Oscar Braynon has some thoughts for Richard Corcoran on the new House rules
Newly-elected Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon is out of the gate with some pretty pointed comments about the sweeping new rules proposed by incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran.
"I look at these rules and I think, he must be expecting criminals and unethical people to come to the House. I know I expect senators to come to the Senate,'' he said in an interview with the Herald/Times.
"If Richard Corcoran and Jose Oliva really wanted to change the culture of the House, to me they wouldn't be afraid to debate issues,'' he said. "They wouldn't stifle Democratic bills. They wouldn't take good Democratic ideas and make them Republican bills. if they really wanted change, and they talk about openness, they would start doing these things instead of this foolishness claiming we're cleaning up the process because people can't fly on jets, or text lobbyists, or get a promotion in a government job.
"To me, that's not a real change. Most of that is illegal or is not allowed anyway and if it is it's disclosed. Real change is changing the dynamic where bills are not heard, where ideas are stifled, where people are forced to vote against their conscience. If they change that, then he's doing a real change. the rest of this is -- since Trump got elected I guess I can say this -- it's bullshit."
In a nod to bi-partisan cooperation, Oscar will present the Senate's rules with it convenes today to swear in new members and most of the Senate rules are the same ones used by the Republican-controlled upper chamber in the past.
"One of the reasons we didn't change them is because we believe we elected senators of high regard and if my colleagues break the law, or violate the rules, we'll deal with violating the statutes and the rules,'' he said.
- On the rule allowing the House to impeaching local and state elected officials for ethical violations: "The impeachment role is something they have in the statutes now but the House can't even do the trial. The trial is handled by the Senate. We're the ones who decide."
- On the ban on lobbyists texting legislators: "That's also already in the law, it's disclosed under the Sunshine law." He suggested that the rule does not ban lobbyists from emailing legislators on their phones will in committee. "A bigger question is why we don't have a retention policy? Why don't you just improve the rules? Some of this is just to make noise for him to look good. I think that is disingenuous."
- On the rule punishing lobbyists for sexual harassment of lawmakers: "I didn't know that was rampant,'' Braynon said. "Now the other way around might be the case. Is that the one you can control and you don't want to throw your members too far under the bus?"
- On the rule banning legislators from being promoted into a government job after being elected: "What are you trying to accomplish? If you really want to change people from making money off the system or having conflicts of interest, let's start a true discussion about making this a full-time Legislature. If you don't want us talking about that,you shouldn't be talking about what other people do as jobs."
Braynon suggested that many of the reforms will serve to concentrate power in the hands of the House leadership, not dilute it as Corcoran says is his goal. It will also serve to raise the barriers for others without financial means to get elected to office because the ban on promotions makes it difficult for low-wage workers, like teachers, bus drivers, prison guards, to get promoted into an administrative post in order to serve in the Legislature for six months.
"What do we really want our Legislature to look like?,'' Braynon asked. "Do we want it to be wealthy, older guys who are so far along in their professions that they can take six months out of a year to come to Tallahassee for $29,000. What is wrong with a teacher being able to come here? What is wrong with somebody who spent most of his career as a bus drivers coming up here? I have a district that is mostly working people, many in my district work for government ...If you're a teacher, and you have to come up here six months out of the year, you can't be a teacher anymore. So what can you be now? You have to be an administrator. What if that's a promotion?...According to the House rules, you can't do that.
"So what do we want our Legislature to be? If we want it to be a full-time Legislature, where people have no conflicts and people are able to feed their family -- not get rich -- then maybe Richard Corcoran is really asking for a full-time Legislature."