Leadership Dinner II
Gov. Charlie Crist invited a few people over to the house for dinner Monday -- about 45 in all. Legislative leaders, Crist staffers and reporters, many with spouses, were invited to the second leadership dinner at the mansion. (The Constitution requires meetings of the governor, House speaker and Senate president to be publicly noticed, so Crist invited reporters to attend).
Before the waiters brought out plates of lamb chops and au gratin potatoes, there was more singing of Kumbaya. As one might expect, the top Republican lawmakers, Sen. Ken Pruitt and Rep. Marco Rubio, were lavish in their praise of Crist.
So were Democrats. "I find myself saying, too often, really nice things about you," said Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, the House minority leader. "The truth is, you've done a job that I think has changed the tone."
Said Senate Democratic Leader Steve Geller, D-Hallandale Beach: "I've never known anybody to have an over 100 percent approval rating. That's one of the reasons I want the paper ballot."
The happy talk could not hide the fact that in Week 5 of the nine-week session, there's no consensus on how to lower property taxes or rein in local spending, and Crist stressed the need for action. "I know that this is something that is easily accomplishable," he said, "and the people are waiting out there for us, and I know you know that."
Crist called on Sen. Tony Hill, D-Jacksonville, chairman of the legislative black caucus, who praised Crist for the Cabinet vote to remove some barriers to civil rights for convicted felons. Using Jesse Jackson's term for the powerless ("the people who catch the early bus"), Hill told Crist: "You heard their voice when you were campaigning ... I want to thank you." The two men embraced.