Will a “ho-hum” 2014 session lessen Will Weatherford’s legacy?

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In a must-read analysis of the 2014 legislative session, News Service of Florida reporter Dara Kam synthesizes what most people have been saying about this year’s annual lawmaking effort: It’s boring in the capital.

Blame the GOP-dominated Legislature’s attempt to give Gov. Rick Scott a helping hand for what people are calling one of the most boring sessions in recent history. 

… Lawmakers recently put the kibosh on gambling legislation that was sure to split the Republican faithful. And, after Scott vetoed a similar effort last year, they opted to not even consider a prickly overhaul of the alimony system, putting the issue on hold for at least another year. 

But they are angling to land on the incumbent Republican’s desk a cornucopia of items that appeal to Hispanics, gun owners, drivers, families footing the bill for university educations and anyone disgusted by revelations that sexual offenders let loose by the state preyed again on children.

The Legislature quickly passed a package of measures aimed at cracking down on child molesters, even after critics complained that the legislation fails to fully address the problem.

And lawmakers swiftly handed Scott one of his top priorities, a nearly $400 million rollback of vehicle registration fees increased during economic tough times in 2009, when Charlie Crist — Scott’s leading Democratic opponent — was governor. 

With the May 2 end of the session fast approaching, the House and Senate are now wrangling over how to parcel out the remaining $100 million of the $500 million in election-year tax and fee cuts Scott made a top priority.

First of all, Republicans will argue that a do-little Legislature is a Legislature that is doing little harm to business or individual liberty and, that’s a good thing. GOP lawmakers are also not likely to criticize the game of small-ball politics they are playing.

“I think we’ve got a nice smooth session going on and that always helps. Everyone’s working together, the House, the Senate, the governor. I think it’s as much harmony here as I’ve seen during any session and that obviously should help him,” Senator Jack Latvala said.

It’s no secret that Gov. Scott and Chief of Staff Adam Hollingsworth made it very clear to legislative leaders in the House and Senate that the 2014 legislative session was no time to get cute and that big, hairy, audacious ideas had no place in Tallahassee this year. 

It’s been a season of singles and doubles in Florida’s capital, leading me me to wonder if Speaker Will Weatherford’s time in office will end short of the homeruns needed to cement a hall of fame legacy?

It’s sad to think that Weatherford’s crowning achievement — elections and ethics reform — will actually come back to haunt Florida politics, as part of that legislation allows for unlimited contributions to faceless political committees.

It’s also sad that the 2014 legislative session will end without lawmakers lifting a finger to address Weatherford’s Nixon-goes-to-China issue of generational poverty.

Weatherford’s critics will deservedly blame him for the state of Florida not accepting federal funds to expand Medicaid. As much as I personally admire Weatherford, his stubbornness of this issue is what will be in the first paragraphs of any story about his legacy. 

With a “ho-hum” 2014 session going into the books, it’s likely these stories will also talk about what might have been. Cutting the Gordian Knot on gambling. Expanded school choice opportunities. Real pension reform. All of these are priorities of Weatherford that are dead or dying. 

One priority of Weatherford’s which is still very much alive is providing in-state tuition rates to undocumented students. If Weatherford can get this past the Legislature and signed by Gov. Scott, it would put a grand slam on the board for the Speaker. 

It’s the bottom of the ninth inning of Speaker Weatherford’s time in the Florida Legislature. Batter up!

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.