If an ambitious business enterprise was looking to hire bright young executives — say a vice president or two — you might not think that the Florida Legislature would be a fertile recruiting ground.
Lawmakers, after all, spend months every year in Tallahassee attending legislative sessions, special sessions, committee meetings; not to mention the amount of time they devote to campaigning and raising campaign funds. They’ve got to spend hours each week gabbing with lobbyists and civic activists and political strategists. They’re forever running off to give speeches or hold press conferences or make appearances on TV and radio shows.
You sure wouldn’t hire a legislator as a babysitter, dog walker, night shift clerk at a corner convenience store, for any job that would require reliability. But apparently certain enterprises aren’t looking for single-minded dedication when they employ a vice president for external affairs.
Dade Medical College, for example, gave state Sen. Rene Garcia of Hialeah a veep job, paying him $125,000 a year despite his legislative distractions. And the oddly named University of Southernmost Florida, another for-profit and a subsidiary of Dade Medical College, also hired itself a state senator as its vice president for something or another. Sen. Oscar Braynon II of Miami Gardens joined USMF (“a Dade Medical College learning affiliate”) in January. (The Herald has not yet been able to suss the senator’s salary.)
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No working their way up the corporate ladder, not for these instant business executives.
Competence is another attribute that seems sorely lacking among our state legislators. The 2015 regular session dissolved in a puddle of dysfunctional acrimony. It was all they could do to patch together a budget in a special session. Then they flunked redistricting.
But state senators, even if they’re not much good at doing the job voters expect of them, can still swing a few favors for their bosses. For instance, as my colleague Michael Vasquez has reported, Braynon took time away from his USMF vice presidential duties in February to drive all the way to Gainesville to address the Florida Board of Physical Therapy.
The senator helped convince the board to allow graduates of unaccredited physical therapy courses to take the state licensure examination. He forgot to mention his brand new day job. Or that USMF, as a news release proclaimed 11 days later, was “excited to announce the launch of its Associate of Science in Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) program.” (No accreditation necessary.)
Dade Medical College’s very own state senator, Garcia, has similarly shown up at some key state agency meetings to push for projects that — I’m sure it was just a coincidence — would benefit his employer.
Dade Medical and other for-profit colleges in Florida have also lavished legislators with campaign contributions — more than $1.2 million since 2008. The Legislature just happened to have responded with 15 laws benefiting for-profits, despite a scandalous record of leaving students with more debt than job qualifications.
Except for vice presidents. These schools are very good at finding vice president jobs for some very unlikely candidates.