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Sage Advice

With the start of the 2017 Session of the Florida Legislature, a large number of new members are searching to find their political 'sea legs.' All members go through their maiden experience, some with success, others not so much.

In 1974 as a freshman member of the House of Representatives, I remember advice I got from two of the Legislative giants of all time:

Senator Bob Graham (D., Miami Lakes) The Senator and I shared seats on a plane ride from Tallahassee back to our districts in Miami. He volunteered that I should try to focus on one but not more than two issues. Then, I should focus on those one or two issues until I became an 'expert' on them in the eyes of my colleagues. He said too often freshman become engrossed into too many issues, never mastering them as a craft. I decided on Natural Resources and Health and Rehabilitative Services. I went on to serve in leadership positions on both areas in the House and later in the Senate.

Senate President Dempsey Barron (D., Panama City) Senator Barron was the Dean of the Legislature during the '70's and '80's. He once told me he marshaled his political power with his detailed understanding of the rules of governance. True to form, the Senate Presidents while I served always appointed the Dean as the Chairman of the powerful Rules Committee. The veterans of the legislature and the long time lobbyists always said, it is the knowledge of the rules that evens up the playing field in the legislature. It does not grab headlines, but a member who can effectively use the rules to advance his or her cause gains great respect in the governance process.

It was sage advice.


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