On Tuesday morning, the overwhelming Republican majority selected Rep. Dean Cannon of Winter Park to be speaker of the Florida House -- and the new speaker responded with a promise to spend the next two years fighting for conservative values.
As he took over the gavel, Cannon fired at the Florida Supreme Court, pledging to fight for greater economic freedom to get Floridians back to work. He also tore into economic policies backed by President Barack Obama as impeding freedom and economic prosperity.
First elected to the House in 2004, Cannon, who represents part of Orange County, was student body president at the University of Florida, where he studied journalism as an undergraduate and, later, went to law school there.
Cannon was nominated by Rep. Bill Proctor, R-St. Augustine. The task we confront will test the ablest of leaders, said Proctor, who added that he believes Cannon is up to the task based on the close relationships he has built over their years in the House. Rep. Cannon has shown the attributes of good and true leadership, not the least of which is his capacity for growth.
Responded Cannon, I cannot adequately express my gratitude for the incredible honor and privilege you have entrusted to me to be your speaker. I promise you I will hold myself accountable and ask that we all hold each other accountable, to the high standards of this institution and the people we represent.
Cannon praised outgoing Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala. I have sought the counsel of many of the former speakers for advice over the years, and especially Speaker Cretul, said Cannon. And I intend to do so again, gentlemen. And, they cautioned me that each speaker must confront the issues at hand, not the issues they wish were at hand when they were first elected. I'll tell you, that's true.
Together we all share a responsibility to address the tough issues facing our state now, continued Cannon.I know we will not always agree on the difficult choices ahead, but regardless of the circumstances, we are privileged to hold in this chamber the trust of the people of Florida and with that trust comes a responsibility to do our very best for them.
Cannon noted that Republicans control the House -- holding 81 of the 120 seats.
We find ourselves today with a large majority caucus, said Cannon. This means the majority has the responsibility to lead, the minority has the opportunity to participate and the public has the right to watch. As your speaker, my goal is to ensure that all of that happens fairly and orderly.
The most meaningful bipartisanship is unforced, voluntary bipartisanship, and I hope that we in the majority party will work with those in the minority party to collaborate for the good of the people we serve. And so, I extend a pledge of fairness to members of both parties, but please remember that obstructionism is not the same as dissent and personal attacks are not the same as meaningful debate.
Cannon left no room for doubt that he believes government should remain limited.
It is unfortunate, but true, that a terrible temptation when you are part of government is to succumb to the notion that we in Tallahassee can make all things better through government, said Cannon. It's so easy to see people facing challenges and think, if we just had more government revenue, we could create a program to fix that, or if the government would just impose more regulations, these bad things would never happen to good people.
"My friends, those sentiments may be well-intended, but they are dangerous. Government cannot give everything to everybody and it cannot prevent every calamity. The notion that government can somehow make everyone happy and healthy has led our federal government into the terrible experiment in government run amok that the voters of our state and our nation overwhelmingly rejected two weeks ago.
Cannon also weighed in on federal issues, blasting the Obama administration and unchecked spending.
If someone had told those of us who were first elected in 2004 that by 2010 the federal government would be not only advocating but implementing the greatest expansion of government power since the New Deal, I would not have believed it, said Cannon. And yet, that is exactly what we have seen.
Cannon ripped into policies backed by the Obama White House, including new federal health-care laws and stimulus and bailout bills.
Government taking over banks and financial institutions, government taking over auto manufacturers and the production of durable goods, government socializing medicine and government trampling the property rights of citizens and the sovereignty of states, said Cannon. Should it really be the role of government to require people to purchase a health insurance product they don't want, raise taxes to give that same product to others who can't afford it, and commandeer our state government and its resources to carry it out? Or, should we work to limit government and empower the private sector by developing a clearly defined framework for providers in Florida to compete to meet the needs of our citizens and then hold them accountable for their performance?"
He continued, Can it really be the proper role of the federal government to arbitrarily come in to a single state and unilaterally tell us that Florida must adhere to arbitrary, unscientific and unachievable EPA standards? Or, should we raise our voices in protest and defend our citizens' property rights and our state's sovereignty against this assault by the federal government?
The threats to our liberties come not only from the federal government, but can also be seen much closer to home, insisted Cannon. As an attorney and an officer of the court, I believe fervently in a judicial branch that is strong and independent and fully empowered and equipped to fulfill its constitutional duties. But for the judiciary to be independent, it must also be impartial and apolitical.It must respect the co-equal executive and legislative branches, and protect their unambiguous constitutional powers, and it must practice the restraint that is built into our federal and state Constitutions.
Cannon took aim at the Florida Supreme Court which struck down a number of proposed constitutional amendments forwarded by the Legislature, offering alternatives to amendments backed by FairDistricts Florida and allowing Floridians to opt out of the new federal health-care laws.
Over the past year, three times we saw the work of a three-fifths supermajority of this legislative branch, the elected representatives of over 18 million Floridians, demolished by five unelected justices on the Supreme Court, said Cannon. This was done notwithstanding the fact that there is no express authority in the Florida Constitution for doing so.
So, I ask you, is it the role of the judicial branch to decide political questions, and endanger its reputation for impartiality, by depriving the voters of the right to vote on important questions put forth by their elected representatives? Or, should we make good on the oath we took to protect and defend Florida's Constitution, which expressly grants the Legislature the unlimited right to place questions before the voters so that they, the people, may exercise their highest political right by voting to choose whether or not to amend their Constitution?
When government takes over private-sector assets and controls private-sector activity, or denies people the right to vote because the government decides they might be confused, even if it does so -- perhaps especially if it does so -- in the name of protecting them, that, my friends, is a destruction of freedom and is the road to serfdom and economic bondage, not only for us but for our children and their children after them.
Continued the new speaker, It is the road to ruin of a healthy economy and the foreclosure of a bright future for our state and our nation. Real freedom seeks equality in opportunity, not equality in outcome.
Cannon invoked the words of Abraham Lincoln as he continued to assail the expansion of government power.
To question the size and scope of government at every level could truly produce a new birth of freedom, he said. Economic freedom, based on the principle that people -- not the government -- can and should best determine how the fruits of their labor will be used; and making people, not the government, responsible for determining their own destinies, for better or for worse.
Cannon also focused on the states continued high unemployment.
Floridians want jobs, insisted Cannon. Jobs create opportunity and self-respect. Jobs provide people a stake in their future. In order to get our economy moving again, we need to liberate capital, we need to inspire entrepreneurs, we need to give people the opportunity to create jobs.
Our mission over the next two years is to foster an economy that will allow the men and women of Florida to prosper. Our mission over the next two years is to bring sanity to the governments role in the private sector. Our mission is to ask ourselves whether every action we take will promote freedom and empower businesses to create jobs.
Cannon vowed to fight for free-market solutions to get Floridas economy back on track.
You cannot regulate your way to prosperity, he said. "You cannot tax your way to wealth, and you cannot borrow your way out of debt. We cannot pass a bill to end this recession. But, we can create the freedom for the private sector to build a healthy and dynamic economy.
Cannon closed with a call for greater economic freedom.
This is not a theoretical classroom discussion, said Cannon. Floridians need a new birth of freedom now. This new birth of freedom will help encourage entrepreneurship, it will help create jobs, and it will help get Floridians back to work.And it is economic freedom that will unshackle our economy and once again paint a brighter picture for the Florida of tomorrow.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com or at (850) 727-0859.