2011-2012 Political Hurricane Progressive Policy House Scorecard Analysis

At one time a core of moderate-minded House members helped to reach across the aisle to forge consensus in the body. Even during the polarized Bush years, a handful of moderate Republicans remained skeptical about large portions of the Bush/GOP agenda. While Bush’s agenda generally passed the House, in most cases several Republicans would vote no. For example in 1999 several House Republicans voted no on the A+ plan for school reform including vouchers and the inception of the FCAT. That same session seven House Republicans voted against the passage of a sweeping tort reform bill favored by right-wing pressure groups throughout the country.
Even in the mid 2000s a few moderate Republicans could be counted on to split from the orthodoxy of the party. But in the era of Rick Scott House Republicans have become extreme partisans. Herded like sheep by the leadership, they vote in uniformity on even the most polarizing issues. What is striking is the number of Republicans from moderate districts in places like Pinellas County and Central Florida that vote lock step with the leadership.

Several of these districts have been held by Democrats in the recent past. Examples include the St Petersburg based 51st and 52nd districts held by Larry Ahern and Jeff Brandes respectively. Both lawmakers scored a 0 on this scorecard despite representing districts that have flipped back and forth between the parties several times in the era of Republican legislative control. The general conservatism of Central Florida lawmakers has continued despite massive demographic shifts in the area.
Traditionally, there have been more moderate Republicans rom southwest Florida and the Treasure Coast as well but in the 2011 and 2012 sessions, House members from these areas were strongly conservative.
Most Democrats, on the other hand, have continued the process of voting a moderate line.  While the period between 1982 and 2006 was characterized by a House Democratic caucus dominated by liberals who at times fought a conservative wing of the party, today neither wing really exists. The House is down to one lone conservative Democrat (Bembry) and just a handful of straight down the line liberals as the caucus, led by moderate Ron Saunders, has shifted to a clear policy of accommodation with the majority. While it is fair to say this pragmatic approach may allow individual Democratic legislators to pass more bills and bring more in the way of member projects back to the district, it has done little to improve dialogue and debate in the lower chamber.

The reality of the past several legislative sessions is that moderate Republican Senators like Paula Dockery, Mike Fasano and Dennis Jones have had a greater impact in shaping the debate against the excesses of the majority party than any of the House Democratic leaders. Dan Gelber, who left the House in 2008, was the last truly dynamic leader the Democrats had in the body. With term limits costing the Senate it’s moderate check on the excesses of the House, 2013 and beyond will require active and strong Democratic leadership.


9 thoughts on “2011-2012 Political Hurricane Progressive Policy House Scorecard Analysis

  1. I think the Republicans from Pinellas either act more moderately or they’ll be beat. Those really are appalling voting records for a traditionally moderate county. Heck, the local GOP there produced Charlie Crist, JAck Latvia, Dennis Jones, Morroni, etc.

  2. The House has long been radicalized since Danny Webster was speaker.

    They now have 90 votes for any piece of radical legislation.

  3. The Crist era made the House more unreasonable. Because he took on entrenched Republican favoring lobby firms, the House became more and more conservative while he was Governor. The last session they passed lots of bad bills, several were vetoed. The Republicans had forgotten what a veto on a non pork project was. It stung them bad and they’ve gone even harder right since.

  4. The bad votes of south Florida “liberals” only matter if we get these people primaries and work to make their re-election difficult.

    Laxer running against Abruzzo would be a nice start but we also need to primary Perman and a ton of Broward Ds. I hope Rader or Clemons beats Bernard.

  5. I think they do need primaries. Rader is the insurance industry guy so he should not even run at all. Perman is an idiot as well. Bernard is the smartest of the bunch. His record was bad this time though.

  6. Primaries are generally bad ideas. With so little money to go around we need to save as much as we can to target Republicans and not fellow Democrats.

    As far as the scores are concerned, we have far fewer firebrands than before and that will make us more acceptable to most of the electorate.

  7. We need Gelber. We need people that vote the right way. It takes a group of people to turn this state around and not just those who pay Johnson and crew off. It is possible. We are not going to let a few AWFUL dems ruin this state. They did it last cycle and we will not let it go on.

  8. I think the bottom line is that the Governorship of Scott has brought greater polarization than even Bush’s did in the legislature. Horrible things happening to this state.

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