Times' ed board: HB 1565 is Scott's first test
It's still to be seen how Gov.-elect Rick Scott, the former bane of the Republican Party of Florida, will mesh with his newly acquired allies in the Legislature. But the first test of that relationship is unfolding now, as incoming House Speaker Dean Cannon and incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos threaten to resurrect a bad government bill rightly vetoed by Gov. Charlie Crist. If Scott wants to accomplish much of anything over the next four years, he needs to persuade Cannon and Haridopolos to leave this bad bill buried during next week's special session.
The issue is the arcane and little discussed House Bill 1565, which flew under the radar during spring's legislative session. It passed both chambers unanimously due to misleading rhetoric that it would simply lessen government's burden on businesses in a period of incredible economic distress.
Lawmakers of both parties acknowledged, after the vote, that they had no idea what they had done. HB 1565 would cripple state government by making it impossible for executive agencies to carry out even noncontroversial new legislation. The bill would require agencies to assign a private sector compliance cost for any proposed rule. If that cost exceeded $1 million over five years, the agency couldn't adopt the rule unless the Legislature approved it at the next annual session.
It's not unreasonable to require state agencies to consider the economic impact of their rules. And the Legislature, which grants rulemaking authority to the executive agencies, arguably has some authority here.
But such ideological debate, as manifest in this bill, ignores the practical reality of running a government serving 18.5 million people. This might work in some quaint Vermont hamlet. But a $1 million threshold over five years is wholly unworkable in Florida. It would stall dozens, if not hundreds, of rule changes annually. And on controversial matters, the agencies would inevitably be outgunned by special-interest lobbyists who would simply have to ensure that at least one chamber never gave it a floor vote during the next 60-day annual session.
It is hard to imagine, for example, Everglades restoration ever going forward under this scheme as Big Sugar and the state's development interests could indefinitely stall rules setting acceptable water quality standards.
Scott, Cannon and Haridopolos all have promised to streamline government so it works more like business. HB 1565 is the antithesis of that. Scott needs to persuade his Republican colleagues to shunt this idea aside.