Op-Ed

Crisafulli’s not to blame — you are

OUTTA HERE!: Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli
OUTTA HERE!: Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli Tampa Bay Times

When the going gets tough, the Florida House gets slimier than an Everglades python as it slithers out of Tallahassee.

With three work days left in the 2015 legislative session, the Republican-dominated House was informed by Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Run Away!, that he was calling it quits and leaving unresolved a number of issues, including agreeing on a state budget, Medicaid expansion, special-needs programs for Floridians with disabilities and reforming a prison system that makes Cool Hand Luke look like a Club Med retreat.

Why? Doing his job just got too darn hard for Crisafulli, R-The Red Badge of Porridge, and his aide-de-chump of whining, Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Milksop, to honor the oath of office they took after they were elected.

At issue is a dispute with the Florida Senate to accept federal Medicaid expansion money. The Senate socialists want to accept billions in federal funding to extend healthcare to those layabout poor people. Crisafulli and Corcoran, the Laurel and Hardy of healthcare, and Gov. Rick Scott have taken the position roughly 1 million at-risk Floridians can go eat tongue depressors.

In the real world, adults try to resolve differences, perhaps even compromise on this and that. But not the Florida House in the full cower of its dereliction of duty.

Never in modern history can anyone recall a chamber of the Florida Legislature walking away from its work before the scheduled end to a session. So how is it that Crisafulli and Corcoran so clearly appear to be wooing that critical pantywaist constituency?

They can claim they were standing on principle in resisting the Senate left-wingers who want to help poor sick people. Not quite.

If anything, the actions of Crisafulli and Corcoran betray an ugly truth about the Florida Legislature. These two chaps are simply oblivious about the nature of governance. They are, in short, idiotlogues.

Who is to blame for this mess? Not Crisafulli or Corcoran. They’re merely bumptious symptoms. If you are among the 3,625,500 voters who voted to impose term limits on the Florida Legislature in 1992, the fault is yours.

In the rush to the throw the bums out, Floridians voted a stumblebum amateur political class into office who were illiterate about the legislative process and led like lambs to the slaughter by Tallahassee’s permanent lobbyist cartel.

Crisafulli and Corcoran and the rest of their dogmatic ilk have benefitted from being able to get elected in safely drawn legislative districts, ensuring Republican dominance in Tallahassee. That nicely protects a political career. But it makes for lousy democracy.

On their preordained rise up the political leadership ladder, neither Crisafulli nor Corcoran have had to think. They’ve never had to sit down and reason together with opposing points of view. They’ve never had to explain themselves on the campaign trail beyond reciting hackneyed tea party sound bites.

In an earlier era before term limits, when experience mattered, when political skills were valued, when bipartisanship was not an euphemism for treason, Crisafulli and Corcoran would never have reached the leadership positions they hold today. Both men would be, at best, middling House apparatchiks.

Term limits have visited upon Florida a litany of busking politicians more interested in their next elective office, or perhaps a tony post-legislative lobbyist gig.

Since the 1992 term-limit vote, this has been what passes for leadership in the Florida House: Tom Feeney, Johnnie Byrd, (stop laughing, it only gets worse), Marco Rubio, Ray Sansom, Dean Cannon, Will Weatherford, Steve Crisafulli and a train wreck coming next, Richard Corcoran. Yes, there has been the odd outlier who actually came into the job wearing big-boy pants, notably Allan Bense. But the House quickly returned to its annual Tallahassee pie fight.

Florida is the third-largest state in the union. It is not Nepal. Crisafulli and Corcoran, the Rufus T. Fireflies of Tallahassee, and their fellow Profiles in Poltroons House Republicans, skulked out of town not because they were boldly standing on a matter of high virtue.

They betrayed their constituents because they lacked the intellectual honesty to grasp their obligations. But before he can assume the speakership, Corcoran needs to get re-elected in 2016. It’s a safe seat, but perhaps Pasco County voters might want to ask themselves whether they should rehire a goldbrick who isn’t interested in showing up for work.

c. 2015 Tampa Bay Times

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