Comments and Suggestions Are Welcome on Outstanding Legislators

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As indicated in my last post to this Blog, I am planning on announcing the 12 most outstanding legislators with whom I served during the Golden Age of the Florida Legislature (described by members of the Press Corps as the 70’s and ’80’s).  Hopefully these examples of excellance might prompt a dialogue of improving our state political governance and campaigning.

I have received a surprising number of responses, comments and suggestions regarding the announcement.  Some readers have even submitted names for consideration. It occurs to me it might be appropriate to welcome any other comments or suggestions, since I do not plan on starting the announcements within this Blog until the first of the year.  I will read all of the reader comments, but reserve my independence in making the selection.  I will not release the comments I receive, but cannot control internet distribution from the sender.  Names or circumstances of which I may not be aware or forgotten hopefully will be captured with this action.

If you wish to comment, may I provide for you my general objectives:

  • .Recognize the truly outstanding legislators serving in either chamber and or either party during the ’70’s and ’80’s.
  • The legislators should have been among the most effective, with the highest level of integrity.
  • The areas of expertise or number of years of service should not necessarily be a factor.
  • Any lasting or memorial of achievement, such as the author of a significant law,  is noteworthy.
  • Disregard other levels or service in office–I really think it is best to focus just on the legislature service.

Please send any communication in response to this Blog or to my email address:  Thank you.

Announcing the Very Best Legislators from the “Golden Age” of Florida Politics


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As regular readers of this Blog are aware, my content is largely drawn from I book I wrote called, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70’s and ’80’s.  In the book I tried to review my political experiences in Florida politics, particularly drawing attention to some of the truly extraordinary legislators with whom I served.  To help promote the book, I did a weekly column in the Tallahassee Democrat for 3 years, further highlighting personalities, under the title “Quorum Call.”  In QC, I broadened the coverage to include legislators, staff, the press, and lobbyists on a bi-partisan basis, without trying to rank them in any way.

After receiving a surprising level of comments, suggestions and feedback on the book and QC, I am now convinced that the public would like me to identify the very best with whom I served and/or knew.  The reason is the continuing frustration from the public with their representation at the state and federal level.  The anger with the quality of campaigns now is beyond description. Many have suggested that by naming individuals who served with distinction and integrity (based on my sole opinion), we will have role models to help us improve our governance.  That suggestion may be overly optimistic and downright unfair, but I certainly can name the people that I think would really have made a positive difference, if they served today.  Maybe this will start a discussion of improving our process of governance.

So, I am announcing today that starting with the new year, I will release with this Blog, a brief profile of only 12 legislators from the Golden Age of the ’70’s and ’80’s who served with true distinction, in my sole opinion.  The description of that era as extraordinary was made by the representatives of the Tallahassee Press Corps at that time.  I will list them randomly to avoid ranking,  and they will be bi-partisan.  I apologize in advance for those I omit from the listing, but I have listed all with whom I served in the House and Senate in my book, for your review.

Trump Has Earned “All Backyard”


Like most political observers, I have grown tired of Donald Trump’s ignorant babbling.  I continue to be amazed at apparently just how dumb he is–about issues, people and the world.  His elementary level of discourse kind of reminds me what we called bullies who hung out on the playground– they sought the title, “All Backyard.”  Consider samples of his vitriol:

  • Decorated POW and former Republican Presidential nominee U. S. Senator John McCain–Trump, who never served his country,  said he preferred prisoners who escaped, over McCain who was tortured in captivity for years.
  • Candidates Dr. Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Governors John Kasich and Jeb Bush, and Senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul–Trump: who says his opponents are not as good as himself,  are described as ‘a child molester, ugly, weak, and dumb.’
  • President Barack Obama:  Trump:  made illiterate comments about the Harvard Law School graduate, including ‘dumb and weak.’
  • Mexicans:  Trump:  employing them, describes them as rapists.
  • Muslims:  Trump:  practicing no discernible religion,  wants to require registration and tracking; closing religious Mosques.

Trump’s contempt for his fellow candidates appears to be universal.  I think it is time for all of the other GOP candidates for president to unite in a proxy to the Republican Party  to deem Trump unqualified to be a candidate for President, based on his opprobrium.



What’s Needed? Signature Issues.


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To their credit, both presidential candidates from Florida have put multiple proposals in front of the American people in pursuit of the Republican nomination.  Governor Bush and Senator Rubio  have proposed solutions from national defense to the removal of Obama Care.  Contrast that with Donald Trump who has proposed building a wall and has offered a half baked idea on tax reform.  For the life of me, I cannot think of what Dr. Carson is specifically proposing to do if elected.  The rest of the candidates seem to fall some place in between in terms of issues and positions.

I believe what the candidates are missing are signature issues.  Yes, the voting public wants proposed solutions for the myriad of problems from the economy to national defense, to health care, to the environment, to ethics, and beyond, perhaps in the form of detailed ‘white papers.’  But, my experience is that the busy public also wants are very direct and easy to understand signature issues.   Imagine a candidate saying, “This is my vision and passion–if you vote for me, it is what you will get.”  Fulfilling a signature issue is the ultimate accountability for any public servant.

Examples of some recent signature issues from previous presidential campaigns or established during their terms in office are:

Eisenhower:  Peace and Prosperity.

Kennedy:  Public Service over Self.

Johnson:  Guns (military) and Butter (Economy).

Nixon:  Accord and Trade with China.

Cater:  Integrity– ‘I Won’t Lie to You.’

Reagan:  Strategic Weapon Defense Against Russia.

Bush:  Successful Waging of Gulf War.

Clinton:  The Economy.

Sometimes in politics, less is more.




Scott Gave Us a Head’s Up on Trump






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Most political pundits seem surprised about the success of Donald Trump in the Republican nomination for President.  But for we in Florida, it probably should not have been as surprising.  After all the maiden campaign of Governor Rick Scott in Florida was very similar to that of Trump:

.  Like Trump, Scott was a zillionare by questionable tactics,  who had never served the public in any office.

.  Like Trump, Scott was largely ignorant of public policy as was painfully apparent in their debates.

.  Like Trump’s sharp attack on immigration, Scott was almost singularly focused on securing jobs in Florida.

.  Like Trump’s disdain for the GOP establishment, Scott pilloried the Florida GOP picked favorite, Attorney General Bill McCullom.

.  Like Trump who largely ignores the Congress, Scott has had little time for the Legislature, and his achievements show it.

Only time will tell if Trump, like Scott wins.  But, if Trump makes it, he better hope he has better results than Florida’s chief executive with the worst poll results in the state’s history.

The Election…With a Year to Go


It is almost exactly a year to go until the 2016 election.  The thought here is to handicap the Presidential Election, especially after we have seen all the candidates in  multiple debates–albeit more for the GOP.  Here is my take on the candidates as they start the long home stretch:

Democrats:  It is obviously Secretary Hillary Clinton’s nomination to lose.  But, recent disclosures that the FBI case on the alleged misuse of her confidential State Department e-mails is very much alive, raises the remote possibility of a late, very serious problem for her.  If something were to happen to Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders became the nominee,  I think it would be a defeat for a Democratic nominee as sound as McGovern’s in ’72 and Carter in ’80.  If Clinton survives with the nomination, this would become the nastiest election, ever.

Republicans:  The Fox Financial News debate last night introduced a new, but old, serious candidate, Senator Rand Paul.  He single-handedly embarrassed Donald Trump, Senator Marco Rubio and the Fox Moderators with his sage rebuttals–Trump’s foible may have been fatal (after Trump railed again about China and the TPP, Paul pointed out that China is not even in the TPP).  Dr. Ben Carson probably remains at or near the top just because of his resume and gentle personality.  Governor Jeb Bush is probably still hanging around, with his zillions of PAC money,  and Rubio now remains a big mystery to me.  He has heavy baggage, as I opined in an earlier Blog post (“Integrity Matters”), but he still is an excellent speaker and sometimes talks so fast, he is mesmerizing.  But Paul showed Rubio may have a ‘glass jar’ as boxers say.  Cruz may have the priorities that the Tea Party want, but he strikes me as very shallow, also with a glass jaw.  Paul is obviously smart, but I think he is just too much of a libertarian for the rank and file GOP.  For my money, Governor Kasich and Carly Fiorina are going to flame out, as are the other 4 or 6 undercard candidates.  So the GOP mix to me, a year out, looks like the nomination is between Carson, Bush, Rubio and maybe Cruz.

More Wreckage From Term Limits



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This post is hard to write.  As most of the readers of this Blog are aware, I had the honor of serving in the Florida Legislature–both chambers-in the ’70’s and ’80’s.  Not my description, but that of the press is that the ’70’s and ’80’s were the Golden Age of Florida politics.  The primary reason for the lofty description was, in my opinion,  the incredible talent serving with a fervor for public service.  There were actually many reasons the achievements have been lost, but by most accounts, the backward spiral is most attributable to term limits, single member districts, obscene amounts of campaign money in the system and the advent of social media.

So, this brief post is not meant to be ‘we against them,’ or ‘we were better than you.’  But rather, it is a very short take on the multiple failures of the current legislature to reapportion itself at a staggering cost to the taxpayer.  Other than the obvious recommendation to seek an independent third party resolution, here are some possible recommendations for improving the failed current process:

  1.  Isolate on the givens from the Courts, precedent, and  credible independent recommendations.
  2.  Ensure total transparency.
  3.  Invite critique from your work by experienced predecessors (former members of the House and Senate) on a bi-partisan basis.
  4.  Seek contrarian maps from opponents and debate their merits and demerits.
  5.  Use pledges prior to any public vote.
  6.  At last resort, use ‘base closing’ up or down votes for resolution.

Some of these recommendations may have already been used, but sometimes it is the environment and culture in which a process is considered that is the problem.  That problem can generally can be laid at the foot of leadership.  Only the members know if that was the case here.


The Last 20 Years in Florida Politics


By all accounts, Florida has been a dynamic growth state since the end of the Korean Conflict in the 1950’s.  For that reason, the Census totaled every ten years has been an eye opener for the Country, moving Florida up in ranking to the now third largest state.  With all that growth, the every 10 year reapportionment required by the State Constitution has been an all out battle between the Republicans and Democrats for control of state governance.  The battle continues today in the legislature and the courts.

It is particularly interesting to watch the movement of one area of the state from one described constituency to one of almost opposite demographics, over the brief span of just 20 years.  Witness two of the fastest growing areas in the state,  from the 1990’s to today:

Southeast:  Miami-Dade has gone from a totally liberal Democratic County to a split of liberal Democrats on the Beach and Conservative                                              Republicans, primarily Hispanic, on the Mainland.

                     Broward has done an exact turn around–from a conservative Republican County to an almost totally liberal Democratic County.

                     Palm Beach has largely mirrored Broward, almost as an extension of the County to its’ north.

Central:      Orange/Orlando like Broward and Palm Beach County, Orlando has gone from a conservative, Republican constituency to now a                                                 near majority moderate Democratic County, also with a large Hispanic concentration.

                    The Villages are a model concentration of conservative Republicans in Central Florida, in direct contrast to the liberal                                      Century Village Communities in the Southeast.


As Bob Dylan sang, “The Times, They Are a Changing.”

Integrity Matters.


U. S. Senator Marco Rubio is an impressive debater with an alluring smile.  So when former Florida Governor Jeb Bush tried to confront him during last week’s debate about his excessive absenteeism in the U. S. Senate, Rubio countered quickly with an attack on Bush’s ambition for the Republican nomination.  Until the counter-punch, it was said that Bush wanted to follow up with questions about Rubio’s conduct while in office in Tallahassee.

After the debate, Bush released a memo with a number of questions about Rubio’s integrity while serving in the Florida legislature.  These are just 5 of the questions, that have circulated in Tallahassee for years.

  1.  Misuse of credit cards and accounts of the Republican Party–from a $135 haircut to a family vacation.
  2.  Close personal relationship and business partner with discredited and rejected legislative colleague, then State Representative David  Rivera.
  3.  With Rivera’s help, steering state appropriations to private institution on behalf of his wife’s employer and a major campaign supporter.
  4.  Creation of multiple political action committee accounts, while Speaker of the Florida House,  totaling an estimated half a million  dollars.
  5.  Author of secret Appropriation Proviso language intended to financially benefit chum Max Alvarez for lucrative Florida DOT contract.

These five instances alone should draw the interest of his competitors and the press for thorough research.  It is said that the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney found similar concerns when vetting and then rejecting Rubio for a possible appointment.  Also, as pointed out in the debate, the Senator has wrestled with personal financial demons that should require further scrutiny for serving in a fiduciary capacity as Commander and Chief of our country.   Integrity matters.

“Golden Age” Counsel for the Democrats




I am often asked why I focus on Florida politics from the ’70’s and ’80’s–described by the press as the “Golden Age.”  One reason is because I had the honor of serving at that time, and by all accounts, it was a time of productive results and bi-partisan cooperation.  I also write about the Era because it was also a time of service for some extraordinary leaders–like Governors Reubin Askew, Bob Graham, Lawton Chiles, State Senators Phil Lewis, Ken Myers, Ken Plante,  Mallory Horne and State Representatives Dick Pettigrew, Terrell Sessums, and Elaine Gordon, among many others.

With all of that talent, much of which has unfortunately passed, why in the world have the beaten up Democrats not called on some of these great Floridians for counsel and advice?  I have made such suggestions to the Party leadership, but to no avail.  Without ranking, or talking to any of them about this, I offer a sample 5 member team with distinguished service to Florida from the Golden Age that I think would be willing and able to offer sage advice to the Democrats today:


Former Chancellor Dr. Charlie Reed:  Chief of Staff to one of Florida Governors, Bob Graham (D., Fla.) and Chancellor of higher Education in Florida and California.

Former Representative Sam Bell:  Former State Representative from Daytona Beach, Speaker-Designate, Florida House of Representatives; House Majority Leader and Chairman of the Rules, Commerce,  and Appropriations’ Committees.

Former Press Secretary Don Pride:  Press Secretary for Florida Governor Reubin Askew (D., Fla.) and U. S. Senator Bill Nelson (D., Fla.)

Former Senator Pat Frank:  State Representative and Senator from Tampa; currently serving in local government in Hillsborough County.

Former Representative Steve Pajcic:  Democratic nominee for Governor in 1986; former State Representative from Jacksonville and Chairman of the House Finance and Tax Committee.

15 Years Later–It’s Florida Again



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A great political writer in Miami during the Golden Age of Florida politics (the 70’s and ’80’s), John McDermott of the Miami Herald used to make a “Fearless Forecast” of elections.  Subject to change, here is my current thinking and Fearless Forecast on the national election:

Republicans:  Florida’s primary will provide a strong indication of the winner, especially if former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and U. S. Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) stumble.  Trump may very well win Florida, which will mean the nomination is then his to lose.  The key, as I have said before, is whether Florida Governor Scott endorses anyone other than Bush or Rubio in the Florida primary.  For example, if Scott enthusiastically endorses Trump, game over in Florida.  Then, don’t overlook Scott as Trump’s candidate for Vice President.

More Powerful Than the President:  The mess in the GOP presidential election makes U. S. Congressman Paul Ryan’s (R., Wisc.) near unanimous election as Speaker of the House of Representatives that much more important.  Since Senator Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.)is such a weak leader in the Senate, Ryan would become the most powerful individual in Washington, even above the President of either party.  As of this writing Ryan is in.  The Florida angle is my whether my former colleague, Congressman Dan Webster (R., Orlando) tosses in the towel and gets enthusiastically behind Ryan.

Democrats:  Clinton is in.  Her running mate is now the key issue.  As I have said before, my former colleague, U. S. Senator Bill Nelson (D., Fla.) of Florida moves to the top of the short list.  He will put the sunshine state in play, giving the Democrats an almost lock on the three of the largest states–California, New York, and Florida.

Remember the country is divided almost equally, so it will be another close one.

Conclusion:  It is Florida again--this time, Scott key on the Florida primary for GOP and maybe Vice President; and Nelson key as Vice President for the Democrats.

“All Senators Run”




Pursuant to the Florida Constitution, the Florida Legislature was required to apportion itself every 10 years, after the census two years prior.  In 1982, as now, the exercise was controversial and ended in the laps of the Supreme Court for final approval.  The issue then was not just where the lines were drawn, but whether all 40 Senators had to stand for re-election.  It is ironic that the same issue has now surfaced in the current imbroglio.

In 1982, the majority Democratic Senate totaled 28 votes, while the Republican minority totaled 12 votes.  But among the majority was a powerful, senior Senator from the 3rd, Dempsey Barron.  As the Dean, he was simply the voice of the Senate, particularly for the conservative wing of both Democrats and Republicans.  His mentee was an impulsive, hot tempered ‘Banty Rooster’, Senate President W. D. Childers of the 1st.District.  The two long time friends selected the floor of the Senate, very near my desk I might add, for their public falling out and fight.  Childers kept the presidency of the Senate, but Barron knew the rules so well that he retained the majority–26 vote Coalition made up of all the Republicans and 14 conservative Democrat Senators.  Somehow, that year the Senate passed an Appropriation’s Bill and Sine Died out of town.

The reapportionment maps were approved by the courts, but Senator Barron and his Coalition felt they needed to keep half of the Senate off the ballot to ensure control of the Senate during 1983-84.  The Supreme Court declared, “All Senators Run.”  They did, but Barron still kept his control of the Senate for the next several terms, before the Republicans took total control of the Senate.

Governor Jeb Bush and Sunrise Community in the Redlands of South Dade


In 1998, Governor Jeb Bush (R., Fla.) made his first successful run for public office.  While I was in the Senate, over a decade earlier, I had been employed with Planned Development Corporation, a major office building owner and property manager on Brickell Avenue,  One of our tenants was Jeb and his real estate associates.  Since I got to know him socially, I made it a point to meet with him during his 1998 campaign to discuss a former constituent of mine, the Sunrise Community for disabled consumers in the Redlands of South Dade County.  Jeb was very kind to spend the better part of a day discussing Sunrise, and its’ need for adequate funding under Florida’s Medicaid Program with the Federal Government.  He made a pledge to Sunrise and I was anxious about his potential election, and if successful, then his commitment?

After his election and inauguration as our Florida Governor, one of his first acts on the Appropriations Bill was to request $50 Million of new monies for operations in the state like Sunrise.  It was an unheard of amount of money then, and it further shocked the legislature, because neither they nor the agencies ever asked for it.  The legislature fulfilled their new Governor’s funding request for disabled.

Jeb and I exchanged personal notes (copies are shown in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature) on the noble act afterward, and I will always remember his concern and then commitment on behalf of Sunrise.  He gave his word and kept it.



A Silver Lining in Washington?



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I know the expression, “Silver Lining,” is trite and over used.  But, in this case, it may be best description of what could happen in Washington with the House of Representatives Speakership.  Consider:  The House GOP Tea Party wing, probably 20% of the whole GOP Caucus is insisting on an ultra conservative candidate for Speaker.  The moderate wing of the GOP, also probably 20% of the Caucus want a centrist Speaker, but most of the possible candidates don’t want to have to govern with the right nipping at them constantly, and therefore are reluctant to enter the race.

While all of this is going on, we have a possible shut down in the government looming and raging conflicts all over the Middle East.  So we need a solution to this crisis now–reminder,  the Speaker is next in line for the presidency after the Vice President.

A silver lining in this mess might be the formation of a Coalition of the Democratic Caucus and the House GOP moderates.  For this scenario to work, a non-controversial member (maybe one retiring, or even coming out of office to be appointed to serve out a term) would have to become Speaker.  There would have to be strict ground rules to be honored by the two factions in the Coalition to total a majority vote, but it could be done, at least mathematically, maybe with a few extra crossovers for selected votes.

The magic number required to pass legislation is 218 votes, and there are 188 Democrats, requiring 30 moderate Republicans of the 247 members of the GOP Caucus to join the Coalition.   The question is whether 12% of the Republican Caucus would selectively vote across the aisle for the good of the country over their political party?   Realistically there would be absent members and some refusing to go along, but with the great majority of Democrats voting; as you can see, it would not require that many centrist Republicans to join the Coalition to make this exercise work.  Keep in mind, this exercise would only be used for the really critical votes for the country.  The very strategic bi-partisan agenda would be set by the Coalition and approved by the Speaker, with input from the Senate and President.

For those that say it could not work, I would point to the Florida Senate in the early ’80’s under the guidance of my clever and tenacious  colleague, Senator Dempsey Barron.  It worked then and could possibly work now, for the good of the country.

Better Keep Your Eye on the Speaker

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As of this writing, the pressure remains intense among the House GOP in Washington to get respected Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wisconsin) to accept selection as Speaker of the U. S. House of Representatives.  The position is one of two presiding officers in the Congress and is second in ascension to the presidency, after Democrat Vice President Joe Biden.  This is a big deal.

In the meantime, incumbent Speaker John Boehner (R. OH.) remains in the position as Speaker, and he says he will remain in that position until a replacement is found.  What if it takes some time to find a replacement?  What if the replacement needs some time to get things in order to take command of the 435 members?  Pending issues requiring action now are the potential closing of the United States government, several agency funding bills, and serious international conflicts flaring out of control in the Middle East, among others.

So, a word to the wise.  Keep your eye on the Speaker.  Speaker Boehner is generally well liked, even among people who do not support his philosophy, like Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., CA.).  Even his arch-nemesis, the GOP Tea Party members of the House are said to somewhat be feeling sorry for him, and would not want to embarrass his upcoming departure.  In the words of Washington, as a lame duck, the ‘Speaker could get a pass.’  In hard ball politics, this is setting up to what could be a perfect opportunity for a stealth strike, while almost no one is looking.  Even the vigilant Congressional staff might have their eyes on other prizes, like future jobs with the new administration in the House.

The list of ways a clandestine legislative move could happen are almost endless in the House of Representatives–scheduling a minor piece of legislation for floor action, with some largely unseen amendments prepared for adoption; appointment of some unknown bureaucrats that will be not be easily found; and perhaps the most dangerous of all–allowing potential inside access to selected lobbyists to the process within the House of Representatives.

I just saying that it is possible…

It’ll Be Scott’s Call


As a life long Democrat, I claim no special access to the Republican Party thinking.  But, with the growing interest in what happens in the 2016 Presidential Primary in the 3rd largest state in Country, I want to offer one prediction.  Governor Rick Scott will be asked to call out the winner.  It is ironic that the two term Governor, once a doormat in the polls, will now largely determine who wins Florida in the premier big state presidential primary in 2016, with his endorsement.  It has been said by some that the winner of the Florida primary wins the election.

The next thought is what does Scott want for his mega endorsement?  My guess is at a minimum, some favorable treatment from Washington on jobs, health care, and education–all his apparent priorities.  He and Florida have been overlooked by Washington on several of those issues recently, presumably because of Scott’s politics running afoul of the Obama Administration.  But, there might also be a request for a reciprocal endorsement by Scott from the person he endorses for a Senate race against Florida’s senior Senator, Democrat Bill Nelson in 2018.  Lastly, I would not be surprised if Scott asked from the potential new President,  Cabinet appointments for the Floridians of his choosing.

So, my prediction is in Florida, the focus will begin shifting from the Presidential candidates to the incumbent Governor for his all important endorsement.

He will become Great Scott.

The Courts and Florida Prison Health Care

Former FL State Senator Bob McKnight

It was early in 1975.  As the new Chairman of the Florida House Corrections Sub Committee, I was asked by the Committee Staff to sign an Amicus Curiae Brief in the controversial Costello versus Wainwright litigation, dealing with medical care provided in Florida prisons.  The purpose of the brief was to advise the Court that the legislative branch wanted to be directly notified of the status of the litigation.  The lawsuit was being closely watched around the country due to the potentially precedent setting of a verdict, especially to the states.   Since management of the prisons was the responsibility of the state Chief Executive, we worked closely with Governor’s office on the litigation.

Costello was an inmate claiming in his lawsuit that he was denied adequate health care.  Wainwright was the veteran Secretary of the Department of Corrections, Louie Wainwright, who was named as the Defendant on behalf of the state.

