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The Failure of Term Limits in Florida$

Kathryn A. DePalo

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780813060484

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813060484.001.0001

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The Race for Leadership

The Race for Leadership

Chapter:
(p.93) 5 The Race for Leadership
Source:
The Failure of Term Limits in Florida
Author(s):

Kathryn A. DePalo

Publisher:
University Press of Florida
DOI:10.5744/florida/9780813060484.003.0006

Abstract and Keywords

Chapter five explores how term limits impacted the race for leadership for both Speaker of the House and the Senate Presidency. Members no longer have time to wait their turn as each incoming freshman class selects their own top leader. Members, particularly in the House, run for the Speakership before they have cast their first vote in office and in some cases before they are even elected to office. Races are concluding early but not without controversy—and some leadership selections members would prefer to take back. Legislative process knowledge is not the important criteria for leadership selection under term limits; the ability to fundraise and campaign for fellow party members is now the key criterion. Campaign committees as fundraising arms for leadership candidates have become instrumental in getting loyal legislators elected to office and securing enough votes for Speaker and Senate President.

Keywords:   leadership selection, Speaker, Senate President, campaign committees, term limits

I wouldn’t be surprised if I received the prenatal ultrasound for the putative House speaker in 2040.

Rep. Dan Gelber, on the leadership selection process under term limits

Term limits advocates believed the best way to eradicate political careerism was to decimate long-term internal careers within the Legislature. Proponents of term limits attacked members who were perceived to be more interested in their careers in the capitol than in serving the interests of the people. Because of seniority, long-standing members often succeeded to leadership positions that came with hefty power. These leaders, who held a vise grip on power, were targeted as symbols of corruption.1 Term limits proponents thought only dramatic change through the implementation of term limitations could alter the balance of power.

Despite term limits, internal careers within the Legislature are still possible, but ambitious members must necessarily climb the leadership ladder at a much faster pace and within a compressed time frame. In term limited states there certainly has been an increase in both leadership turnover and competition for these coveted positions.2 Newly elected legislators, especially those in the majority party, seek to influence the chamber immediately upon entering office and establish strong party stances at the outset as seniority rules wane in importance. Not only are members running for leadership positions at the start of their legislative careers, but the legislative experience these leaders bring to their offices under a term limited system is relatively thin. The effect of term limits on those who ascend to the highest positions in the Legislature, namely the speakership and the Senate presidency, are examined here.

(p.94) Leadership Tenure

Scholarly predictions assumed leadership turnover would be significantly higher under term limits. In some term limited states, leaders have the ability to serve for more than a two-year term, offsetting somewhat the idea that they are vastly underprepared to lead. This has not been functionally possible in Florida. The speakership in Florida traditionally rotates every two years. In fact, in the pre–term limits era, House speakers customarily served one two-year term and voluntarily retired from the Legislature thereafter.3 While speakers still serve in their final terms today, they have no choice but to exit the Legislature through the force of term limits.

In Florida, speakers have a maximum of six years of legislative experience before they assume the top position in the House. Some speakers may have a little over six years’ tenure if first elected during a special election (as was the case with Marco Rubio) and the possibility exists that

The Race for Leadership

Figure 5.1. Tenure of Senate presidents from 1980 to 2010.

Compiled from 1990–2012 editions of The Clerk’s Manual. Note: The tenure figure is calculated by years of Senate service held at the official election for president during organizational session.

(p.95)
The Race for Leadership

Figure 5.2. Tenure of Senate presidents from 1980 to 2010.

Compiled from 1990–2012 editions of The Clerk’s Manual. Note: The tenure figure is calculated by years of Senate service held at the official election for president during organizational session. After the 1992 elections, there was an even split in the Senate: 20 Republicans and 20 Democrats. The position of Senate president was shared, held by Ander Crenshaw (R) for the 1993 session and by Pat Thomas (D) for the 1994 session.

former legislators who have many more than six years of service behind them may come back to the House and serve as speaker. In other term limited states—Maine, Colorado, Ohio, and California—the average tenure of a speaker is actually less than six years. Because Florida has the tradition of two-year rotation, the Legislature is not as adversely affected as other term limited states in terms of leadership turnover and tenure.4

Figures 5.1 and 5.2 show the tenures of speakers of the House and of Senate presidents, respectively. Tenure is measured as the number of years of legislative service in that chamber prior to taking the leadership position. The tenure of Florida speakers as seen in figure 5.1 begins in 1978 with Hyatt Brown, who had only six years of experience in the House prior to assuming the speakership and is considered one of the most influential and successful speakers in modern Florida history.5 But all speakers (p.96) following Brown had more extensive experience in the House, averaging over ten years’ tenure, with Speaker Webster at sixteen years in office. After Webster, there was a precipitous drop in tenure when Republican John Thrasher assumed the speakership and was subsequently term limited out of the Legislature in the 2000 election. While it was not unprecedented for speakers to have served only six years prior to their tenures, it certainly has become the norm under term limits. Legislative tenure has flatlined since Speaker Byrd in 2002, and that will remain the case with term limits in place.

Figure 5.2 shows the tenures of Senate presidents beginning in 1980 with President Childers. The tenures of Senate presidents have varied widely. While there are the cases of Presidents Crawford and Crenshaw in the early 1990s having only six years of Senate experience, most have had ten or more years in the Senate before assuming the presidency. In the 1990s, there were three presidents with sixteen or more years of experience (Thomas, Scott, and Jennings—who served for a modern record of two full terms as Senate president), something that will likely not be replicated under term limits. Because senators in Florida can potentially serve a total of ten years due to redistricting and staggered terms, the maximum tenure of a Senate president under term limits is eight years. When McKay was installed as Senate president after the 2000 election, he had served ten years in the Senate before being officially term limited in 2002.

In 2002, when the second round of term limits took effect in the Senate, there began a dramatic decrease in chamber experience, exemplified by the short tenure of President Jim King. King was able to garner enough support for the Senate presidency partly because of term limits. King’s tenure in the House of just over thirteen years and his long-standing relationships with many former colleagues who became senators helped launch his successful bid for the Senate presidency after he had served for just over two and a half years. Just as in the House, those who occupied the Senate presidency prior to term limits had the ability to build up years of legislative experience, unlike those who become Senate presidents post–term limits. The effect of these truncated tenures is an important concern to former senator Tom Rossin: “The system of having the speaker and president change every two years was a system which made some sense when you had a lot of people in the House and Senate who had been there a long time and who were qualified to be able to take those jobs.… [It’s] a (p.97) very short period of time to run for the job that’s the second or third most powerful job in the state.”6

Race for Leadership

Perhaps the most profound change in term limited states is the rapid ascension to leadership positions. Before term limits, members had a decade or two of legislative experience before attempting runs for top leadership spots. In contrast, most now begin their campaigns for leadership during their freshman years. And these battles have become fierce and hotly contested affairs. The predictability and inevitability of senior members climbing to leadership is gone, replaced by what some have called virtual chaos in some states. California has experienced the most chaotic leadership turnover in any term limited lower chamber, with turnover in the speakership less than every two years during the first decade of term limits.7

The chaos of leadership selection that has plagued other term limited states has not manifested in Florida, where the traditions of rotation and advance selection existed long before term limits were even a consideration. Traditionally, the selection of the speaker was determined several years in advance as members garnered the necessary pledges. Votes would be officially cast and the selection ratified in some instances up to four years later. Since 1994 in the Senate and 1996 in the House, the selection of speaker and Senate president has largely been an internal Republican decision. This has continued to be the case under term limits, with Republicans holding substantial majorities in both chambers.8

What has changed is just how quickly new members begin their bids for the speakership. The selection process is now hotly contested by members of the freshman class and begins as early as day one of their legislative careers. According to Alan Greenblatt, the process of leadership selection has become “an almost manic habit of making premature decisions on the part of impatient members who know that the clock started ticking for them the day they were first sworn in.”9

When running for the speakership (or Senate presidency) in Florida, the candidate must get a coalition of signed member pledges and is officially declared the speaker-designate (or president-designate) once she or he accumulates a majority of votes in her or his caucus. While there have been historical examples of speakers chosen by the “old” Legislature, (p.98) candidates still receive pledges from those members just above (and sometimes below) them in terms of tenure.10 This has become a tenuous issue, where pledges come from members who will be term limited or resign early to run for other offices before the official vote is cast. Although speakers and Senate presidents are officially voted on and ratified as the next leader by their caucuses a year prior to their taking the leadership post, new members gear up from the day of their election, plotting a run for the speakership six years down the road:

The quest to grab the brass ring of the presiding officer in either house … now you can’t afford to wait twenty years.… You have to know before you conclude your eight years that you have that opportunity, so the debate begins before you’re even elected to the Legislature. And you will see today people who think they want to be the presiding officer four terms from now already saying, “I’m going to be speaker and I’m gathering pledges” and by the way: you haven’t been elected yet. How can you do that?

