How the Legislature voted on a bill to return to legalized slush funds

Fourth in a series of columns on key votes taken by the Florida Legislature since the last election.

It used to be in Florida that if you wanted to buy favor in the Legislature, you just made a big cash payment directly to the next speaker of the House or president of the Senate.

No kidding.

It was efficient, I'll grant you that.

We had these things called "leadership funds." The House had one, and the Senate had one. The incoming bosses of each chamber ran them.

With the money, they paid for campaigns around the state to make sure their buddies got elected. The whole system perpetuated the power structure.

In an unusual burst of reform 21 years ago, the Legislature outlawed leadership funds, calling them part of a "pay to play" culture.

Well, nobody remembers nothing.

One of the proud accomplishments of the 2010 Florida Legislature was to pass a bill re-legalizing leadership funds.

Follow the weird logic.

See, it's already easy to spread around unlimited cash in Tallahassee. The political parties, both Democratic and Republican, are basically money-laundering machines.

On top of that, the modern practice is for members of the Legislature to have their own no-limit "committee" with a fake name such as, "Floridians for Progress and Cute Little Puppies" or some such.

And since this legalized bribery is already rampant, the leaders of the 2010 Legislature figured, why not eliminate the hassle and just go back to direct payoffs?

In fact, the leaders of the Legislature even worked up some fake piety about it. They called this bill, House Bill 1207, a "transparency" measure. See, they said, if we get paid directly, at least the public can track the money on the contribution report.

The House passed HB 1207 on a floor vote of 73-42. The Senate passed it 25-11.

Unfortunately for the Legislature, by that time Gov. Charlie Crist had quit trying to suck up and was about to bolt the Republican Party. He vetoed HB 1207, saying, "There has got to be a better way to do this." Truer words.

Nevertheless, the 2010 Florida Legislature is on record in favor of legalizing direct, unlimited payments of cash to the House speaker and Senate president. If that's your idea of good government, you can have it.

Here's how the Tampa Bay area members of the Legislature voted on HB 1207:

Senators voting yes: Victor Crist, R-Tampa; Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey; Dennis Jones, R-Treasure Island; Ronda Storms, R-Brandon.

Senators voting no: Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland; Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa; Charlie Justice, D-St. Petersburg.

House members voting yes: Kevin Ambler, R-Tampa; Tom Anderson, R-Dunedin; Rachel Burgin, R-Tampa; Faye Culp, R-Tampa; Jim Frishe, R-Belleair Bluffs; Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton; Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City; Ed Homan, R-Tampa; Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater; John Legg, R-New Port Richey; Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland; Peter Nehr, R-Tarpon Springs; Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton; Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill; Ron Schultz, R-Homosassa; Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.

House members voting no: Janet Cruz, D-Tampa; Bill Heller, D-St. Petersburg; Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg; Janet Long, D-Seminole; Betty Reed, D-Tampa; Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg.

How the Legislature voted on a bill to return to legalized slush funds 09/20/10 [Last modified: Monday, September 20, 2010 7:26pm]

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