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Rep. Dick Hodes (D., Tampa), Committee Craftsman

Representatives Dr. Dick Hodes (D., Tampa) and Bob McKnight (D., Miami), 1975

Post # 174, Bob McKnight's Florida Commentary

"The Sub-Committee is usually the toughest screening for an idea or issue. Prevail well there and your chances are good for ultimate passage."

Chairman Richard S. Hodes, Florida House of Representatives

I remember hearing some of my Miami constituents walking up the halls of the Capitol talking about a Sub-Committee meeting I was about to Chair in the Florida House of Representatives. I heard one of them say, "Don't worry if we miss it [the meeting of the Sub-Committee], we still have the full Committee to work on it." That was in the early '70's, but my guess it is still true today.

It is a myth that the Sub-Committees are not important in the law making process. The myth is based on ignorance of effective governance. Here is my experience;

  1. Almost without exception, all ideas must be heard and decided at the Sub-Committee level and by it's members.

  2. The Sub-Committee staff are usually the most knowledgeable and informed about the issue, from both a good and bad perspective. They are less political and more substantive.

  3. The Sub-Committee is generally not bound by deadlines and short agendas. It is often has the most lengthy of all Committee meetings.

  4. Contrarian view points are usually encourage in the Sub-Committees because they are smaller and there is more deliberation among the members and staff.

  5. Chairs often look for consensus at the Sub-Committee level where in full Committees, the Chairs often insist on "down the line, on the record voting."

I have had the honor of Chairing multiple Committees and Sub-Committees in the Florida House of Representatives, Senate and in the Governor's Executive Office. Without exception the real work and productive law making was conducted and accomplished at the Sub-Committee level.

A champion of the work of Committees during The Golden Age of the Legislature--the '70's and '80's was the former and late Chairman Dr. Richard Hodes of Tampa in the Florida House of Representatives. He chaired many Committees and Sub-Committees in Education and knew the issues better than any member and almost better than any staff. He knew Roberts Rules of Order and practiced them with care and prudence.

He once advised the Sub-Committee he was chairing at the time, "The Sub-Committee is usually the toughest screening for an idea or issue. Prevail well there and your chances for ultimate passage are good." I found his counsel spot on.

Maybe best of all Dick had a wonderful sense of humor and knew when and how to use it effectively. Dr. Hodes was the model for all Committee Chairs.


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