The House proposes, the Senate disposes

Some people say Florida should switch to a one-chamber Legislature, like Nebraska. The theory seems to be the fewer politicians, the better.

Not me, Jack.

Can't tell you how many times over the years I've muttered to myself: "Thank God for the Senate." (I say this about the House once in a while, but not as often.)

This time of year, when the Legislature is down to its final major decisions, there are only two parties in Tallahassee — House and Senate.

Human nature is for them to chafe at each other, to take a whack at each other's ideas.

Especially the Senate, where the members tend to be older, more experienced, more independent.

More stubborn, too.

This year the House speaker, Dean Cannon, was dead set on splitting the Florida Supreme Court in half, mostly because he didn't like some of its rulings.

Two state Supreme Courts! The Senate killed this goofy scheme. (Cannon did get some other court stuff that still might be bad ideas — a topic for another day.)

The House tried to deregulate 30 professions altogether. This was ideological and wacky. Do we really want to legalize fake charities and unscrupulous car mechanics in Florida? The Senate cut that list down to 10 professions, and a couple of those left are obsolete, anyway.

Gov. Rick Scott wanted a big tax cut for Florida corporations, on top of the deep budget cuts that have to be made this year. The Senate instead gave him a small cut in terms of dollars, but a savvy one — it eliminated taxes on thousands of small businesses. The governor had no choice but to take it and declare victory.

The House voted to cut the length of unemployment benefits in Florida. At the Senate's insistence, that length will stay the same, as long as unemployment is above a certain level.

The Senate killed one of the most heavily lobbied bills of the session, the push for electric companies to be able to raise rates to pay for renewable and alternative energy. ("Renewable energy" might sound like good-guy stuff, but it was really of a big cash grab by Florida Power & Light.)

The Senate killed a 25 percent increase in the premiums of Citizens Property Insurance Co. — a popular idea in the short run, although it only puts off some hard decisions.

The House got its way on at least one high-profile issue: The Senate tried to give Florida insurance companies a huge break by saying they no longer have to cover sinkholes. The House has decided they'll still have to, and the House will probably prevail.

Make no mistake: The Legislature overwhelmingly agrees on the big picture of big budget cuts and no new taxes of any kind. The two sides agreed on a repeal of teacher tenure, expanding charter schools and the odious "leadership funds" they legalized for fundraising.

But in general, the independent senators serve as a check and balance on the House, on the governor — and even on the Senate itself.

The other day, veteran Sen. Jack Latvala, a Republican from St. Petersburg, got up and blasted the way the Senate leadership was handling an issue — while Senate President Mike Haridopolos, presiding, stood tight-lipped, arms crossed in disapproval.

It'll be a cold day when an obedient young sheep in the other chamber stands up to chew out the speaker of the House in live session.

Until then, viva the Senate.

The House proposes, the Senate disposes 05/04/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 9:56pm]

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