Peter Dunbar, former state representative and legislative lobbyist11

Table 5.1 shows the progression of speakership races and the timeline when the race was declared over in the media. This table begins with John Thrasher, the second Republican speaker after Daniel Webster. House Speaker John Thrasher’s race for the speakership was truncated because Republicans had won the majority of the House after the 1996 elections, having been an almost permanent minority with little hope of seizing the top leadership position. It is clear that once Republican majorities continued growing, coinciding with term limits taking effect in 2000, the duration between the moment the race for the speakership is declared essentially over and the moment the speakership is assumed has lengthened. Much of this depends upon the pool of potential candidates for the speakership and how contentious the race becomes. The trend since term limits came into effect has been to crown someone from the incoming freshman class to be speaker. Former House speaker T. K. Wetherell: “If you are an incoming freshman, you have one shot at it because they’ve already lined it up for the next six years. The only time you have is your last session that you potentially could even be speaker assuming the pecking order stays.”12

While designating leaders well in advance of their official elections to leadership is nothing new to Florida, it is evident that potential speakers (p.99)

Table 5.1. Conclusions of speakership races

Speaker (or designate)

Speakership race “called” by media

Legislative term

Years prior to assuming speakership

Thrasher 1998–2000

April 1997a

3rd term

Feeney 2000–2002

April 1997b

3rd term

Byrd 2002–2004

March 1999c

2nd term

Bense 2004–2006

September 2002d

2nd term

2

Rubio 2006–2008

November 2003e

2nd term

3

Sansom 2008–2009

February 2005f

2nd term

Cretul 2009–2010

January 30, 2009g

N/A

N/A

Cannon 2010–2012

July 2005h

1st term

Weatherford (2012–2014)

February 2007i

1st term

Dorworth1 (2014–2016)

February 2010j

1st term

Corcoran (2016–2018)

January 2011k

1st term

Source: Compiled by author.

Notes: 1. Chris Dorworth was defeated for reelection in November 2012.

(a.) Pendleton, “Thrasher in Line for Top House Job,” Florida Times-Union, 27 April 1997, city edition.

(b.) Griffin, “Feeney in Line to Be Speaker,” Orlando Sentinel, 27 April 1997, metro edition.

(c.) Capitol Bureau, “Fall Arrival Being Fitted for 2002 House Leadership Robes,” Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 28 March 1999, Sarasota edition.

(d.) Bridges, “Rep. Cantens Halts Campaign to Become House Speaker,” Miami Herald, 12 September 2002, final edition.

(e.) Dunkelberger and Fineout, “Lawmaker Quits Speakers Race, Calls it a ‘Wake-up Call,’” Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 14 November 2003, Venice edition.

(f.) Gomez, “Domino Won’t Be Speaker in 2009,” Palm Beach Post, 9 February 2005, final edition.

(g.) Leary and Caputo, “Amid Criminal Probe, Florida House Speaker Quits Duties—For Now,” Miami Herald, 30 January 2009.

(h.) Kennedy, “House GOP Plans Ahead for 2011 Speaker,” Orlando Sentinel, 26 July 2005, final edition.

(i.) Follick, “Weatherford Looks to Become Speaker,” Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 8 February 2007, Manatee edition.

(j.) Frank and Caputo, “His Finances Are a Mess, but He’s Set to Lead State House,” St Petersburg Times, 24 February 2010, South Pinellas edition.

(k.) Caputo, “Corcoran Tapped as Speaker of the House in 2017–18,” St Petersburg Times, 26 January 2011, State/Suncoast edition.

(p.100) are establishing their runs for the speakership at the starting gate. Term limits have pushed the run for speaker farther and farther ahead of the game, and the race has become even more tenuous, with members running for speaker before they have even cast their first vote. Since Dean Cannon assumed the speakership in 2010, speaker-designates are waging their campaigns in their first terms of office and wrapping up the race as their legislative careers are just beginning.

Lobbyist Ron Book, speaking in 2005 in reference to Dean Cannon being declared speaker-designate-designate-designate, said, “Never before, never before.… Bense is current speaker, Rubio is speaker-designate, Sansom is speaker-designate behind him, and Dean Cannon is speaker-designate behind him. You have the next seven years planned out of eight-year term limits. I cannot believe we have not finished the first full year of these guys and gals being in office and they’ve already selected the speaker out of that class.”13

We’ve seen each year since term limits the time frame move up faster and faster for that freshmen class to elect a speaker from their class. This last one broke all records. I mean we are just in awe these guys still don’t even really know, in our opinion, what these guys are made of. Are they really speaker quality, have you seen them in some tough tested issues, and have they handled it right, have they treated people fairly, have they made the best statesmanlike decisions for the state? Who are the people around them that are probably going to be their top lieutenants that are also going to play a major role in how that house is governed?

Curt Kiser, former House minority leader and legislative lobbyist14

Former House speaker John Thrasher agreed: “They’re starting to run for speaker now before they even cast their first vote. At least I had cast some votes. I had hopefully demonstrated a little bit of leadership on the floor, in committees, and had something to evaluate. Whereas some of these folks now coming in say, ‘Hey I want your pledge for speaker for eight years, for six years from now.’”15

Will Weatherford was essentially selected speaker-designate before his name ever appeared on a ballot. In 2006, he was appointed to the House when the incumbent resigned just weeks before the election to accept an appointive position. Florida law allows the party to then name a replacement, and Weatherford “won” the seat. While he was not officially (p.101) crowned until the end of his first legislative session only a few months later, the prevailing view was that he had secured the speakership much earlier.16

The Florida House of Representatives during the 2006 elections had elected their speaker before he had even been elected to the Florida Legislature.… By great fortune I happen to think that Weatherford will be the best speaker they will have had in a long time.… But that was an accident. They are electing speakers either before they’re elected or certainly in their first year. You haven’t seen how these people are going to perform. How can you elect a speaker that has never served in the Legislature?

Steve Geller, former Senate minority leader17

Former representative Anne Gannon put it this way: “He has never filed a bill, he has never debated, he has never been on the Appropriations Committee, he has never been on a committee. He doesn’t understand how the budget works and we’re going to elect him speaker in eight years?”18

But in the era of term limits, those who want to rise to leadership positions do not have the luxury of waiting. Weatherford’s reason for running included the benefits to his district:

I felt I could bring a benefit to both my state and my district, and what better way could I serve my district or serve my state than if I’m in a leadership role, in the room where the decisions are being made. If you’re not in the room and you just want to be the guy that’s punching the button “yes” or “no,” that’s great. You can help people by doing that, but if you really want to be engaged in the decision-making process at a high level, you have to be in the room.19

House member Richard Corcoran’s “winning” the speakership only two months into his tenure (not even having served during a full legislative session) surpassed Will Weatherford’s record by just one month and Dean Cannon’s record of eight months in office. Neither Weatherford nor Corcoran were political novices, however. They each had experience as staff members, both having worked for speakers of the House, Bense and Rubio, respectively.20

Selecting leaders so early into their legislative tenure presents a real possibility for making poor leadership choices when little is known about a potential leader’s qualities. Some pointed to the example of Speaker (p.102) Johnnie Byrd (2003–2004). Former House minority leader Lois Frankel: “Because of term limitations, there was a very, very limited group of people who would then be in a position to be speaker. It used to be very competitive, and you would have a wide group, and that particular year you had a very small group.… It was slim pickings, and this guy turned out to be a disaster.”21 Legislative lobbyist Ron Book: “Johnnie Byrd became speaker-designate of the House after he was there four years. He had never served on the Appropriations Committee. He didn’t have an understanding of the inner workings of the body. It’s a direct result of term limits. He became speaker and it was a disaster.”22

There are some concerns of having term limits and I don’t mind saying that one of them was … the example of Speaker Johnnie Byrd, where he had very little opposition to become speaker; in fact, no opposition, and he was one of only four or five people in his class.… Six years some people would argue is not enough time to get enough experience and education and all that is needed to be speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.

