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Jose Oliva of Miami Lakes with House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

Emails & Opinions

As Session heads to overtime, legislative leaders missed a messaging opportunity

To paraphrase Nine Inch Nails, the current leadership of the Florida House is a copy of a copy of a copy … assembled into something into something into something. In other words, Richard Corcoran essentially is a copy of a copy of a copy of Daniel Webster, the first House Speaker of the Republican era which began after the 1996 elections.

Whereas Webster insisted that legislative meetings were to end by 6 p.m. in order to avoid “the late-night negotiations and back-room deals,” a significant portion of Corcoran’s tenure, especially when it comes to budget negotiations, has happened off-grid.

Webster was known for making the trains run on time. Corcoran will now see a third legislative session out of the four during which he has been Speaker or Speaker-designate be forced into overtime.

Corcoran told House members Tuesday night that lawmakers will have to extend the Session, scheduled to end Friday, or hold a Special Session because of an impasse about hospital spending in final negotiations over a new state budget (that’s not the real reason why a new budget hasn’t been finalized, but we’ll deal with that in a subsequent post).

Corcoran said a “best-case scenario” would be finishing the Session Saturday. But he also said it was possible the Session would be extended to Monday or that Gov. Rick Scott could call a Special Session that might start as soon as Monday.

Last year, lawmakers extended the Session for three days to vote on the budget and then had to return for a Special Session after Scott vetoed the public-school portion of the budget, which he deemed inadequate.

It’s a given that the media, Democrats and even some Republicans will criticize the Land O’ Lakes Republican for failing to bring the Session in on time.

But it didn’t have to be this way.

Corcoran and Co. could have gone into overtime and been lauded for their patient and thoughtful leadership.

After the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on February 14, it was clear that the Legislature would have to do something to respond to the violence.

Adding the issues of gun control and gun rights to the Legislature’s constricted agenda so late in the Session, while a must, was also an opportunity for leadership to prepare its members and the public that the House and Senate might need more time to handle its business.

House budget chief Carlos Trujillo summed it up perfectly when he said right after Parkland that “Our state’s hurting … (T)hat’s much more important than rushing to pass a budget.”

Imagine if Corcoran, Trujillo and their counterparts in the Senate had right then said they planned on extending Session so that they could address the Parkland massacre while not rushing budget negotiations?

The students and parents of MSD High would have thanked them. The editorial boards and columnists would have lauded them. Even the Democrats would have to praise them.

Instead, here they are on Day 58 and POLITICO Florida is reporting that “House GOP leaders withholding budget earmarks from gun bill opponents.”

Corcoran is nothing if not a master tactician. He should have seen that the trains were about to come off the rails and, like the first Republicans to wield the Speaker’s gavel, made sure they kept running on time.

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this post.

Written By

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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