1. Archive

Huizenga's unseemly influence

Billionaire Wayne Huizenga's name carries a lot of weight in Tallahassee _ enough, apparently, to sink a bill that would change Florida's adoption laws for the better.

After working for months and hearing from all sides, the Senate Judiciary Committee came up with a responsible adoption package earlier this session. Though far from perfect, the package would be an improvement over the current system, which too often leaves birth mothers feeling pressured and birth fathers in the dark. By giving birth parents more due process in the short run, the bill would give adoptive parents _ and, most important, the children they adopt _ greater certainty in the long run. It would also give adoption agencies less room for abuse.

Though opposed by some adoption lawyers and adoptive parents, the bill was endorsed by the full Senate and faced relatively clear sailing. But that was before a Huizenga executive and lobbyist caught wind of it.

According to Huizenga lobbyist Ron Book, Rick Rochon, chief executive of a Huizenga-owned business in Fort Lauderdale, himself an adoptive parent, had personal objections to the bill and wanted it stopped. So Book went to work.

The result? A key House Committee rejected the measure.

"If this bill goes down to defeat, (Book) will probably single-handedly be able to take credit for it," Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Fred Dudley, R-Cape Coral, later lamented.

There is still a chance the bill can be salvaged, but prospects do not look good.

Wayne Huizenga and his organization have as much right as anyone to comment on proposed legislation and make their voices heard. But is it right to give one man's opinion such decisive weight, simply because it carries a lot of zeros behind it?