The Florida Senate has long been considered the saucer that cools the hot tea, a metaphor purportedly coined by George Washington to describe the U.S. Senate’s tempering influence on the more hot-headed — and numerous — House of Representatives.
The Florida Senate has steadily crept away from the political center since Republicans secured a majority in both legislative chambers and cemented a hold on the governor’s mansion more than two decades ago.
But the November elections, the coronavirus pandemic and an expanded GOP caucus have emboldened Senate leaders to embrace what may be the most conservative agenda in recent years as they prepare for the 2021 legislative session that begins Tuesday.
“They are purely political red-meat issues, and they’re not real. These are not things that Floridians are clamoring for for legislative action,” Senate Minority Leader Gary Farmer, D-Lighthouse Point, told The News Service of Florida in a phone interview.
Proposals teed up for the legislative session run the gamut from education to policing and include measures targeting labor unions, expanding school-voucher programs and making it harder for Floridians to vote by mail. Senate President Wilton Simpson recently said the Senate also is open to a plan that would limit the amount of euphoria-inducing THC in medical marijuana, a move the Senate has blocked for the past two years.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, a staunch ally of former President Donald Trump, is pushing legislation aimed at curtailing technology behemoths such as Twitter and Facebook. The governor is also championing a proposal that would crack down on violent protests, a plan that has received harsh criticism from Democrats and free-speech advocates.
While the Senate has not considered all of the controversial proposals, committees have given preliminary approval to bills, including the so-called “union-busting” measure and a plan to move away from the traditional pension system for state workers, that the upper chamber has blocked in previous sessions.
Simpson, R-Trilby, and Republicans head into the 60-day legislative session after the November elections bolstered the GOP’s strength in both legislative chambers. Simpson not only fought off Democrats’ efforts to make gains in the Senate, but he also picked up a Miami-Dade County seat, delivering a 24-16 majority to Republicans.
Simpson, however, doesn’t view legislation Farmer labeled “red meat” for Republicans through the same lens. The Senate president doesn’t even acknowledge that his chamber is more conservative in the aftermath of the 2020 elections.
“I think the conservative and liberal scale changes over time. I think that’s in the eye of the beholder,” Simpson told the News Service.
But Farmer said the Senate’s role as “the saucer that cools the hot tea” has eroded as Republicans have solidified their control.
“That is really I believe what the role of the Senate is supposed to be and what it’s historically been in Florida for many, many decades,” he said. Farmer blamed the more-conservative Senate on term limits and gerrymandering of legislative districts.
A 1992 constitutional amendment that limited legislators’ consecutive terms in office has resulted in what Farmer called the “House-ification” of the Senate — 31 of the Senate’s 40 members previously served in the state House.
Republican winners of House elections tend to be more conservative because they need to make it out of GOP primaries, Farmer noted. And right-leaning former House members moving to the Senate are more accustomed to House leaders’ top-down management style, he added.
“They were sort of indoctrinated into a thumb-on-the-scale approach by the (House) speakers they’ve had,” Farmer said. “So they really lost that sort of independence and they don’t, I don’t think, fully understand that, when they get to the Senate, they’re one of 40 senators, that they have great independence, that they are one of 40 Somali warlords.”
Farmer and other critics posit that GOP-backed bills being fast-tracked are designed to solidify support among Republican voters.
“Certainly, you have a governor who is an unabashed believer in Trumpism,” Farmer said, noting that Florida was “one of the few places” where Trump performed better last year than he did in 2016. “There may be a mentality of, they have us down and they want to put their boots on our necks by feeding their base and strengthening their base and maybe getting more Trumpers to decide they want to move to Florida so they have even more.”
But Simpson denied that the legislative proposals have been filed to bolster support for Trump or other officials who support the former president’s agenda.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with pandering to the base or the Trump base or anything else,” he said. “If you ask me this in 10 weeks, and we say, hey, these three passed, or these 15 passed, that would be a more fair question. … Because it’s easy, in my position, to say we’re the most conservative Senate ever, but the truth is, until you get the cake completely baked, you don’t know.”
While the Senate has long been viewed as more deliberative than the House, it has moved quickly on controversial issues during the committee weeks leading up to the session.
“Regardless of what anybody’s position is on an issue, it’s incontrovertible that the Senate is moving with incredible speed. The Senate does not appear to be engaging in the same level of discourse around these controversial issues, and the Senate is certainly not taking into account all of the facts around these issues as that chamber has typically done in the past. That’s just a fact,” Florida AFL-CIO lobbyist Rich Templin said in a phone interview.
The Senate’s coronavirus protocols might also be a factor in this year’s process, Templin said.
The Senate has adopted more stringent Covid-19 precautions than the House and has severely limited the number of people who can enter the Senate Office Building. Simpson has asked senators not to hold face-to-face meetings, for example, and has required members of the public who wish to be heard during committee meetings to testify from a civic center a few blocks from the Capitol.
Templin pointed to a measure that would shut future state workers out of a traditional pension plan. The proposal moved through a Senate committee “very, very quickly, not a lot of discussion,” he said.
“That’s a new thing,” Templin said. “I don’t see how the change in process that we’ve all witnessed, I don’t know if that is reflective of conservatism or what. … But what we’re seeing right now, it’s just not the same deliberative process in what is often considered the upper chamber that we have seen for decades out of the Florida Senate.”
