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