Mike Fasano, former House majority leader23

Some of what hindered Speaker Byrd’s effectiveness in office was the fact that he was running for the U.S. Senate during his tenure as speaker, something also directly affected by term limits and the need to pursue other elective offices. Former House speaker John Thrasher: “Speaker Byrd … I think complicated his time as speaker because he was running for higher office and made it known early on. I think that was a difficult thing and made it a difficult time for him and made it a little harder to manage, if you will, the process, particularly as it related to the Senate and the relationships there.”24

The case of Speaker Ray Sansom and the debacle that immediately followed his induction as House speaker are a testament to how quickly things can change. Sansom removed himself from the speakership in January 2009 amid a growing scandal involving alleged misuse of public office. Sansom was accused of diverting funds to Northwest Florida State College in his home district with the reward of a cushy six-figure job. In an unprecedented move for a sitting House speaker, he recused himself from his leadership duties. Sansom’s successor, Larry Cretul, was permanently placed into the position three days later. All corruption charges (p.103) against Sansom were ultimately dropped in 2011, but the damage had already been done.25

In 2008, the race for the 2014 speakership began before members were even elected. Eventually, Chris Dorworth was selected for the position in February 2010, just under a year and a half after his taking office. Many had been expressing reservations with Rep. Dorworth facing personal financial difficulties and foreclosure proceedings. He ultimately lost reelection (and the chance at the speakership) in November 2012 and was replaced by Steve Crisafulli as speaker-designate for the 2014 term.26 If Dorworth had continued to win reelection, his ascent to the speaker-ship would likely have been inevitable. It is very difficult to challenge a speaker-designate once he or she has been brought into the fold:

What happens is if you [become speaker-]designate, then you get brought into the leadership—who dare challenge the leadership? Somebody comes along and challenges and it’s like the old cliché: if you’re going to shoot them, you better shoot to kill them because they are going to live to come back and bite you. You better be prepared to take the guy or the gal out with one shot … because if you don’t, and you challenge a leader, your office will be in the parking garage and you’ll be lucky if you get bathroom privileges.

Ron Book, legislative lobbyist27

Those members who find themselves on the losing side of a leadership battle no longer have the ability to wait it out until their group has the chance to grab power. According to former House speaker Dan Webster, “If you’ve sided with the wrong people, you’re in the doghouse or in the mid-tier, you are more likely to get attracted to an open county commission seat.” A clear example was Rep. Gaston Cantens, who faced a heated battle for speaker that he ultimately lost to Allan Bense. Instead of completing his eight years, how bowed out of public life in the Legislature and turned to lobbying.28

The race for leadership has also changed in the Senate. Pre–term limits, the Senate norm was to wait until closer to the Senate president-designate’s term to begin before selecting the next leader. According to former Senate president Jim King, “The House has chosen their presiding officers for the next ten years, so leadership is preordained. The rank-and-file have to adjust and work with those people who will be their bosses. In the (p.104) Senate, this is less likely. Senators are independent in thought.” Former senator Dennis Jones added, “We usually look two years ahead of time because you have to have a designate. But after that it’s pretty much an open field.… We still have two or three people who are pretty much in the running for the next spot and although names surface, it takes so little that could happen to change that.… So you don’t have quite the leadership certainty in the Senate that you do in the House.” However, that tradition has perhaps more profoundly changed under term limits. Legislative lobbyist Ron Book: “The Senate has almost always traditionally waited until the last six months to a year to elect their next presiding officer.… They prided themselves in not doing those silly things that the House did.”29

Table 5.2 shows the conclusions of Senate president races, beginning with Jim Scott, the first president with a Republican majority in the Senate. Scott’s race for the Senate presidency was truncated because Republicans had evenly split 20–20 with the Democrats after the 1992 elections and won the majority of the Senate after the 1994 elections. His successor, Toni Jennings, served two full terms as Senate president, something unprecedented in modern Florida history.30 While previously no races were called earlier than a year before the confirmation of the Senate president, that has also slowly changed in the Senate, echoing the contest for the speakership in the House. Both Pruitt and Gaetz wrapped up their races four years before assuming the presidency. But other races have been longer, more drawn-out affairs.

In the fall of 2001, a three-way race for the Senate presidency was deadlocked. Senate Republicans totaled twenty-five members and Senators King, Lee, and Webster each had eight votes apiece while Senate President McKay abstained. Lee’s concern was that four of his pledges came from term limited senators who would be leaving the following year. Webster was approached to cut a deal with King but refused. The race was further complicated by the fact that King had unsuccessfully run against Webster for House speaker in 1996, when Republicans took over the majority in the House. Webster believed he could get the pledges he needed after the 2002 elections, counting on former House members (if they were elected to the Senate) to vote for him. Further, Webster’s role as redistricting chair tasked him with redrawing new Senate districts, putting him in a powerful position. Because Lee had never served in the House, some supporters thought he could best preserve Senate traditions. These (p.105)

Table 5.2. Conclusions of Senate president races

Senate president (or designate)

Senate president race “called” by media

Legislative year (senators are elected to four-year terms)

Years prior to assuming media the Senate presidency

Scott 1994–1996

May 1993a

17th term

Jennings 1996–2000

April 1995b

10th term

McKay 2000–2002

May 1999c

8th term

King 2002–2004

December 2001d

2½ term

1

Lee 2004–2006

December 2001e

6th term

Pruitt 2006–2008

August 2002f

2nd term

4

Atwater 2008–2010

February 2006g

4th term

Haridopolos 2010–2012

June 2009h

6th term

Gaetz (2012–2014)

March 2008i

2nd term

4

Source: Compiled by author.

Notes:

(a.) Branch, “Broward Lawmaker Emerges as GOP Senate Pick,” Miami Herald, 28 May 1993, final edition.

(b.) Kleindienst, “Senate Democrats Pick Wexler as Leader,” Sun-Sentinel, 12 April 1995, final edition.

(c.) Wallace, “Republicans Pick McKay for Senate President,” Bradenton Herald, 1 May 1999, final edition.

(d.) Saunders, “King in Line for Senate Throne: Republicans Vote to End Controversy,” Florida Times-Union, 8 December 2001, city edition.

(e.) Ibid.

(f.) Peltier, “Pruitt Running Hard for Senate President in 2006,” Vero Beach Press Journal, 26 August 2002, Indian River County edition.

(g.) Kleindienst and Kennedy, “Atwater Claims Enough Votes to be Senate Chief,” Sun-Sentinel, 10 February 2006, Broward metro edition.

(h.) Deslatte, “Way is Clear for Haridopolos to Lead Senate,” Orlando Sentinel, 27 June 2009, final edition.

(i.) Colavecchio-Van Sickler, “Eager to Lead, He’s Rising Fast,” St. Petersburg Times, 31 March 2008, South Pinellas edition.

traditions included assisting candidates in getting elected to office and the all-important job of fundraising.31

Gov. Bush entered the fray when he made his preference for the conservative Webster known. In addition, a small possibility existed that Democrats could have been included in the process and could have helped decide the next Senate president. By December of 2001, Webster (p.106) was now in the lead with nine votes and remained adamant that he opposed any deal-making. But by that point, King and Lee had been colluding and eventually cut a deal on December 8 giving King the presidency in 2002 with the promise that Lee would be his successor. Webster officially dropped out of the race later that month, calling on Republicans to come together.32

Even though the race seemed wrapped up in favor of King, two weeks previous to Webster bowing out of the contest, the arrangement presented a constitutional question. Since Lee was elected in 1996, under “Eight is Enough” he could only serve a total of eight years. That would make him ineligible for the presidency in 2004. But because of the nature of the Senate’s staggered terms, he was elected to a term of only two years in 2000. He argued that he would be able to run for another four-year term in 2002 because through the process of redistricting, a change in district number could circumvent that problem. Many, including Webster, who was tasked with redrawing these districts, thought the plan was an end run around the rules and the spirit of the term limits law: “You can’t just arbitrarily give somebody another district number and say that gives them the right to circumvent the state constitution.”33

Even though he had conceded, Sen. Webster was not officially out of contention until after the 2002 legislative session, when the team led by King and Lee successfully won a redistricting battle that all but ensured Lee’s ascension to the Senate presidency. The Senate changed the scheme of numbered districts, which actually benefited over half of the senators by extending their time in the Senate. While King is somewhat of an exception with his run for the Senate presidency with only two and a half years in the Senate (he was first elected in 1999 during a special election), one future leader, Ken Pruitt, concluded his run for leadership four years before assuming the Senate presidency, in only his second year in the Senate. This was due largely to his alliance with Senate President King and Senate President-designate Lee to once again muscle out Sen. Dan Webster for the presidency.34 Like King, Pruitt spent ten years in the House before entering the Senate.

