Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tracking the Senate's rightward shift

Sen. John Thrasher, center, is congratulated by Sen. Don Gaetz, left, and Sen. Mike Haridopolos following passage of a bill that he sponsored. The three lawmakers are a significant reason the Florida Senate has shifted to the right.

Associated Press

Sen. John Thrasher, center, is congratulated by Sen. Don Gaetz, left, and Sen. Mike Haridopolos following passage of a bill that he sponsored. The three lawmakers are a significant reason the Florida Senate has shifted to the right.

TALLAHASSEE — You've heard the old axiom about the Florida Legislature: "The House proposes and the Senate disposes."

The reference is to the fact that the Senate has traditionally been a more deliberative body, and for at least a decade, more politically moderate and much less ideological than the House.

Some frustrated House conservatives used to call the Senate the place "where good ideas go to die."

You don't hear much of that talk this session.

What you hear instead is a Democratic senator, Dan Gelber of Miami Beach, tweeting his followers that this is a very successful session for former Gov. Jeb Bush.

Floridians may have voted for a Democratic president in 2008, but their state Legislature is becoming more conservative.

If the trend continues, it could cause major changes in public policy.

What's taking place underscores the shift that occurs when a Senate seat or two changes hands, and a conservative replaces a moderate.

The best example is in greater Jacksonville.

The death last year of Jim King, a moderate Republican who had little interest in wedge issues, hastened the election of John Thrasher, a conservative firebrand and former House speaker who's making a big splash, defying conventional wisdom that freshman senators should know their place.

Thrasher is pushing laws to lessen the threats of lawsuits on businesses, relax limits on class sizes and virtually abolish tenure for teachers in the name of more accountability.

"I talked to Jeb this morning," Thrasher said Thursday, still celebrating passage of the tenure bill, albeit on a close 21-17 vote. "He was very pleased with what we did. Very pleased."

Running in a special election in the fall, Thrasher promised to disrupt the status quo in Tallahassee — and to not forget who tried to defeat him, such as personal injury lawyers.

He has what he calls a one-year contract and must run this fall for a full term.

"If the voters give me another contract, we'll continue to be disruptive, in terms of what I consider to be good public policy. There is a difference here," Thrasher said.

Already, Thrasher is seeking a way to become a future Senate president, and follow in the footsteps of fellow conservatives Mike Haridopolos of Melbourne and Don Gaetz of Nice­ville.

It was less than two years ago that the Florida Senate defeated, by the barest of margins, a bill requiring a pregnant woman to be offered to view an ultrasound image of her fetus before undergoing an abortion.

Seven Republicans, including King, voted against that bill, which defeated a priority of one of the Senate's most respected members, Dan Webster.

"The Florida Senate has become more conservative than the House. I'm a big believer in that," said Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey.

Fasano has a bill that illustrates the point.

It would expand Florida's vehicular homicide law by applying that felony to a fetus "at any stage of development." Current law defines a viable fetus as that which would be capable of living outside the womb.

The legislation has not been heard in the House, but it has passed the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

"There's no question," Fasano said. "With John Thrasher in the Florida Senate, the ideology of the Senate has changed."

The bottom line: Elections really do matter.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at or (850) 224-7263.

Tracking the Senate's rightward shift 03/26/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 26, 2010 8:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tributes pour in for ex-national security adviser Brzezinski


    WASHINGTON — Well before he went to the White House in 1977, Jimmy Carter was impressed by the views of foreign policy expert Zbigniew Brzezinski. That Carter immediately liked the Polish-born academic advising his campaign was a plus.

    Foreign policy expert Zbigniew Brzezinski died Friday.
  2. One year after deaths, Sunset Music Festival kicks off with emphasis on water and security

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Before the beat drops, or even builds, you hear Steve-O.

    "If you don't get water you're lame!"

    "Hey! Free water! Come on!"

    Steve "Steve-O" Raymond motions to guests making the line to grab free water bottle at the entrance of the Sunset Music Festival on the grounds of the Raymond James Stadium parking lot in Tampa. ( LUIS SANTANA   |   Times)
  3. Twins eventually cash in as Rays lose, fall back to .500 (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — The Rays could only battle their way out of trouble for so long Saturday afternoon before succumbing in a 5-2 loss to the Twins.

    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 27: Brian Dozier #2 of the Minnesota Twins celebrates hitting a two-run home run as Derek Norris #33 of the Tampa Bay Rays looks on during the eighth inning of the game on May 27, 2017 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twins defeated the Rays 5-3. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) 700010973
  4. Rays Tales: The stories behind Corey Dickerson's ascension

    The Heater

    The 25 pounds DH/LF Corey Dickerson lost during the winter through diet and exercise are considered the primary reason for his ascension to one of the American League's most productive hitters, going into the weekend leading in hits, multi-hit games and total bases, and ranked in the top five in average, runs and …

    Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) connects for a sac fly, scores Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Steve Pearce (28) in the fourth inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, June 15, 2016.
  5. Fans in Florida and beyond won't forget Gregg Allman

    Music & Concerts

    The end can come quickly for those who live fast and live hard, who create worlds with their talent and sometimes come close to throwing them away.

    This Oct. 13, 2011 file photo shows Gregg Allman performs at the Americana Music Association awards show in Nashville, Tenn. On Saturday, May 27, 2017, a publicist said the musician, the singer for The Allman Brothers Band, has died. (AP Photo/Joe Howell, File)