Friday, November 24, 2017
Politics

Carlton: Put down your phones in Tallahassee and represent us

RECOMMENDED READING


Dear members of the Florida House of Representatives:

Hi. Just us, some of the people who elected you. If you have a minute, we were hoping to talk about some headlines this week.

Not the ones about the fate of the nation and all that. This is about those new rules Rep. Richard Corcoran, the Land O' Lakes Republican who is about to become House speaker, will have waiting for you when you get to Tallahassee.

We like some of the big ideas for taking a poke at cozy relationships between elected officials and those who lobby them — like not being allowed to come back as a lobbyist yourself after you leave office for six years instead of two, or the one where you can't fly on lobbyists' private planes even if you pay the commercial rate. (Seriously, do we need a rule to tell you how ugly the optics are on that one?)

But what really caught our eye was the one that says lobbyists won't be allowed to text or email you while you're up there legislating for us in committee meetings or floor sessions.

Now some of us citizens who do not regularly hang out in the hallowed halls of the Capitol might have been a little surprised to learn this actually happens — that powerful lobbyists representing special interests whose campaign checks you welcome might have your ear, or at least your eye on your cellphone screen, during committee meetings and floor debate.

Call us naive. It turns out some elected lawmakers take texts from lobbyists wanting them to ask a question about the issue at hand or suggesting they raise a point that could influence the outcome. Heck, we hear tell some of you have been known to read lobbyists' questions directly from your phones — and to text them with questions or to give them details of a vote.

By the way, aren't lobbyists by definition people — sometimes powerful people with access to deep pockets — who have a big interest in how things turn out up there?

Because from our view from the cheap seats in the hinterland, this starts to look a little like —wait, are those puppet strings?

Or maybe it's just another distasteful glimpse of how that special brand of Tallahassee sausage gets made.

People may argue this robs busy officials of technology, except technology will be there after the day is done. Maybe you'll have to resort to old-school ways — a guy in the audience, wink for yes, tug of the tie for no. He could even use that ominous draw-a-finger-across-the-throat move once alleged at a Tampa City Council meeting!

Sorry, a little citizen cynicism there.

Corcoran says the rules are about bolstering ethical standards, public confidence and civility — about "cleaning up our own House," as he put it.

And, yes, some people wonder how enforceable this might be. We get that lobbyists could just use staff members to do the texting for them, if you're willing to take those texts. Sigh.

But as our representatives, maybe you could do us a favor and honor a rule against communicating with business, industry and other groups that want something from you when you're — technically, at least — working for us.

Sincerely,

Some Florida voters

Sue Carlton can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Hillsborough Democrats have everything going for them except history

Hillsborough Democrats have everything going for them except history

TAMPA — For 15 years, Republicans have held a majority of seats on the Hillsborough County Commission.It’s the longest stretch one party has controlled the board since a corruption scandal expanded the body to seven members in 1985.But all five Repub...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Flynn may be moving to cooperate with Mueller’s Russia probe

Flynn may be moving to cooperate with Mueller’s Russia probe

WASHINGTON — In a move that could signal cooperation with the government, lawyers for former national security adviser Michael Flynn have told President Donald Trump’s lawyers that they are no longer communicating with them about special counsel Robe...
Published: 11/24/17
Trump wants to end welfare as Bill Clinton knows it

Trump wants to end welfare as Bill Clinton knows it

WASHINGTON — Overhauling welfare was one of the defining goals of Bill Clinton’s presidency, starting with a campaign promise to "end welfare as we know it," continuing with a bitter policy fight and producing change that remains hotly debated 20 yea...
Published: 11/24/17
President Trump presents his report card, passes with flying colors

President Trump presents his report card, passes with flying colors

PALM BEACH — President Donald Trump has a Thanksgiving Day message for the nation: Look at all I’ve done. Trump is telling followers in an early-morning holiday tweet that, "your Country is starting to do really well." He says: Jobs are "coming back,...
Published: 11/23/17
As rules change, many Florida immigrants face a choice: Do they stay or go?

As rules change, many Florida immigrants face a choice: Do they stay or go?

Lys Isma was born in Haiti, but she’s used to driving in Miami with a license, going to college and living without fear of being deported.The Florida International University biology student has lived in Florida since she was 9 months old. Undocument...
Published: 11/22/17

Top Trump staffers failed to file financial reports on their way out the door

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s top aides — including chief of staff Reince Priebus and foreign policy adviser Sebastian Gorka — failed to file legally required financial reports after they were dismissed this summer, according to government re...
Published: 11/22/17
William March: Lee says lieutenant governor should work for a living and get a vote

William March: Lee says lieutenant governor should work for a living and get a vote

It’s an old joke that Florida’s lieutenant governor, with no duties specified in the state Constitution except to fill in if the governor is disabled or dies, has little to do except monitor the governor’s health. State Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, ...
Published: 11/22/17
Trump calls father of freed UCLA player an ‘ungrateful fool’

Trump calls father of freed UCLA player an ‘ungrateful fool’

Associated PressPALM BEACH — President Donald Trump started off his first day of Thanksgiving vacation by resuming his taunts of the father of a UCLA basketball player detained for shoplifting in China, saying Wednesday that he was an "ungrateful foo...
Published: 11/22/17
Trump speaks up for Moore, warns against his ‘liberal’ rival

Trump speaks up for Moore, warns against his ‘liberal’ rival

WASHINGTON — Silent for more than a week, President Donald Trump all but endorsed embattled Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore, discounting the sexual assault allegations against him and insisting repeatedly that voters must not support Moor...
Published: 11/22/17
Trump offers support for Moore in Alabama Senate race despite misconduct allegations

Trump offers support for Moore in Alabama Senate race despite misconduct allegations

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump on Tuesday appeared to offer support to Republican candidate Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race, saying the former state judge "totally denies" allegations that he sexually molested underage girls years ago."He d...
Published: 11/21/17