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Behind the Drama in the Florida Legislature

Mar 5, 2012

It may have been a slow session at the Florida Legislature this year, but that hasn’t stopped drama from breaking out in the state Senate.

An attempted coup over who would be the future state Senate president. The failure of prison privatization. And a continuing fight over the parent trigger bill.

It reveals the split between moderates and conservatives in the state Senate, according to Peter Schorsch. He’s a political consultant and the man behind award-winning SaintPetersBlog.com.

He says the conservative Senate leadership has lost control of a block of Tampa Bay GOP moderates:  Sens. Jack Latvala, Dennis Jones, Mike Fasano, Paula Dockery, and Ronda Storms.

“The people who are in charge in Tampa Bay are not liked in Tallahassee,” Schorsch said – and vice versa.

These moderates managed to fend off a challenge from conservative Senator John Thrasher of Jacksonville over who would be Senate President designate in 2016.

They also have allied themselves with Democrats to slow down bills they don’t agree with, he said.

And that slower pace is just fine with many conservatives in the Legislature, he said, including House Speaker Dean Cannon.

“You gotta remember: These guys are devout conservatives. If no bills pass, that’s a good thing to them,” he said in an interview with WUSF.

Before the session, Cannon said there wasn’t a lot of bandwidth for anything but redistricting and the budget. Schorsch says he may prove to be right.

He added that Gov. Rick Scott has been quiet, perhaps because of his low approval ratings.

He’ll probably have to decide whether to veto the creation of Florida Polytechnic as the state’s 12th university. That’s a top priority for Senate budget chief JD Alexander.

“But he may have made a deal with JD Alexander on the billion dollars for education. The swap out may have been for the 12th university,” Schorsch said.

Click here to listen to the whole interview with Schorsch -- he talks about this in a lot of interesting detail.