On Tuesday afternoon, Republicans chose Chris Sprowls as Speaker-designate of the Florida House beginning in 2021. As if on cue, a potentially major problem landed in his lap.
Amy Baker, who leads the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, reinforced a growing view that a slowdown could be coming soon. She said the state’s income could be $867 million lower over the next two years than expected, forcing tough choices.
Three years of major hurricanes in Florida along with global jitters are warning signs that a bad moon is rising. That could be a full moon right around the time Sprowls receives the Speaker’s gavel.
“That could be a challenge right off the bat,” Pasco County Tax Collector and former state legislator Mike Fasano said. “He will have to work with everyone to see how to address this.”
“Everyone” means Democrats as well as Republicans, and that kind of bipartisan cooperation doesn’t always come easily in Tallahassee. The good news, Fasano said Sprowls could be just the person to change that mindset.
Fasano has known Sprowls for many years and watched his rise through the political ranks. He represents HD-65, which covers parts of the Tampa Bay area, and leaders there greeted the news of Sprowls’ ascension with enthusiasm.
Fasano said it’s more than that, though.
For years, he has criticized that lawmakers often talk of the “Speaker’s agenda” as if only the person on top can legislate.
“The Speaker of the House is one of the most powerful people in the state,” Fasano said. “The Speaker dictates what will or won’t be heard on the floor of the House. He or she dictates what will or won’t be heard in committees.
“During the Session, the Speaker is more powerful than the Governor. That’s why it’s important to know that Chris looks not only at what’s good for him, but what’s good for the state. He will deal with issues fairly. Let’s face it, every member – not just the Speaker – should an agenda from the people who elected them. And they should all be welcomed to the table.”
Some Speakers accomplish their agenda by old-fashioned political coercion. Others wield the gavel as a bully club to exclude anyone who isn’t on board with what they want. Fasano said he believes Sprowls won’t be like that.
“I believe when Chris becomes Speaker, he will flatten that pyramid of power,” he said. “From what I see and hear, he has a good relationship with Democrats. Sure, he’ll always have the votes to pass legislation he wants, so why not bring others to the table and listen to their ideas?
“And let me tell you something I mean from my heart – Chris is just a good guy.”
A good guy, yes, but maybe more importantly the right guy for the challenges ahead.