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Nancy Smith

What, No Outrage over Draconian Democratic Rule Change?

June 12, 2013 - 6:00pm

Three days and hardly a peep from the capital press on a proposed Florida Democratic caucus gag rule.

Wouldn't these scribes be busy little bees if it were the Republicans trying to abridge freedom of speech, something from Civics 101, something all of us were taught is sacrosanct when exercised by members of legislative or decision-making bodies?

It may yet be that Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek will think better of tweaking his caucus rules to intimidate the party's free spirits. But right now it looks as if he wants to require Democratic members to vote in accordance with official caucus positions, and impose penalties if they go against them without permission from House Democratic leadership.

Waldman's rules say this: Failure to abide by a Caucus position without prior approval shall subject such member to sanctions imposed by the majority vote of the officers, including but not limited to expulsion from the Caucus.

The only press "peep" I've heard so far is a commentary this morning from Tallahassee.com's Bill Cotterell. Mostly, Cotterell defends the rule because it copies a questionable practice the Republicans do better.


Only thing is, Cotterell is a little off the mark. True, the GOP leadership wants consensus, but they don't send their dissenters to Siberia. Maverick Mike Fasano is a good example. If ever there was a contentious red teamster reaching for bipartisanship, it's the New Port Richey moderate -- yet he still chairs the House's Joint Administrative Procedures Committee. And just last Monday Speaker Will Weatherford appointed him to the Housing Development Corporation of Florida's board of directors.

Bipartisanship apparently has no place in Waldman World. If this rule is accepted, Democratic legistators might just as well fail to show and give their proxies to the caucus boss.

Brave legislators vote their conscience and shouldn't have to worry Waldman or anybody else is taking names and fitting them for knuckle screws.

I've always had a sneaking admiration for Republican outlaw legislators like Fasano and former Sen. Paula Dockery. I have the same respect now for freshman Democrats Jared Moskowitz from Coral Springs, Dwight Dudley from St. Petersburg, Katie Edwards from Plantation andMark Danish from Tampa.All four had the guts to decry the caucus rules boss and speak up for free speech and a diversity of ideas.

I sincerely hope after this weekend's annual Jefferson-Jackson gala that these four brave souls won't be punished for pushing back.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423.

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