St. Petersburg Times Online: News of Florida
TampaBay.com
Place an Ad Calendars Classified Forums Sports Weather
  • New legislative blood finds revolution in vain
  • Budget plan offers bonus for teachers
  • A visit, a gift, a great big mess
  • 2 hurdles left for nursing home bill
  • Legislative notebook
  • Bill would mandate 4 generic drugs
  • Landowner seeks to alter development rules
  • Negotiators agree on election reform package
  • Prosecutors say attorney eavesdropped

  • Lucy Morgan
  • Don't like the rules? Just change the rules

  • From the state wire

  • Hurricane Jeanne appears on track to hit Florida's east coast
  • Rumor mill working overtime after Florida hurricanes
  • Developments associated with Hurricanes Ivan and Jeanne
  • Four killed in Panhandle plane crash were on Ivan charity mission
  • Hurricane Frances caused estimated $4.4 billion in insured damage
  • Disabled want more handicapped-accessible voting machines
  • USF forces administrators to resign over test score changes
  • Man's death at Universal Studios ruled accidental
  • State child welfare workers in Miami fail to do background checks
  • Hurricane Jeanne heads toward southeast U.S. coast
  • Hurricane Jeanne spurs more anxiety for storm-weary Floridians
  • Mistrial declared in case where teen was target of racial "joke"
  • Panhandle utility wants sewer plant moved to higher ground
  • State employee arrested on theft, bribery charges
  • Homestead house fire kills four children, one adult
  • Pierson leader tries to cut off relief to local fern cutters
  • Florida's high court rules Terri's law unconstitutional
  • Jacksonville students punished for putting stripper pole in dorm
  • FEMA handling nearly 600,000 applications for help
  • Man who killed wife, niece, self also killed mother in 1971
  • Producer sues city over lead ball fired by Miami police
  • Tourism suffers across Florida after pummeling by hurricanes
  • Key dates in the life of Terri Schiavo
  • An excerpt from the unanimous ruling in the Schiavo case
  • Four confirmed dead after small plane crash in Panhandle
  • Correction: Disney-Cruise Line story
  • tampabay.com

    printer version

    New legislative blood finds revolution in vain

    Term limits pave the way for 63 new House members. But party leaders keep them in line with their agendas.

    By ADAM C. SMITH

    © St. Petersburg Times, published May 3, 2001


    TALLAHASSEE -- So much for the freshman revolution in the capital.

    When term limits swept a huge batch of newcomers into the Legislature this year, it appeared a new force of fresh blood might be coming to Tallahassee. After all, 63 independent-minded fresh faces could wield tremendous clout in the state House, just as post-Watergate newcomers dramatically changed the way Congress did business.

    In Tallahassee, though, it didn't happen. All those rookie lawmakers have been united in little besides their angst. Only occasionally did new legislators assert themselves and vote against the wishes of their party leadership.

    "When term limits passed, people wondered if you'd get a lot of strife and people going against conventional wisdom, but that hasn't happened," said former state Rep. Janegale Boyd of Monticello, who was in the Capitol on Tuesday. "I think it's because we have very strong leadership."

    Indeed, several new Republican lawmakers on Monday got a taste of how forceful their leaders can be after the freshmen helped kill a GOP-friendly bill that would restrict unions from deducting dues from teacher paychecks. Party leaders quickly set to work on the Republicans who voted against the bill and passed the measure after changing enough minds.

    As freshman state Rep. Bob Allen, R-Merritt Island, put it, he and other members were "updated" and persuaded to reverse their votes.

    "It's very hard for even this many freshmen to break on leadership positions, because there's a huge and obvious consequence to that," said state Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami.

    To run afoul of House Speaker Tom Feeney or Senate President John McKay is to risk getting your bills sidetracked. What's more, all lawmakers know their legislative districts could be redrawn next year.

    "What surprised me the most (about the Legislature) is the total power and control of the speaker and the Majority Office," said Republican state Rep. Don Davis, a former Jacksonville City Council member.

    There have been some streaks of independence, though.

    Earlier in the session, a band of 25 Republican House freshmen successfully pushed to scale back a proposed tax cut on investments. A number of freshmen also bucked their party leadership on a key vote on a bill that would allow pharmacists to more easily substitute generic drugs for some brand-name drugs. And several stuck to their vote on teacher union paycheck deductions, despite pressure from the leadership.

    "They said, 'Do you realize this is one of the speaker's priorities?' I said, 'I wish I could help, but I really couldn't,' " recounted Davis, one of those who stuck by his initial vote. Another time, when he supported a growth management proposal opposed by party leaders, Gov. Jeb Bush paid him a personal visit.

    "These freshmen want to be part of a team. We are Republicans, most of us," Davis said. "But these freshmen are also pretty energetic and independent. They're not just going to be told what to do," Davis said.

    The freshman class is not as wide-eyed as some people expected. Many cut their teeth in local politics and understand that rabble-rousing isn't necessarily productive.

    State Rep. Charlie Justice, D-St. Petersburg, used to be a legislative aide and said he has seen much more energy in the Legislature this year than in the past. In committee meetings he used to often see veteran lawmakers ignore testimony because they felt they'd heard it all before.

    "You've got some sharp people who actually sit there in committee meetings and listen. There's a new level of studiousness," Justice said. "The main impact of the freshman class has been a real injection of fresh blood."

    Back to State news
    Back to Top

    © 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
    490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111
     
    Special Links
    Lucy Morgan


    From the Times state desk