The litigation was ultimately settled, resulting in major new expenditures for health care facilities and personnel within the entire corrections system.  The plight of the prison system in the country was ripe for judicial involvement due to the level of neglect demonstrated by many of the Governors.  Depending on the party affiliation, the national political mood often swung from liberal to conservative and back in the administration of prisons in the country. Once the courts started ruling for the Plantiff prisoners, precedents began becoming established, which require the  legislature be more involved in Executive Branch issues as part of their “oversight” responsibility in the appropriations process.

Florida and the House GOP in Washington

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Florida is now the 3rd largest state in the country, so it it just seems appropriate that the Sunshine State is “in the mix” on the selection of the next Speaker of the House of Representatives in the Congress.  Congressman Daniel Webster (R., Orlando) has announced his candidacy for Speaker, even though the heavy favorite remains current House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.).  Webster also has concerns about re-election to his Orlando seat, due to reapportionment problems in the courts.  Congressman Dennis Ross (R., Lakeland) has announced his candidacy for the all important Whip leadership position within the majority Republican Caucus, against the probable favorites, Congressmen Patrick McHenry (R., N.C.), Markwayne Mullin (R., OK.) and Pete Roskam (R., ILL.).

The Tea Party organization in the U. S. House is primarily embedded in the House Freedom Caucus.  A Founder in the Caucus is Congressman Ron DeSantis (R., St. Augustine) and members of the Caucus listed are Congressman Curt Clawson (R., Ft. Myers) and Congressman Bill Posey (R., Merritt Island).  With all the national focus on the Tea Party in the Republican Caucus, these 3 Floridians should be key votes for leadership team.

Additional leading players in the selection of the GOP House Leadership, based on seniority and committee assignments are Congresspersons Eleana Ros-Leighton (R., Miami), Jim Miller (R., Pensacola), Ander Crenshaw (R., Jacksonville), John Mica (R., Orlando), and Mario Diaz-Balart (R., Miami).

The lobbyists close to these Florida members of Congress will have a particular influence on the selections made by the members.  All the members have their own political action committees, which will now be overflowing with campaign contributions from their favorite lobbyists and causes.

Over half of the Florida  Republican Congressional Delegation should plat pivotal roles in the selection of the new Speaker and his leadership team.  Florida should benefit in the critical committee assignments and resulting public policy.

An Impassioned Speech on The Floor of the House


After President Nixon easily won re-election over Senator George McGovern (D., S.D.) in 1972, the Republicans tried to rally support for the President’s Viet Nam combat policy.  Therefore, in Florda it was a surprise in the Florida House of Representatives to see new State Representative Bob Johnson (R., Sarasota) take the floor to make an impassioned speech against the President’s conduct of the war.  Bob sat directly behind me on the floor, and I got to know him as a very smart lawyer and an excellent orator.  I just had no idea he had such strong feelings about the war, particularly as a conservative Republican

Bob made a point to highlighting the My Lai Massacre at the hands of Lieutenant William Calley.  Apparently Bob had specific knowledge of the incident and he felt strongly that it was absolutely not the proper conduct for our country.  Most significantly, Representative Johnson held his colleagues, visitors in the gallery, and the press spell bound with his eloquent presentation.

Bob went on to a further career in the Senate.  He recently passed and I had a chance to tell a local Sarasota reporter about my memories of Bob and especially his impassioned speech that day on the floor of the The Florida House of Representatives.

The 5 Forgotten Powers of the Presidency

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The raucous campaign for the Presidency often reminds us of the importance of this every four year event.  We will elect the most powerful person in the world for almost a half a decade, and probably twice that long if they are re-elected.  The person we chose will run our entire government during that time.  But, many of us forget some of the powers the President retains that are often overlooked, and I would argue might be the most important of all.  Among others are these 5:

  1.  Nominate judges to the Federal Bench (including the Supreme Court) for life, affecting our lives every day and for as long as we live.
  2.  Veto legislation, shifting the burden of proof to the originators of the legislation, to a 2/3 vote.
  3.  Pardon criminals for life.
  4.  Sign executive orders affecting all agencies of the Executive Branch of government.
  5.  Power to initiate national discussion of any issue through proposed budgets, legislation and the “Bully Pulpit.”

So, please, get serious about this opportunity.  Please study long and hard the candidates, the issues, and the principles upon which our country was created.  Lastly, please vote–your fellow Americans have died for your right to do just that.  We owe them that much.

Focus on Fewer Candidates and Better Debates





As of this writing, the roster of some 20 odd candidates of both parties for president has thinned by one–former Governor Rick Perry of Texas.  Although in America, we urge political participation and for qualified candidates to run for office, I believe the long list of candidates has actually hurt the selection process.  The obvious reason is that,  particularly in debates, there is not an opportunity to focus on the large number of candidates within a one or two hour time frame.  The focus might be a couple of minutes on each candidate (except for Trump).  For the candidates, it does not seem appropriate that they prepare for hundreds of potential questions, to be asked a total of maybe two.  And some of those couple of questions are not on issues, but personal matters to draw out embarrassing responses–the “gotcha” version.

As a result of the brief inspection by the public (and media viewers), the candidates are tempted to focus on sound bites or something that catches attention, regardless of whether it is intelligently presented.  So, what could be done to help manage this problem of too many candidates to manage a digestible campaign?  Here are some thoughts?

  1.  Require the candidates to prepare “white papers”  in advance of the debates, on the issues, following a rigid outline of being cogent and brief, that would be available on line for public inspection anytime.  The public would know the candidates’ position on the issues in advance, and could even e-mail in questions, that the press could publish.
  2. Conduct an online debate, with streaming available at any time for the public, with press support.
  3. Schedule regional debates with smaller number of candidates.  Rotate the candidates around the regional debates for fairness and equal exposure.
  4. Allow more questions among the candidates of each other.
  5. Allow candidates to pick debate subjects to produce more focused questions and better preparation.
  6. Urge the public to do their homework on the candidates.  Google, Facebook and Apple should be able to come up with some internet driven self study programs to help the public become really informed on the issues.

Lastly, although I am not a fan of Donald Trump, I must admit that his recent question from a radio reporter about the Qud Iranian Forces was hardly expected by the candidate.  It is rather apparent that almost any of the candidates are liable to fumble similar “gotcha” questions.  Some kind of screen or audit of the questions for a fairness test would allow the process to focus on the issue and not the theatrics.  The criteria of polls being used to assign the candidates to the debates is probably as fair as possible.

Come on folks, we can do better than what we are doing to elect a President of the most powerful country in the world.

Rick Scott and the McKnight Commission




RWM Head Shotl


As readers of my memoir, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, are aware, the Legislature authorized a study of indigent care in Florida in 1982, as part of enacting a sunset renewal health care law.  The legislation was amended by the hospital industry to include creating competition for the for-profit hospitals.  Since the industry felt they had the votes on the bill, they did not object to studying rate regulation, thinking they could kill it once and for all.  Governor Graham in signing the bill into law,  threw the industry a surprise by appointing me, the retiring Chairman of the Senate Health and Rehabilitative Services Committee,  as Chairman.  The group became known as the McKnight Commission.

This was my first indirect introduction to Rick Scott.  He was a young lawyer representing a number of for-profit hospitals, including the Hospital Corporation of America (“HCA”), which he later purchased for his Columbia Health company, with the Rainwater Brothers investment.  I was told by the industry lobbyists that Scott was following the Commission’s work very closely  as a possible precedent for the country.  The Commission was fulled staffed and had 2 years to develop a proposal for the legislature.

Under the leadership of Senators Harry Johnston (D., West Palm Beach) and Ken Jenne (D., Hollywood) and Representative Sam Bell (D., Daytona Beach), the 1984 Legislature passed the McKnight Commission recommendations into law, including, among others:

  • Funding for hospitals providing indigent care in Florida.
  • A rate regulation trigger for rising hospital costs.
  • A series of measures to reward competition among hospitals.
  • A comprehensive wellness program for Floridians.
  • A heavy emphasis on health care data availability.

The appointee of HCA to the Commission opposed most of the reforms enacted into law, and I was told that Scott was also displeased with the new law.  Many of the lobbyists working with Scott then, over 30 years ago, are still working for him on health care finance issues, today. I have been told the Commission became a model for many similar consensus building efforts in state government for many years.


Election Thoughts…on Labor Day, 2015


Although I have had some success in making political predictions, they have been based on logic, and neither inside information nor premonitions.  Since I have been asked by friends and readers to predict and comment on the 2016 Presidential election, here are some random thoughts as of Labor Day, 2015:

  1.  None of the flashy, somewhat single issue candidates will really last including Trump, Paul, Pataki, Walker, Graham, Gilmore, Carson, Fiorina, Perry, Santorum, Cruz, Jindal, O’Malley, Chaffee, and Webb, although some of them could be serious issue candidates.
  2. Sanders might stay alive through many of the primaries, not because of his campaign, but as an alternative to Clinton.  Also Sanders could come up with a surprise issue or even select an exciting running mate from a key southern state to stay in play.
  3. Carson, Graham, and Paul seem capable of uncovering some serious issues, and maybe an interesting running mate, but do not appear to have the breadth to make a serious, long run.
  4. The 8 Southern states of South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia will be the first large block of states to deliver an indication on who can assemble critical mass in terms of votes and organization, by the first of March.  Absent issues and unexpected developments, I expect Bush, Huckabee, Rubio and maybe Cruz to do well there.
  5. Based on Senator Nelson’s prediction that his long time friend Vice President Biden will pass on a run, the Democrats will settle on the Democratic nomination for Clinton.  I believe Nelson will be short listed as a Vice Presidential pick of Clinton.
  6. The remaining serious candidates for the Republican primary will be Bush, Kasich, Huckabee, Rubio and Christie.  Of that group, probably only Bush and Kasich can co-exist as a ticket amicably so that might be some kind of a final team for the Republicans.
  7. If the Republicans lose, their candidate next time around, at least initially, is clearly Rubio.  Fiorina will also be billed as a future GOP star to watch.  Walker and probably Carson will flame out with mis-speaking.  Christie and Paul will probably continue to lose out of desperation and anger.
  8. Trump will ultimately break his pledge to run as a Republican, and make a lot of noise, but only run in selected states as an Independent.
  9. President Obama will marshal the African American vote in huge numbers for the Democrats.
  10. San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro (Stanford and Harvard Law) will wow the Democrats, much like Obama did previously.

I will revisit these comments and reserve the right to make adjustments based on new developments.



The Bi-Partisan “Dream Team” of Senators Sam Nunn (D., Ga.) and Richard Lugar (R., Ind.)

TV Image of Quorum Call

In basketball, announcers often refer to their “Dream Team,” seemingly always led by Michael Jordan.

I would like to offer my political “Dream Team” combining both major political parties.  This was an actual  team in Washington for many years focused on foreign affairs, military spending, and nuclear disarmament.  The Republican was conservative Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana.  He was a former Mayor of Indianapolis and his work in the Congress ranged from his specialties of foreign affairs to agriculture, all of benefit to his district and the country.  The Democrat was moderate Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia.  He was a former Georgia state legislator related to the politically powerful family of Senator Richard Russell (D., Ga.).  Senator Nunn was probably the single most powerful senator since Senate Majority Leader lyndon B. Johnson (D., Texas).

Together the Nunn-Lugar Dream Team could pass almost anything, no matter the make up of the Congress or the sitting President.  Yes, part of their magic was the shear talent of the individuals, but part of it had to also be the synergy of the two personalities.  Unfortunately, today there are no similar tandems serving in the Congress, nor does there even seem to be the will to try.  It is unfortunate, but it is what the country needs now, more than ever.


A Civics Test for All Presidential Candidates

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The level of discussion among the candidates for President has degenerated into palaver.  We have one candidate bragging about his hair being real, another flip flopping daily for and against immigration positions, and most of the others absolutely clueless on the governance of our country.  This is the most discouraged I have ever been about the future of our country.

May I suggest we go back to the beginning of a campaign season with a fundamental civics question for each of the candidates.  Did you vote in the past and if so, when?

Unless I miss my guess, we are going to find a number of the candidates did not even take the time to vote, and some may have even gone without being registered for long periods of time.  Perhaps this will be a quick way to purge the list of candidates, so we at least know who is moderately serious about running for the highest office of the most powerful country on this planet.

A Theory on a Clinton-Biden Race



I am tempted to speculate on what is going on with the Democrats and the possibility of Vice President Joe Biden being solicited to get into the primary race against Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  Although I have met the Vice President, I claim no inside information.  My thought:

First the Vice President finds it very hard to sit out maybe the most important election ever.  Secondly, I believe he is genuinely moved by his late son’s wish that he run for President now.  Third, I do not think Mrs. Clinton objects to his running, because his entry will divert the press from her serious legal troubles, and give her a near certain (the Clinton campaign organization in Democrat primaries is near legendary) chance to claim a major primary victory as momentum for the all important general election.  I think Clinton is probably saying, ‘If he beats me, I probably don’t deserve it anyway.  I need him, a friend, in this race to regain momentum.’

Do I think this kind of a cunning, maybe deceitful strategic tactic is possible today?  Yes.


One Senator Decided All The Amendments


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Today, the Republicans have such a majority in the Florida House and Senate that they can run all the lawmaking, no matter what is done by the minority Democrats.  This is not the first time this important check and balance has been lost in the Capitol.

In 1981, Senate Dean Dempsey Barron, a Democrat , had a falling out with his long time student, Senate President W. D. Childers, also a Democrat.  In retribution for Childers’ demotion of Barron from Rules Chairman, Barron cobbled together the 13 Republicans with 13 dissident Democrats like himself to form a majority with 2/3 of the Senate.  As students of Florida government know, 2/3 of the body can block anything, to include a bill rolling over for final reading and a vote to become law.  Obviously, with more than 20 votes, that majority can pass or kill anything.

For that reason, one of Barron’s supporters, Democrat Senator Harry Johnston quipped to the Appropriations Committee, “Since the vote is locked 10-10, not including me, just hand me the amendments, and I will let you know if they pass or fail.”  That was not what the framers had in mind for governance ‘checks and balances.’




“If you are going to shoot the King, don’t wound him.”


You couldn’t miss the Majority Leader in the House of Representatives in the mid 70’s–he was 6′ 4″ Dick Clark (D., South Miami).  He was particularly blunt and terribly loyal to the then Speaker Don Tucker (D., Tallahassee).

When there was resistance on the floor to the Speaker’s agenda, Dick would circle the desks of the Democrats.  I can recall when he once approached the House Health and Rehabilitative Services (“HRS”) Committee Chairman,  Barry Kutun (D., Miami Beach).  The Leader looked down at Kutun and said, “Now Barry, I want to tell you something.  If you are going to shoot at the King [the Speaker], then whatever you do, don’t wound him.  I am telling you this as your friend [wink].”

After a surprisingly close floor vote on of the Speaker’s priority bills later that day,  Rep. Kutun was removed as the HRS Committee Chairman.

A Florida Profile in Courage

Photo of old Tallahassee Capital



President John Kennedy’s best selling book, Profiles in Courage featured extraordinary acts of political courage.  I have often thought of individuals in Florida government that might qualify with whom I have served during the Golden Age of the ’70’s and ’80’s.  The individual that immediately comes to mind is Florida’s 37th Governor, Reubin Askew (D., Pensacola). His predecessor, Republican Governor Claude Kirk had fanned racial flames in the state by declaring busing illegal in the state to achieve racial integration.  Nationally, Alabama Democratic Governor George Wallace was further spreading emotional hatred of blacks by protesting about busing across the country, and everywhere in the South.  A majority of the Florida legislature voted to place a straw ballot on busing during the March ’72 Presidential Primary.

Askew shocked the political world by declaring his support for busing, and he traveled the state campaigning on the vote. The vote against busing to achieve racial integration won by 74% of the vote.   But, Askew insisted that there be a second vote on the need to support equal education and it also passed, but by even more than 74%.

When Askew ran for re-election in 1974, his opponent railed about busing and Askew’s position, but the voters appreciated the integrity and courage of the Governor–he won re-election by over 60% of the vote.  It was a true Florida Profile in Courage.



The Model Congressman






There is a lot of talk in Washington about the process of lawmaking being broken.  Here in Florida, the same frustration is heard.  I have often been asked, “What is a model member of Congress?”

Well the answer is my former Congressman from South Florida, the late Congressman Dante Fascell (D., Fla.).  He was as smart as any public official I ever met, with a wonderful engaging personality.  Although short in height, his intellect and personality carried him with success among Presidents, Kings, Emperors, and members of Congress.  He rose in the ranks of Congress to the powerful Chairmanship of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  His accomplishments were recognized by his receipt of the Presidential Freedom Award.

Congressman Fascell kept getting elected to Congress because he understood service to his district–from the environment, to the elderly, to economic development.  For me, as a constituent and fellow elected representative serving the same people, Dante was a dear and loyal friend.

So there it is–the model Congressman–The Honorable Dante Fascell.

3 Political Predictions


Although I do not do it often, I have made 3 political predictions that have made state and in one case, national news.  Here they are:

1.  In an interview with Anne Imanuel Preston on ABC TV, I brought up the possibility of Osama Bin Laden being captured and killed–4 days before it happened.  Here is the video:


2.  During the 2010 campaign for U.S. Senate, I predicted then Republican Governor Charlie Crist  would change political parties and run as an Independent.  He did so months later, and lost the election to Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.)


3.  I recently wrote an Op Ed run by the Tallahassee Democrat and the Tampa Tribune predicting that Donald Trump would change parties to run as an Independent.  If so, I pointed out that it could be a re-run of the 1992 Presidential Election–a smart mouthed billionaire Independent taking enough votes from Republican Bush to elect Democrat Clinton.

Florida’s Lieutenant Governor





Readers of my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ;70’s and ’80’s are aware that I was on the “short list” to be a candidate for Lieutenant Governor by three different Democratic candidates for Governor..  As such it gave me a chance to study the constitutional requirements for the job–they were only to assume the role Governor if the incumbent is unable to serve.

This is not to say that the second in command of Florida’s government could not take and be given a very important role in governing.  Our first modern day Republican Lt. Gov. Ray Osborne in 1969, was a former member of the House and generally served as Governor Kirk’s chief lobbyist.  In 1970, Democrat Reubin Askew did not spell out a clear initial role for Lt. Gov. Tom Adams, which was surprising because Adams knew as much about Florida’s government as anyone at that time.  Adams’ replacement, Senator Jim Williams was a respected Senator from Ocala and headed up the Department of Commerce in Askew’s 2nd term.  In 1978, Democratic Governor Bob Graham also assigned the economic development as well as agriculture agenda to his Lt. Governor Wayne Mixson during their 8 year term.  It was a very effective team.

If the Governor is strategic in selecting the Lieutenant Governor, and if the person selected is experienced at government management, it can be a great opportunity to serve Floridians as a Chief Executive Team.



“Let’s Go Home…”

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As most readers of this Blog know, I have been profiling legislators, staff, lobbyists and the press with whom I served in the Florida Legislature during the “Golden Age”, the ’70’s and ’80’s.  The profiles are run under the trademarked title of “Quorum Call” in Gannett’s Tallahassee Democrat for almost three years, totaling over 100 names.  I also have a “Quorum Call” incorporated in this Blog.

One name that is on the Democrat list to run in the near future is that of State Representative C. Fred Jones (D., Auburndale).  Unfortunately, Rep. Jones passed over the weekend, so he will not have seen his profile.  I will still file it with the Democrat, but here is short thumb nail on one of my favorite colleagues.

C. Fred was a farmer with a BS degree in agriculture from his beloved University of Florida.  He served as the distinguished Mayor of Auburndale, before taking his seat in the Florida House of Representatives in 1970.  He was the all powerful Chairman of the House Transportation Committee when I first met him in 1974.  He went on to serve as the Dean of the Florida House, retiring in 1990.  I am honored that he came to see me at one of my book signings in his proud “Imperial Polk County” about 5 years ago.

Chairman Jones will always be remembered by those of us fortunate enough to have served with him,  hearing his declaration at the end of each session, “Let’s Go Home.”

1992 Presidential Election…Again?


Pundits predicted a landslide re-election for Republican President George H. W. Bush in 1992.  After all he had orchestrated a near flawless successful war against Saddam Hussein in Iraq and he had promised no new taxes–“read my lips.”  Never mind that he vacated that position, the Democrats did not even have a viable opponent.  Bill Clinton was nominated to run against Bush by the Democrats, but Clinton had ‘ whitewater’ character issues and ‘Jennifer Flowers’ baggage.

Then it happened.  Ross Perot, a Texas billionaire harbored such dislike for President Bush that he said he would run as an Independent to defeat him.  Perot had a tart tongue, referring often to the ‘sucking sound’ coming out of Washington.  Sure enough, Clinton won with less than 50% of the vote because Perot took enough votes from fellow Texan Bush to make the difference

Fast forward now 24 years to the 2016 election.  Again we have a Bush (Jeb) as the favorite of the GOP.  We have a Clinton (Hillary) as the favorite of the Democrats.  And we may have another billionaire, Donald Trump  that might be forced by the GOP to run as an Independent.  And Trump has a tart tongue, already alienating certain Hispanics in the immigration debate.  Could Clinton win with less than 50% of the vote because Trump takes enough votes away from Bush to make the difference?

Could it be a the 1992 Presidential Election…Again?

14th Block on Brickell Avenue, Political Powerhouse During the ’70’s and ’80’s

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During the ’70’s and ’80’s in Florida, a political Quorum Call for lawmakers and major campaigns with offices on Brickell Avenue in downtown Miami would include the following:  Presidential Campaign of Governor Reubin Askew (D., Fla.); U. S. Senate Campaign of Richard Stone (D., Fla.); future Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R., Fla.); future Florida Insurance Commissioner Tom Gallagher (R. FLa.); State Senators Ken Myers (D., Fla.); Bob McKnight (D., Fla.); and State Representative Bill Sadowski (D., Fla.).  That is a lot of bi-partisan political power in one block.

Evaluating President Obama


With the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act, pundits are saying that this will now be President Obama’s legacy. That declaration prompted me to look back and evaluate his two terms of service, even though he has approximately 1 1/2 years to serve.  The remainder of his term may be relatively minor due to being a ‘lame duck’ and the start of the 2016 election of his replacement will probably take up most of the country’s political oxygen.  So, here is my evaluation as of now:

Economy:  A.  The bailouts of the auto, insurance and finance industries worked and we avoided a stock market crash.  His new Fast Track authority should further boost the economy.  The markets have hit new highs.

Foreign Affairs C.  Although he has wound down 2 wars, Iraq and Syria remain serious problems.  He did have Bin Laden killed but the Iran nuclear negotiations are uncertain.  He has managed terrorist threats without direct attacks, but the world is far more dangerous.  The morale in the military has deteriorated.

Social Issues B.  ACA is major overarching milestone for our country, but it could have been introduced in phases, without the deep divide in the country.  The environment is improved, especially with mandated auto emission standards.  Immigration and racial tensions are very serious problems today, with few improvements.

Presidency B.  President Obama is a great orator and is among the smartest ever elected to the oval office.  He and his family are very well liked.  The Congress has not treated him fairly, but many of his appointments have been mediocre (especially the absence of Floridians in the Cabinet).  He had a chance to secure some bi-partisanship support with Senators like Lugar, Snowe, and even Rudman, but he seemed to give up on it.

Announcing the “Golden” Legislator Awards, 2015 Session

Photo of old Tallahassee Capital

With ‘Sine Die’ of the 2015 Special Legislative Session, I want to announce my “Golden” Legislative Awards for the 6th straight year.

The process has evolved over the years into two awards–one for the legislator that truly served with distinction, and for the public good.  That person was clearly State Representative Mia Jones (D., Jacksonville).  She argued long and eloquently on behalf of the needs of the poor for health care, as part of the federal Affordable Care Act.  Many opponents refused to extend the courtesy of listening to her, vacating the House Chamber all together.  As a former member of the House, I believe such discourtesy in such large numbers,  is without precedent.

The 2nd award I refer to as the “Golden Fleece” Award is named after former State Representative David Rivera (R., Miami), who shamed the body perhaps more than any other member, ever.  That award goes to Senator Alan Hays (R., Umatilla) who almost singularly gutted Constitutional Amendment 1 benefiting the environment, in spite of its’ support by almost 3/4 of the electorate last year.  The monies for protecting our environment were diverted for among others, largely self interest pet projects of the legislature, few of which went through the required legislative process.

