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Tallahassee idea-raiser

A Times Editorial
Published January 25, 2006

The book with the blank pages is a gimmick, but what Marco Rubio insists he wants for Florida politics is not. Rubio, a 34-year-old Republican who is slated to become the first Cuban-American House speaker after the November elections, says the contest he will welcome in the Capitol is one of ideas.

"The political process shouldn't be about who has the money and the power," Rubio says. "It should an intellectual exercise, a laboratory of ideas."

Rubio's plan, to fill the empty "100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future" book prior to his start as speaker, is easy enough to ridicule as either naive or a contrivance. But he is young enough to claim some deniability for the cynical, partisan, special-interest politics that define Tallahassee, and his life story underscores his call to "leave for our children a better life than our own."

In recent years, leaders in both legislative chambers have come to their posts with limited agendas. They have been either pragmatic about the limitations, focused on legislative mechanics, or, as in the case of past speaker Johnnie Byrd, looking mainly to make a name for themselves.

By contrast, Rubio is already touring the state and asking questions. He and other House members, including John Legg in Pasco, are holding what they call "idea-raisers." They also direct people to participate through a Web site,

The point, Rubio says, is to bridge the disconnect between lawmakers and the people they represent. In September, when the House formally chose him as speaker-designate, he told his colleagues to think about a single mother who has little hope in her life. "Who will defend her dreams for her child?" he asked. ". . . If our goal is simply to win elections, or to use our service here as a springboard to another office, then her cause will be of little interest to us."

Talk has always been the cheap coin of politicians, but Rubio soon enough will get to show whether he is serious about changing the poisonous culture. If he is, he will need and deserve the help of those who think Tallahassee never listens.

[Last modified January 25, 2006, 00:55:16]

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