The race for the Senate presidency has, so far, proven to be more contentious than that for the House speakership, post–term limits. The most glaring example is the coup undertaken by forces opposed to Sen. Alex Villalobos in 2006. Villalobos was declared the winner of the 2008 Senate presidency race in November 2004 and was to be the first (p.107) Cuban-American to be selected as Senate president. Infighting within the Miami-Dade delegation between Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla and Villalobos caused Villalobos’s ouster. Republicans were upset that Villalobos killed Gov. Jeb Bush’s class size amendment proposal the year before. Others pointed to the moderateness of his politics compared to those of the more conservative Republicans in the Senate as well as his refusal to raise money and aggressively campaign for fellow Republican senators. “It’s whether you want a boss who you think is going to work for you or someone who you think doesn’t give a hoot about you,” one anonymous senator said at the time. The biggest complaint about Villalobos was that he was uncommitted to pushing major Bush initiatives during the governor’s final legislative session. The attempt to overthrow Villalobos failed initially but was successful just a day later—only weeks before the legislative session. Seven senators who had been formally pledged to Villalobos asked for their cards back and instead backed Jeff Atwater. Atwater had been approached the year before to challenge Villalobos but had declined. At the time, Atwater told Villalobos to address the discontent within the Republican Caucus, but Villalobos denied he was a weak fundraiser and ultimately did not supply help to senators and their legislative priorities.35

The main architect of the coup, fellow Miami-Dade senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla, said, “Leadership is not something that is given. It is something that is earned.” Sen. Michael Bennett was also actively involved in the overthrow, and it was no secret that he wanted to become president after Atwater, in 2010, possibly cutting a legacy deal as King and Lee and ultimately Pruitt had done in earlier races. But it was the involvement of Senate President-designate Pruitt in deposing Villalobos that made the situation more contentious. Some suggested Pruitt really wanted four years of power: the two years he would officially serve and the two years out of the presidency but still as a member of the Senate body before term limits would force him out.36

This rift in the Republican Caucus damaged Pruitt’s legislative priorities and ultimately Gov. Bush’s last-ditch effort to enact his policy priorities as governor. Before the legislative session began, President Lee organized a “family meeting” of Republican Senate Caucus members behind closed doors to try to get the team on the same page. This—and most of Gov. Bush’s main priorities, such as a proposed constitutional amendment to kill smaller class sizes and save the school voucher system—failed, leading to Villalobos’s forced resignation from his position as majority leader. (p.108) Further, Gov. Bush backed Villalobos’s primary opponent in his reelection bid. Villalobos did win reelection in 2006, but his leadership chances had disappeared. “Sometimes in this process you have to weigh the benefits to your district in the short term with the long-term benefits. There is no better long-term benefit than being Senate president,” stated one anonymous Republican senator who supported Villalobos.37 Those who remained loyal to Villalobos did not mince words regarding the coup. Sen. Nancy Argenziano: “I’ve learned in the last few days there are people up here who have no honor.… People have lied. They have done this in a back-stabbing, conniving way. It’s good against evil.”38

These senators have all largely come from the House, where contentious speakership races had been the norm. With House members migrating to the Senate in ever-increasing numbers, the process of selecting Senate presidents has created a much longer race and caused members to pursue leadership positions earlier in their Senate careers. The race for the Senate presidency has become more volatile as members run earlier and receive pledges from members who are term limited before the final vote is taken. And these races have become more ideological, exploiting factions within the Republican Party, where in the Senate a few member defections can cost the presidency.

Qualifications/Fundraising Importance

As witnessed with the overthrow of Villalobos as Senate president-designate, fundraising and campaigning have become crucial responsibilities for future legislative leaders in Florida. The trend in more professional legislatures has been the selection of leaders who emphasize campaigning for the caucus. This has become exaggerated under term limits. The path to leadership is now based on fundraising ability coupled with an advanced selection process. Not only in Florida but in other term limited states, legislative leaders and leaders-to-be spend more time campaigning and fundraising. It has become the primary if not only criterion for leadership selection in term limited states. Coalitions are forged by what these would-be leaders can do for the membership, most importantly in raising money. Because term limits increase the number of open seats, leaders need to actively recruit candidates and assist them in their election efforts. Speakers are now more heavily involved in selecting and promoting their chosen candidates in open seats, and lobbyists often look to the incoming (p.109) speaker to guide them in choosing whom to support. Lobbyists heavily involve themselves in leadership races by filling candidate coffers because the House speaker and Senate president are the central point persons for legislative concerns.39

Ideology, personality, and fundraising prowess have been key not only to winning leadership races and getting members elected who will pledge their loyalty but also to keeping one’s intended leadership position.40 Especially with party leaders known so far in advance in Florida, most power comes from their ability to raise money, recruit quality candidates, and assist in legislative races. The pool of candidates to become speaker and the paths to leadership positions are determined by the voices of the party loyalists who can raise money and fight for core principles of the party. With a limited amount of time in office, individual members take much stronger policy stances and grandstand to move up in the party leadership hierarchy, gain media attention, and satisfy constituents.

With the increased role of leadership in caucus elections, the power and influence of the leadership has actually increased under term limits. Leaders are spending much more time fundraising than they have in the past and take on this role much earlier in their careers. Newly elected legislators in a post–term limits era owe their political livelihood to the party leaders who provided resources and financial support.41

Rather than learning the process of lawmaking, new members who aspire to leadership positions spend time campaigning and looking after their political careers instead of the lawmaking process. Former Senate president Scott thought this change was not beneficial: “Instead of concentrating on public policy, you spend time running for leadership. It’s a bad idea.” But this can change when leaders are selected in advance. Former speaker Allan Bense characterized his experience this way: “My first four years I focused a lot of my attention on how I could help people and become speaker. In my last four years I learned about public policy.” Where demonstrated policy expertise and consensus building had been prerequisites for ascension to leadership, political gamesmanship now outweighs other considerations. Committee chairmanships are no longer a prerequisite. The path to leadership is not about building a reputation for hard work in committees but rather about efforts made to advance the party and its agenda. Former Senate president Gwen Margolis added, “What happens is when you arrive in the House you’re already running for speaker. You want to be the spokesman for the class and you want to (p.110) organize them. The person who gets very active in the organizational part of it and the party part of it is the one that usually ends up speaker.”42

Some want to go with someone philosophically because they are aligned; they believe the same things that I believe. You know with people it’s a regional thing. They want to support the guy from the Tampa Bay region and they want to be a part of that. For other people it can be because you were really helpful to them, helping them get their legislation passed, helping them win their elections back home.… I just firmly believe most people find a leader they can work with, that they can believe in, and that they want to be their go-to guy in the future, and hopefully that’s why I got picked from my class.

