Darryl Rouson: House Democrats Won't Decide Controversial Rule Changes Until September
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Rep. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg, next-in-line to lead Florida's House Democrats in 2014, hasn't had a chance to review the caucus' latest proposed rule changes, and is in no rush to do so, because they won't be voted on until late September.
Sunshine State News spoke to the incoming House minority leader, who with characteristic good humor downplayed earlier reports that suggest leadership is looking to clamp down on moderate Democratic legislators and purge them from the caucus.
What follows is the transcript of that interview:
SSN: As the incoming House minority leader, what are your thoughts on the controversial Rule 8.8(5), under which members who dissent from a [Democratic] caucus position can face discipline, up to and including expulsion from the caucus? What is the purpose of the proposed rule change?
Rouson: I haven't had a chance to fully digest or read [the proposed rules], because they've changed a little bit from the first ad hoc committee teleconference call where [Rep. Jim] Waldman [D-Coconut Creek] had sent out a proposal. They've changed from that time to what was given out at [the 2013 Jefferson-Jackson Gala]. I really haven't had a fair chance to really read it, digest it, understand it. ...
Any question about what [the proposed new rules] mean, or the intent behind it, really ought to be directed toward Waldman and [House Minority Leader Perry] Thurston. I know at some point it will become important to me as incoming leader, but I haven't read it yet, to really fully digest it.
Would you be willing to speak just to the general concept of whether there ought to be penalties in place? As an incoming leader yourself, do you feel comfortable having that kind of power?
I think that every caucus – whether it's the Black Caucus, the Republican Caucus, the Hispanic Caucus, the Democratic Caucus – every caucus ought to have rules of operation, rules of procedure, and rules of discipline. It's only fair to try to keep your caucus moving in a direction. ...
I appreciate what Leader Thurston and Waldman are trying to do. Our rules do need to be reviewed.
Any idea when you might have a firmer idea on how you feel about the proposed rule change?
[chuckles] There's no decision that needs to be made on this, the caucus won't get back together until Sept. 23, so there's no rush. I know that you guys are trying to print something, and get people to lay out their position, but why don't you emphasize that folks ought to be deliberate, they ought to be studied in their opinions? [laughs] We ain't got to vote on this today. We didn't vote on it Saturday. It's just a draft, it's just proposals; it will probably change again before Sept. 23 rolls around.
It's a little too early to pin people down ... You might have to write this story 10 times before then!
Can we take it from your remarks that you're not the one who proposed this particular rule?
I didn't propose it. ... It was my idea for the rules to be reviewed.
One lawmaker has suggested that 'This may be a solution in search of a problem.' The general sense I'm getting from members is they don't see why there's a need to change the rules in this respect. It seems that you guys worked as a team pretty smoothly last year and in previous years. What's the need to renew enforcement of uniformity when it seems like the system's already working? Or is it working, in your opinion?
My general answer to that is every organization should periodically review its own rules, procedures, and regulations, for both relevancy and practicality. I don't see a problem with the review of the rules at any time. It ought to be done regularly. The Republicans ought to do it, the governor certainly, when he was elected, ran on a program of reviewing regulations, to see if they're effective or necessary. So I'm never opposed to rules being reviewed. Whenever it happens, it's always timely.
Everyone ought to do it. You ought to go home and talk to your household and say, 'Let's review the rules of the house!' [laughs]
What are you up to these days?
I've got a lot on my plate, I'm in Tallahassee, working my behind off for the best interests of the entire Democratic Caucus. I'm excited about it. This is my sixth trip, just since session ended. When I finish up [Wednesday], I will have had 85 meetings with industry lobbyists and consultants and interest groups, all talking about how the Democratic Caucus is moving forward in unity.
I challenge you to go back and look, and see how many such meetings past incoming leaders have done in the May and June of a non-election year following session.
I'm excited about the direction our caucus is moving in, I'm busting my behind to position us so that when 2014-15 rolls around, we're a powerful and relevant minority caucus in the House.
Reach Eric Giunta at firstname.lastname@example.org and at 954-235-9116.