At halftime in this year’s Legislative Session, House Speaker Richard Corcoran sounds like he’s getting a bit fatigued with questions about “transparency.”
At a media availability on Thursday, the Land O’ Lakes Republican pushed back against a reporter’s question about special interests who draft bills, and whether leadership pressures committee chairs to hear those bills.
“All I hear from you guys is ‘OK, you guys have done more than any other Legislature in the history of mankind (on) transparency and openness … but you forgot this one,’ ” Corcoran said.
“Really, what you ought to say is thank you. We’ve made your lives a heck of a lot easier. You guys have not even had access to all of the documents and all of the information if it wasn’t for us filing lawsuits and dragging people who take taxpayer money up here before committees and browbeating them (about) what they’re spending money on. And the only thing you guys come and tell us is, ‘you forgot this group.’
“You know, you guys have to (get over) your level of cynicism … How many times are bills given to Democrats, to Republicans, that are written by the special interests? Way too many. (But) I will (say) this year of legislators and legislation that is homegrown, owned by the members, is better than any.
“I’ll give you another example,” Corcoran went on. “Take the budget, and the pushback by the special interests. You just went through a whole budget week, and (here in the House), you had seven amendments. A budget that cuts $2.1 billion of pork, one Democrat votes against it and there’s only seven amendments, all of them completely transparent.”
(Actually, it was two Democrats: House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz of Tampa and Rep. Lori Berman of Lantana.)
“Go across the hall (to the Senate), and what do you see?” Corcoran said. “How many amendments were offered to the Senate budget bill? Over 100.
“… We have a $100 million plus in (member-requested) projects. The Senate? Sitting at $700 million. So you want me to tell you where we can bridge differences? $700 million is too many projects. That is a lot of pork.”
The chamber’s respective budgets should be voted off the floor next week, then move into conference the week after that. The Senate’s more than $85 billion, or about $4 billion over the House’s bottom line. The current state budget is close to $82.3 billion.