Will Weatherford, then speaker-designate43

Further, fundraising committees have been established to assist those running for leadership positions. Former House speaker John Thrasher: “You’re going to have to travel the state, you’re going to have to support candidates from various parts of the state. You’re going to have to raise money, which I think has gotten out of hand, but be that as it may, it’s part of the job.”44

These committees were not necessarily new phenomena. The use of so-called leadership funds came under attack after a rancorous speaker’s race in 1988 in which Rep. Tom Gustafson, who ultimately won the speakership, used leadership funds to raise a record $1.6 million to help his supporters get elected to office and ensure his speakership candidacy. Leadership funds were not subject to state limitations and gave the appearance that votes were being sold. Lobbyists filled the coffers of these leadership candidates for fear their preferred legislation would be killed if they did not contribute. Leadership funds were specifically banned the following year in 1989, but Florida law did allow those running for legislative leadership positions to create PACs (political action committees) that were subject to contribution limits and provided for full disclosure of the donor list.45

Fast forward ten years later to 1999, one year before term limits ousted a substantial number of legislators. Rep. Johnnie Byrd, who was seeking the speakership in 2002, created a CCE (committee of continuous existence) to gather unlimited contributions and spend the money traveling the state to help get other Republicans elected and ensure himself the (p.111) speakership. Byrd explained the creation of his committee this way: “The driving force behind the Committee for Responsible Government was the fact that there would be huge turnover.… It’s a way to really get serious about making sure responsible leaders get elected.” This loophole in Florida election law allowed Byrd to contribute to a candidate’s campaign not only from his own reelection campaign but also from his committee. Previous to this, CCEs were mostly used by large companies and interest groups. There was no limit to the amount contributed to the committee from any one entity, but there was a $500 limit from the committee to a candidate’s campaign. And as long as the committee gathered 25 percent of its funds from “dues-paying” members, it did not need to disclose the donor list.46

Rep. Tom Feeney, who became speaker in 2000, created a CCE at the same time as Byrd. Rep. J. D. Alexander, who failed in his bid for the 2004 speakership, had created three different committees by 2000 that were very powerful tools to assist Republican candidates who were loyal to him with their elections. Democrats also had their own committees to assist in getting their candidates elected and to try to win back the majority—and though not successful, the purpose of these committees was to help land them these coveted leadership positions.47

Because these committees were restricted in the amount of money they could donate directly to a campaign, these committees were actually used to fund travel and not always for direct contributions to candidates’ campaigns. Ben Wilcox, the executive director of Common Cause of Florida at the time, described the creation and use of these committees as “a way of getting rid of the prohibition on leadership funds. It’s almost like a little slush fund.” Florida election law was vague on how these funds could be spent: “for the purpose of influencing the results of an election” along with contributing to other “candidates, committees, or political parties.” Lobbyist Ron Book quipped, “The Legislature supposedly abolished leadership funds years ago. Leadership funds are alive and well. Leadership funds are not only alive and well but it’s a major part of what we [as lobbyists] do in any campaign cycle.”48

Byrd clearly believed his “fundraising prowess” contributed to his rise to leadership. To his credit, Byrd also disclosed his donor list in a gesture toward transparency. But others who were mastering the art of CCE fundraising and its usefulness were not so forthcoming. Sen. Ken Pruitt, who established a committee for himself called Floridians for a Better Future, (p.112) was roundly criticized in 2003 for keeping his donor list secret; his committee had amassed over $600,000 in two years. The stated purpose of his committee was to help elect legislators who would protect education funding, but he clearly separated this committee from his Bright Futures Foundation, established to raise awareness regarding education funding opportunities and scholarships, calling the former “purely political.”49

Pruitt was not alone in the creation of these CCEs for the purpose of campaigning for leadership posts. In fact, by 2003, all those running for leadership positions for office as far out as 2010 had CCEs and in some cases questionable expenses, including travel, food, lodging, and even dry cleaning bills in the case of Rep. Randy Johnson in his failed bid for the speakership. Sen. Lee—a stalwart of openness and later as Senate president responsible for many reforms, including lobbyist gift bans—created a 527 committee that was not required to report its contributions to the state elections department, only to the IRS as a tax-exempt organization. To Sen. Lee’s credit, he did create a website that disclosed donors and how much they contributed.50

By 2004, committees to assist in winning speakership or Senate president races were a must. Sen. Lee Constantine: “If you’re going to run for a leadership position, the rules have changed. To win or be a player in this thing, … you have to be in the game as everybody else is.” But the anonymous donations to future leaders from interested parties hoping for significant influence tainted the process. During the 2004 organizational session held right after the elections, both the House and Senate adopted new campaign finance rules that prohibited committees affiliated with a lawmaker from raising money during regular and special sessions and provided for disclosure of contributors and expenses.51

The process hit a new low in 2006 when Rep. Paige Kreegel filed a defamation lawsuit against powerful entities in the state, including the Florida Homebuilders Association and political consultant Randy Nielson, who had close ties to Sen. Ken Pruitt, the incoming Senate president. Kreegel alleged that campaign mailers intent on destroying him personally were the result of his opposition to the Florida Homebuilders’ preferred speaker candidate for 2008—then more than two years before the speaker would take office. The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed in 2008, but the damage had been done during the initial filing and through the subpoena of Sen. Ken Pruitt.52

By 2006, one-third of House and Senate members had ties to CCEs, (p.113) including those not running for the top leadership positions but instead seeking top committee leadership posts. Senate President Tom Lee proposed banning legislators from raising money through these committees, but that ultimately failed during the regular legislative session. In 2008, leaders-in-waiting began to join forces and create their own joint CCEs. Speaker-designate Ray Sansom established Leadership for Florida’s Future in October 2008, a month before he assumed the speakership, and included both Dean Cannon and Will Weatherford, the two in line for succession as Florida speaker, on the committee. This move ensured that Cannon and Weatherford would become an integral part of top leadership and provided them with the resources to guarantee their leadership election victory. Even more striking, Dean Cannon had only token opposition for reelection, so this committee served the purpose of his speaker-ship bid and, in his words, “to help like-minded House candidates when and where they need it.” But it was Sen. Jeff Atwater who won the fund-raising battle that year, with over $800,000 raised through his committee. Democrats had also joined the fray, even those who once condemned these committees.53

Yet another type of committee became important in the 2010 and 2012 elections. Back in 2004, the Legislature passed a law governing ECOs (elections communications organizations) that existed for the purpose of “electioneering communications,” providing for full disclosure of all donors and expenses. These were used mostly by interest groups to come just short of overtly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate, and often these shadowy groups operated in the dark. In May 2009, a federal judge threw out the law as unconstitutional and that was when legislative leaders jumped on the ECO bandwagon. Further, in 2010, more than twenty years after leadership funds were banned in Florida, House and Senate leadership attempted to bring them back. A particularly nasty scandal involving the Republican Party chair, Jim Greer, convinced legislative leaders that they did not completely trust the political parties in how they spent money. And in light of a federal judge tossing out reporting requirements for ECOs, the time was ripe, they believed, to revive leadership funds. The bill, passed by the House and Senate, increased the contribution limit to $50,000 (instead of the current $500 maximum limit) and provided more transparency about who was giving donations. Legislative leaders were ultimately thwarted by Gov. Crist, who vetoed the bill claiming leadership funds should remain a thing of the past.54

(p.114) In 2010, a majority of CCEs were controlled by Republicans and many others were affiliated with various ECOs, accounting for well over $2.6 million. Incoming Senate president Haridopolos’s ECO was the third-largest independent spender in Florida behind the Republican gubernatorial candidates, Rick Scott and Bill McCollum.55

Table 5.3 lists the fundraising committees associated with former and future speakers and Senate presidents. Ray Sansom and Chris Dorworth are included in this list even though other circumstances prevented them from fulfilling their roles as speaker and speaker-designate. Other committees existed that involve these designees and leaders behind the scenes but are not so easily found. Further, this list includes only those who won their respective leadership races. Many more existed in connection with those who attempted runs but ultimately failed in their quests for leadership. The amount of money raised reached over $1 million for many of these committees and over $2 million for Speaker-designate Weather-ford’s Committee for a Conservative House. Multiple committees that are directly traceable to these leaders had become the norm. What is clear is that a lot of money is used behind the scenes to make runs for leadership and to get loyal candidates elected who will, in turn, ensure their leadership positions. These committees had become personal political funds to pay for their personal expenses.56 Some members found these committees necessary:

If you’re running for speaker or you’re running for president of the Senate, you probably should have a [committee], because you’re going to have a lot of travel involved. You’re going to have a lot of things you’re going to need to spend some money on, dinners you need to go to. You’re out there trying to get votes to lock down your speakership or your presidency. Certainly they have to have expendable funds they have control over.

