Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Leaders Push Issues That Are Harder to Sell

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Leaders Push Issues That Are Harder to Sell

Article excerpt

Byline: Tia Mitchell

Leadership has its privileges.

The bully pulpit that comes with being speaker of the Florida House or president in the Senate means you generally get your way. You're the guy (there hasn't been a woman in the power seat since 2000, but that's a column for another day) who decides who serves on which committee and which bills make it to the floor for a vote. Folks tend to defer to your priorities.

Former Senate President Andy Gardiner during his two-year tenure expanded educational programs and state funding for students with disabilities, motivated by his experiences as the father of a child with Down syndrome. Former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli focused on water issues. Before him, Speaker Will Weatherford considered himself a champion of state universities.

These were, for the most part, non-controversial topics without vocal opposition. No one is going to argue against providing more resources to kids with special needs. Compare that to what the men now leading the House and the Senate have chosen to champion.

Speaker Richard Corcoran is pushing a plan to eliminate Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida, two state agencies that leverage taxpayer dollars in order to recruit businesses or tourists to the state. He argues that he would rather spend the money investing in education or infrastructure instead of targeting cash to boost certain companies or industries at the expense of others.

The speaker's bill received tepid support in its first House committee vote last week. One Republican voted "no," and a couple of others said they were supportive but hopeful for changes that made the proposal more palatable to opponents. Even if the Senate decides to give Corcoran what he wants - and that's a big "if" - Gov. Rick Scott has made it crystal clear that he is strongly opposed and would likely veto the measure.

Senate President Joe Negron's pet project is just as precarious. He wants to buy farmland south of Lake Okeechobee to build a reservoir to keep polluted waters from being released into nearby tributaries and causing algae blooms. Negron is up against the powerful sugar industry, which has control of much of the land his plan wants to gobble up. …

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