Post # 163, Bob McKnight's Florida Commentary
In my book, The Golden Years...The Florida Legislature, '70's and '80's, I talk about extraordinary lawmakers, almost to the exclusion of members serving in different times. One reporter described it as the "Golden Age of Florida Politics." But, in fairness, we had some, not many, serving in that era that were not particularly special, but rather very similar to those serving today. Many legislators serving today do not seem to have the same level of integrity, vision, and industry as those serving after World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam, in my opinion. I have heard similar comments from many Floridians and often.
As I watch veteran members retire and new members sworn in, I occasionally find some lawmakers very much alike--in appearance, behavior, attitude and effectiveness. Here are two that seem to be very similar, except they served some 50 years apart. One is a Democrat from the "Golden Years" and one is serving today.
State Representative Ray Mattox (D., Winter Haven). 1956-68, 70-76. Attorney at Law. Florida Southern College, B.S., University of Florida School of Law, LLB; United States Army Officer; Chairman of the House Select Committee on Military and Veteran Affairs. He was a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars ("VFW") and the Florida Jaycees.
-Best known for refusing to recognize the contributions of women serving in the U.S. Military during WWII and the Korean Conflict.
State Senator Dennis Baxley (R., Ocala). Mayor and Commissioner, City of Belleview. Florida House 2000-07, 2010-16; Senate 2016-current. Funeral Home Director; Florida Community College, Miami Dade Community College, Florida State University. Chairman of Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections. He is a devout Southern Baptist.
-Best known for authorship of "Stand Your Ground Law;" delayed a Florida Memorial for Slavery; and amended Bright Future Scholars to prohibit funding for liberal arts education.
The two legislators had much in common--both in their 60's at the time of service, large men, balding, not considered very effective debaters, and prone to get angry during debate. Both gentlemen were strong conservatives and not afraid to take on issues that enjoyed general popularity in the state.
The more things change in the Florida Legislature, the more they stay the same...even 50 years apart.