Rep. Chris Sprowls, a Republican from Clearwater, was officially named Speaker-designate for the 2021 Session Tuesday.
There was little drama: Sprowls had been assured of the designation in the GOP-dominated Legislature since 2016.
And for the greater Tampa/St. Petersburg region, the Sprowls era provides an important window; Sprowls will helm the House while Wilton Simpson, likewise from the area, tops the Senate.
In his designation speech Tuesday afternoon in the House Chamber, Sprowls outlined the direction for his Speakership, contrasting “two different worlds.”
The first: one of “perpetual grievance.”
“It’s the world of political news junkies and social media addicts; a world filled with people mainlining apocalyptic rage. And like junkies and addicts on a high, they are lost in their own fantasy worlds; trapped inside ideological prisons of their own creation. A world where they act intolerant in the name of tolerance and promote venom in the name of virtue,” Sprowls said.
There is, however, a better world “we experience in our communities, in our neighborhoods, in our churches. In this world, people don’t spend their time spewing an endless stream of words, they spend their time doing things. This is a world filled with work and purpose. Where people fight for a better life for themselves and their families.”
That contrast came to play later in the speech, where Sprowls contrasted Washington with Tallahassee.
Washington is a “place that lives inside the centrifuge of the virtual world. Where every piece of minutiae is dissected, analyzed, and recycled by talking heads with the rabid fanaticism of grammarians arguing over the placement of a comma. There are few sights more telling or more depressing than a congressional hearing, where Representatives and Senators go not to listen, not to learn, but to hear themselves talk.
“The system has become an immovable object, and the people who populate Washington D.C. have turned out to be a very resistible force. Everyone is too busy talking, practicing for a future hosting gig on Fox or MSNBC, to notice as our nation’s capital sinks deeper and deeper into the swamp,” Sprowls added.
“Maybe it’s the part-time nature of our Legislature. Maybe it’s term limits. Maybe it’s the length of our Sessions. Whatever the reason, in Tallahassee actions matter more than words. Here, a single legislator with a big idea; someone who is willing to put in the work; someone who is willing to listen, learn, and build consensus; can transform how our state government works. In my time in the Legislature, we’ve reinvented economic development, dramatically expanded choice in our K-12 system, and toppled health care barriers that once seemed insurmountable,” Sprowls asserted.
“You wouldn’t know any of that if you spend your time on social media or reading newspaper editorial pages. But if you step out into the sunshine, you know that Florida is a destination — a place where people want to be; a place where they want to visit, want to work, and want to live,” Sprowls said.
The sunshine isn’t a cure for everything; the state “budget is growing faster than our reserves. We start new university construction projects without finishing old ones. We fund our wants at the expense of our needs.”
Republicans, of course, wrote these budgets.
“We turn policy conversations into revenue conversations. We treat the state budget like it is our own private charitable foundation to be used to buy the naming rights to buildings and programs. Members, we need to do better. We need to increase our reserves and create a new fund for disaster recovery. There is no excuse not to be prepared for the next storm or the next recession,” Sprowls bemoaned.
Sprowls made a number of policy recommendations; among them, standing against late-term abortion.
“In the state of Florida, we don’t kill babies,” Sprowls said.
He did signal that he will embrace collaboration.
“Please know that the issues that are important to you are important to me. I don’t stand up here today to tell you that I know all the questions or that I have all the answers. I know I don’t. And I’m not here today to tell you what our agenda will be. That is something we’ll figure out together. But I am here today to say this — what we do together needs to matter,” Sprowls said.
Republicans, almost two-thirds of the Legislature, liked the speech. A classic rhetorical foray into limited-government conservatism, with tropes and tacks familiar to those who have heard much of this before.