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A Most Important Lesson

Regardless of how one feels about "Term Limits," they are law now. As an amendment to our Constitution, Terms Limits mean that service in the Florida Legislature can be more longer than 8 years in succession, for each chamber. Advocates argue that Term Limits forces turnover for what as designed as a "Citizen's Legislature," meeting for 60 days each year. Opponents say that by limiting the terms of lawmakers, and no others, it shifts the political power to unelected lobbyists and staff, whose service is not regulated.

So, since they are law, Term Limits dictate that new leguskators learn as much about lawmaking as soon as possible, after being elected. In reflecting back on my experience in the Senate and House of Representatives, the most important lesson I ever learned is found on page 64 and 157 of my book, The Golden Years...The Florida Legislature.

" Do not commit your vote until you are certain about it and it's probable results. [Study the issue thoroughly. Look at it from a devil's advocate position. Analyze carefully the pro's and con's of the legislation. There is no need to rush a decision, regardless of the pressure you are getting]. If you are confident about the legislation, then commit and never break your word. [There is nothing wrong with saying something to the effect that you plan to support the legislation based on what you know at the time. If something new is introduced to affect the legislation, you must reserve the right to change your position, at that time.] If something happens to change your mind, obtain a release of responsibility from the person to whom you pledged your vote. [If you are unable to obtain the release, you must keep your word and not change your position of support.This lesson was sacrosanct during my service in the Legislature, but adherence to it is quite rare today, I am told."

Former Senate President Jerry Thomas of Riviera Beach once told me, "Senator a bill should not be easy to pass. As a lawmaker, the responsibility for exhaustive due diligence on the legislation rests with you and your colleagues."


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