Dennis Jones, former Senate majority leader57

Others find the qualifications process based on fundraising prowess a negative phenomenon that is more pronounced under term limits:

Speaker races are absurd at this point. Guys who are running for the House for the first time are also running for speaker simultaneously. So you’re putting into speaker and leadership positions people who have absolutely no track record in the Legislature. You know (p.115)

Table 5.3. Leadership fundraising committees

Committee name (type)

Years in existence

Total raised ($)

SPEAKER OR SPEAKER-DESIGNATE

Tom Feeney

Committee for Principled Leadership (CCE)

1999–2002

95,338

Johnnie Byrd

Committee for Responsible Government (CCE)

1999–2005

401,109

Allan Bense

Florida Committee for Conservative Leadership (CCE)

2000–2004

493,885

Marco Rubio

Floridians for Conservative Leadership Committee (CCE)

2003–2004

228,350

Ray Sansom

Leadership for Florida’s Future (CCE)

2008–2009

378,250

Dean Cannon

Florida Liberty Fund (CCE)

2009–2011

2,981,000

Florida Freedom Council (CCE)

2011–2012

1,132,500

Will Weatherford

Committee for a Conservative House (CCE)

2011–2012

2,010,850

Citizens for Conservative Leadership (ECO)

2012

155,000

Chris Dorworth

Citizens for an Enterprising Democracy (CCE)

2009–2012

1,117,868

Richard Corcoran

Florida First (ECO)

2010–2012

1,236,094

Conservatives United (ECO)

2012

266,760

SENATE PRESIDENT OR PRESIDENT-DESIGNATE

Jim King

Committee for Keeping Integrity in Government (CCE)

2001–2005

46,429

Floridians for a More Informed Electorate (CCE)

2001–2005

195,035

Tom Lee

Floridians Uniting for a Stronger Tomorrow (527)

2003–2008

1,144,534

Ken Pruitt

Floridians for a Brighter Future (CCE)

2001–2006

803,491

Jeff Atwater

The Spirit of Florida (CCE)

2003–2004

57,157

Preserve the American Dream(CCE)

2007–2010

1,111,504

Mike Haridopolos

Freedom First Committee (ECO)

2008–2009

434,750

Committee for Florida’s Fiscal Future (CCE)

2007–2010

620,211

Don Gaetz

Florida Leadership Alliance (CCE)

2009–2012

403,700

Source: Florida Secretary of State, Division of Elections. Data on Tom Lee’s committee obtained from www.opensecrets.org. Data current as of December 2012.

(p.116) (p.117) nothing about them other than they are raising money early, which is crazy and bad and I think weakens the system tremendously, and that’s one of the worst byproducts.

Dan Gelber, then House minority leader58

As of the 2013 legislative session, CCEs were banned, but leaders and potential leaders can still have other types of political committees that combine the purposes of raising money for travel expenses (under CCEs) and of buying ads (under ECOs), which may make the process of raising money even more important.59

Training

I think in terms of leadership, term limits has probably had its greatest effect because for the regular rank-and-file there was always that turnover anyway, but you have a few people who usually make the key decisions in the legislative body. And you want them to be experienced and you want them to be your best and your brightest.

Lois Frankel, former House minority leader60

While fundraising and campaigning skills have increased in importance, qualifications in terms of legislative experience have waned in the leadership selection process under term limits. Pre-leadership experience in term limited states is generally lower than in non–term limited states. While some leaders in other states have been able to serve in leadership for more than two-year terms, adding to the stability of their chambers, this is not really possible, especially in the Florida House. Leaders in the Florida Legislature have historically been strong, and in order to keep that post powerful, younger, more inexperienced members are given vital leadership positions to groom them for the speakership.61

Democrats … understood that in order to get to be speaker there was a step-by-step approach in a long ladder. You had to establish some credentials or expertise in specific matters. So for example, if you chose education as an area to specialize in, you had to establish over a period of two or four or often six years that you were credible and capable of understanding the complicated nuances of legislation. And then you had to move up and show that you could chair a subcommittee or an important committee and then eventually, in (p.118) order to be speaker, you typically had to serve some time, eight or ten or twelve years into your service as either Appropriations chairman or Rules chairman or both.… What is happening nowadays is people are running for speaker before they develop any particular expertise at all.

Tom Feeney, former House speaker62

Peter Dunbar added, “Instead of learning the process by working hard in your committee, learning how to chair your committee, understanding how the rules work, helping your colleagues on the House floor move their issues, … negotiating points of compromise, you end up coming up right underneath the preceding leaders and let them mentor you along.” Tom Rossin added, “When Harry Johnston became president of the Senate [in 1985], he had been chairman of every single committee in the Senate before he became president in the Senate. Obviously you can’t do that today.”63

Pre–term limits, the speaker-designate and Senate president-designate took on the role of majority leader (or even Redistricting chair) prior to assuming their leadership roles, but most had years of experience as chairs of committees before these political party caucus leadership roles. Previous to 1997, when Democrats controlled the House, most of the speakers had chaired the Appropriations Committee and then the Rules Committee before assuming the speakership.64 Since term limits took effect in 2000, the most experience speakers have is chairing the Rules Committee (a.k.a. the Procedural Committee) or the Redistricting Committee, politically charged entities. Gaining experience by chairing other committees, including Appropriations, has not been possible under term limits. Speakers often select key allies from their class to become the chair of Appropriations and other policy committees. While the first term is pretty much a wash for any substantive leadership position, most designees are brought in as part of the leadership team and given important and powerful positions to gear up for the top job. The difference is not as stark with the Senate because many members have legislative experience coming from the House, but likely none will ever achieve what Sen. Jim Scott had achieved in his legislative career before becoming Senate president: minority leader and experience as chair of both Appropriations and Rules.

(p.119) Additionally, the way upcoming legislative leaders are oriented has also changed since Republicans took over the majority of the Legislature, particularly in the House, because of the ever-more-advance selection of speaker-designates. While Democratic races for the speakership had been multi-year races built on coalitions with factions in the Democratic Party, the race for Republican leadership had not started out that way. Former House speaker Tom Feeney: “That sort of factional deal-making is not nearly as important in the House today and it certainly hasn’t happened over time. I mean Webster/Thrasher didn’t run as a team. Thrasher/Feeney didn’t run as a team. Feeney/Byrd didn’t run as a team.”65

Now, leaders line up their teams and the succession order to ensure they have the votes from those in the classes below them. Speaker Bense brought both Rubio and Sansom into leadership meetings. Bense stated: “Rubio and Sansom had issues of significant public policy and I involved those two. From a selfish perspective, I had them on board to get their class votes. The issues I was strong on, they were too. But we had to be careful to rally each class behind it.”66

Rubio, Sansom, and Cannon packaged themselves as a six-year leadership team with the same conservative agenda. Both Sansom and Cannon had agreed to pursue Rubio’s agenda and Rubio invited them into his inner circle and gave his lieutenants a seat at the table for policymaking decisions. This tradition continued with Weatherford under Cannon’s speakership.67

Some people say they don’t get enough time in the process before they’re designated speaker, and maybe there is some truth to that. It’s term limits, so you’re only going to get so much experience anyway. What it does do is it allows you to view and see other leaders that come before you and learn from them.… You have the ability to learn and watch and listen and prepare yourself for the decisions you are probably going to have to make one day.

Will Weatherford, then House speaker-designate68

These leadership coalitions have developed “mini-coalitions” in the House:

One of the other things that term limits has done is to require the forging of early coalitions.… It has become a necessity because (p.120) people come and go so quickly now that you have to begin immediately upon arrival in Tallahassee, if you have any aspirations of leadership, of forging your coalitions from the get-go. This has more formalized the process.… Now instead of negotiating with the leadership, you are negotiating with multiple leaderships in order to get your public policy to move through.