This legislature failed to serve the public well.

Inside with President George H. W. Bush (R., Texas)




As I write this post, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R., Fla.) is announcing his candidacy for President in my former Miami legislative district.  It brings back memories of the time I met with his father, former President George H. W. Bush, also in my district.  It was 1980, and my colleague and close friend, State Representative Tom Gallagher (R., Coconut Grove) came up to me to introduce his guest, former Congressman and C.I.A. Director George Bush.  At the time, Bush was waging a near impossible campaign to slow the inevitable nomination of California Governor Ronald Reagan (R., Cal.) to become the Republican candidate to take on Democratic President Jimmy Carter (D., Ga.).  The Congressman was very pleasant and seemed particularly interested in knowing of the issues of concern to South Floridians.  We also discussed his love of fishing, particularly in the Florida Keys.  George H. W. Bush went on to become our 41st President, and in my opinion carried out a near perfect successful execution of the War against Saddam Hussein and Iraq in 1989.


Inside with Vice President Walter Mondale (D., Minn.

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As another post to my continuing profile of national political leaders with whom I conferred during my legislative service, this is “Inside With Vice President Walter Mondale.”  In early 1980, I got a call in the Capitol from my colleague, Senator Ken Jenne (D., Hollywood) saying that the Democratic National Committee would like us (and several other Democratic colleagues) to fly to Miami to meet with Vice President Mondale.  The Vice President was in South Florida to meet with environmental leaders about federal funding for the clean up effort in the Everglades, and since Jenne and I were involved in that effort at the state level, we were invited to the visit.  When we arrived at Miami International Airport, the VIP visit turned out to be more a campaign photo opportunity for the Carter-Mondale ticket.  We did get some serious face time with the Vice President, who was very impressive.  He knew the issue and welcomed our counsel.  The funding of the Everglades restoration is still a major issue today.

Inside With President Jimmy Carter (D., Ga.)




In 1975, I was a freshman member of the Florida House of Representatives representing District 116 in South Miami-Dade County.  I got a call from a constituent and campaign supporter to come to his house in South Miami to meet the former Governor of Georgia, Jimmy Carter, who was running for President on the Democratic ticket.  Susan and I decided to stop by and meet with the presidential candidate, among about 25 local residents.  Governor Carter was obviously bright and very forthcoming.  Like all the country, we were very disturbed about integrity in government following Watergate and Nixon’s resignation from office.  Carter told us that day, “I will never lie to you.”

I also met the President at the White House in 1979 as a State Senator from Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties, by invitation for a “leadership” briefing on SALT II.  The President was reaching out to legislators and community leaders around the country about the need for Congress to ratify the arm’s limitation agreement he had negotiated.

I have mixed feelings today about his effectiveness and contributions as our 39th President of the United States.


Inside with Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R., Fla.)

Photo of old Tallahassee Capital

I first met Governor Jeb Bush in 1979.  Although I was a member of the Florida Senate at the time, I also was responsible for the marketing and leasing of major commercial properties in South Florida for Planned Development Corporation.  Jeb was starting a development business himself with a long time friend, Armando Codina and they needed an office in the Brickell area.  One of our properities was called the Sertel House that Jeb particularly felt met their needs.  We got acquainted and periodically talked both business and politics.  Later when he was running for Governor we meet about the needs of the Sunrise Community in my legislative district.  True to his word, when he became Governor he courageously  sought record funding for Sunrise and the disabled providers.  Although I am still a Democrat, I harbor only wonderful thoughts of Governor Bush as he considers his campaign for President of the United States.  I wish him well.

Inside with U. S. Attorney General Janet Reno


I first met Janet Reno while we were waiting together for a candidate interview with Max Friendson and the Florida Council of Senior Citizens in Miami-Dade County. Susan was with me, and Janet and Susan proceeded to get acquainted and became friends that carries over today.  Janet was running for a seat in the legislature from Coral Gables while I was running for a seat in Kendall.  Although she was unsuccessful in that race, she went on to a distinguished career in legal justice rising to the position of U. S. Attorney General for two consecutive terms.  Most know of her outstanding legal credentials from Harvard Law School to repeated service as the top legal officer in the largest city in Florida.  But as Susan will attest, that expertise pales to her wonderful and outstanding friendship and character.

Inside With Vice President Walter Mondale (D., Minnesota)




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During the 1980 Campaign,  President Jimmie Carter was politically strangled by the hostages in Iran.  He delegated a lot of his campaigning to his Vice President Walter Mondale (D., Minnesota).  Because of his experience in the U. S. Senate, Mondale assumed a far greater role than most Vice Presidents.  He was also an excellent campaigner–good looking, bright, and very articulate.  Since Florida was a major prize, Mondale campaigned often in the Sunshine State, and I was invited to meet with him during one of his trips to Miami.  I was impressed that he took the time to talk to me about the concerns of South Floridians, during his stop at the Miami International Airport.  I was joined in our meeting by Senator Ken Jenne and former candidate for Miami Mayor Alfredo Duran, with other Democrats to follow.

Inside with Vice President Hubert Humphrey (D., Minn.)

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In 1969 in Korea, I Corps, the 2nd Infantry Division and the 7th Infantry Division conducted their annual military exercises just south of the Demilitarized Zone (“DMZ”), near Pyongyang.  We were surprised to get a visit by former Vice President Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota.  He was a former member of the Senate Armed Services Committee with particular interest in Korea as a result of the Pueblo Incident.  As part of Lt. General Cassidy’s staff, I attended the briefing and found the Vice President impressive with his knowledge of Korea and the threat from the North.  As I mentioned in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, I did not vote for Humphrey for President in 1968, but after his visit, felt that I might have miscast my first presidential vote.

Kennedy and Quayle–Bipartisanship Working #3



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If there ever was an ‘odd couple’ in politics, it had to be ultra-liberal Senator Ted Kennedy (D., Mass.) and ultra-conservative Vice President Dan Quayle (R., Ind.).  Yet, in 1982, they teamed up in the United States Senate to pass the Job Training and Partnership Act.  Although originally opposed to the act, President Reagan ultimately signed the act into law and became one of its’ biggest champions.  This is another example I am offering to those that say bi-partisanship is dead and won’t work.  In this case, I am told the difference for the success to happen was both the personalities of the two Senators and an unwritten culture in the U. S. Senate then–treat one another with respect and seek the middle ground consensus.  No one ever accused either Senators Kennedy or Quayle of abandoning their long held beliefs–in this case, they simply laid claim to the provisions of the law they felt important, and left enough in the bill for the other side to claim credit as well.  There are other examples of bi-partisanship working, there just needs to be leadership.

Examples of Bi-Partisanship Working–#2



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Perhaps the most cited example of Bi-Partisanship working is that of conservative Republican President Ronald Reagan (R., Calif.) working with liberal Democrat Speaker of the U. S. House Tip O’Neill (D., Mass.).  Both gentleman were absolutely committed to their philosophy and party positions–total opposites.  How then, did they manage to work out an agreement on the critical issue of their terms, saving Social Security?

To start, they were both Americans first and foremost.  They would not leave a negotiation session without an agreement of some kind to show progress–which they felt was in the country’s best interest.  Second, they both had respect for each other, and left something for the other person to take away from the negotiation, avoiding losing face.  Third, they both had a delightful sense of humor.  That coupled with an occasional beer, afforded both gentleman a little room to maneuver.  The result–Social Security was saved, taxes were both raised and lowered, and the country coalesced around the work of these wonderful Americans.  It can be done folks.




Examples of Bi-Partisanship Working–#1


I recently wrote an Op Ed on the need for Civility and Bi-Partisanship at all levels of government.  The message was not original–the Concord Coalition has been working on it at the Federal level for over a decade and the distinguished Graham-Frey Initiative has done so at the Florida level.  But I have decided to hammer home the same point but with a different methodology.  I am going to cite specific examples for several weeks in a row in this Blog.  The examples will be at different levels of government, but are real and show that consensus lawmaking does in fact work–a hell of a lot better than the grid lock of today.

Virtually even strategic arms limitation agreement in which the United States was involved during the 70’s through the 90’s (and there have been dozens of major agreements) and beyond have the personal imprint of two United States Senators–Republican Richard Lugar of Indiana and Democrat Sam Nunn of Georgia.  Any country that wanted a discussion of arms during that time could only do so with the senators from both parities present.  That is bi-partisan power.

The Senate Split in 1981

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Much has been written about the “Senate Split” in the early ’80’s.  It was most often remembered by the 1981 fight on the floor of the Senate between two previously close friends, Senate Dean Dempsey Barron (D., Panama City) and his protege, Senate President W. D. Childers (D., Pensacola).  What is not well known is what happened in the next Senate President election for the next term–1982-84.  The race was between Senator Curtis Peterson (D., Lakeland) and Senator Harry Johnston (D., West Palm Beach).  Peterson had the support of Barron and Johnston had the support of Childer’s team, but not Childers.  Johnston surprised his supporters by aligning with Barron and Peterson, and then withdrawing from the race.  Johnston was rewarded with the Chairmanship of Appropriations under Peterson, and Barron’s support as the next Senate President.  Johnston’s supporters Pat Frank, George Stuart, Mattox Hair and me were  all targeted for isolation by the new Peterson Administration.  Ken Jenne stayed with Johnston, but was also targeted for isolation by Peterson.  Mattox Hair tried a last ditch campaign against Peterson but lost.  As irony would have it, when Johnston became President in 1984-86, his biggest opponent was none other than Dempsey Barron.

Who Deserves the Credit for the Economy?

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First, full disclosure on economics.  I have an MBA and BS with heavy course work in economics.  I was EVP (number 2) at the country’s largest state chamber of commerce, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and chaired their Foundation for two terms.  So, I feel some experience in understanding what affects the economy, good and bad..  Currently Governor Scott is claiming credit for the economic recovery in Florida.  He brags about personally calling executives and pushing short term and relatively minor tax incentives as his strategy behind the rebound in jobs.

The truth is net jobs are generated after companies locate and expand where quality of life, education, and safety prevail.  Predictability is critical.  The Scott record in destroying our environment, cutting funding for the arts and social services, his billion dollar raid on public education as well as his management of the corrupt prison system are hardly admirable.  The major reason for the recovery was the result of the federal stimulus funding 6 years ago, requested by President Obama, and funded by the Republican House and Democratic Senate.  Economists point out that it takes almost a decade for that trillion dollar investment to take effect.  Also, it is very natural for significant swings in the economy, and the rebound experienced during the last 4 years was described as very expected after the stimulus started taking effect.

The economy and jobs are growing again primarily because of bi-partisan support of stimulus funding in the country.

Legislative Betrayal


Pretty strong words.  But, in my opinion, they are appropriate for this legislature and Governor.  As Miami Herald Columnist Fred Grimm pointed out in a column in today’s issue, the legislature is looking at an annual appropriation of $2 million for public land acquisition, under the “Florida Forever” program, which had previously reached approximately $300 million per year..  This program is related to a program I co-authored, with prime sponsor Representative Steve Pajcic (D., Jacksonville) almost 35 years ago, called “Save Our Rivers.”   Florida is a beautiful state with pristine lands and waters to be enjoyed by the public for ever.

That was the subject of the recent Constitutional Amendment #1, which passed by a vote of almost 75% of those voting.  As with the lottery boondoggle several years ago, the legislature has decided to divert the monies to other pet projects, some of which they apparently feel will help their re-elections.  Words cannot describe the disgust and anger felt by Floridians about our legislature and Governor after this betrayal.

ABC Television News on “The Last Standing Porkchopper”

Photo of old Tallahassee Capital


For approximately 4 years, I provided weekly political commentary on ABC TV News/WTXL 27 HD in Tallahassee.  During that time, I joined highly regarded and experienced Anchor Anne Imanuel on a trip deep into the Panhandle of Florida for an exclusive interview with former Senator Wig Barrow (D., Crestview), rumored to be then “The Last Standing Porkchopper.”  The Pork Chop Gang ran state politics out of the Capitol until the ’60’s and ’70’s when reapportionment brought in the Golden Age of Florida government.  The program included an in depth interview of the senator by Anne, with his reflections on reapportionment, civil rights, Governor Reuben Askew and Senator Dempsey Barron, among others.  Off camera, I had a chance to reminisce with Senator Barrow as I had previously talked to him on a number of occasions at the Senate Reunions.  The interview aired by ABC Television was one of the last insights into a significant and telling time in Florida’s political history.  Senator Barrow passed on a few years ago and with him and the other members of the Pork Chop Gang, went all the details from an important part of Florida’s history.

Dempsey Barron and Howard Walton…the Reason the Senate Worked 40 Years Ago


I am often asked, ‘Why did the legislature work so well 40 years ago?  Questioners cite the landmark legislation passed.  They cite the bi-partisanship involved–Republican and Democrat friendships still strong today.  They often cite the always present sense of humor in the legislature.  And they always seem to cite the extraordinary individuals–like Senator Ken Plante (R., Oviedo) who passed last week.

But, in reflecting, I really think two individuals had a great deal to do with it–Senate Dean Dempsey Barron (D., Panama City) and Senate Staff Director Howard Walton.  I should say at the outset, I was not a close friend of either gentleman…sometimes arguing them them vocally.  But I respected them greatly then, and admire the order they instilled in the Senate–and especially the results produced–even more so today.  To be clear, they would not have had the achievements from the Golden Years of the ’70’s and ’80’s without the likes of Askew, Pettigrew, Mackay, Plante, and so many more,  but the facts speak loudly.  I really do not think Barron and Walton would be as successful in political governance today (with term limits, single member districts, and social media, among others), but boy they sure were 40 years ago.




Powers of a Senator



For students of politics, especially in Florida, the question often arises, what are some of the major differences between service in the House of Representatives and the Senate, beyond the obvious length of term?  Here are just a few:

–Advice and consent.  Even without lawmaking authority, the power to confirm or reject major appointments and even vote on impeachment of public officials is huge.  Under the Federal and State Constitutions, this power is reserved for the Senate.

–Adroit use of parliamentary procedures generally affords a Senator, more so than a member of the House, extraordinary influence in the lawmaking process, even for the minority party.  But because of term limits, the knowledge of the rules of governance  by most lawmakers today is said to be wanting.

–Consent Calendar.  From my experience, only the Senate afforded members repeated use of the Consent Calendar for hearing, debating and disposing of legislation.  Specially, the Consent Calendar allows any senator to place a ‘non-controversial’ bill on a calendar which is acted upon in total, not individually.  Any senator can object and knock a bill off the calendar, but some of the bills are very lengthy, and often unread.  It is a process that rides on the integrity of the Senators which has been called into question in recent years.

10 Major Laws of the “Golden Age” of Florida Politics




Photo of old Tallahassee Capital

My last post to this Blog was about ‘Effective Lawmaking.’  The logical next discussion  should probably be about the most important legislation enacted during the “Golden Age” of Florida Lawmaking–the ’70’s and ’80’s.  With due respect to other important legislation, outside the massive Governmental Reorganization Act, here are the 10 most significant laws passed, not necessarily ranked in this order and sponsors listed are based on memory:

1.  The Growth Management and Water Resources Act (Graham and Shreve)

2.  The Florida Sunshine/Financial Disclosure Legislation (Pettigrew).

3.  The Bill of Rights for the Mentally Disabled (Kutun).

4.  Community Care for the Elderly (Graham).

5.  Florida Education Funding Act (Graham).

6.  Save our Rivers Act (Pajcic).

7.  Merit Retention of the Judiciary (Nelson)

8.  Perinatal Intensive Care Funding Act (Bell, Sheldon and McKnight)

9.  Sunset Agency Act (Neal)

10.  Transportation Deregulation Act (Sheldon).

Effective Lawmaking

In my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, I describe lessons I learned about effective lawmaking.  Much of the information came from personal experiences or from legislative colleagues.  Watching the legislative process today, at each level of government, it is shocking how little attention is directed to the lawmaking fundamentals.  Examples:

1.  Circulate draft legislation for comments or corrections rather than stage a high profile premature introduction.

2.  Bi-partisan sponsorship is imperative, but seldom seen today.

3.  Openly disclose legislation to opponents as oppose to burying it secretly in other bills.

4.  Insist on full accounting of the fiscal impact of the bill rather than seeking a waiver by the appropriations’ staff.

5.  Thoroughly research bill history on the subject to ensure lessons are learned from the past.

6.  Less is often more in bill drafting rather than verbosity.

Yet again, these are probably casualties from term limits and single member districts.

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Meeting in the White House

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Frankly, it surprised me to be asked to join about 100 community leaders around the country to attend a briefing by the President of the United States in the White House in 1979.  The subject was the Ratification of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT II), and my position at the time was a sitting state senator in Florida.  In explanation for the invitation, I was told by the President’s aide, Anne Wexler, that the Administration was reaching to the grassroots level of political leadership in the country to gain support to influence the reluctant congress for ratification.  Putting aside the ceremony, which was impressive,  the briefing was full of facts and figures, but I later found out it was lacking in some important information.  In any event there was a SALTII Agreement, but the U.S. withdrew from it after the Soviet attack on Afghanistan during the Reagan Administration.

The Most Respected Legislator–Senator Phil Lewis (D., West Palm Beach)


With the Congress held in such in low regard today, I am often asked why I have said it was so different some 40 years ago.  I am not alone in saying it was different then–that was a political era once described by the respected St. Petersburg (now Tampa Bay) Times political reporter Martin Dyckman as the ‘Golden Age of Florida Politics.’  I wrote about why it was different in an Op Ed for that same paper about a year ago, but to summarize here–it was the people. Names?  There are many profiled in this Blog, in my book, the Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, and in Quorum Call, published by the Tallahassee Democrat each Sunday for the last 3 years.  The most respected legislator with whom I served?  The answer is former Senate President Phil Lewis (D., West Palm Beach).  He was a man of principle, love, kindness, a quirky sense of humor,  and make no mistake– tenacity.  But above all else, in my opinion, like one of his inspirations, Mother Teresa, he was always forgiving.  May you rest in peace Senator.

The Best Speech…and it was on Vietnam…by a Republican

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During a typical 60-day legislative session in Florida, there are hundreds of speeches on the floor of both the Senate and House of Representatives.  Frankly most are overly scripted and somewhat anticipated, word by word.  One however that still stands out in my mind was delivered by then State Representative Bob Johnson (R., Sarasota).  The freshman lawmaker was low key and largely unknown among the Democratic leadership in the House.  Bob asked to be recognized on a “Point of Personal Privilege” to talk about the quagmire of Vietnam, and how it was affecting Sarasotaians in his district.  About a half an hour in length, the speech was riveting.  When he relinquished the floor, no a sound could be heard.  Then thunderous applause broke out.  I can still hear it today…the best speech I ever heard.




Accidental Ambition, A Movie or Television Series

Accidental Ambition Book Cover


As followers of this Blog are aware, Rhett DeVane and I teamed up to write a political thriller novel called, “Accidental Ambition.”  We started work on it in 2008 and released through Infinity Press in 2010.  It has been very well received with excellent reviews on Amazon.Com and was awarded the 2010 Premier Book Award for Political Thrillers.  Last week Susan and I met with the nation’s premier movie agent in New York and I am pleased to say we signed Cuba Gooding, Sr. on for the musical score for the movie or television series.  There is still a long way to go, but this ride is starting to get fun.  Stay tuned.

The IBM Influence




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As readers of my book, “The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature,” are aware, my first professional position after getting my MBA at FSU was with the IBM Corporation in Huntsville, Alabama.  Big Blue was involved with the space program at the time and was in the forefront of developing cutting edge technology and initiatives.  One such effort of IBM that particularly impressed me was their Management Fellows Program.  While chairing the Florida Senate Health and Rehabilitative Services (“HRS”) Committee in 1980, I enlisted HRS Secretary Dave Pingree and Assistant Secretary David Dunbar to help me develop a management development program similar to that of IBM,  for the state of Florida.  It has now been law for over 20 years, and I am told has resulted in the development of some of the state’s outstanding managers with HRS as well as other important state agencies.

Lawmaking Jargon




As lawmaking starts now in states and the federal government, it might be helpful to identify some of the common jargon used in the process.  Industries and organizations have code that helps move the process along, but it imperative that all the stake holders have a common understanding of terms.  Here are a few terms in the lawmaking jargon:

Chit–The currency of lawmaking, used to return political support for political support.

Take a Walk–Intentional absence in voting.

Clang, Clang–The sound of chains of lobbyist with undue influence on lawmaker.

Another Amendment–Loving a bill to death.

“I Don’t Oppose the Bill, But…”–Violently opposed to the bill.

That Other Chamber–I don’t have the votes in this chamber.

A Postcard From Blountstown--Florida Gov. Claude Kirk’s description of a political groundswell.

Off the Reservation–Devil’s Advocate.

Sine Die–Out of time.

The Little People–Special Interests…same thing.

Women and Children Off the Street–The Congress or Legislature is in session.

Happy New Year







I would like to wish all of the readers of this Blog a very Happy New Year in 2015.  I started this project about 7 years ago at the insistence of my publisher, Dr. Bill Rogers, Professor Emeritus of History at Florida State University.  Bill felt this form of social media would help me promote my 2 books, and as always, he has been right.  I have experimented with the subjects, frequency, and presentations in the Blog, and have somewhat settled in on a routine of my political experiences, weekly submissions, now with graphics and or pictures.  From the data provided by the vendor, Word Press, this general profile seems to generate the most readers.  I do also publish individual profiles from the political era in which I served, under the trademark, Quorum Call.  I expect a robust new year in politics, especially in Florida.  I hope to draw on my experiences, as long as my memory holds out, and apply them to many of the challenges of today.  Some of you have been very kind to leave me comments, messages, and suggestions.  I thank you and again wish you and yours a wonderful New Year.

Michelle on NBC Television

Photo of old Tallahassee Capital


Our daughter Michelle grew up in a political life.  She helped us win our first election to the Florida House of Representatives in 1974 as a one year old.  But probably her greatest involvement was when I was invited to do a ribbon cutting of a new facility at Coral Reef Hospital in Kendall.  Michelle was 8 years old, and I was invited to the special event as the Chairman of the Senate Health and Rehabilitative Services Committee.  Michelle had asked me if she could bring her marbles with her, and I said yes.  Just when the reporter from NBC Television/Channel 7 began interviewing me after the ribbon cutting, I heard Michelle standing behind me, “Oh Oh Daddy, I just lost my marbles.”  Marbles rolling everywhere on a newly polished floor is not considered safe in a hospital, I was told.  The coverage of Michelle’s marbles was the most watched segment on that evening’s news, I was told.

The Mondale-Dole Vice Presidential Debate



In 1976, I was fortunate to be re-elected to District 116 in the Florida House of Representatives by vitrue of having no opposition.  At the invitation of my colleague Senator George Firestone (D., Miami), I had previously appeared a number of times on the mega-popular talk radio program, “The Allen Courtney Program.”  So, when the much anticipated debate between the two Vice Presidential candidates–Senators Walter Mondale (D., MN.) and Bob Dole (R., KS.) was scheduled to be aired in 1976 on the Courtney show, I was both pleased and somewhat surprised to be asked to provide political commentary after the event.  Since the debate was among two long time friends and opponents, there were not too many surprises.  But, the one I recall so clearly was the humor of Senator Dole, almost to the point of him coming across as “flip.”  By most accounts, Mondale won and went on with the Democratic candidate for President, Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter (D., GA.),  to win in November.

The Holidays At Jimmy Buffett’s House

A wonderful campaign supporter from Key West was so kind to invite my family to use the house singer Jimmy Buffett rented from him for the holidays during the early 80’s.  It was a beautiful two story RWM Head Shothouse fronting on the Ocean in the oldest part of town.  If you have never been to the southern most city, you really must.  It has some of the best seafood restaurants anywhere, and the quaintness of the little town is legendary. Our children were very young, and our son quickly christened the house by falling down the impressive stairway connecting the two stories..  The kids and I tried windsurfing for the first time, and failed miserably.  We had a wonderful holiday, and still have a random brick from the home as a reminder of the experience.

