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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Be it purging or rightsizing, Haridopolos shifting Fla Sen staff rightward



The once-moderate Florida Senate is growing more conservative under incoming leader Mike Haridopolos in the wake of high-level staff firings and resignations that have thinned the ranks of Democrats in the upper chamber.

The shakeup could leave the "New Senate'' filled with the most Republican members and staff members since Reconstruction, which paves the way for swifter approval of budget and tax cuts, pension reform and conservative social issues.

"We are rightsizing the Senate — saving taxpayers money," said Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, adding he hopes to trim $1 million from the Senate's budget by consolidating staff positions and shedding highly paid employees.

"I want to have the credibility when people ask, 'Are you tightening your own belt?' And I can look them in the eye and say, 'Yes we have,' '' Haridopolos said.

But to some, the effort resembles a political purge as well. And they worry that an overly partisan staff could fail to give the neutral, expert analysis needed to properly vet legislation ranging from taxes to criminal justice to the environment.

A number of Senate staffers grew so worried about job security at the end of last year that many thought their party affiliations, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter posts were being monitored. Haridopolos, who is set to assume the Senate presidency from Jeff Atwater after the Nov. 2 election, said the fear resulted from a false rumor.

Must-read story here

[Last modified: Wednesday, October 13, 2010 5:45am]


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