Frank Brogan, former lieutenant governor69

But this has also had some detrimental effects. Former House minority leader pro-tempore Ann Gannon: “The behavior we have actually seen with the people who have become speaker, like Rubio and Sansom, they don’t take positions on the floor; they don’t debate issues very well because they really don’t want to do that. They don’t want to take a strong stand or have an opinion because it might harm their ascent to the speakership.”70

Despite these shortcomings, the House grooming process is more secure due to the selection of speakers so many years in advance. The benefits of early selection are quite clear. Incoming leaders are brought into the decision-making process and into leadership meetings where budgets are discussed and negotiated. It also strengthens the caucus, as these leaders work as a team. And while Florida speakers have six years of experience before assuming the top job, in other term limited states, the average is four years. This absence of collective experience has been replaced by personal relationships and campaign assistance, something that will likely continue with term limits in place.71

Under term limits, turnover has increased and those entering leadership positions do not have the legislative heft of leaders in the past. Term limits have provided access to those who wish to serve in the Legislature but also the opportunity to rise to leadership positions much more quickly:

If you didn’t have term limits, you could have deals being made for twenty years out of who is going to be the next speaker of the House or the next president of the Senate. If you didn’t have term limits, people, whether they be a freshman member of the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, might never make it to a leadership position.… That’s what is great about term limits: you have that (p.121) ability to move up the ladder very quickly and get into leadership and make a difference before you leave office.

Mike Fasano, former House majority leader72

Speaker Marco Rubio claimed, “I would never have become speaker in four, five, or six years. Maybe that’s not necessarily accurate, but it certainly would have been harder for me to get into the Legislature had it not been for term limits. There’s no doubt about that.”73

The effect of term limits in Florida is somewhat unique because of the historical pre-selection of legislative leaders and their centralized power. The changes in the races for leadership are some of the most important changes since the advent of term limits. Freshmen members are running for the top posts as soon as they win their first elections. Committees as fundraising arms for leadership races have become crucial in supporting candidates’ bids for leadership. Candidates for leadership positions are now judged on the basis of fundraising prowess and not the ability to govern. The selection of unqualified candidates has already become a reality, notably with Speaker Sansom. The chance for poor leadership to emerge is more than a possibility and can affect the way the House and Senate operate. This trickles down to the top lieutenants as well. Particularly in the House, classes now find it necessary to select not only a speaker from their incoming class but also legislators for the top leadership and committee posts. Power has shifted to the incoming class, creating, in some cases, a lame duck speaker or Senate president and granting the speaker- or president-designate a significant amount of power and authority. But the ultimate authority in each chamber rests with the current leader. The lack of legislative expertise and how it impacts legislative business between the two chambers is the subject of the following chapter.

Notes:

(6.) Tom Rossin, former Senate minority leader, interview by Kathryn DePalo, June 27, 2008.

(9.) Klas, “Term Limits Can’t Stop Power Play,” Miami Herald, 19 February 2006, final edition; Greenblatt, “The Truth about Term Limits,” Governing, January 2006, accessed June 2, 2014, http://www.governing.com/topics/politics/Truth-Term-Limits.html.

(11.) Peter Dunbar, former state representative, legislative lobbyist, interview by Kathryn DePalo, September 7, 2005.

(12.) T. K. Wetherell, former House speaker, interview by Kathryn DePalo, September 23, 2005.

(13.) Ron Book, legislative lobbyist, interview by Kathryn DePalo, October 10, 2005.

(14.) Curt Kiser, former House minority leader, legislative lobbyist, interview by Kathryn DePalo, September 23, 2005.

(15.) John Thrasher, former House speaker, interview by Kathryn DePalo, March 10, 2005.

(16.) Tillman, “Will Weatherford’s Rise to Next House Speaker Is Swift,” St. Petersburg Times, 12 March 2011; Klas, “Lawmakers Getting the Boot,” Miami Herald, 1 June 2008, (p.210) final edition; Tillman, “Pasco’s Rep. Will Weatherford Designated for House Speaker in 2012–14,” St. Petersburg Times, 7 March, 2011.

(17.) Steve Geller, then Senate minority leader, interview by Kathryn DePalo, August 11, 2008.

(18.) Anne Gannon, former House minority leader pro-tempore, interview by Kathryn DePalo, June 27, 2008.

(19.) Will Weatherford, then House speaker-designate, interview by Kathryn DePalo, July 21, 2008.

(20.) Tillman, “Will Weatherford’s Rise to Next House Speaker Is Swift,” St. Petersburg Times, 12 March 2011; Tillman, “State Rep. Richard Corcoran Uses Clout to Lock Up House Speaker Promotion,” St. Petersburg Times, 19 February 2011.

(21.) Lois Frankel, former House minority leader, interview by Kathryn DePalo, July 12, 2005.

(22.) Ron Book, legislative lobbyist, interview by Kathryn DePalo, October 10, 2005.

(23.) Mike Fasano, former House majority leader, interview by Kathryn DePalo, March 10, 2005.

(24.) John Thrasher, former House speaker, interview by Kathryn DePalo, March 10, 2005.

(25.) Leary, “New House Speaker Takes Office as Lawmakers Prepare to Permanently Remove His Successor,” Miami Herald, 2 February 2009; Leary and Caputo, “Amid Criminal Probe, Florida House Speaker Quits Duties—For Now,” Miami Herald, 30 January 2009; Bender and Kam, “Sansom Gives Up Speaker Position,” Palm Beach Post, 31 January 2009, final edition; Rosica, “Charges Dropped against Former House Speaker Ray Sansom,” Associated Press, 25 March 2011.

(26.) Patton, “Weinstein Already Out to be Speaker,” Times-Union, 7 October 2008; Frank and Caputo, “His Finances Are a Mess, but He’s Set to Lead State House,” St. Petersburg Times, 24 February 2010, South Pinellas edition; Kennedy, “With Dorworth Defeated, Merrit Island’s Crisafulli Named Florida House Speaker-designate,” Palm Beach Post, 12 November 2012.

(27.) Ron Book, legislative lobbyist, interview by Kathryn DePalo, October 10, 2005.

(28.) Klas, “Term Limits Can’t Stop Power Play,” Miami Herald, 19 February 2006, final edition; Klas, “Lawmakers Getting the Boot,” Miami Herald, 1 June 2008, final edition.

(29.) Morris and Morris, The Florida Handbook 2007–2008, 166; Jim King, former Senate president, interview by Kathryn DePalo, August 13, 2008; Dennis Jones, former Senate majority leader, interview by Kathryn DePalo, July 22, 2008; Ron Book, legislative lobbyist, interview by Kathryn DePalo, October 10, 2005.

(31.) Rufty, “Race for Senate President Heating Up,” The Ledger, 10 September 2001; Wallsten, “Senate Cast in New Soap Opera,” Miami Herald, 2 December 2001, final edition.

(32.) Wallsten, “Senate Cast in New Soap Opera,” Miami Herald, 2 December 2001, final edition; Kennedy, “Senate Deal Cuts Webster Out,” Orlando Sentinel, 8 December 2001, metro edition; Saunders, “King in Line for Senate Throne,” Florida Times-Union, 8 (p.211) December 2001, city edition; Associated Press, “Senate President Hopeful Drops Out of 2-Man Race,” Miami Herald, 29 December 2001, state edition.

(33.) March, “Lawmaker’s Plan to Lead Senate Gets Snagged on Term Limits Rule,” Tampa Tribune, 14 December 2001, final edition.

(34.) Bridges, “Redistricting Debate in Senate Keys on Future of President’s Post,” Miami Herald, 15 March 2002; Follick, “Senate Lawmakers Devise Term-Limits End Run,” Tampa Tribune, 3 April 2002, final edition; Peltier, “Pruitt Running Hard for Senate President in 2006,” Vero Beach Press Journal, 26 August 2002.

(35.) Joni, “Senate’s First Cuban-American President Likely in 2008,” St. Petersburg Times, 17 November 2004; Caputo, “Villalobos’ Rise to Top in Senate Faces Tests,” Miami Herald, 31 January 2006, final edition; Kam and Date, “GOP Maneuvering May Boost Atwater to Senate President,” Palm Beach Post, 9 February 2006, final edition; Klas and Fineout, “Attempt to Oust First Cuban-American Senate President Fails,” Miami Herald, 9 February 2006, final edition; Fineout, Caputo, and Klas, “Coup Blocks Villalobos from Being Senate Chief,” Miami Herald, 10 February 2006, final edition; Kam, “Lee Meets with Republicans to Quell Bickering over ‘08 Senate Presidency,” Palm Beach Post, 17 February 2006, final edition; Kam and Date, “2 GOP State Senators Stake Claim to Top Post,” Palm Beach Post, 10 February 2006, final edition.

