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3 posts from May 4, 2014

May 04, 2014

Florida legislative session became a successful campaign prop for Gov. Rick Scott


TALLAHASSEE -- When the 2014 legislative session began, Senate and House leaders focused on a five-point “work plan.”

Cut taxes. Support the troops. Make government more efficient. Improve schools. Protect the vulnerable.

But House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, left off the most obvious priority: protect Gov. Rick Scott, who faces a tough re-election fight.

It was part of the plan all along. A defeat in November would be a shattering blow to Florida Republicans.

When the session ended late Friday, legislative leaders shamelessly celebrated their success at bolstering Scott’s prospects as they put a punctuation mark on an election-year session that lays the groundwork for the upcoming campaign.

“Everything he wanted going into this session, he got,” Weatherford said. “I have every reason to believe this will jump-start him into the election cycle. It’s going to be a really successful year for him going forward.”

Scott’s abbreviated session agenda was designed to attract maximum popular appeal: a $400 million rollback of auto tag fees, more money for education and a freeze on college tuition.

He got all three, and more.

More here

How Will Weatherford saved the 'Dreamer' tuition bill


Politicians are people. People fib.

Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford is a politician. And on Thursday, he misled — but in the rarest of ways.

Weatherford praised someone else (Gov. Rick Scott, to be exact) for something he really deserves the greatest credit for: securing the passage of a controversial bill giving in-state college tuition rates to some Florida high school graduates who are undocumented immigrants.

“I have to say, the bill would never have passed the Florida Senate had the governor not engaged,” Weatherford said at an impromptu news conference with Scott and other politicians after the legislation passed.

However, it was Weatherford —not Scott, not anyone else in the Capitol rotunda —who most forcefully used his office to pressure the leaders of the Florida Senate to clear up a procedural impediment that stalled the legislation.

Weatherford employed the bluntest of political tools: a veiled threat to hold hostage the state’s $77.1 billion budget until the Senate un-stuck the bill.

“I will not have a budget on the desk,” Weatherford said in a phone call he placed Monday to the office of Senate President Don Gaetz, an opponent of the legislation.

Gaetz decided it wasn’t worth the trouble. The bill started moving. So did the budget, which was agreed upon, printed and placed on the desks of lawmakers.

After the tuition bill passed, Weatherford downplayed —but didn’t deny —his power play.

Column here

Legislators use session to showcase a softer election-year image for GOP

End of SessionThe Republican-led Legislature in a blue presidential state comes out of a 60-day session with an image makeover leaders describe as compassionately conservative.

Policy shifts on immigration, marijuana and safety net spending reflected a party philosophy that moved closer to the middle on social issues — all of which poll well, even in conservative districts.

Republican lawmakers also delivered legislation to their base, and big-money special interests. They passed bills expanding private school vouchers, imposing new abortion restrictions and protecting gun rights. Biggest of all is what they chose not to do: expand Medicaid.

Yet Republicans are touting bipartisan support for the budget and a more moderate stance on some social issues as proof that they are listening to voters.

“The world out there is changing,’’ said Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, who was House speaker more than a decade ago and now is Senate Rules Committee chairman. “I have three adult children. They talk about things that I would have never thought of when I first got elected to the Legislature.”

He believes the votes on immigration and medical marijuana occurred because younger Republicans arrive with new points of view. “Republicans have been in control of the Legislature almost 20 years now,’’ he said. “I think people are listening better to the public now than ever before.”

But for many Democrats, who supported the budget and helped pass the tuition bill for undocumented immigrants, the GOP’s tack to the middle dwarfs the impact of the decision to withhold billions in federal money and keep 750,000 Floridians from getting health insurance. Story here.

Photo: Steve Cannon, AP

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/05/03/4096620/republicans-use-session-to-remake.html#storylink=cpy