Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Opinion

Joe Henderson: As he exits, Dan Raulerson says Legislature needs major overhaul

Republican Dan Raulerson of Plant City has served five years as the state representative for District 58, but he will be voluntarily leaving on Aug. 15. He said issues related to recent back surgery convinced him this is the right move.

His district covers much of east Hillsborough County and voters there must like the way he handled things. He was easily elected twice.

Before he goes, though, he has some things to say about the way state government runs and, more importantly, what needs to be fixed. He knows a lot of people won't agree with him, including members of his own party. Oh well.

"The worst thing I can do is resign from this position and keep quiet," he said.

Buckle up.

Start with the eight-year term limits in the state House and Senate. He hates that. He says people would hate that, too, if they understood the havoc they cause.

"What you have now is basically a six-year apprenticeship, learning how things work. You get two years in leadership, then forced retirement. That structure breeds incompetence," he said.

"People need to understand term limits are indicative that the electorate is lazy and wants to have decisions made for them."

He hates financial disclosure forms that focus on net worth because he believes the practice turns off qualified people. He calls that "communist" and added, "You can quote me on that."

Done.

"It sends a message that we want to know everything about everybody," he said. "And who is the 'we' in this? The public? I don't think the public gives a damn. It's for the gossip sheets."

The Legislature has a 60-day session. He would change that.

"What's so magic about 60 days in March and April when we are voting on an $83 billion state budget that will affect 20 million people in the state?" he said. "Spread the session out over five or six months.

"There were 3,000 bills last session that hit the system. Trying to keep up with that is like drinking from a fire hydrant."

That's how bad bills become law.

Dan and I often see things from opposite ends of the political spectrum, but I respect his willingness to engage with people who think differently. I don't agree with him on financial disclosure; if you want to govern the public, the public deserves to know your financial commitments.

However, I'm 100 percent with him about eliminating term limits. If people like the person who represents them, who cares how long they've been in office? That's why we have elections.

"I was for term limits in the beginning, but after being there I see that all that does is give all the power to the lobbyists, special interests, staff and bureaucrats," he said.

"You get into office up there and if you're new, the bills you introduce are brought to you by lobbyists, anyway."

Even as Florida has grown dramatically, power in the Legislature has been consolidated to a ruling few. Leaders of the House and Senate essentially decide the makeup of committees, and whether bills go forward or die. It has been that way for a long time.

Raulerson would empower a board of directors in the House to oversee committee assignments and other structural functions. The House speaker — Pasco County's Richard Corocran holds the seat now — would lose power, but the process would be more representative.

"You always hear about the speaker's priorities," he said. "We have 120 members in the House from all over the state. What about their priorities? This is not personal. It's not about Richard Corcoran. It's about how things work.

"I want people to talk about this. We have to talk about this. Things need to change. I'm not running for office again, but this is nothing about me trying to burn bridges. It's about telling the truth."

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