If Taxes Have To Be Raised

Recognizing that the Golden Age in Florida politics–the ’70’s and ’80’s, was when government just seemed to work, I am often asked, “how did you raise taxes to meet critical needs?”  Other than raising taxes through somewhat arbitrary actions by courageous governors like Reubin Askew and Bob Graham, I found the following formula successful in 1982:

1.  Ensure that the need is justified, documented by statewide grassroot and editorial support.

2. Give opponents a reason to vote for the increase–in ’82 it was raising the sales tax in exchange for property tax relief and strategic funding to fight crime.

3.  Survey voting members to demonstrate bi-partisan support and to be certain of the vote count..

4.  Be very strategic about the timing of the vote–and avoid surprises so no member is embarrassed.

5.  Let others take the credit for the success.

It worked then, but with the make up of the legislature today, it is unlikely to work againssn-golden-ad-V2.  But this is a prescription that worked 32 years ago.

8 Could Have Been Great Presidents

As readers of my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature know, I opine on 5 great Americans that I feel would have been great U. S. Presidents:

Senator Sam Nunn (D., Ga.)

Senator Mike Mansfield (D., Mt.)

Senator Richard Lugar (R., Ind.)

Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson (D., Wa.)

Congressman Lee Hamilton (D., Ind.)

Let me also add three more who I got to know well and work with them many times over my years in office:

Senator Bob Graham (D., Fla.)

Governor Reubin Askew (D., Fla.)

Congressman Dante Fascell (D., Fla.)

Great Americans All.cropped-golden-years-political-header21.jpg


“When Down, Reach Up”

One of my mentors, former Senator Jerry Thomas (D. R., Hobe  Sound) mentioned to once the strategy of when you lose a campaign, don’t run for the same office next time.  He said, don’t run for a lower office, but run for a higher office.  He said it sort of eliminates the earlier loss in people’s minds, without any connection to the level of office.  My former Florida House colleague George Sheldon (D., Tampa) practiced the strategy when he ran for Florida Attorney General, after previously losing a statewide race for Education Commissioner, and narrowly losing a race for Congress from the Tampa area.  He was unsuccessful this year.  But former  Republican President Richard Nixon is perhaps the best example of success with this strategy.  After narrowly losing the Presidential race to Democrat President Kennedy in 1960, he ran unsuccessfully for Governor of California in 1962, but lost to Governor Pat Brown (D., Calif.).  Nixon came back and won the presidency in 1968.  Senator Thomas was right–it has worked.RWM Head Shot

Political Books for the Holidays

ssn-golden-ad-V2Accidental Ambition Book Cover

With the start of the holidays, I wanted to make my two books available at a discount and conveniently.  The Golden Years is a hardcover book retailing for about $30, including tax.  Accidental Ambition is a soft cover political thriller novel retailing for about $25, including tax.  For the holidays, I will personally sign a copy of either at a discount of $10.  If you prefer e-books, both are available for less than $10 at Amazon.  My e-mail address is  Happy Holidays.

My Opinion on Why?

By today, there are various opinions on why Governor Scott won, by almost the same vote as in 2010.  I dissent from the suggestion that Scott’s final $12 million was the reason.  Here is my opinion:

Crist Lack of Character.  Scott got the same number of votes after both Sink and Crist hammered him on the 75 5ths character issuessn-golden-ad-V2.  So, the question turned to could Crist overcome his character flaw flip flops with the Democrats?   He pulled it off around the state,  except for the political savy Dade and Broward Democrats, who simply stayed home–40% in turnout compared to 50% statewide.  They simply could not bring themselves to vote for someone who had spent a lifetime opposing what they stood for.  It was sort of, “Fool me once, my fault; fool me twice–your fault.”

Get Out To Vote on November 4th


I am pleased to join the newly merged First Florida Credit Union (with State Employees Credit Union) for a “Get Out To Vote” Campaign.  The first 50 members with an “I Voted” sticker at the Capital Circle Branch in Tally, will receive a signed FREE copy of my book, “The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature.”

End of Election Surprises

From experience I have found that a number of surprises can occur during the final 2 weeks of major elections that could very well affect the outcome.  This is especially true in the Florida Governor’s race because both candidates are so disliked, and both have such shady backgrounds.  These incidents could occur over the next 2 weeks:chair

1.  Surprise last minute disclosures on the candidates dealing with crimes, incidents involving sex, mis-statements, and outright embarrassing situations.

2.  Provable negative revelations like failing to vote, mug shots, videos, and public records.

3.  Last minute endorsements for or against the candidates.

4.  Acts of God, like inclement weather on elections day.

5.  Voting process breaks down.

With the intensity of the Governor’s race among the participants, I predict one or more of these incidents will occur this year.

Fan Gate

Well, since it happened last night, and everyone is speculating on exactly what happened, here is my take:


Although the rules clearly said no fans, Crist put a provision in his signed contract for a fan, and the sponsors did not object, which lawyers tell me is implied consent.  When Scott discovered Crist had the fan, he thought it was a violation of the rules, so he didn’t want to participate in violation of the ground rules, and refused to come out.  When confronted on whether he was violating the rules with the fan, Crist lied, using his usual ‘deer in the headlights’ look said, “Not that I know of.”

When Scott realized he looked like an idiot, he came out.  But since he memorizes all his answers and won’t answer surprises, he panicked.  He couldn’t answer most questions, did not answer many of the questions asked, or when he did answer, he could not complete sentences.

When asked to explain, Scott decided his explanation, a lie, was that the didn’t know Crist was there.  That is a lie because his staff was telling the moderator that Scott wouldn’t join Crist on the podium because of the violation of the rules–so Scott/staff knew Crist was there.

So, Crist lied knowing that is was not clear if he could have the fan.  Scott lied knowing that Crist was at the podium and had an embarrassing debate, with atrocious grammar.  And the sponsors let Crist get away with his insistence on using the fan, without answering him one way or the other, and never telling Scott anything.RWM Head Shot

Ugly as it could get.

FSU’s Political Power Team

As described in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, I had an opportunity to follow college politics while getting my MBA at Florida State University in 1966-67.  There was a powerful triangle of power there,  concentrated among former student body president, Larry Gonzalez, then student body president Gene Stearns, and attorney general Steve Winn.  Although my dealings with the three at FSU was limited, it was very apparent to me that they had a bright future in politics.  Jackpot.  Larry went on to get his law degree and today is a prominent lawyer-lobbyist in the Capitol. Gene also got his law degree and joined the politically powerful Miami based firm of Pettigrew-Bailey.  Yes, that is the same Richard Pettigrew that served as Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, 1970-72.  Steve, is yes, related to his father and my colleague, the late Senator Sherman Winn (D., North Miami).  Steve heads a major state trade association in Tallahassee today.  Like I said, Jackpot FSU.Photo of old Tallahassee Capital

Madam “X”

In 1966, the Republicans won an upset election for Governor.  All the press coverage was on the Democrats, including favorite Attorney General Earl Faircloth, respected Jacksonville Senator Jack Matthews, and the nominee, tenacious Miami Mayor Robert King High.  So when GOP nominee won the election, Claude Kirk, who had never won an election in his life, the press had to hustle up covering the colorful lawyer/insurance executive from Jacksonville.  As a divorced bachelor, Kirk sensed an opportunity to tease the press.  He was dating a beautiful German model, Erika Mattfeld, who was unknown to the press.  At the Governor’s Inauguration Ball, Kirk walked in with Erika under arm, telling the press that he was escorting MPhoto of old Tallahassee Capitaladam “X”.  As expected, the press went into orbit trying to identify the future first lady of Florida.

Two of The Very Best Campaigners

cropped-golden-years-political-header21.jpgIn my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, I talk about political figures I have met and worked with during the Golden Age of Florida politics, the ’70’s and ’80’s. Some of the individuals excelled in creating and implementing public policy like Florida Governor’s Reubin Askew, Bob Graham, Lawton Chiles and Jeb Bush. Others were very deft at working the legislative process like Senators Dempsey Barron, Mallory Horne, Ken Plante and Representatives like Dante Fascell, Lee Hamilton, Dick Pettigrew, Marshall Harris and Murray Dubbin. But campaigning was different. Not all candidates are ‘naturals,’ and the few that are stick out. The two best campaigners I ever saw were Senator Claude Pepper (D., Fla.) and Lieutenant Governor Tom Adams (D., Fla.). Both had extraordinary energy, wonderful memories, and seemingly, a real love for the hard work of campaigning among Floridians. Neither lawmaker is still with us, but both loom large in the halls of the state and national capitols.

Florida Senate History

The committees of the Florida Senate are selected by the President of the Senate and affirmed by the members at the start of each session. Because of the breadth of impact on the citizens of Florida, the Senate has always had a separate committee on social service legislation and a totally separate committee for funding those laws. It is not unusual to have some members serving on both committees concurrently, to leverage the member expertise and seniority of experience in social services. But when I was appointed to chair both committees concurrently by then President W. D. Chilers, I found that I was one of two senators to be afforded that privilege in the history of the Florida Senate. The other senator was a legend and one of my best friends in the Senate, Ken Myers (D., Miami). In the areas of health care, mental health, infant and juvenile care, vocational services, disabilities, care for seniors, aging, minorities, and medicaid funding, I was told I had more power than the governor. With the growth of social services today, it is very unlikely that dual chairmenships will ever happen again.Photo of old Tallahassee Capital

“A Bill Should Be Hard to Pass.”

This was advice I received from the then President of the Florida Senate, Senator Jerry Thomas (D., Tequesta). At first the significance of his advice did not resonate with me. After all, we often heard legislators bragging about the legislation they have introduced and passed–both quantity and quality. Some of the bragging was exaggerated and some was just downright lying. But, given that hundreds of bills that are signed into law each year, it is educational to look carefully at the senator’s point. Some bills are simply crafted in-artfully. Some legislation is not thoroughly vetted. Some legislation violates rules of the very chamber voting on it. And, as has happened with so many bad pieces of legislation, some of the bills are downright illegal, requiring court actionTV Image of Quorum Call. When I was in the Florida House of Representatives, our Speaker Don Tucker (D., Tallahassee) introduced a rule to require all legislation carry over for a third day of consideration to make sure any corrections or amendments could be added to the legislation. Now, some forty years later, I see the wisdom of the Senator Thomas’s advice.

“Mr. Speaker, My District is Under Siege.”

Veteran State Representative Joe Lang Kershaw (D., Miami) was a former school teacher and coach in the inner city of Miami. He was a large man but generally quiet among his colleagues in the Florida House of Representatives. When I was serving with him in the House, Speaker Don Tucker (D., Tallahassee) appointed him to chair the important House Elections Committee. Joe Lang became a very different lawmaker during the 1980 Session of the Legislature. The Overtown riots erupted with the representative addressing the members on the floor on an elections issue. Joe was visibly shaken by hearing breaking news from his district in Miami. He rose to request to be recognized to speak to the full House, saying, “Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of personal privilege. Mr. Speaker, my district is under siege.” He was not under describing the situation. It became a national news story for weeks, very much like Ferguson, Missouri recently. Under Rep. Kershaw’s leadership, state attention and resources were immediately directed to the inner city issues in Miami. It is unfortunate that riots seem to be sometimesPhoto of old Tallahassee Capital necessary to draw attention to critical social needs in this country.

The Power of the Rostrum

It seems that the word most often associated with whomever is presiding in the rostrum in a legislative body is “powerful.” Why is that? Some of the power can come from the personality and behavior, but a lot of it comes with the rostrum and the rules of the chamber. Consider:

1. The individual in the rostrum makes the unilateral decision on who is recognized to speak on the floor. This is one of the reasons that the rules often provide for the presiding officer to decide where the members sit on the floor. For example, the most powerful members are unusually sitting on the front aisle seats within easy eye contact of the presiding officer. They are members most often recognized to speak.

2. The presiding officer in the rostrum typically has an electronic screen reflecting the cumulative votes on a real time basis. What this means is if the officer favors passage of a bill, his or her screen will show how many favorable votes are pending and may want to allow members to continue to vote until the required ‘yes’ votes have been cast for passage. Conversely, depending on the objective, voting can be cut off from the rostrum by the officer.

3. The person in the rostrum can rule of recommendations from the Rules Chairperson, and that ruling becomes a precedent for all future sessions of that body. This works very much like the courts where precedents are set in the past which can have a very critical impact of current or future disputes.

All of these examples and more are why the person presiding in the rostrum is so often described as “powerful,” because he or she truly TV Image of Quorum Callis.

The First Pro-Environment Legislator…A Republican.

Politicians often say that ‘labels’ are dangerous. They argue that the labels are often wrong and perhaps more often change. One label that typically comes to mind is that all Republicans are pro growth and development. For one Republican, that is flat out wrong. As a matter of fact, Senator Warren Henderson (R., Sarasota) may have been the very first pro-environment legislator in the modern era of Florida politics. Because I was a ranking member of the Natural Resources Committee in both the Florida House of Representatives and Senate during the Golden Age of the ’70’s and ’80’s, I got to know the senator very well. His service was long–starting in 1963; with breadth in both chambers, and with distinction–receiving virtually every environmental award available. Some of his arch conservative Republicans argued that Warren hurt their chances of winning elections among the rank and file. He proved them wrong. Most forward thinking state leadersPhoto of old Tallahassee Capital like Governors Claude Kirk, Reuben Askew, Bob Graham, and Bob Martinez saw a protected environment to be one of the most important criteria for any business to re-locate to or expand in Florida. We lost Senator Henderson a few years ago, and it is tragic that current leaders like Governor Rick Scott were not living in Florida to hear the sage advice of, as I always called him, “the distinguished senator from the 25th.”

“Are They Even Listening?”

I am often asked by citizens, when they are watching the Florida Legislature in session on live television, “Are the members even listening to the debate?” A candid answer is “yes and no.” Let me try to explain. First the agenda is firmly established at the start of the session, so everyone should know the subject and have prepared for the debate. Secondly, most members associate certain other members with certain issues and positions. Further, if the subject is controversial, members often anticipate the positions to be taken by most members in debate. For example, if the bill is on gun control, as long as pro-gun control Senator______ is debating for it, a member without an interest in that bill, may not feel it is necessary to follow all his points, since he has made them before. So for all intents and purposes, many members may appear that they are not listening to that debate. On the other hand, if a member has a direct interest in the legislation, they will listen carefully for opportunities like debating, offering an amendment, or using parliamentary procedures to benefit their position on the bill. I have generally found the members that listen carefully to the debate, in all cases,TV Image of Quorum Call are the most effective at lawmaking.

“The Governor Will See You Now…”

cropped-golden-years-political-header2.jpgAs described in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, in 1967 I had asked to meet with newly elected Florida Governor Claude Kirk (R., Florida). I was in Tallahassee at time getting my MBA degree at Florida State University. Prior to the requested meeting with the Governor, I had interviewed for a position with the IBM Corporation in Boca Raton, and had just confirmed my acceptance of employment. My parents were living on Singer Island in Palm Beach County and were frustrated by the lack of response from the state to a Greek Freighter called The Amarylis, beached on the island due to a storm. The novelty of the ship in their back yard had long worn off, and residents were concerned about trespassing on their property. When calling to request an appointment with the governor, his assistant asked of my professional affiliation. I said the IBM Corporation, which I guess was technically correct. When I walked in to meet the governor, he looked past me to see if there was anyone else attending our meeting. BTW, the governor had the Amarylis removed from the beach at Singer Island in short order.

A Congressional Resolution Actually Read

When first elected to the Florida Legislature in the early 1970’s, I was told to not bother filing Resolutions to Congress because they were largely ignored in the nation’s capitol. In 1980, I noticed that Republican President Ronald Reagan had appointed lobbyist James Watt to head up the important Secretary of the Interior. At that time I was Vice Chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee and actively supporting several restoration projects with federal funding in my district–the Everglades. I was briefed on some comments made and actions taken by Watt that were very disturbing. I tried to reach the Secretary-Elect, and unsuccessful, felt it important that our state be on record with his office about our acute environmental concerns. Little did I know that my Congressional Resolution would be picked up by the national wires and was distributed all over the country. I did hear from Secretary Watt, but his interest in returning the call was only obligatory, without real interest in getting confirmed by the U.S. Senate. It turns out my intuition about Watt was correct–he resigned from office after making insensitive racial remarks and later was indicted for corruption. That was one instance where a Congressional Resolution from a state legislator made a difference.TV Image of Quorum Call

“I Move That The Gentleman’s Remarks Be Spread on the Pages of the Journal.”

Traditions are important in a public process. Lawmaking is one of the most important processes in a democracy. A vital tradition in Florida lawmaking is memorializing actions, and that is generally recorded in a Journal. The Journal is maintained in the House of Representatives and the Senate by the staff, who are employed by the presiding officer. Since Florida has voluminous laws on protecting public records, the records in the Journals are second to none in importance.

So, with this introduction, it is interesting to note the significant advantage held by incumbents to seek and achieve insertion of remarks, documents and commentary in the Journal. If manipulated by cleaver wordsmiths, the pages of the journal can almost take on the air of omnipotence. During my service in both bodies, I observed legislators vote one way–sometimes on a voice vote–and then move to spread on the pages of the Journal, an exactly opposite position. If you are an opponent, that contradiction can be almost impossible to decipher. As has been so often said, lawmaking is like the crafting of sausage.

Unacceptable Actions

The public is often asked to forgive, but not forget,  untoward actions by those in public office.  The willingness of the public to re-elect lawmakers, particularly after confessions and guilt and pleas of contriteness, is often surprising.  One candidate in Florida continues to be pillared for taking the fifth amendment in a federal inquiry, but that apparent does not meet the test for expulsion from office. From my experience the following are the actions taken by those holding the public trust that are truly unacceptable and will not be forgiven by the electorate:

1.  Being recorded telling a lie or distortion, that is proven to be deliberately false.

2.  Stealing from the public treasury.

3.  Sexual actions of any kind with minors.

4.  Actions taken on abortion, immigration, or national defense; or failing to vote.

5.  Attacking an opponent’s family.

Candidates, govern yourself accordingly.

2 Great American Senators From One Family

TV Image of Quorum CallWith the recent passing of former Senator Howard Baker (R., Tennessee), I was reminded of his outstanding career and that of his father in law, former Senator Everett Dirksen (R., Illinois).  Both Republican Senators were directly involved in two of the biggest issues ever affecting our country–BakerThe Watergate Impeachment and Resignation of President Richard Nixon, and DirksenThe Historic and Landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Consider both Senators:

Senator Baker:  Former Senator from 1967-85; Senate Majority Leader from 1981-85; Senate Minority Leader 1977-81.  Chief of Staff for President Ronald Reagan; and Ambassador to Japan.  Perhaps most famous statement as a tough member of the Special Senate Watergate Committee, “What did the President know and when did he know it?”

Senator Dirksen:  Former Senator from 1950-69; Member of the House of Representatives from 1933-49; Senate Minority Leader 1959-69.  Perhaps the most influential member of the Senate in the passage of the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act.  He also was an author of the important 1968 Open Housing Act.  Most famous quote was, “A billion here, a billion there, and before you know it, we are talking about real money.”

They were two great American Senators from one family.


During the 1978 Regular Session of the Florida Legislature, state ratification failed again-this time by one vote in the Senate.  Several Senators switched their votes from yes to no, mainly because of the withering pressure they received from the Dean of the Senate Dempsey Barron.  I happen to be running against one Senator that switched after being a co-sponsor of the ERA.  That is probably the reason I received endorsements and financial support from many people I did not know, such as Hollywood actor Alan Alda (Hawkeye on “Mash”), actress Valarie Harper (Rhoada Morgenstern on “Mash”), National ERA spokesperson Gloria Steinem, and businessman Stuart Mott of Mott Beverages, in addition to many others around the country.  Although I and several other Senators replaced “NO” votes in the Senate, Barron again prevailed after the election.

What Public Policy is All About–Sunrise Community

Photo of old Tallahassee CapitalIn my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, I describe a crisis experienced by an important community based treatment facility in my district.  Sunrise Community provided residential care for profoundly disabled children in the Redlands in South Miami-Dade County.  Their facility suffered a major roof leak during a heavy summer storm.  They were unable to pay for the costly repairs and their children/consumers were at great physical risk.  Although I was still in my first term, I sought support from my colleagues on the House Appropriations as well as the Governors staff.  After about 2 months and a couple dozen starts and stops we got Sunrise the help they needed and the school was secure.  That is the “why” in public service–the Sunrise Communities out there.

An Unexpected Chairman…Mike Abrams

TV Image of Quorum Call

In 1976, the Miami business community had a number of major projects pending funding from the Ford Administration.  With the President’s re-election, everything would be fine.  But, when Jimmy Carter unseated the incumbent President, all hell broke loose.  To make matters worse, President Carter had an unknown team in Miami supporting his upset election.  After the President was sworn in, elections for Miami-Dade County Democratic Chairman took place, and an unknown former University of Miami student surfaced as the Chairman, who was totally unknown to the leadership of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.  Chairman Mike Abrams reached out to Chamber CEO Lester Freeman, and that started a wonderful and very successful tandem for Miami getting their fair share back from Washington.  Who da thunk?

Three Miami Dolphin All Pro Football Players




Photo of old Tallahassee Capital


While in Miami, I became acquainted–to different degrees–with 3 former Miami Dolphin football players–each of which were All-Americans in college and All-Pro with the Dolphins:

Karl Noonan, Wide Receiver:  I met Karl while getting my  real estate license and went on to partner with him on some real estate deals.  Although very non-political, he was very kind to endorse my candidacy for the successful campaign for the Florida House of Representatives in 1976.

Nick Buoniconti, Linebacker:  When running for the Florida Senate in 1978, I heard a rumor that the former linebacker and lawyer was considering running against me and two incumbent senators.  After talking to him, I concluded he was among many frustrated Miamians, but probably not a candidate.  I later helped him get appointed Chairman of the Miami-Dade County Democratic Party.

Dick Anderson, Safety:  With a former jersey number of “40,” it was apparent which Senate seat Dick was running for in 1978–District 40.  I won the district 38 seat covering the same geographic area,  so Dick and I sat together on the floor of the Senate for 4 years.  Although we didn’t always vote the same way, we had and still have, a fine relationship.  To many people’s surprise, Dick decided not to run for re-election, but did run again a few years later, although unsuccessfully due to changed demographics.

The Name Game

I remember former Miami City Commissioner Arden Seigendorf once telling me that the name “McKnight” had a solid sound for a candidate.  He was perhaps right, but I also benefited by the possible name confusion with then popular Coral Gables Mayor Bob Knight.  Other possible name confusions that benefited the candidate:

Miami Senator Joe Gersten with Miami State Attorney Richard Gerstein; Miami Rep. John Plummer with Miami Senator Larry Plummer and his brother, Miami City Commissioner J. L. Plummer; Miami Rep. Gene Flinn with Miami Rep. Bill Flynn; Miami Beach Rep. Elaine Gordon with Miami Beach Senator Jack Gordon; Pinellas Rep. Jim Smith with Florida  Attorney General Jim Smith; and Broward Rep. Ron Reagan with President Ronald Reagan.   The name game.


Aside from any political considerations, one of the most disturbing actions by office holders is to say one thing and do something totally different.  It is loosely called hypocrisy.  This year we have not one, but two candidates for governor, from both parties, that have been hypocrites.  Upon the passing of beloved Governor Reubin Askew in March, sitting Republican Governor Rick Scott and former Governor Charlie Crist, then a Republican, now a Democrat, effusively  praised Askew’s record on ethics, education and the environment, among others.  I am sure their remarks were well intended, but unfortunately the Scott’s record reflects his assault on all three Askew achievements.  Since Crist has literally voted for and against all major issues, and therefore, appears without any known principles, so he has not supported any Askew achievements.  Shame on you governors.

