1. Florida Politics

Romano: A ruse by any other name still stinks

Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, left, reveal their budget agreement Friday at Miami International Airport.
Published Jun. 4, 2017

The governor was angry. Very, very angry.

We know this because he traveled the state explaining it to anyone who would listen. It was his own version of a pique behind the curtains tour.

In Naples, he said legislators failed residents by coming up with a last-minute budget nobody had seen. In Lake Mary, he said lawmakers passed a budget in the dark. In Pensacola, he said he was shocked that the Legislature was operating in secrecy.

In Panama City, he said politicians were turning their backs on constituents. In Fort Myers, he said it was frustrating that the budget was done behind closed doors and unveiled as a complete surprise.

"This is your budget; this is your state,'' he said. "You should know all these things.''

So, how did Rick Scott rescue us from this secretly crafted budget?

By negotiating a brand new, secretly crafted budget.

Problem solved, apparently.

This might be amusing if it wasn't also deceitful. Day after day, week after week, Scott has been complaining about how House and Senate leaders made a mockery of the state's Sunshine Laws.

Massive bills were born and a budget was pulled out of a hat in the legislative session's final hours. And that just wasn't fair to voters, the governor told us over and over again.

But it turns out, Scott wasn't miffed that lawmakers were being sneaky.

He was offended because they were being selfish.

Once Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron included Scott in on the negotiations, the governor seemed not to care that this new deal was also magically resolved without any input from legislators or 20 million or so residents.

You go to bed one night with the governor threatening vetoes, and wake up the next morning to discover he just made a $400 million switcheroo.

Obviously, these things happen in politics. Deals and trade-offs are de rigueur in every Capitol. And no one is saying the governor and legislative leaders shouldn't have the authority to negotiate.

The problem in this case is the distasteful way it was done. Corcoran was hellbent on getting his education bill approved, even though it didn't appear to have enough support to pass.

So he bypassed the normal channels and instead threatened proposals that were near and dear to others. Negron eventually caved in exchange for his pet projects, including higher education funds.

With the Senate on board, the governor now appears poised to accept Corcoran's education bill (HB 7069) in exchange for tourism and economic development funds that have long been a part of Scott's governing strategy.

In one sense, you could call this normal horse trading. Yet it feels as if there was a deeper level of cynicism involved in this negotiation. A complete disregard of public will.

What Scott and Negron have done is allowed Corcoran to hijack the future of public education in the state in return for their own agendas. That isn't negotiation; it borders on malfeasance.

Reasonable people can argue about the pluses and minuses in HB 7069, which greatly benefits the expansion of charter schools. Nothing wrong with disagreeing about policies or philosophies. The injustice is that large parts of that bill would not have passed without Corcoran's manipulations.

And that means one man has just determined the future of education for all of the state's children.

In a few days, legislators will return to Tallahassee for a special session to approve a budget they had virtually no say in crafting. Meanwhile, they are not scheduled to talk about the medical marijuana constitutional amendment more than 70 percent of voters want implemented.

So if you're keeping score at home:

Scott got what he wanted.

Negron got what he wanted.

Corcoran got what he wanted.

And you got played.


  1. Donald Trump walks with his wife, Melania, after speaking to the press at the Ritz-Carlton August 26, 2012 in Sarasota, Florida. Trump accepted the Statesman of the Year Award at the Sarasota GOP dinner ahead of the Republican Nation Convention in Tampa. (Photo by Edward Linsmier/Getty Images) 150868157 EDWARD LINSMIER  |  Getty Images
    Trump couldn’t get prime stage time at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. So he and the Sarasota Republican Party staged their own event the night before. What happened next changed history.
  2. Paul Congemi, 62, filed paperwork this week for his fourth St. Petersburg mayoral bid. Last election he earned 188 votes. EVE EDELHEIT  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The 2021 primary election is 628 days away.
  3. Mayor Rick Kriseman on Wednesday said he will not allow the Tampa Bay Rays to explore splitting their season between the Tampa Bay area and Montreal prior to the 2027 expiration of the team's lease of Tropicana Field. CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    Politicians on both sides of the bay weigh in on St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s decision to cease talks with the team.
  4. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during a news conference about the Zika virus, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016 in Doral, Fla.The CDC has advised pregnant women to avoid travel to the Miami neighborhood of Wynwood where mosquitoes are apparently transmitting Zika directly to humans. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
    Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said he wants to meet with Interior Department officials before green-lighting Katharine MacGregor as the second-highest Interior Department official.
  5. Transgender student Drew Adams speaks with reporters outside of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Adam's fight over school restrooms came before a federal appeals court Thursday, setting the stage for a groundbreaking ruling. Adams, who has since graduated from Nease High in Ponte Vedra, Fla., won a lower court ruling last year ordering the St. Johns County school district to allow him to use the boys' restroom. The district has since appealed. RON HARRIS  |  AP
    The closely watched case of Drew Adams, once a high school student in Florida, is heard by a three-judge panel in Atlanta.
  6. An example of the type of white railway markings the Florida Department of Transportation plans on installing on the either side of more than 4,000 railway crossings in the state. Florida Department of Transportation
    The department will paint new markings on more than 4,000 railway crossings in the state.
  7. Previous competitions did not round up a lot of the invasive snakes
  8. Michele Arceneaux, former president of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, speaks during a press conference against three proposed toll roads in the Florida Capitol on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. LAWRENCE MOWER  |  Lawrence Mower
    The announcement came as the Florida Chamber of Commerce touted the proposed roads.
  9. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
Members of the Florida Supreme Court listen to a speech by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Tuesday, March 5, 2019 in the Florida House during a joint session of the Florida Legislature. Left to Right are: Chief Justice Charles T. Canady, Ricky Polston, Jorge Labarga, Alan Lawson, Barbara Lagoa, and Robert J. Luck.  SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Fights over abortion, Amendment 4 and new congressional maps are all on a crash course with the high court.
  10. The Florida House Education Committee focuses on early education in its first meeting of the 2020 session. It has met just once more since then. The Florida Channel
    Lawmakers have yet to set an aggressive agenda beyond talk of teacher pay as the 2020 legislative session nears.