up here?

Several years ago while he was serving in the House,  Rick Kriseman told me that he was in the middle of switching to work at another law firm. Why? Because the firm he had been working at simply couldn’t abide by his unpredictable schedule.

The News Service of Florida reported in the summer that nearly a third of the Legislature were millionaires. Think about that for a moment. While Republicans like to decry Democrats nationally as being full of coastal elites out of touch with the working class, what about Tallahassee?

So many House Republicans in particular like to comment on how terrible Medicaid is, and that’s why they would never support expanding it to allow hundreds of thousands of Floridians to get health care coverage. Pretty easy to dictate such a philosophy when you’re already covered at reduced prices, isn’t it?

So to summarize: Corcoran’s proposals do present some serious reform, but longterm, there’s a lot more that needs to be done here to make it fairer and more representative for all.

In other news…

While Corcoran’s new rules may be getting mixed reviews in some quarters, Americans for Prosperity’s Florida Chapter is enthusiastic about them.

Since the election, the Hillsborough County Democratic Party has received a surge of requests to join their party.

Stacy White is the new chairman of the Hillsborough County Commission.

Pat Kemp is now officially a BOCC member.

Jim Davison leads Luis Viera 42%-35% in the Tampa City Council District 7 race.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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