Government in the Sunshine State: Florida since Statehood

Article excerpt

Government in the Sunshine State: Florida Since Statehood. By David R. Colburn and Lance deHaven-Smith. Florida History and Culture Series. (Gainesville and other cities: University Press of Florida, c. 1999. Pp. xvi, 167. $19.95, ISBN 0-8130-1652-5.)

David Colburn, a professor of history at the University of Florida who has written extensively on the state's racial problems, is also coauthor with Richard K. Scher of Florida's Gubernatorial Politics in the Twentieth Century (Gainesville, 1980). Lance deHaven-Smith has written on Florida environmental and political issues and is the associate director of the Florida Institute of Government at Florida State University. Their short work Government in the Sunshine State--the title plays off Florida's infamous "Government in the Sunshine Law"--is divided into four major sections with an afterview entitled "Reflections on State Government in Florida." The first section details the development of Florida's government and its history down to the 1960s. The second section discusses the last forty years of Florida politics with emphasis on the "good" modern Democratic governors--Reubin Askew, Bob Graham, and Lawton Chiles--and how in the last decade changes in the voting patterns of conservative north Florida Democrats as well as migration to the state allowed Republicans gradually to capture the government. The third section details how Florida's government works, or actually, often fails to work. The fourth section tells of Florida's problems--such as urban sprawl and population growth in general, and the lack of a coherent taxing system--and how Floridians and their governing officials seem unwilling or unable to find solutions to these problems.

Colburn and deHaven-Smith point out that Florida was born a thoroughly southern state and note that its first constitution drew heavily on its southern neighbors' constitutions to support the rights of slaveholders. …