(36.) Fineout, Caputo, and Klas, “Coup Blocks Villalobos from Being Senate Chief,” Miami Herald, 10 February 2006, final edition; Kam and Date, “GOP Maneuvering May Boost Atwater to Senate President,” Palm Beach Post, 9 February 2006, final edition; Date, “Senate Rift Jeopardizes Session’s Agenda,” Palm Beach Post, 17 April 2006, final edition.

(37.) Kam, “Lee Meets with Republicans to Quell Bickering over ‘08 Senate Presidency,” Palm Beach Post, 17 February 2006, final edition; Klas, “Revision of Class-Size Limits Fails,” Miami Herald, 29 April 2006, final edition; Bousquet and Stein, “Division Defeated a Bush Priority,” St. Petersburg Times, 30 April 2006, late Tampa edition; Caputo, “From Majority Leader to GOP Outcast,” Miami Herald, 3 May 2006, final edition; Sentinel staff, “Bush Backs Senator’s Foe,” Orlando Sentinel, 15 August 2006, final edition; Caputo, “Villalobos’ Rise to Top in Senate Faces Tests,” Miami Herald, 31 January 2006, final edition.

(38.) Quote from Sen. Nancy Argenziano in Fineout, Caputo, and Klas, “Coup Blocks Villalobos from Being Senate Chief,” Miami Herald, 10 February 2006, final edition.

(40.) Jacobson, “State Legislatures May Experience a Mass Exodus,” Governing, 25 May 2012.

(42.) Jacobson, “State Legislatures May Experience a Mass Exodus,” Governing, 25 May 2012; Jim Scott, former Senate president, interview by Kathryn DePalo, July 16, 2008; (p.212) Klas, “Term Limits Can’t Stop Power Play,” Miami Herald, 19 February 2006, final edition; Moen, Palmer, and Powell, Changing Members, 126; Gwen Margolis, former Senate president, interview by Kathryn DePalo, September 19, 2005.

(43.) Will Weatherford, then speaker-designate, interview by Kathryn DePalo, July 21, 2008.

(44.) John Thrasher, former House speaker, interview by Kathryn DePalo, March 10, 2005.

(45.) Kennedy, “House Considers Slashing Speaker ‘Slush Funds,’” Sun-Sentinel, 21 April 1989, all editions; Levenson, “Legislators in Mood to Clean Up Own Act,” Orlando Sentinel, 30 April 1989, 3 star edition; Nickens, “Limits Placed on Campaign Fund Raising,” St. Petersburg Times, 3 June 1989, city edition.

(46.) Gelbert, “Loophole Lets Lawmakers Form PAC-Like Groups,” Palm Beach Post, 28 August 2000, final edition; Varian and Goffard, “Committee Fuels Campaign for Speaker,” St. Petersburg Times, 21 May 2001, South Pinellas edition.

(47.) Cox, “When Time’s Up in Tallahassee,” Orlando Sentinel, 17 September 2000, metro edition; Varian and Goffard, “Committee Fuels Campaign for Speaker,” St. Petersburg Times, 21 May 2001, South Pinellas edition.

(48.) Varian and Goffard, “Committee Fuels Campaign for Speaker,” St. Petersburg Times, 21 May 2001, South Pinellas edition; March, “Obscure Groups Fund Lawmakers’ Power Bases,” Tampa Tribune, 28 May 2001, final edition; Ron Book, legislative lobbyist, interview by Kathryn DePalo, October 10, 2005.

(49.) Varian and Goffard, “Committee Fuels Campaign for Speaker,” St. Petersburg Times, 21 May 2001, South Pinellas edition; March, “Obscure Groups Fund Lawmakers’ Power Bases,” Tampa Tribune, 28 May 2001, final edition; Peltier, “Pruitt Defends Fund as Lawful,” Stuart News, 30 September 2003, Martin County edition.

(50.) Fineout, “Thanks to Campaign Finance Loophole, Many Florida Lawmakers are Raising Secret Money,” Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 28 September 2003, all editions; Fineout, “Sen. Lee Lists Incumbent-Fund Donors,” Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 12 December 2003, Manatee edition.

(51.) Quote from Sen. Lee Constantine in Garcia, “Quiet Fund-Raising Groups for Lawmakers Worry Some,” Orlando Sentinel, 16 March 2004, final edition; Fineout, “Campaign Finance Rules Added,” Miami Herald, 17 November 2004, final edition.

(52.) Date and Sorentrue, “Lawsuit Sheds Light,” Charlotte Sun, 19 February 2006; “In Brief,” Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 29 February 2008, Venice edition.

(53.) Kennedy, “Campaign Finance Reform Unveiled,” Sun-Sentinel, 6 April 2006, Broward metro edition; Times editor, “The Buzz: Florida Politics,” St. Petersburg Times, 13 October 2008, accessed October 13, 2008, http://blogs.tampabay.com/buzz/files/leadership_for_floridas_future.pdf; Deslatte, “Lawmakers Don’t Need Foes to Raise Big War Chests,” Orlando Sentinel, 19 October 2008, final edition.

(54.) Deslatte, “Court Ruling Unleashes Stealthy Election Ads,” Orlando Sentinel, 23 August 2009, final edition; Hafenbrack and Deslatte, “U.S. Judge Dumps Law on Election-Ad Donors,” Orlando Sentinel, 27 May 2009, final edition; Deslatte, “Scandals Ignite New Look at Fundraising,” Orlando Sentinel, 14 February 2010, final edition; Caputo and Logan, “Legislators’ Political Committees Pull In Big Industry Dollars,” Bradenton (p.213) Herald, 5 April 2010; Caputo and Bousquet, “Crist Doesn’t Sign Political Money Bill,” Bradenton Herald, 7 April 2010.

(55.) Powers and Deslatte, “Special Funds Let Legislators Spend Millions as They Wish,” Orlando Sentinel, 29 April 2010, Central Florida edition; McNellis, “Independent Spending in Florida, 2006–2010,” accessed September 12, 2012, http://followthemoney.org/press/ReportView.phtml?r=466.

(56.) Bousquet, “Lawmaker Personally Strapped, Politically Wealthy,” Tampa Bay Times, 17 September 2012.

(57.) Dennis Jones, former Senate majority leader, interview by Kathryn DePalo, July 22, 2008.

(58.) Dan Gelber, then House minority leader, interview by Kathryn DePalo, July 14, 2008.

(59.) Deslatte, “Scott Signs Campaign Finance, Ethics Reforms,” Sun Sentinel, 2 May 2013, Palm Beach edition.

(60.) Lois Frankel, former House minority leader, interview by Kathryn DePalo, July 12, 2005.

(62.) Tom Feeney, former House speaker, interview by Kathryn DePalo, August 12, 2005.

(63.) Peter Dunbar, former state representative, legislative lobbyist, interview by Kathryn DePalo, September 7, 2005; Tom Rossin, former Senate minority leader, interview by Kathryn DePalo, June 27, 2008.

(65.) Tom Feeney, former House speaker, interview by Kathryn DePalo, August 12, 2005.

(66.) Allan Bense, former House speaker, interview by Kathryn DePalo, August 13, 2008.

(67.) Troxler, “With 6-Year Vision Ready, Trio Prepares to Lead House,” St. Petersburg Times, 24 January 2006; Klas, “Term Limits Can’t Stop Power Play,” Miami Herald, 19 February 2006, final edition; Brady, “Next Generation Leader,” Gulf Coast Business Review, 26 August 2001.

(68.) Will Weatherford, then House speaker-designate, interview by Kathryn DePalo, July 21, 2008.

(69.) Frank Brogan, former lieutenant governor, interview by Kathryn DePalo, October 12, 2005.

(70.) Anne Gannon, former House minority leader pro-tempore, interview by Kathryn DePalo, June 27, 2008.

(71.) Klas, “Term Limits Can’t Stop Power Play,” Miami Herald, 19 February 2006, final edition; Bowser, Chi, and Little, Coping with Term Limits, 9; Little and Farmer, “Legislative Leadership,” 63.

(72.) Mike Fasano, former House majority leader, interview by Kathryn DePalo, March 10, 2005.

(p.214) (73.) Marco Rubio, then speaker-designate, interview by Kathryn DePalo, October 12, 2005.