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Byrd denies Bible quote was jab

He quoted a verse from Judges in the House for its "insightful" view, he says - not because it referred to "no king."

Published May 6, 2003

TALLAHASSEE - Florida House Speaker Johnnie Byrd says he was not attempting to "make light of the Scripture in a vain attempt at witty political banter" when he used a Bible quote that appeared to insult Senate President Jim King.

Byrd, R-Plant City, last week inexplicably used a quote from the Book of Judges while praising the work of House chaplain Bob West.

"In those days there was no king in Israel and every man did the right thing," Byrd said Thursday on the House floor only a few hours after Gov. Jeb Bush urged the two legislative leaders to improve their behavior. His statement paraphrased Judges 21:25.

After several newspapers used the quote over the weekend, Byrd said in a statement Monday that those who saw it as an example of "punditry gone wrong" have attempted to link "this insightful verse to the pettiness of personal politics."

Last week, Byrd walked out of a news conference refusing to explain why he used the Bible quote.

Legislators will return next Monday for a special session to finish work on the budget and other major issues left unresolved when they adjourned Friday.

In an interview with the Associated Press on Monday, Byrd declined to address a fellow House Republican's suggestion that, considering the rancor between him and King, R-Jacksonville, negotiations on budget details should be turned over to others.

Rep. Bob Allen of Merritt Island suggested that new faces leading the negotiations might make them go more smoothly.

He said it might be better that Byrd and King's lieutenants take the lead roles.

"My constituents are interested in goals and results," Allen said. "I'm not trying to be disloyal."

Byrd said he hadn't talked to Allen since the session ended. But he said much of the budget dispute should be smoothed over when lawmakers return.

[Last modified May 6, 2003, 04:53:02]

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