The ’74 Special Session

I have been asked to capture as many recollections as I can from each of the legislative sessions in which I had the honored  to serve.  The maiden legislative session for the class of 1974 was of course, a Special Session, for swearing in of the new members and some ‘housekeeping’ legislation requested by Democratic Governor Askew.  There were 41 new members elected to the House and 10 new Senators.  Two freshman House members were given committee chairmanships–Rep. Lee Moffitt (D., Tampa) in Energy and me in Corrections.  We were also both voted the Most Effective Freshman members of the House by our colleagues.  The freshman Senators were led by Senators Buddy MacKay (D., Ocala), Mattox Hair (D., Jacksonville), Ed Dunn (D., Daytona Beach) and Harry Johnston (D., West Palm Beach).  The main focus of the Special Session was whether the huge freshmen class would follow Governor Askew or legislative leaders, President Dempsey Barron (D., Panama City) and Speaker of the House Don Tucker (D., Tallahassee) on the massive Environmental Reorganization package of legislation.  The results were split, with final resolution being, as expected, a compromise.

The Best Legislative Race Ever

I know the word “ever,” is often overused, and I am only using it here because I truly believe it describes a 1972 Florida legislative race for the State Senate, District 39 in South Dade and Monroe Counties.  I have good knowledge of the race as I was running in the same general area for another legislative seat at the time.  The incumbent was long time conservative Democrat Senator George Hollahan, scheduled to become the first Senate President from Miami-Dade County in modern time.  His opponent was liberal Democratic Speaker of the House Richard Pettigrew.  The district was made to order for Hollahan, who helped gerrymander it for his liking in the 1972 reapportionment.  Pettigrew candidly said that his ultimate goal was to run for the U. S. Senate in 1974.  By all accounts, the race was expected to go to Hollahan and the lobbyists supported the senior senator.  But the editorials and endorsements went for the speaker and Pettigrew, in a ‘barn burner,’  won the senate seat by a comfortable margin.  Perhaps a coincidence, the most popular movie at that time, “The Candidate,” starring Robert Redford, was about a long shot candidate also winning a race for senator.

2014 “Golden” Legislative Awards Announced

With a week to go in the 2014 Legislative Session, we have probably seen all we need to see to select this year’s award winners, joining a growing list before them:

2014 “Golden” Legislative Awards:  Rep. Steve Crisafulli (R., Brevard), Speaker-Designate with a pretense of bi-partisanship.

Sen.. Arthenia Joyner (D., Tampa), Sincere, dedicated, no-nonsense lawmaker.

They join:  2009:  Rep. Ellen Bogdanoff (R., Ft. Lauderdale) and Rep. Ron Saunders (D., Key West); 2010:  Rep. Eric Eisenaugle (R., Orlando) and Rep. Dwight Bullard (R., Miami); 2011:  Sen. Don Gaetz (R., Destin) and Rep. Jim Waldman (D., Ft. Lauderdale); 2012:  Rep. William Proctor (R., St. Augustine), Sen Jack Latvala (R., St. Petersburg) and Sen. Bill Monford (D., Tallahassee); and 2013:  Sen. Mike Fasano (R., New Port Richey), Rep. Kionne McGhee (D., Miami), Sen. Dwight Bullard (D., Miami) and Sen. Joe Negron (R., Stuart).


2014 “David Rivera” Fleece Award:  Rep. Dennis Baxley (R., Ocala), Appearance of being among the least thoughtful and judicious legislators ever to serve.

He joins:  2010:  Rep. David Rivera (R., Miami); 2011:  Sen. Mike Haridopolos (R., Melborne); 2012:  Sen. J. D. Alexander (R., Lake Wales); and 2013:  Sen. Kelli Stargel (R., Lakeland) and Rep. Jimmy Patronis (R., Panama City).

“…just one mile of asphalt…”

During the late 70’s, state revenues began their cyclical decline and we felt it in the legislature as we developed our annual budget.  Four of us on the House Health and Rehabilitative Services Committee–Representatives Sam Bell (D., Daytona Beach), Elaine Gordon (D. Miami Beach), George Sheldon (D., Tampa) and I found a modest investment that would safe the state millions over time.  We were unable to get the Neo-Natal Intensive Care program fully funded in the appropriations process, so we felt our only opportunity was on the floor when the final budget was considered.  But the Speaker had ruled that because of the depressed state revenues, any amendments had to be funded from existing revenues.  In other words, take from someone else’s project to fund ours.  Nothing is harder to do in the legislature.   Sheldon’s impassioned plea was, “all we are talking about is taking one mile of asphalt for new highways to save little baby’s lives.”  Our effort was successful and the savings in terms of lives and dollars was almost incalculable.

The Triumvirate of the Golden Age of the Florida Legislature

Reprinted in part, from the Palm Beach Post, March 16, 2014:

“With the passing last week of maybe Florida’s greatest governor, Reubin Askew, I am reminded of the background of his extraordinary success with the Legislature.  In reflecting on that success, I have concluded that the credit for much of the Askew Administration’s success was not from an individual senator or representative, but rather the synergy of three legislators.  That is to say, individually the three were effective, but nothing like the three as a triumvirate of Florida government during the Golden Age of Florida politics:

Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Richard Pettigrew , D-Miami.

House Rules Committee Chairman Murray Dubbin, D-Miami.

House Appropriations Chairman Marshall Harris, D-Miami.

To be sure, this Triumvirate of the Golden Age of the Florida Legislature, as a team, were most responsible for the extraordinary legislative achievements of the Askew Years.”

Maybe Great Presidents?

In my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, I volunteer the names of 5 individuals that I feel might have made great presidents.  Now, some 7 years since the book came out, I would probably make some additions to the list:

Former U. S. Senator Sam Nunn (D., Georgia)                                                       Former Florida Governor Reubin Askew (D., Florida)

Former U. S. Senator Bob Graham (D., Florida)                                                    Former Treasury Secretary Jim Baker (R.)

Former U. S. Senator Richard Lugar (R., Indiana)                                               Former EPA Administrator William Ruckelshaus (R.)

Former U. S. Senator Chuck Hagel (R., Nebraska)                                              Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg (I.)

Former U. S. Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson (D., Washington)                  Former U. S. House Speaker Tom Foley (D., Wash.)

Former U. S. Senator Mike Mansfield (D., Montana)                                         Former U. S. Congressman Lee Hamilton (D., Ind.)


Changing Public Policy Often Takes Time

Perhaps as with almost anything else, changing public policy often takes time.  Some 40 years ago, after my election to the Florida House of Representatives, I filed my very first bill to require the Department of Transportation (D.O.T.) to address community buffering of noise and pollution when engineering new roads.  The problem was acute in my district, brought to my attention by the Green Hills Homeowners Association in Kendall.  I can recall my legislation getting a hearing in a subcommittee chaired by my good friend Rep. Ed Blackburn of Temple Terrace.  But the bill was temporarily passed with a promise by D.O.T. to take the issue under study and report back to the committee.  It was with interest, and a tinge of pride that I recently noticed the miles of concrete barriers being constructed by D.O.T. next to the ribbons of new expressways being built in South and Central Florida.  Indeed, changing public policy often takes time.

Vintage Governor Askew

“I arrived for my appointment with Governor Askew in the Old Capitol.  His office was dark and decorated quite differently from that of his predecessor, Governor Kirk.  After about a 15-minute wait, his assistant said that the governor was ready to meet with me.  After we shook hands, I started to sit down and then heard a thunderous bang–the governor had slammed his fist on the desk.  He then shouted at me, “You should be ashamed of yourself getting tricked into voting that bill out of committee today!!!”  I was more than stunned, and stammered, “Why Governor?”  He then proceeded to tell me all the things wrong with the bill and closed by pointing out that I had fallen into an old trap, as had many freshmen before me, by voting to appease a colleague, rather than voting my conscience.  He told me how his (and, I hoped, still my) good friend, former representative Marshall Harris (D., Miami) had spoken so highly of me and how the governor was hoping I would carry some of his important legislation that year.  It is unusual for a freshman to be given that privilege by a governor.  I thought to myself, “I have blown this golden opportunity and this was just my first committee meeting.”  When I left Askew’s office, my clothes were dripping wet from nervous perspiration.

Page 49, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature (Sentry Press, 2007).

Other Promising Candidates for Governor

With the passing this week of former Governor Reubin Askew, an obvious long shot for that office  in 1970, it prompted the thought about other candidates for governor,  at the point of announcing their candidacy.  The Governor was a little known State Senator from the remote panhandle, who benefited greatly by the campaign organization that came to his campaign with the subsequent addition of veteran Secretary of State Tom Adams as Askew’s running mate.  Here are among other candidates who might have had success with a similar good fortune of Askew:

1964:  Sen. Bud Dickinson (D., West Palm Beach), Sen. Jack Matthews (D., Jacksonville), and Sen. Scott Kelly (D., Lakeland).

1966:  Mayor Robert King High (D., Miami)

1970:  Attorney General Earl Faircloth (D., Fla.), Mayor Chuck Hall (D., Miami Beach), and Sen. Skip Bafalis (R., Palm Beach).

1974:  Sen. Jerry Thomas (R., Tequesta).

1978:  Attorney General Bob Shevin (D., Fla.), Sen. Jim Williams (D., Ocala), and Secretary of State Bruce Smathers (D., Fla.).

With all them, what if…


2 Military Veterans, But Very Different

There were many veterans of military service elected to the Florida legislature during the Golden Age of the ’70’s and ’80’s.  But two stood out among the members–but they were very, very different.

Colonel William Gibson (R., Orlando).  The stoic retired Air Force Colonel was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives in the big reapportionment election of 1967.   He was widely decorated for his military service in World War II, but seldom took the floor to debate his colleagues.  He did have one very memorable and lasting achievement in his legislative service.  The Colonel never missed a vote on the floor, in any committee or subcommittee.  He was widely loved on both sides of the aisle.

Chairman Ray Mattox (D., Winter Haven).  Representative Ray Mattox was first elected in 1956 and was appointed Chairman of the House Veteran Affairs Committee during the mid 1970’s.  Although most legislation affecting veterans originated in the U. S. Congress,  Florida  boasted of a large military veteran constituency, especially in the retirement communities in Central Florida, so state legislation affecting them was very important.  But in contrast to Colonel, Chairman Mattox, a gruff former Army sergeant with service during the Korean Conflict, was disdained by some of his colleagues, particularly the young  and women members.

Unlike today where the percentage of military veterans, particularly among the males,  serving in the Florida legislature is few, during the Golden Age, previous and honorable military service was almost an imperative to get elected.

Legislative Rules

With near unanimity, experienced legislators will say the most important lesson for a student of lawmaking is learn is the chamber rules, explicitly.  Further, strict adherence to the rules substantially strengthens the power of the presiding officers.  Some of the more common measures used in considering legislation are:

1.  Germane–any language considered in lawmaking must be germane to the title of the legislation.  If the presiding officer determines that changes adopted to legislation renter language not germane, the entire legislation can be suspended, ruled out of order, or referred back to committees for further work.

2.  Fiscal Impact–all legislation must be evaluated for fiscal impact–either taxes or appropriations, or both.  If the fiscal impact on legislation is determined, any changes to that impact can again render the legislation subject again, suspended, ruled out of order, or referred back to committee(s) for further work.

3.  Quorum Call–a quorum of the members must be present for the passage of any legislation to be lawful.  Any member can question to presence of quorum, requesting an actual count for verification.  On the other hand, the presiding officer can rule on the presence of a quorum by voice or actual vote, subject to appeal by ‘a substantial number of members.’

4.  Identical Language--in a bicameral legislative process, all language adopted as legislation on final passage must be exactly the same when addressed by the two chambers.  Only one bill, containing identical language fully considered and adopted by both chambers can be enacted into law.  Anything less renders the legislation unlawful.

Florida Jurists

Over the years, I have crossed political paths with a number of Floridians that have gone on to serve the public from the judicial bench.  Since I am not an attorney, I am really not in a position to opine on the quality of their service, but I can certainly attest to them being fine citizens based on my knowledge of them:

Federal Court:  Judges William Hoevler and James King.

Florida Supreme Court:  Judges B. K. Roberts,  Joe Boyd, Sr. and Fred Lewis.

District Court of Appeals:  Judge Gavin Letts and Bob Shevin.

District Court:  Judges Al Sepe, Bill Gladstone, Seymour Gelber, Guy Spicola, Paul Baker,  and Larry Kirkwood.

County Court:  Judges Bernie Jaffee, Lester Langer,  and Dominic Koo.

God bless their service to Florida.


Soviet Treaty

As I watch the Olympics from Sochi, I am reminded of being invited by President Carter for a briefing on the proposed SALT II treaty with the Soviets in 1979 at the White House.  It was a grass roots outreach to gain the support of local legislators around the country, and was successful in that the treaty was ultimately ratified by the U. S. Congress.  Subsequently, it was abandoned in 1986 by the Reagan Administration, but at the time it was ratified, it looked like a prudent move to avoid a potential nuclear confrontation with the Soviets.  We were briefed on the proposed treaty by the highest levels of United States government intelligence, including Dr. Zbigniew Brzenzinski.  The threat appeared to be real and the treaty seemed, after receiving the briefing,  to be in our country’s best interests.

“For What Reason Does the Gentleman From the 110th…?”

“Awake?”  That was the response from the Speaker’s rostrum when veteran State Representative, Dr. Walter Sackett (D., Miami) stood on the floor, with his microphone in his hand, raised in 1975.  The Speaker then, Representative Don Tucker (D., Tallahassee), had a legendary wit and sense of humor.  Dr. Sackett, a respected physician from Miami was along in years, and was his habit, occasionally napped during long hours of session debate.  I sat two seats over from Wally and will attest that he was often alert and aware, even when he was napping.  But, I cannot remember the House laughing as loud as they did that day.  Dr. Sackett was good natured about the Speaker’s question, smiling and saying, “Mr. Speaker, I rise to elevate this debate, with my eloquent testimony.”  Busted, Mr. Speaker.

Lessons Learned From The Golden Age of Florida Politics

In my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70’s and ’80’s.  Reflections on Campaigns and Public Service, the last chapter is devoted to ‘lessons learned.’  Taken out of order, here are some of the most important lessons learned, in my opinion:

1.  Don’t commit yourself until you absorb everything you can about an issue and are committed to stand by your commitment.

2.  Seek the counsel of supporters and opponents on an issue–avoid surprising people if at all possible.

3.  If you consider changing your position, do not do so until you have been released from your position by affected stakeholders.

4.  Focus on 2, no more than 3 issues, and know more about them than anyone else.

5.  Study, learn, analyze, digest, regurgitate, and memorize the rules of your chamber.

6.  A sincere sense of humor is imperative for success in lawmaking.

7.  Spend your time, brainpower, resources, and political capital in subcommittees for at least the first two years of service.

The book can be purchase on at this link:



The Pueblo Incident

With the passing of former Congressman Otis Pike (D., New York) this week in Florida, I was reminded of his involvement in an international incident off the coast of Korea in 1968, dubbed the “Pueblo Incident.”  He and former Senator Frank Church (D., Idaho) chaired the respective committees in the Congress that looked into the dangerous situation.  The Pueblo was a U. S. Navy intelligence vessel cruising off the Korean coast when it was attacked by North Korea.  The ship was captured and the commander, Lloyd Bucher and his entire staff were taken hostage.  The country was already at war in adjoining Southeast Asia, so the possibility of a second conflict weighted heavy on our leaders in Washington.  As I pointed out in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, I had just arrived in country as a fresh Second Lieutenant to begin my final year of service.  Because I was an officer, I was exposed to much of the intelligence, and it was scary, indeed.  It was an incident I will never forget.

The Original Tiger Bay Club at the Dupont Plaza Hotel in Miami

The first of many political debates at “The Tiger Bay Club,” started this week in Tampa.  Subsequent debates at Tiger Bay clubs will occur all over the state.  The one Tiger Bay Club were the debates will not occur is at the largest media market and the very first location–in Miami.  The original Tiger Bay Club was created by entrepreneur and hotelier Skip Shepherd and political campaign guru, Steve Ross, in Miami at the old Dupont Plaza  Hotel on the Miami River,  during the late 1960’s.  It was a revolutionary thought–a venue for bare knuckle debates for major candidates supported some of the state’s most powerful political players.  In addition to Shepherd and Ross, who were some of the other ‘big hitters’ behind the success of the original Tiger Bay Club?  The list reads like a who’s who of Florida politics, but almost exclusively Democrats:  Hal Bergida, Dick Toxel, George DePontis, Stu Rose Seth Gordon, Steve Fisher, Bob Hurwitz, Ron Levitt, Russ Marchner, and Rick Sisser.  The lone Republican political pro was Mike Thompson.

I had the rare opportunity of debating an opponent at the Miami Tiger Bay Club during my campaign for the Florida Senate against two State Senators in 1978.  The crowd in the cramped auditorium was overflowing, with equal numbers of supporters and opponents.  The media coverage was pre-FOX, but did include the state’s most watched stations carried by CBS, NBC and ABC.  The major radio stations, including WQAM, WIOD, and WVCG were there as well as a national feed because of the controversial ERA Amendment issue.  There were 3 subsequent invitations made to me to appear at the Miami Tiger Club, with the final one in 1982 to announce my surprise retirement from the Florida Senate.

The Golden Age Quiet Ones

I am often asked about the most effective legislators from the Golden Age of the ’70’s and ’80’s.  It is always assumed the most effective are most visible and vocal.  That is not always the case–sometimes ‘silence is golden.’  Here are some of the quiet and often very effective, legislators:

Senate:  Sen. Chet Stolzenburg (R., Ft. Lauderdale); Sen. Tom Tobiassen (R., Pensacola); Sen. Julian Lane (D., Tampa); Sen. Dan Jenkins (D., Jacksonville); Sen. Ray Knopke (D., Tampa); Sen. Cliff Reuter (R., Melbourne); Sen. Bill Stevens (R., Parkland) and Sen. John Hill (D., Hialeah).

House of Representatives:  Rep. Bill Gibson (R., Orlando); Dave Barrett (D., Melbourne); Dr. Larry Belanger (R., St. Petersburg); Rep. Fred Burral (R., Port Charlotte); Bill Conway (D., Daytona Beach); Rep. Jim Eckhart (D., Miami); Rep. Bill Flynn (D., Miami); Rep. Gene Flinn (D., Miami); Rep. Tony Fontana (D., Hialeah); Rep. Fred Hagan (R., Orlando); Rep. Clyde Hagler (D., Pensacola), Rep. Nancy Harrington (D., Coral Gables); Rep. George Hieber (R., St. Petersburg); Rep. Jack Miller (D., Ft. Lauderdale); Rep. Dale Cassens (D., Ft. Pierce); Rep. Chuck Nergard (D., Ft. Pierce); Rep. Jack Poorbaugh (R., West Palm Beach); Dr. Walter Sackett (D., Miami); Rep. Carl Singleton (D., Coral Gables);  Rep. Wendall Watson (D., Lakeland); Rep. Ted Ewing (R., Sarasota); Rep. Hal Spaet (D., Miami Beach)  and Rep. Virginia Rosen (D., Miami Beach).

Serious Advise and Consent

In both the U. S. Congress and the Florida Legislature, the Senate is required to provide advice and consent on Executive Branch matters.  This is a very important part of the constitutional framer’s insistence on ‘checks and balances’ among the three branches of government.  As perhaps the most serious part of the Advise and Consent responsibility is for the Senate to address Impeachment, if the House votes to impeach members of either the Executive or Judicial branches.  During the service in the House, I was tasked with voting for articles of impeachment of two cabinet members and three judges:

Lieutenant Governor Tom Adams

Insurance Commissioner Tom O’Malley

Judges Sam Smith, Hal Dekel and David McCain

While running the Senate against incumbent Senator Ralph Poston (D., Miami), in lieu of impeachment, the sitting Senators voted to Reprimand Senator Poston.  I defeated Senator Poston after his Reprimand.

Not Now Senator

One of the outstanding members of the Florida Legislature during the Golden Age of the ’70’s and ’80’s was Miami Senator Ken Myers (D., Miami).  I had the pleasure and honor of not only serving with him in the Miami-Dade County Legislative Delegation but had my legislative office located next to his on Brickell Avenue.  The Senator had a very successful law practice with his father and was often involved in the legal work associated with municipal bond issues.  It was on that point that a veteran lobbyist, Dave Arpin, a Jacksonville based representative of the household and business moving industry, filed a conflict of interest charge against Myers.  Charges of conflicts of interest were rare during that time, but were almost never filed by a lobbyist against a legislator.  The surprise of the filing was especially serious because Senator Myers was considered to the model of integrity in the legislature.  I recall being on the floor with the Senator, working on an important piece of legislation, when Senator Myers responded to my inquiry, “Not now Senator.”  That response was most unusual because of my close relationship with Ken, but I sensed his undivided attention was directed elsewhere.  It turned out that the public hearing on the charges were scheduled for later that day.  The Senator was exonerated, and I never saw Dave Arpin in the halls of the legislature again.

Legislator’s Firsts

We are all familiar with the expression that we always remember our first____________.  That expression also applies to legislators.  The firsts are typically:

1.    The first day the legislator becomes “Honorable,” right after the swearing-in.

2.    The first legislative action, typically a committee meeting, hearing,  a press conference, or press availability.

3.    The first motion on the floor of the chamber.

4.    The first bill filed.

5.    The first bill enacted into law.

6.    The first bill signing in the Governor’s presence.

7.    The first speech on the floor, known as the “Maiden Speech.”

8.    The first bill killed on the floor–awarded by colleagues with a salt shaker.

9.    The first “Point of Personal Privilege” on the floor of the chamber.

10.  The first request to “Spread ____ Upon the Pages of the Journal,” motion on the floor.

11.  The final speech on the floor, upon retirement from the legislators.

As with all experiences, the firsts go so fast….

The Legislative Survey That Made History

I was just elected Chairman of the Miami Dade Delegation–the largest delegation in the Florida Legislature in 1981, with a total of 30 members (almost 20% of the whole body).  The ’82 Session was going to be historic–not only an election year, but also the 10 year Reapportionment Session.  To add to the controversy, there were rumors of a needed tax increase to fund existing and proposed programs, that then Governor Bob Graham (D., Miami Lakes) had not ruled out.  An idea was hatched in my mind around Thanksgiving of 1981.  Why not publicly survey our delegation on their position on a tax increase, which was being discussed?  I thought it would be most helpful if we went beyond yes and no, and included conditions and possible other legislation juxtaposed with an increase.  The results were shocking and garnered front page press all over the state.  Almost 80% of the largest legislative delegation in the state said they would vote for a statewide tax increase, some with conditions attached.  Miami Herald reporter Rusty Melton credited the survey with having perhaps the greatest  impact on the decision by the legislature–in an election year and supported by Democrats and Republicans–to tie an increase in the sales tax by 1%, tied to statewide property tax relief and an allocation for fighting crime in Miami-Dade County.  It was said that the survey made legislative history.   The lesson for today–communication, communication, communication.

Presidential Musings

Over my political years, I have had a chance to make contact with a handful of folks serving in one White House or another:

Vice President Hubert Humphrey in 1969 in Uijongbu, Korea, touring the North and South Korea DMZ.

President Jimmie Carter on the campaign trail in 1976 and in 1979 in the White House for a SALT II briefing.

Vice President Walter Mondale on the Miami Airport tarmac during the 1980 campaign.

Vice President George Bush in Miami for a meeting of the Miami Citizens Against Crime in 1982.

President Bill Clinton in Tallahassee in 1988 during presidential campaign.

Vice President Joe Biden in 1975 at Disneyworld for a legislative reception.

Of them all, the most impressive in terms of attention, thoughtfulness, and response was Vice President Hubert Humphrey, by far.  Ironically, I acknowledge in my book, the Golden Years of the Florida Legislature, that I voted against him and for Senator Eugene McCarthy in my first presidential vote in 1968.

Almost nicked by a couple of Nicks.

In 1978, I was an incumbent member of the Florida House of Representatives from South Dade County who was re-elected two years earlier without any opposition.  I had declared to be a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the State Senate in South Dade and all of Monroe County.  I fully expected opposition, but nothing like the name recognition coming with two Nicks from my district.  They were the legendary Coral Gables High School football head coach Nick Koyts and the All-Pro Miami Dolphin football linebacker Nick Buoniconti.  Of the two Nicks, it turned out that it was Buoniconti that was more serious about making the race, but after having a phone conversation with him, he opted instead to seek election as Chairman of the Dade County Democratic Party.  I ended up with serious opposition anyway–one incumbent and one former state senator and a candidate with a very well known name in the district.  I won, and often reflect on whether that would have been the case had I had the two Nicks as opponents.