–Dara Kam, News Service of Florida
“Boot on the neck” & “Somali warlords” metaphors and the perils of moving very, very quickly. Kinda sorta reminds me of our New Democrat far left Administration with the self described dictator-like government by Executive order 40 of them is it? in the first month with no legislative deliberation at all.
Oh please, go back and count how many executive orders Trump did. I’ll wait. Count how much taxpayer money he wasted going golfing or to Mar-A-Lago. How much did he add to the deficit with his wasteful spending? While your at it, why don’t you find out how much money he made off of selling weapons to the Saudi’s as he turned a blind eye to their assassination of a reporter.
I laugh at you people that think Trump is some sort of demagogue. The man is a con artist. A criminal. A rapist. An insult to the office he held. He grifted thousands of people out of money to help him pay off his debts. What happened to the inauguration funds that went missing? Uh huh. His pocket.
I’m glad that kook-aid tastes good to you…I don’t believe in Biden’s message of unity. I didn’t vote for him. I voted against the rapist-in-chief. I think if you’re weak enough to follow a con artist, then buddy that’s all on you. Good luck out there, you clearly would follow Trump off a cliff if he said it was patriotic.
And President Trump signed 220 executive orders while in the white house. And your point is what? And did Trump pass a whole lot of laws while in office? Maybe u should look that up too. He did do a lot of golfing though. Six times during his first 30 days. Bet he was working while putting on the greens.
Judith A Redican says
And Trump did 220 Executive Orders without legislative deliberation at all. Your point is? During his first month he went golfing 6 times. And according to your definitions he was an autocrat/dictator on the far right. He spent more time insulting people personally instead of giving arguing about what the person said and the reasons why he thought they were wrong.
Sad Times says
Oh, come-on….stop being such a hypocrite! Trump issued 220 Executive Orders, with an average of about 55 per year.
I just wish Republicans would stop their lies….and check the data before they spout off!y
As Obama said, elections have consequences. Glad to be a Floridian.
While they are at it, we also need some common sense abortion reform, restrictions on hate speech directed at whites, prosecution for reverse discrimination, body cameras for teachers, school choice for our children, rescinding the $15 minimum wage, increased funding for police, permit-less concealed carry, and outsourcing more government functions to private companies. We also need to incarcerate illegal aliens for sufficient terms that they are discouraged from coming to Florida illegally, and don’t just keep coming back.
Trailer Bob says
Sounds about right…
@the bush family legacy
fluriduh – more like texass everyday. fluriduns is ‘muricans! Bless their lil hearts…
“America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves. To quote the American humorist Kin Hubbard, ‘It ain’t no disgrace to be poor, but it might as well be.’ It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. The meanest eating or drinking establishment, owned by a man who is himself poor, is very likely to have a sign on its wall asking this cruel question: ‘if you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?’ There will also be an American flag no larger than a child’s hand – glued to a lollipop stick and flying from the cash register.
Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue. Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say Napoleonic times. Many novelties have come from America. The most startling of these, a thing without precedent, is a mass of undignified poor. They do not love one another because they do not love themselves.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
“Thus did a handful of rapacious citizens come to control all that was worth controlling in America. Thus was the savage and stupid and entirely inappropriate and unnecessary and humorless American class system created. Honest, industrious, peaceful citizens were classed as bloodsuckers, if they asked to be paid a living wage. And they saw that praise was reserved henceforth for those who devised means of getting paid enormously for committing crimes against which no laws had been passed. Thus the American dream turned belly up, turned green, bobbed to the scummy surface of cupidity unlimited, filled with gas, went bang in the noonday sun.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
And so it goes.
Ray W. says
And the poor Austrian schoolteacher, Wittgenstein, argued that one of the most difficult things in life is to not fool ourselves.
As for Sigh… says, who laughs at those who think Trump is a demagogue, and then claims he was a con artist, criminal, rapist, insult to office and grifter, why can’t he be all those things and a demagogue, too?
1…..The GOP has become the GOP Q.
2….The great Republican Party is disappearing into the now Trumplican Party.
3….Trumplicans believe everything that the one man tells them. Sound familiar?
Michael Cocchiola says
And Florida takes another step into the right-wing quagmire where power grabs, culture wars, and voter suppression take precedence over real progress that helps all Floridians.
But the Democrats have captured all 3 branches of government and arguably even the Supremes have voted to support their power. Your examples apply to the Democrats from my point of view.
What power grab? Didn’t Floridians vote for their legislature
Isn’t the culture war global?
Voter suppression in Florida? That’s for a much longer debate some day MC.
Thank goodness I live in Florida.
… and not a moment too soon.
at least he did not sign the wicked equality act which will destroy
morality, at least he did not putin a trangender who wants
to change childrens gender the assistant health and human
secretary,what a sick perverted culture, abortion on demand
excuse me fools the excutive orders a bringing the wrath of
ALMIGHTY TO AMERICA.PSALM 10-7
Always said this was a great State to be in 6 months of the year.
Poor Florida is truely under a political siege and its sad they choose a place with the most gullable people that they can easily control by their emotions and idealogical hate. Poor poor florida, the first State to house traitors openly. Good luck!
Stephen J Smith says
Too many people vote for the party not the person running. Most have no idea as to what the person running stands for or even what the party stands for. This applies to both Democrats and Republicans. The problem being that the parties themselves no longer represent the people who voted for them but rather the party itself and their own personal power. It’s time to do away with political parties and have candidates who have to tell the voters who they are and what they stand for and let voters choose the two best to run for office in an open primary. Then they must be held accountable.