What to Learn from The Golden Age?


Post #145, Bob McKnight's Florida Commentary




I wrote a book several years ago called The Golden Years...The Florida Legislature, '70's and '80's. With many of you kind subscribers and readers support, it sold many more copies than it probably should, and still is available at Amazon and some book stores. Thank you readers.


In it, I tried to remember the Florida Legislature in the early '70's when it was singled out by The National Council of State Legislatures as the 'most independent' [and effective] legislative body in the country. The split in the body then was about 2/3 Democrats and 1/3 Republicans. But it was bi-partisan in lawmaking. Almost every major bill had Democrat and Republican co-sponsors. Although most of the Chairs were Democrats, the Republicans selected to Chair Committees were probably more respected than any other members, like Senator Ken Plante (R., Orlando), Senator Warren Henderson (R., Sarasota), Representative Betty Easley (R., St. Petersburg), and Senator Toni Jennings (R., Orlando). As lobbyists often said, "That (bi-partisan) bill gonna hunt." Bi-partisanship worked.


Today's legislative leaders in Florida could learn much from that Golden Age of their legislature--the '70's and '80's. I often cite in my book another major example of excellence then-- unselfishness. Just imagine the following happening with our current President in Washington, Donald Trump.


In 1979, Senate President Phil Lewis (D., West Palm Beach) was about to get a school named after him in his district, a standard recognition procedure in those days by custom. The school was not actually needed where it was to be located, and was not recommended by the Department of Education or the Governor then. Lewis thanked the sponsors but said it would be better to return the money to the treasury to meet other more important needs in Democrat and Republican districts around the state. Most of us in the Senate at the time were stunned, and felt obligated to rethink our turkeys (the name used for excessive pork barrel projects). In addition to bi-partisanship, unselfish lawmaking is a second lesson to be learned from The Golden Years.


The individuals then were no better nor worse than now. There was just better leadership.

Could we learn from our lessons back then?


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