A Political Training Ground

I am often asked about the best way to train to become successful  in politics.  Obviously, the closer you can get to elected politics the better off you are.  For example, working on a campaign or even working in the office of an office holder would be a great way to learn the ropes.  That failing, I found the Florida Jaycees to be an excellent training ground for the rough and tumble of politics.  Not only do you have the opportunity to campaign for offices in the Jaycees,  in realistic settings, but you are often exposed to mentoring by future public officials while in the Jaycees.  I had as some of my mentors in the Jaycees, former Lieutenant Governor Tom Adams (D., Clay County), current U. S. Senator Bill Nelson (D., Fla.) and former State Representatives Randy Avon (R., Ft. Lauderdale) and Bob Harnett (D., Coral Gables).  Also, the Jaycees have a number of programs to help members in public speaking, like their heralded “Speak Up” Program, that can be of great help in campaigning development.

The Craft of Legislative Lawmaking

I have often been asked about the craft of lawmaking.  Specifically, one question is, what are some of the techniques that can be used to make lawmaking most effective?   From memory, here are some  lawmaking  techniques that can be very helpful and important:

Sunset:  This is language providing that a program or funding automatically terminates at time certain, unless it is specifically re-enacted.  It shifts the burden of proof of necessity to the existing law.

Trigger:  This is language that makes the funding or other necessary action contingent upon a separate, but certain action.  Without the certain action, the full law is incomplete.

Contingency:  Similar to a Trigger, this ties a law as a condition precedent to the adoption of another law.

Size Provision:  This ties the law to a contingency of geographic size.  This language  is often unconstitutional in that generally no classes can be treated differently, for any reason, including geographic size.

Vote Pairing:  This is combining or pairing two opposite votes, that legislators insist are recorded for the record.  The next effect is that the two votes cancel each other out, and therefore do not affect the outcome of the vote.

Spread Across the Pages of the Journal:  This is recording in the public record testimony or votes that were never recorded in person.  It does not affect the outcome, but can often be used to communicate a legislator’s position or testimony for public recording, without voting that position or stating that testimony.

For students of lawmaking, in addition to my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature (Sentinel Press), I would recommend the Florida Handbook by Dr. Allen Morris and a book on lawmaking by former Representative George Crady(D., Ulee).


Those Who Write Laws Should Also Obey Them

A lot is made of campaign slogans.  I remember as a kid one that really stood out in my mind.  In 1964, Senator Barry Goldwater (R., Arizona), a firebrand conservative was challenging incumbent President Lyndon Johnson in the middle of the controversial Vietnam War, and Goldwater’s slogan was, “In Your heart You Know He Is Right.”  In Miami, we had an oriental lawyer named Dominic Koo running (again) for County Judge on the slogan, “Give A Chinaman A Chance?”  Judge Koo won.  Former Florida House Speaker Dick Pettigrew (D., Miami) took on long time incumbent State Senator George Hollahan (D., Miami) with the slogan, “Send The Speaker To The Senate.”  Miamians did just that.  I once ran against former State Representative Jeff Gautier (D., Miami), who had once refused the ‘implied consent’ law for drunk driving, with the slogan, “Those Who Write Laws Should Also Obey Them.”

A Couple a “Miami Guys”…35 Years Ago

It has been 35 years since a couple of “Miami Guys” squared off in a run-off election for the Democratic nomination for Governor.  In 1978, Florida Attorney General Bob Shevin was leading Miami Lakes Senator Bob Graham after the primary vote.  For Miamians, their campaign had been expected dating all the way back to high school at the mighty Miami Senior High School.  Why?  A quick look at what the two Bob’s had in common in their progression from high school (a couple years apart) to the election:

–  Both graduated from Miami High with high academic honors.

– Both received their undergraduate degree from the University of Florida with high academic honors, and membership in prestigious Blue Key.

– Both received their law degrees with high academic honors, Shevin from the University of Miami and Graham from Harvard University.

– Both served with distinction in both the Florida House of Representatives and the Senate, before their campaign for Governor.

So their squaring off in an election for Governor was both expected and almost a foregone conclusion–between those two “Miami guys.”  BTW, Graham over came Shevin’s primary lead to win the run-off, then beat the Republican nominee, Jack Eckerd, to become Florida’s 38th Governor.

Counsel From the Majority Leader

In 1975, former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives Don Tucker (D., Tallahassee) had decided to seek history–he was running for re-election as Speaker–which had never been done before, or since.  His colleague,  State Rep. Jim Redman (D., Plant City) opposed the Speaker’s re-election effort, but appeared to be short of the required pledges.  At the last minute, State Rep. Barry Kutun (D., Miami Beach), one of Tucker’s Committee Chairmen, decided to join Redman’s campaign.  The Majority Leader for the Speaker was 6’4″ strongman, State Rep. Dick Clark of Miami.  I can still recall the confrontation between Clark and Kutun on the floor of the House during the peak of the campaign emotions.  Clark and Kutun were colleagues in the Dade Legislative Delegation and knew each other very well.  Clark was heard yelling at Kutun, “Barry, if you you are going after the King (Speaker Tucker), you better kill him…whatever you do, don’t wound him.”  Tucker was re-elected Speaker and Kutun was removed of any Committee Chairmanship.

The Amicus Brief

It was early in 1975, and as Chairman of the Florida House Corrections Sub Committee, I was asked by Committee Staff to sign an Amicus Curiae Brief in the Costello versus Wainwright litigation.  The purpose of the brief was to advise the Court that the legislative branch wanted to be directed notified of the status of the litigation.  The lawsuit was potentially precedent setting as it was the known such challenge to the level of health care given prisoners by medical staff in Florida prisons.  Costello was an inmate claiming that he was denied adequate health care.  Wainwright was the veteran Secretary of the Department of Corrections, Louie Wainwright.  The litigation was ultimately settled, resulting in major new expenditures for health care facilities and personnel in the entire corrections system.  The involvement of the legislature into what one might call the responsibility of the Executive Branch.  It was during my service that the legislature claimed more involvement in Executive Branch issues as part of their “oversight” responsibility in the appropriations process.

That Class of ’74

As indicated in my last post, in my opinion, the very best “classes” elected to the Florida House of Representatives, based on the success and achievements of its’ members, were 1966 and 1974.  As emphasized before, both classes were largely extraordinary because of the U.S Supreme Court mandated reapportionment, replacing the old “Pork Chop Gang” with generally better educated, reform minded, new legislators representing the urban areas of the state.  This list, like the one for 1966, is partial;

Class of 1974, Florida House of Representatives:

Tom Gallagher (Insurance Commissioner and Education Commissioner), Steve Pajcic (Democratic Nominee for Governor), Frank Mann (Democratic Nominee for Lt. Governor), Gwen Margolis (Senate President), Lee Moffitt (Speaker of the House), James Harold Thompson (Speaker of the House), Sam Bell (Speaker of the House Designate), Tom Hazouri (Jacksonville Mayor), George Sheldon (Federal HHS Assistant Secretary), Clark Maxwell (Executive Director, Florida Community Colleges), Dr. Wayne McCall (Board of Regrents),  Dick Batchelor (Media Commentator), Robert McKnight (Author and Media Commentator), Barry Richard, Herb Morgan, Pat Neal, Elaine Bloom, John Considine, Karen Coolman, Bob Hattaway, Mary Ellen Hawkins, Sid Martin, and Pete Skinner.



That Class of ’66

I am often asked, which was the best legislative class in the history of the Florida Legislature?  The classes, after the 1960 census, come to mind because of their large numbers of new members elected,  due to the Supreme Court mandated reapportionment reflecting ‘one person, one vote.’  To my memory, the classes of 1964, 66, 68, 72 and 74 come to mind, based on the individual’s effectiveness (subjective opinion, I acknowledge) and their career paths.  My choice would be two– the House Class of 1966 and my House Class of 1974 (excluding me).  Here is a partial list of the Class of 1966 and next will be the Class of 1974:

Partial List of the  House Class of 1966

Bob Graham (Governor and U.S. Senator), Gerald Lewis (Comptroller), George Firestone (Secretary of State), Lew Brantley (Senate President ), Don Tucker (Speaker of the House), Jim Tillman (House Minority Leader),  John Ryals (Speaker Pro Tempore of the House), Dr. Dick Hodes (Speaker Pro Tempore of the House), Bob Rust (U. S. Attorney), Guy Spicola (Tampa Judge), Quillen Yancy (State Attorney),  Maurice Ferre (Miami Mayor),  Sandy D’Alemberte (President of FSU and ABA), Dr. Elton Gissendanner (Executive Director, DNR),  Bob Hartnett, Bob Hector, Bill Andrews, Maxine Baker, John Middlemas, Jim Redman, Dr. Walter Sackett, George Caldwell, Paul Danahy, Bob Mann, Ed Whitson and Ed Fortune.


The Non-Senate President Who Wouldn’t Pick Up The Phone

It is widely acknowledged that the road to being elected Senate President during the Golden Era of the ’70’s and ’80’s went through one office–that of the Senate Dean Dempsey Barron (D., Panama City).  It happened time after time, starting with Barron’s election in 1974, followed sequentially and without a break  by Lew Brantley (D., Jacksonville), Phil Lewis (D., West Palm Beach), W. D. Childers (D., Pensacola), Curtis Peterson (D., Eaton Park), Harry Johnston (D., West Palm Beach), John Vogt (D., Melbourne) and Bob Crawford (D., Winter Haven).  As one Senator told me once, “Why don’t we just hand the ballots to Dempsey.  He is going to decide it anyway?”  The one exception was when Barron placed a call to Senator Mattox Hair (D., Jacksonville) to offer him the presidency.  Senator Hair was out of town, and in those days we didn’t have cell phones to catch people on the run.  Senator Mattox Hair…the one Senate President that never was…because he didn’t answer the call from the ‘Red Barron.’

Code for Huh?

In politics, it is often irritating when people take editorial liberties with words or descriptions.  The one word that comes to my mind is “reform.”  The word is defined in Webster as “To improve by removing defects or correcting errors.”    How many times a day do we hear “health care reform,” or “immigration reform,” or “tax reform?”  I find myself questioning a person declaring subjects as “reforms”–that is improving them–or if fact,  whether the proposal is to make them worse.  Said another way, a reform to you may not be a reform to me.

I do not think I am splitting hairs on this arrogant mislabeling.  If a person is running for election, words matter…a lot.  If an opponent declares, “Why my opponent even voted against health care reform.”  It would be understood if a casual voter said, “Well, I sure don’t want to vote for someone who voted against ‘improving’ health care.  This is an example of code for asking “Huh?”

What If?

Where you play the title game in politics, you almost have to ask yourself, “What if ______ _______ would have won?”  The name I fill in is often The Honorable Steve Pajcic.  You should start back in 1986–hard to believe but that is almost 3 decades ago.  Representative Steve Pajcic resigned from his seat in the Florida House of Representatives, that he had held since 1974, to announce his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Governor.  He was not alone–with incumbent Bob Graham finishing his two terms, the Governor’s office was about to become an open seat.  The main competitors for Pajcic’s nomination were formidable–Attorney General Jim Smith, Senate President Harry Johnston and dark horse Ft. Myers Senator Frank Mann.  But with the skillful guidance of consultants like Sergio Bendixen, Pajcic won, only to lose in the general election to Republican and former Tampa Mayor Bob Martinez.  What would have been the hallmarks of a Pajcic Administration–education, the environment and tax reform.   How do I know that–I was the statewide Co-Chairman of his campaign along with former Florida House Speaker Fred Schultz (D., Jacksonville).

“…I’d Do It All Again.”

It was certainly not planned.  I was at the original Tiger Bay Club in the Dupont Plaza Hotel in 1978, starting the anticipated debate between incumbent Senator Ralph Poston and me, which was being aired on statewide television.  The race had drawn particular attention because of the ERA (“Equal Rights Amendment”)–it had lost in the Senate by one vote, and Poston had voted against it, after being a co-sponsor of it.  I had supported the ERA in the House and pledged to vote for it in the Senate.  But Poston surprised everyone by bringing up my lack of attendance at a Special Session, suggesting my dereliction of responsibility to vote.  I stared at him and said, “Ralph, you know that Susan and I lost a baby, and I was with her at that time, and if it happened again, I’d do it all again.”  The noise was deafening.  From the corner, an observer commented, “The district 38 Senate race is over.”

Final Nail in the Pork Chop Gang Coffin

Although the Reapportionment Plan of the Florida Legislature following the 1960 Census was not approved by the U. S. Supreme Court until 1967, it was widely assumed that the Pork Chop Gang rule in Tallahassee was ended with the Plan.  That is really not the case because the rural legislators that managed to weather the assault from the urban areas of the state were generally very smart, experienced with the rules, and strongly supported by the shocked lobbyists.  Those remaining legislators with ties to the Pork Chop Gang closed ranks, covered for each other and began strategically seeking key leadership positions to retain their political clout.  It was really not until 1977–a full 10 years from the historic Supreme Court ruling on reapportionment that the final nail was hammered in the Pork Chop Gang coffin.  It occurred in a clandestine ballot for Speaker of the Democratic Caucus.  Speaker-Elect Hyatt Brown of Daytona Beach secured the position from Appropriations Chairman Ed Fortune of Pace, in an exercise called “The Attack on Entebee,” after the famous Israeli raid in Uganda.  The rest is history.

Short Listed

In my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70’s and ’80’s, I disclose for the first time that I was as they say, “short listed,” to be selected as the running mate three different times with a possible candidate for Governor.  The degree of consideration varied from being mentioned in a newspaper article to actually discussing the possibility with the candidates.  I am very fortunate that in each case, I considered the potential candidate for Governor to be outstanding, and although I do not know my decision, I do know that I would have given it serious consideration.  Here are the three circumstances:

1976:  Lt. Governor Jim Williams (D. Ocala) was making plans to run for Governor in 1978.  He ultimately selected Senator Betty Castor (D., Tampa) but ultimately lost to Governor Bob Graham (D., Miami Lakes).

1979:  Lt. Governor Wayne Mixson might have become Governor in 1979, if Governor Graham took a position in President Carter’s Cabinet.  If that happened, I was being considered as an appointment from Senator to Lt. Governor.

1986:  The Democratic nominee Steve Pajcic (D., Jacksonville) had a short list of potential running mates, of which I was one.  He selected former Senator Frank Mann (D., Ft. Myers), but ultimately lost to Governor Bob Martinez (R., Tampa).

The Democrat’s Favorite Republican

The title of this post is dangerous–anytime your commentary crosses over political parties, it gets dicey.  But there is one Republican that I think stands out, at least to this Democrat.  He is the late senior Senator from Vermont, George Aiken–a Republican through and through.  Vermonters will remember him as one of the state’s most popular Governors.  But it was in the U. S. Senate for 34 years that he really made his mark–as a rock solid…independent voice.  As a Republican, he was the force behind the creation of food stamps for the poor, and he was so popular in his home state, that he once  reported total campaign re-election expenditures of $17.09.   He is easily most famous for his statement about the Vietnam War.  He said defiantly to the conservative hawks of his own party, “Let’s declare victory…and then retreat.”  Senator Aiken’s statement has been repeated often over the years, especially during the Bush 43 years in 2 wars.

“I have seen more people on a motorcycle”

Most of us who have served in public office can recall vividly our “15 minutes of fame.”  It is not the case, however for our dismal failures.  It is even harder for us to acknowledge our failures, and a number of years.

But, here is mine.  Although I was an unknown political upstart challenging a long time, and well entrenched incumbent legislator, I was able to secure a guest appearance by the distinguished Chairman of the Florida House Rules Committee to attend one of my campaign appearances.  Our campaign team had done a wonderful job of preparing for the event, sending out hundreds of invitations to potential attendees in my district.  The Chairman was fashionably late for the event, but that did not create a problem because the guests were late.  That is all of them were late…as in never made it…ever.  As the Chairman looked at me, upon his arrival, and said, “I have seen more people on a motorcycle.”  Can you say, delete button?

The Demise of the Pork Chop Gang

The 1950’s passed by quickly, with only modest attention paid to the extraordinary population growth in Florida.  That was in spite of the support for the growth–new affordable communities popping up where there was once swamp, continued support for homestead and estate exemptions from taxes, and even television promotion of the state, particularly South Florida,  by stars like Jackie Gleason and Red Buttons.  So when the 1960 census was completed, lawmakers in Tallahassee were shocked to find that the population had dramatically shifted South, down both sides of the state.  But those very same lawmakers who resided primarily in North Florida, outside the population centers, were forced by the U.S. Supreme Court to look closely at the principle of  “One person, one vote.”   The result–the reapportionment following the census started the demise of the Pork Chop Gang and the transition into the modern governance model of the sunshine state.

The Tucker Wit

As I have previously mentioned in this Blog, my colleague, former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives Don Tucker (D., Tallahassee) had an extraordinary wit.  I mentioned his quip to member Dr. Walter Sackett (D., Miami) who occasionally took late afternoon naps in the chamber, seeking recognition from the Speaker, ” For what reason the gentleman, Dr. Sackett, AWAKE?”  I can recall when the Speaker was seeking a certain vote on a bill under floor consideration, he looked downs at the real time monitor on his desk showing he did not have the votes, mumbled under his breath, “…are you sure all members have voted?”  Yet another notable quip was when the Speaker, then often at odds with popular Governor Reubin Askew, successfully led the over-ride of a Governor’s veto, and the Speaker whispered to the Clerk of the House,  Dr. Allen Morris, “You know, this is kind of fun.”  I did not always vote with the Speaker, but I always had great respect for him and at all times, his sense of humor.

The First Miami Herald Interview

John McDermott was a venerable political reporter for the Miami Herald during the Golden Age of the ’70’s and ’80’s.  Few Florida legislators earned profile pieces by the skeptical journalist.  During my first legislative session in 1974, John contacted me saying he wanted to do a weekend article about the lessons I had learned during my brief political career in Tallahassee.  I told him that the most important lesson I had thus far learned,  was to sit quietly in the House Chamber, studying and even memorizing the rules.  If asked to support a legislator’s position, I told John that I had learned to pass on the invitation, until I thoroughly studied and understood the legislation.  If I felt I understood the proposal and it’s impact on the public, I told John that I should qualify any support with a condition that all bets were off if amendments were added, or other unforeseen circumstances developed.  But, if I changed my position, I pledged to see authority by the person to whom I pledged my support, for removal of my support.  Without that authority to switch my position, I would support the measure to the end.   It turns out after almost 50 years around lawmaking still the most important lesson I learned.

Sage Advice from Senator Bob Graham

I am often asked what advice I might give to a new public policy maker.  In almost all cases, I refer to same advice given to me by one of Florida’s most successful public figures–former Democratic Governor and U. S. Senator Bob Graham.  It was 1974 and I had just been elected for the first time to the Florida House of Representatives.  I was sitting next to then Florida State Senator Bob Graham of Miami Lakes, a fellow member of the Miami-Dade Legislative Delegation.  His advice–pick out only one or two areas of interest and make them your areas of expertise.  If any colleague proposes legislation in either of those two areas, you will be successful if  that legislator contacts you before taking legislative action.  I took the Senator’s advice and selected social services and the environment.  Any success I had was attributable to Senator Graham’s sage advice.

“The President Needs Your Recommendation…Now.”

It was quite a Saturday morning in 1980.  Usually during the Session, there are few legislators left in the Capitol.  I was one, and had planned to have lunch with my wife, Susan at Andrew’s, when an aide of Governor Bob Graham caught me in the hall of the Senate.  He said, “The Governor has been looking for you–he needs to see you in his office right away.”  It turns out the Mariel Boat Lift had just started and flotilla of hundreds of boats launched from Cuba were heading directly for Key West.  Since I represented the majority of Dade and all of Monroe Counties, the Governor wanted to brief me and he wanted my counsel.  When I walked into the Governor’s office with Susan, Governor Graham had veteran Congressman Dante Fascell (who represented the same area as I, in the Congress) on the phone.  I heard the Congressman bellow, “Bob, the President is asking for our recommendation…now.”  It was a wild several weeks, and required close coordination between the state and federal governments to work through the crisis.

Two Doctors Making A Difference

Doctors have an awesome responsibility–to care for the health of their patients.  Some are extraordinary, others no so much.  But two that I met during the Golden Era of the Florida Legislature that really made a difference were pediatricians Dr. Robert Stempfel and Dr. Judy St. Petery.  As Chairman of the Senate Health and Rehabilitative Services Committee, as well as the Senate Subcommittee funding health care, I identified the Neonatal Intensive Care Program as a state priority.  The Florida Medical Association directed me to Doctors Stempfel and St. Petery as resources for the committees, and their contributions were outstanding.  From their medical viewpoint, upfront funding for the new neonates and their mothers were true investments in our state and Floridians.  Over the years, the substantial funding we provided the ten neonatal intensive care hospitals around the state resulted in savings of millions of dollars in terms of disease prevention and hospitalization, to say nothing of the lives saved.  Doctors Stempfel and St. Petery were physicians that really made a difference in Florida.

Bud, Bob and Glenda

The Florida Chamber was growing rapidly during the 1980’s, thanks largely to the introduction of a new captive worker’s compensation insurance product, called The Chamber Fund.  President Frank Ryll was also aggressively recruiting new board members, with diverse backgrounds.  I was serving my second term as the Chairman of the Florida Chamber Foundation, and found myself working often with two young, up and coming  Board Members, Bud Chiles and Glenda Hood.  Bud is the oldest son of the late Governor Lawton Chiles, and Glenda went on to serve multiple terms as the Mayor of the City of Orlando.  The three of us, and numerous outstanding Chamber leaders, worked closely together on issues, policies and positions of the Florida Chamber as it became the major voice of business in Florida.

Political Groundswell–“Two Postcards From Blountstown”

I think most of us agree that politics have become pretty sophisticated to predict.  All kinds of focus groups, exit polls, internet preference tracking, historic precinct voting records are state of the art in politics like never seen before.  Voting analysis and predicting is a huge business that almost all serious candidates must participate in to be viable.

With that established, I can recall during the Golden Era of Florida politics,  former Republican Governor Claude Kirk was once asked by a reporter if there was a ‘ground swell’ of support growing in opposition to his new administration in 1967.  Apparently several statewide newspapers had run editorials criticizing the creation of his clandestine “Governor’s Club” to fund special projects for the Governor.

Kirk, always quick on his feet, looked at the reporter and said, ” Now young man, what do you think constitutes a ‘ground swell’ of support?  My experience is you folks in the press consider two postcards from Blountstown to be a ground swell of support, don’t you?”  And that political survey didn’t cost a cent….

Voting No on a Mother’s Day Resolution

Celebrating the important Mother’s Day today brings back memories of a vote in the Florida Senate in 1979.  During a raucous debate on some issue, the always witty and respected Senator Harry Johnston (D., West Palm Beach) took the floor to declare, “This bill couldn’t earn the support of the Dade Delegation…why they wouldn’t even vote together for a Mother’s Day Resolution.”  His point had nothing to do with Mother’s Day–it was making the point that although the Miami-Dade Delegation was by far the largest in the legislature, the 30 members seldom (often?) voted alike, which resulted in a cancelling out of votes.  It was calculated that when the Delegation voted say 15 for a bill, 10 against, and 5 absent or not voting, the net number of votes for the bill was 0 0ut of 30.  A one member delegation had more impact on that issue.  If the Senator was correct, that fact was a serious matter.

Announcing the 2013 “David Rivera Golden Fleece” Award Winner(s)

This is the dreaded recognition for the worst performance by legislators during the 2013 legislative session.  Although the Republican leadership has been spreading positive press releases about the session, that may very well be true, at least two legislators met the negative criteria of the “David Rivera Golden Fleece Award.”  They are:

Senator Kelli Stargel (R. Republican) The proud sponsor of the “Parent Trigger” bill that died again on the floor of the Senate by a 20-20 tie vote.  Stargel represented it as a  parent empowerment measure, but most saw it as a gutting of public education and a payoff to private tutor vendors.

