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Next House speaker: Legislators the enemy, promises change

Florida Rep. Richard Corcoran, soon to become one of the most powerful people in state government, delivered a fiery speech Wednesday promising sweeping changes in everything from schools to legislative ethics and how long judges can stay on the bench.

Corcoran, a lawyer and one time top aide to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio when Rubio led the Florida House, told his fellow House Republicans that legislators were the “enemy” because they turn their back on voters when they come to the state Capitol and cave into special interests.

“Members, that is the truth,” Corcoran said. “The enemy isn’t the special interests. The enemy isn’t the press. The enemy isn’t any of that stuff. The truth is the enemy is us. It always has been and it always will be.”

Corcoran made his remarks shortly after House Republicans officially selected him as their designate for House speaker. Corcoran will assume his post in November 2016 if Republicans hold on to their sizable majority. Gov. Rick Scott as well as other top GOP elected officials listened to his speech.

Corcoran, of Land O’ Lakes, who already is the House budget chief, already has tremendous clout in the House and has been one of the staunchest opponents to Medicaid expansion over the past few years.

But in his remarks Corcoran called for a sweeping series of changes that included changing state law so that any parent can get money from the state to send their children to a private or religious school of their choosing. Florida currently gives private school vouchers to low-income families and families with children with disabilities.

“We need to fully fund the right of every parent to make the decision that they know best,” Corcoran said. “Because that’s how we open up the doors to a brilliant future for every student in this state.”

Some of the other changes Corcoran called for include a 12-year term limit for all judges. He also called for a series of reforms that would put additional restrictions on legislators once they leave office.

Corcoran wants former legislators to wait six years after they leave office before they can lobby the Legislature or state government. He also wants to ban elected officials from taking other jobs in government – a college president position for example – until they have been out of office for six years.

He also said that in order to remove “temptation” the state should prohibit a legislator from taking a job while in office with any group or company that receives money from the state. Some Republicans earlier this year contended that Senate President Andy Gardiner was pushing for Medicaid expansion because he works as an executive for an Orlando hospital group that receives state money.

Gardiner, who attended Corcoran’s speech, defended his job.

“I’m very proud of what I do for a living,” Gardiner said. “You know obviously maybe others don’t feel that way, but I feel very proud.”

State Sen. Tom Lee, who pushed for a ban on gifts from lobbyists to legislators back in 2005, praised Corcoran’s proposals, but said it would be a “heavy lift” to get them passed.

The Florida Democratic Party called Corcoran a “hypocrite” and said his march to power has been aided by money raised from lobbyists and special interests.

“It’s hard to think of someone who has benefited more from the very process he now self-righteously bemoans than career Tallahassee insider Richard Corcoran,” said party spokesman Max Steele.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press. 

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