It's bad enough that the Florida Legislature is determined to turn back the clock and blow up 25 years of bipartisan efforts to manage the state's growth. It's even worse that Senate President Mike Haridopolos signed off on a devious scheme to deny his Senate colleagues the opportunity to help craft the legislation. A candidate for U.S. Senate ought to have more respect for representative government.
With four days to go in a most depressing legislative session, Haridopolos has been consistently outmaneuvered by House Speaker Dean Cannon. Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, is eager for the session to end on time Friday so he can campaign. Cannon, R-Winter Park, is in no such hurry. So in return for movement on budget negotiations, Haridopolos agreed to Cannon's demand that the Senate embrace House legislation to eviscerate growth management. The plan calls for the House growth management legislation to be part of budget conforming bills, which will be voted up or down in the final hours of the session and cannot be changed.
Substantial legislation should not be tied to the state budget, but that is often the reality in Tallahassee. Lawmakers also have improperly used conforming bills to wade into the union dues controversy and personal injury protection for car insurance, although after the plans were publicly exposed Senate leaders claimed Monday that the changes were either minor or would be removed from the bills. What is so egregious in this case is the sweeping nature of the growth management changes that will have a disastrous effect on Florida for decades to come. The House's plan says local government will no longer have to consider the need for improvements to roads, schools and parks when they permit development. The state would have far less power to review development decisions, and large developments that already have been approved are grandfathered in for seven years.
Yet Haridopolos negotiated away the opportunity for senators to have any say in the changes that would hand developers free rein. Senators from both parties should not stand for a deal that denies them the opportunity to speak for their constituents on an issue of such importance to the future of this state and to help shape the changes. If this power play prevails, voters should demand an explanation when the U.S. Senate candidate hits the campaign trail.