Representative Jimmy Patronis (R., Panama City)  Many environmentalists say the young lawmaker may be the most destructive environmental legislator in history, in just one disastrous session.  Patronis is a very attractive, but not very serious lawmaker, that I am told thought his gutting of Florida’s historic protection of the environment was killing jobs, although he had no proof of that position.

These two abysmal performance join the embarrassing ranks of previous members:

2010:  Representative David Rivera (R., Miami)

2011:  Senator Mike Haridopolis (R., Melbourne)

2012:  Senator J. D. Alexander (R., Lake Wales)

2013 “Golden” Senate Awards

My selection of Senators for the “Golden” designation this year are pretty clear, and I think not in question:

Republican:  Senator Joe Negron (R., Stuart).  Chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, he wielded his clout strategically and often.  Almost single-handedly, he crafted the probable state policy on the federal Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) as well as the total appropriations bill.  At times Senator Negron reminded me of former spending heavy weights Senator Jack Gordon (D., Miami Beach) and Representative Herb Morgan (D., Tallahassee).

Democrat:  Senator Dwight Bullard (D., Miami).  A former winner of the “Golden” designation in the House, Senator Bullard was among the most eloquent in attacking the “trigger” bill focused on gutting public education.  As a long time teacher in Miami-Dade County public schools, he was one of the few debaters who knew of what he spoke on critical education bills this session.

These Senators join previous winners:

2009:  None selected.

2010:  None selected.

2011:  Senator Don Gaetz (R., Ft. Walton Beach)

2012:  Senator Jack Latvala (R., St. Petersburg) and Senator Bill Montford (D., Tallahassee)

2013 “Golden” House of Representative Awards

It is time for our annual recognition of the outstanding or “Golden” legislators from this session.  This year we will do the House members first, and in the next post, we will do the senate.  Lastly, we will announce the dreaded “David Rivera Golden Fleece” Award.  Here are the House members:

Republican:  Rep. Mike Fasano (R., New Port Richey)  A former member of the House and Senate, he has morphed into a true gad fly,–but in such a controlled House, Fasano has become refreshing.  Not always long on facts, and sometimes impetuous, he is still a major thorn in the side of any traditional thinkers in the Capitol.

Democrat:  Rep. Kionne McGhee (D., Miami)  A first term member who won seats on the coveted Rules Committee and important Health Innovation Subcommittee (important because of implementing Obama Care).  Rep. McGhee is an attorney and I am told a very gifted speaker, which appears unusual today.

These House members join previous selections:

2009:  Representatives Ellen Bogdanoff (R., Ft. Lauderdale) and Ron Saunders (D., Key West).

2010:  Representatives Eric Eisenagule (R., Orlando) and Dwight Bullard (D., Miami)

2011:  Representative Jim Waldman (D., Ft. Lauderdale)

2012:  Representative William Proctor (R., St. Augustine).

Why Are The ’70’s and ’80’s Golden Years?

I am often asked the title question, and I think it is fair.  Here are my 5 brief answers:

1.  It is the largest political transition in Florida history, from control by the Pork Chop Gang to our modern era bi-partisan government.

2.  It included the most sweeping governmental reorganization ever including the entire legislative, judicial and executive branches.

3.  The largest group of better educated, urban oriented, altruistic, and visionary–both Democrats and Republicans, lawmakers were elected to the Florida Legislature during the era.

4.  The central political figure of those years, Governor Reubin Askew (D., Pensacola) was selected by Harvard University Scholars as one of the 5 greatest Governors of the 20th Century.

5.  Florida’s national reputation during the Golden Years went from the “Most Mal-Apportioned Legislative Body in The Country,” as declared by the U. S. Supreme Court to “The Most Independent Legislative Body in the Country,”  declared by the prestigious Council of State Legislatures.


Valerie Harper

As with most folks, I heard with great sorrow the sad news that actress Valerie Harper had an incurable form of cancer, and had only months left to live.  Although I have no connection with Hollywood or stars in television or the movies, I have had a rather direct connection to Ms. Harper.  As I mentioned in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, I announced my candidacy for the Florida Senate in 1977.  The incumbent, Senator Ralph Poston (D., Miami)  had indicated to me that he was retiring from the legislature, so I declared early for that seat.  As things turned out, Senator Poston changed his mind because of a reprimand by his colleagues for an ethics violation, and by winning reelection, he would clear his name.  Somewhat unrelated but perhaps even more important was that Poston had switched his vote on the Equal Rights Amendment (“ERA”) and it was defeated by one vote in 1978.  Since I was a pro ERA vote, Ms. Harper contacted me with her endorsement and support.  I won the seat rather handily to take my seat in the Florida Senate.

Red Tuesday

At the start of every annual session of the legislature, it has been a practice to set aside time for a religious service conducted by the Archdiocese of North Florida.  It is called Red Tuesday and is usually a traditional Catholic service, but all members of all religions are encouraged to participate, which I always did.  A vision for the state, with an emphasis on the needs of the poor and afflicted is usually the message of the presiding  Monsignor.  An additional religious service that occurs at the start of the session, is the annual prayer breakfast usually led by the Governor, the Cabinet and the legislative leaders.  During the session, without fanfare, there are usually prayer groups meeting in capitol offices in the early hours before session.  All the meetings are non-secular, open to anyone  and bi-partisan.

Reno and Browner…the beginning

Two of President Clinton’s highest profile members of his cabinet were Attorney General Janet Reno and EPA Executive Director Carole Browner.  Both were controversial and strident in carrying out the Administration policies affecting their agencies.  Most Floridians know that both call the sunshine state home–both hailing from Miami and both particularly well educated.  Janet took her law degree at Harvard, while Carole took hers at the University of Florida.  But the Florida connection goes further–both got their start in politics serving on the staff of the Florida Legislature.  Janet was the Staff Director for the House Judiciary Committee during the re-write of article V of the constitution in 1972, reporting to Chairman Sandy D’Alemberte (D., Miami).  Janet worked on the legislative staff of State Representative Joe Gersten (D., Miami) in 1980, with a focus on conservation issues.  Their foundation must have been solid based on their illustrious careers.

The First Campaign

In my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, I describe all of my political campaigns–starting in high school, going from college to the legislature.  The first campaign for the Florida House of Representatives started while I was in Korea, serving in the Army in 1969.  I needed to come up with a campaign theme, and since I was so close to the Army, I wrestled with a military theme.  Although I was in Korea (during the dangerous Pueblo Incident with North Korea), I knew that the country was terribly torn over the fighting in Vietnam, that have extended into Laos and Cambodia.  I concluded that a theme of “Hiring the Vet,” was a theme that should cut across the current divide in the country, plus draw support from veterans of World War II and the Korean Conflict, during the ’50’s .  The theme resonated.

Fish Traps..A Lesson

It takes time to learn the legislative process.  This truth was never more evident than in 1980 when some Cuban refugees came to the Capitol and lobbied for approval of certain fish traps to be used in Florida waters.  Rather than seek the counsel and advice of the various state agencies and affected parties, the Cubans went up and down the halls meeting with whomever they could.  Since I was Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, I met with the refugees and offered suggests to help them, but far short of encouraging to continue seeking authority for using the fish traps.  As expected, one of the new members of the legislature not familiar with the legislative process felt sorry for the refugees and filed a bill they requested.  This legislator insisted on having his bill heard even though the staff, members, and the affected parties were unanimous in opposition to the bill.  That one rejected bill resulted in the defeat of an otherwise promising legislator in the next election.  The lesson–do your homework before you start the legislative process.

The Bubble

I was in the last House of Representatives class serving in the old Capitol in 1977.  Although the Legislature appropriated the necessary money to restore the old Capitol to its’ original condition, that only includes the floor in the chamber.  Around the original floor were several offices for use by the members or staff.  One was very conspicuous in that it was a plastic, see-through bubble, with a conference table that sat probably 15 people.  If one could have been a fly on the wall of the bubble, they would have been witness to some of the greatest negotiations affecting the state, for maybe ever.  I wrote in my book on the Golden Years of the Florida Legislature, that the members of the House sat and watched Speaker Don Tucker (D., Tallahassee) and Rep. Hyatt Brown (D., Daytona Beach) negotiate, while in the Bubble,  the terms of a special election to elect Brown the next Speaker.

Black Tuesday

It is somewhat common to see days or events described as “Black,” particularly if they have a negative consequence.  I remember when FSU’s football team was upset by Virginia Tech in the 60’s and the headline in the Tallahassee Democrat read, “Black Day in Blacksburg.”   After House Speaker Don Tucker’s historic re-election as the leader in the House of Representatives in 1976, he announced the committee assignments exactly two weeks after the election.  With a holdover class of freshmen members of almost 60, almost none were promoted to committee chairs.  It was especially evident in the urban areas of the state–suggesting the speaker was attempting to retain the control of the House by the then Pork Choppers.  I remember being one of the ring leaders of the dissenters along with Minority Leader Bill James (R., Delray Beach), Tom Moore (D., Clearwater), Alan Becker (D., Miami Beach) and newly elected Pat Frank (D., Tampa).  Speaker Tucker expected some protests, but was particularly upset with Representative Frank since she had not served in the Legislature, at the time of the protest.  The lesson here and always–to the victors go the spoils.

Illegal Laws

The title of this Blog sounds like a contradiction.  But it is not, and I am afraid to say, it happens more often than it should.  Here is how:

The presiding officer of a body typically wants something enacted into law–badly, very badly.  That member will usually look for a bill nearing final passage, and ask for a supporter to file an amendment.  Now here is where it gets tricky.  The amendment cannot stick out, so it typically is vague, short, confusing,  buried with other equally confusing language, offered when the body is either tired or absent, and it  might even be part of a trade with the other body.  So, if done correctly, it is typically adopted without objection,  and can become law…illegally, mind you.  It is illegal because the rules of each house required a bill to be heard a certain number of times in a certain number of committees, and in the public eye.  All legislators take an oath to uphold the laws of the state and rules of the body.  For a law to be enacted properly, it cannot happen in violation of the rules of the enacting body.  So there it is, and if challenged in court, a number of these laws would be declared illegal, if proven.

The Bully Pulpit

There is a lot of discussion now of how chief executives in government can circumvent lawmaking and implement “executive orders.”  There is another way for these leaders to exert their influence, without involving either the second or third branches of government–go directly to the people and make your case.  This is most often referred to the ‘bully pulpit.’  Most of us know how to call a news conference, but few of us will draw the press corps, especially with the current skeleton press corp.  That is why using the bully pulpit is a special opportunity for elected officials, that few utilize and even  fewer can do it well.

Some of the best and worst at using the bully pulpit–the best are usually the best on their feet and those with a good sense of humor, like Presidents Obama, Reagan Clinton, and Kennedy; Governors Askew, Graham, and Bush.  Among the worst I have seen are Presidents Carter and Bush 43, Governor Martinez, Senators Barron and Haridopolos, Speaker Byrd and Congressman Rivera.  But, the very worst I have ever seen in addressing the public without notes is our current Governor Rick Scott--he is shy almost to the point of  being ashamed that he was elected, and he easily knows less about government that any elected official I have ever observed.

Recalling Miami Mayor Joe Carollo

Former Miami Mayor Joe Carollo has abruptly re-surfaced in South Florida, accepting the City Manager position in the new town of Doral   From the picture of him in the press, he still looks relatively young, but he is no ‘spring chicken,’ to the rough and tumble of Florida politics.  During my service as Chairman of the Miami-Dade County Legislative Delegation during the early 1980’s, I often crossed paths with the Mayor.  I found him very bright but also very impetuous.  I recall attending a City of Miami Commission meeting when then Commissioner Carollo surprised everyone by switching his vote on the City approved cable TV vendor.  There was a shout from the crowd in the audience, “Nice Commissioner, you are about as subtle as cellophane.”  There were discussions of ethics investigations, but his career in politics seemed to just survive and survive.  Stay tuned…

My 2013 Political Commentary Platform

With a new year, often comes changes, and my political commentary activities are no different.  Here is a schedule of the planned distribution of my content during 2013:

Television Political CommentaryFacing Florida with Mike Vasilinda, airing in 7 markets around the state, weekly.  ABC/WTXL 27 HD, still carried as a part of their team, but undefined role.  The Huffington Post Live, periodic commentary on the national program.

Op Eds:  Continuing in the Tallahassee Democrat (Gannett News), Miami Herald, Gainesville Sun (Halifax Papers), TC Palm (Vero Beach, Stuart, and Ft. Pierce Scripps Papers), the Palm Beach Post, The Contributor and Florida Voices.

Book Signings and Presentations:  On an invitation basis.

Special Distribution of Quorum Call:  Although the details are not final, it does appear that we may have 2 new major channels for distribution of Quorum Call this year. 

This Blog and Quorum Call.  Continuing in 2013.

Thank you for your wonderful support and interest.

Happy New Year

My family and I wish all our readers a wonderful 2013.  As kind of a personal update on my political commentary activities, I continue to work with WTXL 27 HD, and have now joined Mike Vasilinda on his Facing Florida program, aired weekly in 7 markets around the state.  My Opinion Editorials are now carried in the Huffington Post, The Contributor, The Tallahassee Democrat, The Miami Herald, The Gainesville Sun, Treasure Coast Palm papers (Vero Beach, Ft. Pierce, and Stuart), and Florida Voices.  I continue to do book signings around the state and with only a few copies of the first two editions of The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70’s and ’80’s, will be released shortly in soft cover version.  I have been invited to teach a course on Florida politics by Barry University in Tallahassee in 2013.  We are also looking at additional distribution channels of this Blog and Quorum Call.  Again, Happy New Year.

Engineering Unity

It seems endless–references to the importance of striving for teamwork rather than individual achievements.  In 1982, I was elected Chairman of the Miami Dade County Legislative Delegation.  We totaled 30 Senate and House members, by far the largest block of votes in the 160 member legislature.  But our Delegation was notorious for cancelling one another’s vote.  I recall my colleague from West Palm Beach, Senator Harry Johnston once said, “The Dade Delegation couldn’t even vote together on a Mother’s Day Resolution.”

So, in taking office, I tried something a little different.  I set a schedule of social events for the members and their spouses to become better acquainted and friends–social mixers, picnics, family outings, and even a raucous softball game at the University of Miami Mark Light Baseball Stadium.  It seemed to work–1982 was the year of reapportionment, and we seemed to hang together better than in recent memory.  Engineering unity.

Switching Political Parties

There is a lot in the press today about former Governor Charlie Crist switching political affiliation from Republican to Democrat. As happened so often in the past, the switchor party–the Republicans in this case,  are mad as hell at him.  Conversely, in this case,  many in the switchee party, the Democrats,  are gloating.  Reverting back to the Golden Era of Florida politics, several switches come to memory:

Senator Jim Glisson (Tavares)–from Republican to Democrat to be candidate for Governor, Bob Shevin’s running mate.

Senator Jon Thomas (Ft. Lauderdale)–from Republican to Democrat.

Senator Dempsey Barron (Panama City) –from Democrat to Republican.

Representative Don Hazelton (West Palm Beach)–from Republican to Democrat.

Representative John Cyril Malloy (Miami)–from Republican to Democrat.

Senator W. D. Childers (Pensacola)–from Democrat to Republican.

Senator Frank Mann (Ft. Myers)–from Democrat to Republican.

Senator John Vogt (Cocoa Beach)–from Democrat to Republican.

The one thing almost all of them had in common is they said at the time of their switch, “I didn’t leave my party, it left me.”

The Florida Governor’s Council of Advisors

Typical of executive branch governance at almost any level is the establishment of a group of advisors to the Chief Executive.  From the Presidential level to state Governors and to local Mayors, some of the best minds volunteer to “give back” by advising their client of their very best thinking, at no cost to the government or the taxpayer.  Names coming to my mind today are Simpson-Bowles, the Council of Economic Advisors, the Judicial Nominating commission, and  the Cultural Affairs Committee.

It has long occurred to me that one assembly of experience rich and knowledgeable talent is that of Florida’s former Governors.  Think of the collective wisdom of Governors Askew, Graham, Mixson,  Martinez, MacKay, Bush, and Crist, for example–two Republicans, four Democrats, and one whatever.  They have run the state, some better than others, and all have opinions and thoughts that might be quite different than incumbent Governor Scott.  Think of what that kind of advice might cost from a consulting company?

My suggestion–create the Governor’s Council of Advisors with specific assignments for response.  It is would easily be the most exclusive Council of Advisors in Florida.  The public scrutiny of their work will help purge their recommendations of partisan gamesmanship.  It is a pool of readily available talent long overlooked.

A Look Back At 2012

Now that we are a few days away from the end of 2012, it is appropriate to look back at the winners and losers in Florida politics during 2012.  The following two awards, issued to both Republicans and Democrats,  are now annual, and we are listing the winners or losers from the first announcements:

Golden Policy Makers of the Year:    2012:  Sen. Jack Latvala (R., St. Petersburg), Sen. Bill Montford (D., Tallahassee) and Rep. Bill Proctor (R., St. Augustine).

2011:  Sen. Don Gaetz (R., Ft. Walton Beach) and Rep. Jim Waldman (D., Coconut Creek)

2010:  Rep. Eric Eisenaugle (R., Orlando) and Rep. Dwight Bullard (D., Miami)

2009:  Rep. Ellen Bogdanoff (R., Ft. Lauderdale) and Rep. Ron Saunders (D., Marathon)

David Rivera Golden Fleece Award:  2012:  Sen. J. D. Alexander (R., Lake Wales).

2011:  Sen. Mike Haridopolos (R., Melbourne).

2010:  Rep. David Rivera (D., Miami).

Congratulations and shame for the recipients.

Echoes of Askew, Graham, Chiles and Bush

In a recent Op Ed I wrote for the Tallahassee Democrat on Governor Scott’s decision on whether to participate in the federal Affordable Care Act (aka “ObamaCare”), I mentioned the governor’s lackluster term and his abysmal polling while in office.  It might be that metric pressure that pushes him to do something dramatic policy-wise  prior to his re-election attempt in 2014.  Certainly his term compared with Florida luminaries that preceded him–Governors Reubin Askew, Bob Graham, Lawton Chiles and Jeb Bush might force him to rethink a number of his positions, including funding of public education, protecting the environment, funding quality of life issues, in addition to the ACA.  One thing is certain–the electorate will no longer tolerate his drivel of  “jobs, jobs”—Florida is too sophisticated for that political nursery rhyme.  The question is probably not if he comes out of his deep policy slumber…but when.

Winners Should Remember the Losers

I can recall my long time friend and confidant Seth Gordon telling me one of the reasons he was sticking his neck out and getting involved in a campaign, when it really was not necessary.  He said, “…and if my candidate loses, I will be feared for my opposition again–and I will have even more power over a future campaign with this guy.”  It is ironic, but true, depending on how things are communicated.  This thought came to mind when yesterday the President was asked if he had any plans to talk to Governor Romney.  The lesson is when and if you commit yourself to a campaign, go all out to win.  If you lose, make it clear that you have no regrets, but be available to discuss future campaigns with the winner, if approached.  If you did it right, you probably will be approached…but make the discussion on your terms.

More Members of Quorum Call from the “Golden Era” of the ’70’s and ’80’s

Here are more members of Quorum Call from the Golden Years of the Florida Legislature, ’70’s and ’80’s, previously published in this Blog:

Lobbyists David and Casey Gluckman, Speaker Tom Gustafson, Judges Hank Adringa and Tom Remington, Professor Royal Mattice, John D. MacArthur, Lester and Wendy Abberger, Governor Fred Shultz, Reporter Ray Wise, Lobbyist Dick Hollahan, Lobbyist Charles Lee, Representative Jeff Gautier, Lobbyist Pat Hogan, Representative Gene Ready, Congressman Bill Lehman, Secretary Nancy Whittenberg, Staff Terri Jo Kennedy, Estes Whitfield, The Honorable Barbara Ford-Coates, Secretary Bill Sutton, Judge Bill Gladstone, U.S. Senator Paula Hawkins, President Tad Foote, Secretary Ollie Keller, President Randolph and Representative Gene Hodges, Secretary Joe Brown, Representative Gwen Cherry, Representative Elaine Bloom, Counsellor Dexter Douglas, Lobbyist Dick McFarland, Lobbyist Dick Jones, Senator David McClain, Miami Dolphin Karl Noonan, Representative Dixie and Lobbyist Jerry Sansom, Lobbyist Jimmy Woodruff, U. S. Senator Bill Nelson, Mayor Del Layton, Representative Ed Healey, Representative Fred Lippman, Admiral Phil Ashler, Executive Director, Dr. Jim Zingale, Representative Bill Sadowski, U. S. Senator Dick Stone, Counsel Steve Kahn, Lobbyists H. G. Cochran and Buddy Gridley, Lobbyist Ron LaFace, President John Vogt, Representative Jim Eckhart, Lobbyist Bill Hussey, Senator Dan Scarborough, and Lobbyist Prentice Mitchell.

Congratulations to each of you and thank you for your service to Florida government.

Watch for Dick Tuck

Veteran political readers of this Blog will remember the name Dick Tuck...especially this time, every four years.   The later President Richard Nixon certainly would have remembered him.  Tuck was a brilliant trickster who would try any kind of tactic to throw Nixon campaigns off track.  It is told he once staged a fake rally for Nixon, who attended and  proceeded to address the group with enthusiasm.  During his initial opening, Nixon discovered a pregnant lady in the first row with a shirt on saying “It was tricky’s dick.”  He also was credited with a organizing a train station campaign stop for Nixon,  while the candidate crossed the country by rail… but Tuck paid the conductor to keep on going through the stop, and all of the people and press were left waiting for the candidate at the train station.

I mention Dick Tuck now, because if he were still alive, all the candidates would have to be on the look out for one of his amazing last minutes tricks before election day.

The Huffington Post Live

The first call I got from the Huffington Post for political commentary came about 2 years ago.   I turned them down, thinking that it would be a waste of my time.  They had seen my Blog and some other Op Eds I had written and said they were impressed with my ‘balance.’  Then Dr. Huffington sold her enterprise to AOL, and it has taken off as a national media distributor.  They contacted me again about 6 months ago to invite me to participate in their new prototype live discussion of political issues.  The program, known as “Huff Post Live,” is now a regular part of the organization, and I have become a somewhat regular guest.  Although, the editors still have kinks to work out, it will probably grow into a major political platform of the future.  I am honored to be a part of it.

Exaggerations By Both

It says something about the U.S. election of a new president, that media organizations have employed truth meters on the candidate’s assertions.  Two assertions that I feel are exaggerations by both candidates are:

Obama:  ‘My opponent says he will not help 47% of the American people because he doesn’t care about them.’  I believe Romney was talking about his proposal to lower income taxes for people paying income taxes.  He was saying that there are a large number of people with such low incomes,  paying little or no taxes, that they would receive no benefit from his proposal.  I question if those people total 47% of the total population.

Romney:  ‘My opponent raids medicare by $700 billion to pay for Obama-Care.’  The President has found what he believes are excess costs in the current medicare health care delivery system and redirects those monies to provide free programs that prevent more medicare  health care costs.  Further, Romney does not disclose that the funding of his running mate’s medicare voucher proposal is based upon a similar diversion of the $700 billion.

We should expect better from candidates for such a vaulted position.

Lessons For Biden From Dole and Ryan From Mondale

In 1976 I was unopposed for re-election to the Florida House of Representatives, District 116.  As a result, I was invited to provide commentary on the Vice Presidential debate between Senators Bob Dole and Walter Mondale on one of Florida’s largest radio audiences, The Allen Courtney Show on WQAM, Miami.  Dole was a respected member of the U.S. Senate from Kansas, but that night almost seemed giddy–making wise crack after wise crack.  Mondale, also highly regarded in the Senate, was for his part,  serious and focused on facts and figures.

