Lee Looks At The Legislature

Hillsborough County is in the midst of a rare political parlay. It is home to Florida’s outgoing Speaker of the House as well as the incoming Senate President. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that the Speaker was Johnnie Byrd.

When asked recently at the Tiger Bay Club of Tampa Bay luncheon, what was the biggest ethical lapse that he has seen in the Legislature, incoming Senate President Tom Lee pulled no rhetorical punches. He cited the “unfortunate” goings-on in the House the last two years. He made it clear that Plant City’s Byrd was out of line for fundraising for a U.S. Senate seat campaign while still calling legislative shots as the Republican speaker.

“When you offend the conscience of the lobbying corps, you know you’re out there pretty far,” assessed Lee.

Byrd’s co-mingled priorities — and bullying leadership style — helped undermine legislative priorities, intimated Lee. One result: precious little got done in the last session. “We passed a budget, and that was about it,” Lee acknowledged.

Other Leeward points:

*On Gov. Jeb Bush’s veto pen that eliminated nearly $40 million in Hillsborough County projects: “Because of the unique tandem of an outgoing Speaker and an incoming President, we had more dollars flowing to the region this year. So we were subject to more dollars being vetoed. No, I wouldn’t characterize it as an ‘unfair hit.’ Keep in mind, for instance, that it wasn’t USF who originally asked for the ($12-million) Alzheimer’s research center.”

*There is a serious need in Tallahassee to “reassert the authority, power and influence of the committee process .” It’s where “the public and the media” can be privy to “what we’re doing.”

*A philosophical consensus on “smaller government, lower taxes and more freedom” is meaningless “if we don’t have more integrity and courage and a lot less b.s.

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