In Florida Legislature, inexperience rules

If you've ever thought that Florida's Legislature looked more like a fraternity than a collection of serious statesmen, there's a reason for that … besides just the immaturity of their ideas.

Legislative leaders are increasingly closer to college students in age as well.

This year's House speaker, Will Weatherford, is 33.

He presides over committee chairs as young as 29, 30 and 31.

Young Republicans in other states host happy hours. Here, they hold hearings.

And pass laws — sometimes using bills that lobbyists write for them. Other times in clear violation of the U.S. Constitution, leaving courts to clean up the mess.

And we're not just talking anecdotes. Youth is now the status quo.

A study by University of Central Florida economics professor Mark Soskin found that, although the average age of House Republicans was 47, only two of the 10 people who serve as leaders of standing or select committees were older than 47.

And only one was a woman.

The youngest committee chair is 30. The youngest subcommittee chair 29.

"Older members get elected," Soskin said. "They're just not as often in charge."

Soskin said his research wasn't intended to reach conclusions about why this happened. But he said a popular theory is that the lobbyists like to identify younger know-nothings whose leadership campaigns they can finance and later lead around by the nose.

"The idea," Soskin said, "is that these folks like to fast-track the people they think they can control."

In fairness, leaders in the Senate are often older … which may help explain why that body often puts the brakes on the House's more harebrained ideas.

For more on this one, including Soskin's complete findings, visit OrlandoSentinel.com/takingnames.

Political Quick Hits

The Miami Herald carried an interesting story about Democrat Nan Rich making a compelling case for her campaign for governor. The story prompted Republicans to respond: "Um … who's Nan Rich?"

•The Democratic response: "She's not Rick Scott."

•Speaking of Gov. Scott, his proposal to beef up school funding is good news. Still, only in Florida, is it considered major progress to get per-pupil funding to a level still shy of where it was six years ago. Florida — where minor regression is considered a victory!

•Give Marco Rubio credit for trying to make headway in the difficult-to-navigate waters of immigration reform. This has proved a losing battle for Republicans seeking sensible solutions. Just ask Mel Martinez.

•Wanna see Buddy Dyer in his underwear? Me neither. Still, I give hizzoner major props for donning his drawers for a creative fundraiser Saturday, Feb. 9: Cupid's Undie Run, benefiting the Children's Tumor Foundation. Dyer is helping out Belle Isle Mayor Bill Brooks, who organized the run in part to honor his 12-year-old daughter, who has a genetic disorder called neurofibromatosis, which affects 15,000 Americans. More info on this creative affair — which will have bodies galore semistreaking through downtown — at cupidsundierun.com.

•I've written a lot about the scariness at assisted-living-facilities — and cases of neglect and abuse. But if you needed proof that the industry is serious about fighting off regulation, consider that the News Service of Florida reported this week that the Florida Health Care Association has a whopping 11 lobbyists registered on its behalf. The frail and elderly could only dream of having such a corps.

•Did you see the story about accusations that a congressman from New Jersey had hung out with prostitutes? The denials in this case were forceful and immediate. After all, accusations of politicians consorting with prostitutes could damage reputations ... of the prostitutes.

smaxwell@tribune.com or 407-420-6141

Original source: In Florida Legislature, inexperience rules on Orlando Sentinel

Connect
Advertisement

VIDEO