Lessons can be learned from that debate some 35 years ago given Vice President Biden’s personality,  might be tempted to follow Senator Dole’s performance.  Congressman Paul Ryan, like Mondale, more of a student of facts and figures, might be expected to be more subdued, and threaten being boring.  My advice to both candidates for tomorrow’s debate–be yourself, honest, firm but respectful.

More Members of Quorum Call from the “Golden Era” of the ’70’s and ’80’s

Here are more members selected for inclusion in my Quorum Call from the Golden Era of Florida politics–the 1970’s and 1980’s:

Representative Dick Hodes, Secretary Louie Wainwright, Lobbyist Scotty Fraser, Lobbyist Doug Bruce, Lobbyist Dudley Griner, Representative Sandy D’Alemberte, Attorney John Edward Smith, Legislative Aides Ellison Shapiro, Bud Newman and Sherry Halstead, Senator Eddie Gong, Senator Fred Karl, Representative Carl Ogden, Strategist Sergio Bendixen, Representative Joel Gustafson, Speaker E. C. Rowell, Senator Ron Silver, Senator Verle Pope, Representative John Culbreath, Senator Don Gruber, Chairman Mike Thompson, Miami Herald Editorial Writers Bob Sanchez and Juanita Green, House Chairmen Gus Craig, Ed Fortune, Billy Joe Rish, John Forbes, Bob Hector, John Ryals, Ray Mattox, and Earl Dixon, Federal Judges Alan Gold, James King, and Don Middlebrooks, Commissioner Doyle  Conner, Representative Emerson Allsworth, Staff Ree Sailors, Vice President Walter Mondale, Reporter Bill Kaczor, President Louis de la Parte, Senator Dick Langley, Lobbyist Al Cone, Restaurateur Andy Reiss, Senator Roberta Fox, Conservationist Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, Commissioner Tom O’Malley, First Lady Donna Lou Askew, Attorney Lanning Fox, Senator Doc Meyers, Staff Mark Ivester, U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey, Clerk Emeritus Allen Morris, Representative Marjorie and Staff Director Gus Turnbull, Representative Tom Moore, Reporter Mike Goldman, Senator Dick Fincher, Representative Bob Reynolds, Bureau Chief Barbara Frye, President Henry King Stanford, Appraiser Lee Waronker, President Gwen Margolis, and Representative John Considine.

Congratulations to all these members of Quorum Call and thanks to them for their outstanding service to the state of Florida.

The Debates

In almost all close elections, including this one for president, major “game changing” events like the debates can be critical.  From memory, we can recall the decisive Kennedy-Nixon, Carter-Reagan, Mondale-Reagan, Clinton-Bush I, and the Bush II-Kerry debates.  What is interesting is that the key take away from each of these was not a scholarly point or presentation, but small, almost unplanned developments.  Let’s look:

Kennedy-Nixon:  A heavy beard by Nixon during the first debate on television.

Carter-Reagan:  “There you go again,” admonition by Reagan to Carter.

Clinton-Bush I:  Bush seen looking down at his watch, looking like he is bored.

Bush II-Kerry:  Bush beating low debate expectations.

Although we make be on the lookout for a “Dr. Wright” by President Obama kind of speech, it is more likely that the decisive takeaway from the debates will be a small, unplanned, development.  But, it could be the difference in the selection of our next president.

A Florida Congressional Seat…Then and Now

Then:  1970’s, one of the three Congressional seats in Congress was occupied by Democrat Dante Fascell.  The South Dade and Monroe County Congressman had continual distinguished service of almost 40 years, with the culmination of his career as the pivotal Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee and a key advisor to numbers of Presidents of both parties on international affairs.

Now:  2012, a member of Congress also from Dade County that is yet again under ethics investigations by the FBI, David Rivera.  As an unemployed Republican State Representative, he barely won his gerrymandered seat and who achieved infamy in Florida by sending millions of state dollars to his alma mater, Florida International University, never requested.  His other claim to fame was to sponsor a meaningless resolution in the state legislature, condemning Fidel Castro, which was an international issue only appropriate for a different governmental body.

What a shame.

Memories of Senator Phil

Like so many Floridians, I have recently paused to reflect on my Senator Phil memories.  Some of the really special ones are in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70’s and ’80’s.  Others are:

-Wearing the crumpled up old hat with a worn out, unlit cigar in the side of his mouth.

-Cementing the bond among Senators Barron, Gordon, Plante and himself on full disclosure.

-Attending mass every morning, without fail.

-Asking what the House needed to resolve the Conference Committee budget impass.

-Checking with me on the South Florida Water Management District in the Areas of Critical State Concern designation.

-Calling me to thank me for an Opinion Editorial I wrote complimenting him.

-Always asking about my constituents that were prominent in the Catholic Church.

-Repeatedly asking me how Senator Dick Anderson and I could have been elected by the same constituents.

Like so many Floridians, I will deeply miss Senator Phil.


Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist (R., Fla.) spoke at the Democratic Convention last night.  As always, he looked very sincere in his remarks.  But I could not help but think back of  his similar assertions with  sincerity, that he subsequently contradicted or totally  reversed:

-Chain gangs and punishment for prisoners.

-SB 6 for public education.


-Oil drilling off the coast of Florida.

-The Affordable Care Act.

-Pledge of support for his own party.

-Illegal slush funds under his direction and with his knowledge.

-Illegal immigration laws.

This is just a partial list.  Integrity…not.

If It’s Labor Day, It’s Time For The Dante Fascell Picnic

Traditions are always fun, especially for the young at heart.  I can remember my kids always getting excited on Labor Day–that meant going out to Tropical Park in Southwest Dade County for the Annual Dante Fascell Labor Day Picnic and a little campaigning for Dad and Mom.  Michelle and Bob were a little like hams–hoping they could get their picture taken by AP with a big campaign sign of Dad.  The picnic always drew hundreds from the Congressman’s district, which was largely the same as my Senate district.  The AFL-CIO folks helped underwrite the cost of the event, which was always free for everyone attending.  For the candidates–of both parties–it was a chance to meet the voters and press your case one last time before the November election.  Great memories.

It Could All Come Down To 2 Governors–Both From Florida

As the reviews and analysis continues to trickle in from the Republican Convention, as expected U. S. Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) wowed the party faithful and the multi-million TV audience.  Many in the press are saying that Rubio is the key to deliver Florida for Romney.  Knowing that Rubio has some skeletons in his political closet–starting with his close friend Congressman David Rivera (R., Fla.) , currently under FBI investigation again, I respectively think Florida could actually come  down to the influence of 2 former Governors–a Democrat, Bob Graham; and a Republican, Jeb Bush.  If either one can work their old magic on behalf of their respective presidential candidates, I predict that will deliver Florida and in turn the presidential election.  Both Governor’s are bright, committed to their parties, and very strategic–it just comes down to whether the two parties will listen to them.

It’s Been 40 Years

As convention delegates at both conventions craft positions strong in support of popular issues, risking next to nothing, I am reminded of a politician’s courageous position on an issue 40 years ago.  Just like taxes, abortion, immigration and civil rights are ‘radioactive’ today, their counterpart was, at a minimum, the issue of busing.  After the Civil Rights Act of 1964, there was strong reluctance to comply, particularly in public education and in the South.  A temporary solution was to bus the children to achieve racial balance, at a last resort.  Led by Alabama Governor George Wallace and South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, most southern states viciously attacked busing.  Only one prime Southern political leader stood up for the temporary civil rights solution–Governor Reubin Askew of Floridaforty years ago.  Although the Governor’s position was unpopular at first with Floridians, Askew explained his position, and he overwhelmingly won his re-election.  It is called leadership with integrity.

Six Radioactive Issues

Watching Congressman Todd Akin (R., Missouri) twist and turn in the wind reminds of my long time advice to candidates and incumbents alike–study carefully the radioactive issues of abortion, immigration, religion, taxes, sex, and gun control.  In the case of Congressman Akin, he waded into 2 of the 6 without preparation or apparent thought.  I am not suggesting running away from these 6 issues; to the contrary, I think they are of utmost importance to the candidate/incumbent as well as the voters.  I am simply  saying study all sides of these 6 issues constantly and make sure you do not veer off your stated position message.  Congressman Akin is not the first nor will he be the last to trip off one, or in his case, two of these issues;  but I believe you can put it in the bank that these 6 will always be politically radioactive issues.

Where ya get one of these?

Watching the weekend political news programs, I couldn’t help but ask myself, where did the Democrats get the RNC Chairman Reince Priebus?  Recapping their respective strategies going into this weekend’s programs:

Republicans:  Keep pounding away on the economy that they say is President Obama’s fault.

Democrats:  Divert attention from the economy to former Governor Romney’s personal finances and his business dealings at Bain.

Result:  Rather than talk about the economy, Priebus mysteriously tells ABC News he won’t get ‘sucked into talking about Romney’s tax returns,’ and proceeds to talking about nothing but that.  Priebus adds to the misstep by continuing the attack on the Democrats the next day for alleging that Romney might not have paid any taxes at all for a period of time.

Now, even the Republicans are calling for Romney to release dozens of his tax returns, with little said about the economy–a textbook diversion.


The Legendary Red China Trade For Hialeah

It is no secret that a centerpiece of lawmaking is trading–just like baseball cards when you were a kid–‘I’ll give you Mickey Mantle for Stan Musial.’  One the legendary trades in the Florida Legislature occurred in the 1976  Session.  Representative Roberta Fox (D., Coral Gables) was handling the always important Hialeah Race Track Dates bill in the House and Senator W. D. Childers (D., Pensacola) had sponsored a meaningless resolution in the Senate criticizing the Nixon Administration for the ‘Ping Pong Game Diplomacy and Détente with Red China.’  A reporter casually mentioned Senator Childer’s bill to Rep. Fox and she described it as a waste of time for the Florida Legislature.  Senator Childers became unhinged and spent the entire Session holding up the Hialeah  Race Track bill.  Resolution of the logjam required the passing of the Red China Resolution for  Hialeah to be granted their all important racing privileges that year.

The 1967 Texas Sniper

As I wrote in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70’s and ’80’s, I went to school with the 1967 Texas sniper, Charles Whitman.  It comes to mind today as I read about the tragic killings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.  Although the suspect is in custody, we don’t yet know his background.  But, my guess it may have some of the same kind of influences as that of Whitman–abusive father, dysfunctional family, and individual psychosis problems.  In addition, after Whitman was killed in the tower at the University of Texas in Austin, his autopsy confirmed that he had brain cancer.  The national reaction of horror is understandable with the continuing apprehension about terrorist threats.  Although the body searches and other inconveniences are bothersome, we might as well get use to them–there will be more, not less.

Court Appointments Become Even More Important

The political buzz in the Capitol is still all about the surprise vote of Chief Justice Roberts to uphold the Affordable Care Act (“ACA“, aka “Obama Care“), instead of the opposing vote by usually unpredictable Justice Kennedy.  If Roberts would have voted as expected, the issue would have died by a 4-5 vote.  So, just one replacement appointment could tilt the Supreme Court either way, making the President’s next appointment even more critical.

Now add to that political pressure the following–with people living longer, on the average of 7-10 years, Justices will sit in office longer with fewer opportunities to replace them.  So, in Obama’s case the appointments he and his predecessors have made will stay in office longer.  Whomever comes after President Obama may not have the expected replacements to make–why, because the appointments are for life and the Justices are living much longer.

It makes appointments to the Court even more important.

Best of Friends

Students that attended The Florida State University during the mid ’50’s will probably remember that the two primary student leaders were best of friends–Reubin Askew from Pensacola and Jerry Thomas from West Palm Beach.  Students of Florida politics will recognize that both gentlemen went on to outstanding careers in public service–Askew as Governor, State Senator, and a candidate for President.  In the case of Thomas–State Representative, Senator, Senate President, and Assistant Secretary of the U. S. Treasury.  But few may remember that these two close friends and intensely competitive politicians ran against each other for Governor in 1974, with Askew winning handily.  I recall discussing the race with Governor Askew a few years ago, and he had nothing but wonderful things to say about his life long friend, Senator Thomas…as it should be.

The Wakulla Retreat

It had been two long and difficult years of trying to resolve health care in the State of Florida.  Sound familar?  Governor Bob Graham had appointed 25 of us to what became known as “The McKnight Commission.”  We were charged with reforming the delivery of health care in the state addressing the cost, competitive choices, the statewide delivery model, and indigent care.  With about a 50-50 split of Democrats and Republicans, we were stuck without consensus solutions.  Then came the Wakulla Retreat, including the incoming Senate and House leadership and of course, the Governor.  The result–a rate regulation trigger, the nation’s first competitive pricing model, and a shared tax to fund indigent care.  The 1984 legislation filed by Senate President Designate Harry Johnston (D., West Palm Beach) and Rules Chairman Designate Ken Jenne (D., Hollywood); and House Speaker Designate Sam Bell (D., Ormond Beach) and House Rules Chairman Designate Fred Lippman (D., Hollywood), was considered landmark…thanks, in part, to the Wakulla Retreat.

A Lost Opportunity for Florida Government

As many political follwers have noticed, and I posted last night on Facebook, we lost yet another of the really outstanding member of the Florida Legislature from the Golden Years of the ’70’s and ’80’s, former House Minority Leader Jim Tillman of Sarasota.  In additon to his outstanding service in the legislature, Jim contributed greatly in improving the process by serving as valuable member of the Capitol lobbying corps for many years.

I have recommended before that the Governor and Cabinet recognize this font of knowledge–the former members of the legislature–and involve them in some form or fashion as counsel.  Jim was one of the most knowledgeable legislators on law enforcement issues, having served in that capacity as well.  As his former wife, Jane pointed out today in an obituary piece, he was perhaps most proud of co-authoring the compassionate Myers Act legislation.  Did you notice I have not said one word about anybody’s party affiliation.  How many more passings of the giants will it take?

More of the “Golden” Members of Quorum Call

In the last Blog post, I re-listed the first 50 “Golden” members of Quorum Call.  Here are the next 50:

Third 25:  Representative Randy Avon, Lobbyist Ronnie Book, Reporter Martin Dyckman, First Friday (Gary Gregory, Peter Bermont, Larry Boecklen, and Mike Fitzgerald), Senator Curt Kiser, Governor Wayne Mixson, Representative Herb Morgan, Senator Phil Lewis, Lobbyists Jack Lee and Glenn Woodard, Reporter Ray Starr, Representative Alan Becker, Senator Mary Grizzle, Consultant Steve Ross, Representative Joe Lang Kershaw, Speaker Terrell Sessums, Coach Dick Coffman, Minority Leaders Jim Tillman, Bill James, Curt Kiser, Ron Richmond, and Dale Patchett; Senator Jack Gordon, Consultant Seth Gordon, Lobbyist Guy Spearman, President Jimmy Carter, Attorney General Janet Reno, Reporter Mike Mansfield, Speaker Ralph Turlington, and House Employee Dot Carroll.

Fourth 25:  Governor Buddy MacKay, Representative Joe Allen, Reporter Hank Drane, Senator George Stuart, Senator Pat Frank, Senator Pat Neal, Scrivner Earnest Means, Representative Barry Richard, Senator Frank Mann, Colonel Bull Simon, Reporters Bob Shaw and Tom Fiedler, Representative Dick Batchelor, Video Reporters Mike Vasilinda and Gary Yordan, Senator Ed Dunn, Representative Gwen Cherry, Representatives Karen Coolman, Linda Cox, and Anne MacKenzie; Congressman Earl Hutto, Speaker Ralph Haben, Representative Billy Joe Rish, Representative Jim Redman, Senator Bruce Smathers, Senatorr Clark Maxwell, Speaker Lee Moffitt, Senator Tom Brown, and Media Consultant Ron Sachs.

Congratulations and thank you for your outstanding service.

A Recap of the “Golden” Members of Quorum Call

Since some of you did not see the early Golden members of Quorum Call, I thought I would list them for you:

First 25:  Senator Claude Pepper, Senator Jerry Thomas, Congressman Paul Rodgers, Lobbyist Harold Lewis, Governor Claude Kirk , Senator Scott Kelly, Speaker Dick Pettigrew, Lobbyist Steve Winn, Reporter Virginia Ellis, Comptroller Gerald Lewis, Congressman Dante Fascell, Congressman Ander Crenshaw, Representative Elaine Gordon, Representative Marshall Harris, Senator Ken Plante, Chief Justice Fred Lewis, Governor Reubin Askew, CNN’s Larry King, Lobbyist Jim Krog, Senator George Firestone, Honorable “Mama” Range, Reporter John McDermott, Developer David Blumberg, Senator Bob Graham, and Senator Dempsey Barron.

Second 25:  House Clerk John Phelps, Campaign Advisors George DePontis & Stu Rose, Commissioner Tom Gallagher, Lobbyist Pat Tornillo, Representative Betty Easly, Representative Maxine Baker, Speaker Don Tucker, Civic Leader Leslie Pantin, Jr., Mayor Maurice Ferre, Representative Don Hazelton, Lobbyist John Roberts, Minority Leader Bill James, TV Anchor Ann Bishop, Representative Jane Robinson, General Bob Shevin, Senator Ken Myers, Director Howard Walton, Senator Eugene McCarthy, Editor Alvah Chapman & MCAC, Senator Paul Steinberg, Representative Bob Hartnett, Governor Toni Jennings, Congressman Harry Johnston, and Representative George Sheldon.

Thank you for your outstanding service.



The 1978 Campaign for Attorney General

At the time Florida’s popular Attorney General Bob Shevin gave up his Cabinet seat as Attorney General to run for Governor in 1978, the announced candidates did not seem overly impressive.  The primary candidates were on the Democrat side, and none of them had ever won statewide election, served as President of the Bar Association, nor even came from the blue chip, “downtown” law firms.  They were Jim Smith, a campaign aide for former Governor Reubin Askew, and two Miami State Representatives, Alan Becker (D., Miami) and Barry Richard (D., Coral Gables).  As with most Attorney General races, most of the campaign revolved around who could boast of the Florida Sheriff’s endorsement.  With some very few exceptions, only Richard had any courtroom experience, and most of his was as Assistant Attorney General to Shevin in state litigation.  The winner was Smith, but it is interesting to see how successful each has become:

Smith:  Attorney General, Secretary of State, Chairman of the FSU Board of Trustees.

Richard:  Prominent national attorney, representing President George W. Bush in 2000 presidential election dispute.

Becker:  Founder and CEO of one of nation’s most prominent landlord/tenant and international law firms.

The 1980 Campaign Blessing

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter was locked into a tough re-election nomination by his own Democratic party, thanks to an embarrassing challenge from U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy (D., Mass.).  If the president prevailed, which he did, he had to face the popular former Republican Governor from California, Ronald Reagan (R., Cal.).  So, it was understandable that the president directed all Federal agencies to come to the aid of citizens all over America.  One such agency was the Federal Farm Loan Administration (“FHLA”), which provided support to agriculture related projects.  In my South Dade County/Miami senate district was a heavily agricultural area called the Redlands.  Located in the heart of the Redlands was the Sunrise Community, a residential care facility for profoundly disabled consumers.  With the help of U.S. Senator Dick Stone (D., Fla.), the FHLA provided a $1million to Sunrise, with the check presented to me by the Feds’ Mike Hightower (now a Vice President of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida).  It was truly a campaign blessing.

Political Insight on ABC TV News/WTXL 27 HD

That is the tag for my new, revised weekly political segment on ABC TV News/WTXL 27 HD.  There is an intro with my picture turning to look at the camera, and the announcer saying in a deep voice…“This is Political Insight…With Senator Bob McKnight.”  Some of you have asked how I got this gig?  This station, like about 25 others around the state welcomed me to do an interview to discuss my book, “The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70’s and ’80’s.  Reflections on Campaigns and Public Service.”  Their interest was in a book about Florida politics written by a former legislator who served at that time.  There was also great interest in the political era of former Governors Claude Kirk, Reubin Askew, Bob Graham, Lawton Chiles;  and Senators W. D. Childers and Dempsey Barron, which my book featured.   Apparently the station felt I handled myself during the initial interview, and they asked me back to do commentary on the 2008 elections.  From there the 3-5 minute weekly interview with a station anchor ensued, and now starting the fourth year, I am on my own providing weekly commentary along with the anchors in the front set of the nightly news program.  BTW, following a teleprompter is not easy.   Who da thunk?

It Must Be In The Water

Readers of my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70’s and ’80’s, know that I describe meeting with Massachusetts  Senator Ted Kennedy at the DuPont Plaza Hotel in downtown Miami as he organized his campaign to unseat fellow Democrat and incumbent President Jimmy Carter in 1979.  With former Governor Mitt Romney also of Massachusetts running today for president, it prompted my reflection on other candidates from the Bay State that have run for president in my lifetime.  There are 9–one twice– almost all Democrats, but only one winner:  President John F. Kennedy, Senator Ted Kennedy, Senator Paul Tsongas, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Senator John Kerry, Governor Mike Dukakis, Governor John Volpe,  Governor William Weld and now Governor Mitt Romney (twice).  Given my age after obtaining the right to vote, that is one candidate for president from Massachusetts for every four year voting cycle.  It must be in the water in Massachusetts.

Elliott Key Lobster Sanctuary

One of my political mentors was the late Congressman Dante Fascell of Miami (D., South Miami).  In addition to his legendary service as the Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, the Congressman had a great interest in conservation programs in his district.  Since my Senate district was almost identical, I attempted to tie some of my state legislation to his federal legislation, when possible.  Congressman Fascell had established the waters around Elliott Key off the coast of Homestead as protected by federal statute, and researchers from the Rosentiel School of Marine Sciences at the University of Miami had briefed me on the opportunity of creating a lobster sanctuary in the adjacent state waters off Elliott Key.  I pass the legislation in the early 1980’s, and I am told the conservation initiative has resulted in a substantially protected and restored lobster marine fishery in South Florida.  The good guys and gals won that one.

The Ring To Kiss

During the Golden Era of the Florida Legislature, the ‘ring to kiss’ was well known–Senator Dean Dempsey Barron (D., Panama City)  In the U.S. Senate during that general time frame, it was Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Baines Johnson (D., Texas).  In the U.S. House of Representatives, it was another Texan, Speaker Sam Rayburn (D., Texas).  Today, in the U.S. Senate,  I think it may well be South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint.  He is largely responsible for the success of the Tea Party in navigating the election of  Senators in 13 states.  Consider:

Retiring Senators Opposed by Senator DeMint and the Tea Party (11):  Bennett (R., Utah), Lugar (R., Indiana), Nelson (D., Nebraska), Conrad (D., N.D.), Libermann (I., Conn.), Webb (D., Va.), Snowe (R., Vt.), Kyl (R., Tx.), Akaka (D. Alaska), Bingaman (D., NM.), and Kohl (D., Wis.).

Others Opposed by Senator DeMint and the Tea Party (2):  Gov. Crist (R., FL) and Congressman Mike Castle (D., Deleware).

The irony is Senator DeMint does not chair a committee in the Senate and is generally described as ineffective as a lawmaker.  But he is smart and determined.  Most of all he is a staunch conservative that will not be affected by intimidation.  Senator Jim DeMint (R., South Carolina) is the ‘ring to kiss‘ for candidates for the U.S. Senate today.


The Last Standing Members

And then there were only 2.  I started my public service in the Florida House of Representatives…along with a fellow freshman, Gwen Margolis of North Miami Beach, in 1974.   I retired from the Florida Senate in 1982, then serving with Senator Margolis and a one term member of the Florida House of Representatives, Dr. Dennis Jones of Seminole.  As of today–38 years later from when it started, Senators Margolis and Jones remain in office as the Deans of the Florida Legislature.  Margolis reached  the pinnacle of success in her legislative career, being the first woman (and one of the very few from Miami Dade County) elected President of the Florida Senate.  Jones served with great distinction, chairing almost every major committee in both the Florida House and Senate.  Adding to their success, I would like to say that both are fine individuals that were a pleasure with which to work.  The state has been well served by the last standing members–Senators Gwen Margolis and Dennis Jones.

Governor Scott’s Mid Term Report Card



Vision for Florida:  F     With no inspirational vision for Florida articulated by the Governor, other than creating jobs–any available at any cost–a failure is the only grade available.

Implementation of the Executive Branch:  D     With the Governor having no government experience, his a