State Sen. Tom Lee is not afraid to challenge his colleagues, especially when he knows they can do better.
One example came at the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Tuesday. Caitln Johnston of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Brandon Republican seemed ready to challenge legislators once again, this time about adding amendments to completed bills.
When an audience member asked about the record low number of proposals coming out of the Florida Legislature in 2014, Tom Lee responded about reforms needed in the bill-making process.
Although the question hinted at dysfunction during the session, Lee responded that there was, but not exactly what the audience had in mind.
“We may be passing the fewest numbers of bills, but we’re passing the longest trains,” Lee told the crowd. “When issues are added to those pieces of legislation as they move through the process that are substantive in nature, they ought to be referred back to the original committee … not be allowed to be added later in the process.”
Lee, joined by Republican state Reps. Dan Raulerson and Ross Spano, shared insight on the state legislative process during Tuesday’s chamber Legislative Wrap-up Luncheon.
Having served in the Senate for a decade before returning to Tallahassee in 2012, Tom Lee said the problem was most noticeable during last year’s session, Johnston writes.
Changing bills later in the process, he explained, eliminates a degree of transparency and accountability, particularly when the committee does not vet changes.
“We ought to go back to a day where every idea has an individual bill number, Tom Lee said. “It’s run through the process and the process is respected.”
Term limits only add to the situation, he said. Incoming legislators rarely have institutional acquaintance with the process, and often fail to realize this is not how the process should work.
Permitting a number of bill amendments later in the process, lobbyists and special interest groups believe they can withhold filing legislation, and begin looking for popular bills to attach their agendas.
“They just wait to see what looks like it has momentum and has lift,” Lee said. “They wait until late in the process and they start adding amendments on those bills that are must-pass pieces of legislation.
“We end up with huge — hundred and hundreds of pages — pieces of legislation and nobody knows what’s in them.”
Lee also discussed his role as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee as it related to budget issues. Gov. Rick Scott could have vetoed “low-hanging fruit,” Tom Lee said, but undoubtedly opted to “make friends” for his re-election effort.