Jim Waldman: Latest Rules Draft Makes It Harder for House Democrats to Punish Dissenters

By: Eric Giunta | Posted: June 19, 2013 3:55 AM

Jim Waldman

Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek | Credit: Florida House

Revisions have been made to proposed rule changes that could have the effect of purging moderates from the Florida House Democratic Caucus, even as their author tells Sunshine State News they might not even see the light of day.

“Failure to abide by a Caucus position without prior approval of the Democratic Leader shall subject such member to sanctions recommended by a majority vote of the officers to the Leader,” reads the newest proposed version of Rule 8.8(5) of the bylaws governing the caucus. “In the event that the sanction of expulsion is recommended to and accepted by the Leader, it shall be subject to Caucus approval pursuant to Rule 2.2,” which provides that members can only be expelled if two-thirds of House Democrats agree to it.

[Scroll down below to read the latest draft proposal, which is attached to this article.]

The latest proposal differs markedly from a draft obtained and published by SSN last week, which provided that a dissenting Democrat could receive discipline, up to and including expulsion from the caucus, by a simple majority vote of the caucus' officers.

The rule is the brainchild of Rep. Jim Waldman of Coconut Creek, the House Democrats' floor leader – their designated expert on matters relating to House procedure – and chairman of a committee in charge of rewriting the rules governing the House Democratic Caucus.

“Members will review the proposals during the summer and provide comments,” he tells SSN. “No deadline has been set for a vote and a final vote may or may not take place.”

As SSN previously reported, House Democrats were originally supposed to vote on the new rules package this past weekend. One Democratic legislator, speaking on background, told SSN that vote was delayed after several members complained of the proposed rule changes.

The News Service of Florida reported that Waldman “dismissed” SSN's coverage at a meeting Saturday with House members, who were gathered in Hollywood for their annual Jefferson-Jackson Gala.

"It's the complete opposite of what you've been reading about in the press," Waldman reportedly said. "We've actually made it much more difficult to penalize anybody who doesn'’t follow the caucus position."

In fact, the House Democrats' rules do not currently provide – at least, not explicitly – for the expulsion of a member who dissents from caucus positions.

“[Rule] 2.2 provides for a member expulsion for 'good cause' by majority vote. Failure to follow a caucus position would constitute good cause,” Waldman told SSN, when asked to explain his reported remarks. “The proposed process would now have the additional steps of a majority vote of officers recommending expulsion to the leader and the leader deciding whether to put it to a vote of the caucus. If so, expulsion would now take a two-thirds vote. Additionally, clarification has been provided which confirms the member has due process rights.”

Several Democratic lawmakers, both on and off the record, have expressed their puzzlement over the proposed rule, for which there is no counterpart in the rules governing the House GOP Caucus, with one legislator calling it “a solution in search of a problem.”

House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston did not return requests for comment before this story went to press.

Reach Eric Giunta at egiunta@sunshinestatenews.com or at 954-235-9116.


Comments (2)

Barney T. Bishop III
10:48AM JUN 19TH 2013
This is incredibly stupid, short-sighted and unfortunately typical of Democrats...when you are a MINORITY in the House, you don't threaten to toss other Dem's out of the caucus because that would just make your caucus smaller - duh!...instead House Dem leadership needs to understand and appreciate the fact that not all Dems are or should be of one political stripe - to the extreme left...there needs to be room for moderate, centrist and conservative Dem's because there are many moderate, centrist and conservative Dem's just like me around the state...this is why Dem's continue to fail to elect statewide officeholders except for US Senator Bill Nelson because not all Dem's are monlithically liberal like Rep. Jim Waldman...there is hope under incoming Dem leader Rep. Darryl Rouson who clearly sees, like Rep. Ron Saunders before him, that Dem's should be allowed to vote their conscience and/or the will of their district except in the few instances in which the causcus does take a group position...in fact, if Dem's want to be anything more than the loyal opposition (like in England) they are going to generally have to team up with the majoirty party members in order to pass any legislation or have an impact on legislation...Rep. Waldman suggests that the GOP does the same...WRONG...there are Repub's who don't vote with GOP leadership such as Rep. Mike Fasano, John Tobia and others on occasion...but the House GOP leadership doesn't see the need to threaten to toss their members, rather they understand that elected officials are elected to make decisions for their constitutents...having said that, the GOP certainly works very hard to insure that as many of their members adhere to their causcus position, but the difference is they don't threaten to punish or toss members out...in fact if Rep. Waldman has his way, their would be fewer examples of JFK's "Profiles in Courage" of elected officials who voted their conscience...this is a slippery slope and if the Dem's adopt any rule about adherence which has punishment then they weaken morally their position and it will only solidify their minority status in the future...in fact the Dem's are a minoirty because the candidates that they offer are so far to the left generally (there are a few notable exceptions thankfully!) that's why they can only win the seats that they occupy now...in fact, I bet that the Dem's have actually reached their zenith in the House and may very well lose seats in the '14 election on a couple of marginal seats that they won last time...best to "toss out" this idea rather than elected Democrats to the House!
4:00PM JUN 19TH 2013
Yes, Barney, you must be right --> ". . . but the difference is they don't threaten to punish or toss members out . . ."

So let's just take a look at an interview comment from one of Nancy Smith's admired GOP legislators - Paula Dockery:

[TO PAULA] "We really hate to see you leave the Legislature! What would you say was your proudest accomplishment over the course of your distinguished 16-year career?"

[PAULA] "Voting my conscience, even when it meant being politically punished by “leadership”. . . "

Yeah, Barney, once again engaging in the politics of the selective, partisan "Big Lie" . . . perhaps we should also discuss how J.D. Alexander handled USF and PolyTech funding last year (another of Nancy Smith's expressed problem events) . . . as he engaged in my-way-or-you lose the majority of all your university funding . . . (and you and I both have MANY more such legislative examples over the last 15 years if you can just be honest with yourself over the actual workings of the GOP leadership) . . .

Yes, Barney must be right . . . . as right as any Tea Party truthiness and the easily disproven "facts" touted by fellow members of the party he newly defends - e.g. rape and pregnancies; Obama birther nonsense; intelligent design as science; climate change as the greatest hoax ever perpetuated on the American people; WMDs in Iraq; the VP as an independent 4th branch of government; and some Rick Scott gems - DCA (and growth management) is a Florida job killer; the stimulus has not created one private sector job; the Affordable Care Act is "not the law of the land; and Medicaid expansion will cost Florida $26 billion over the first 10 years . . . . . of course, all of this is just so . . .

Pathetic . . .

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