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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

House overrides Crist veto of leadership funds, next stop: Senate



One down and one to go. The Florida House voted 81-39 along party lines Thursday afternoon to override one of the most powerful vetoes of Gov. Charlie Crist's term, reviving the leadership funds, the powerful fundraising tools used by House and Senate leaders to channel special interest money into the elections of thier hand-picked candidates.

The Senate is expected to take up the measure when it convenes at 4 p.m. The House also voted unanimously to override a Crist veto of an agriculture bill that deals in part with local government rules regarding farm property and passed resolutions allowing both bills to take effect immediately.

The passage of the so-called leadership funds bill, HB 1207, will strengthen the clout of legislative leaders, allow them to work outside the purview of the party and, for Republicans, outside the the influence of the governor. In 2012, all legislators must run in newly drawn districts. Proponents argue the measure will increase ``transparency'' because they would give citizens the opportunity to view campaign finance activity, which is currently obscured by party reporting.

Leadership funds were banned 21 years ago when Democrats, in charge of the Legislature then, were embarrassed by a perception of pay-to-play politics. Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, said that lawmakers are headed down that path again.

"People just want you to be honest with them,'' he said. "This bill isn’t about transparency...This is about winning elections.''

Rep. Carlos Lopez Cantera, the House Republican leader from Miami, said there has been a mischaracterization of what the legislation does. “This is something new. This is not a revival of the past,'' he said. “This is more honestly than you’ve ever seen before in the political process in Tallahassee....If you vote against this bill, you're for hiding.''

Democrats attempted to derail the vote by claiming the House didn't have the authority to bring up the measure since they have already passed the alloted time in the November special session. House Rules Chairman Rep. Gary Aubuchon ruled against their rules challenge.

[Last modified: Thursday, March 24, 2011 3:56pm]


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