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House Republicans Overhaul Speaker Election Rules

Florida House of Representatives
Richard Corcoran

Republicans hoping to become leader of the Florida House would face restrictions aimed at slowing down the selection of future speakers, under rules set to be approved by GOP lawmakers next week.
The proposal, offered by incoming Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, would address a practice of would-be speakers trying to line up support for the powerful position before they have even served in the House. Those efforts can come as much as six years before an opening for speaker.

The changes also could upend any arrangements already made by candidates who are running for the top post in the House during the legislative term that begins after the 2022 elections.

Corcoran already had indicated that he wanted to slow down the process of choosing the party's leaders after a series of byzantine and occasionally bitter fights over the top spot. But the draft of the new rules for the Republican caucus, released Monday, marks the first concrete proposal for how to achieve that. The draft is set to be voted on Nov. 21.

In an interview Monday with The News Service of Florida, Corcoran said the rules would prevent would-be speakers who don't have to deal with contested primaries or general elections in their districts from getting an unfair advantage.

"If we're going to have a 100-yard dash ... everybody should start from the starting line at the same time at the same place," he said. "There's nothing fair about having someone start at the 50-yard mark."

The rules would bar House members who want to be speakers from campaigning for support from their colleagues until after they had served together. Support couldn't be rounded up until after a full class of lawmakers had gone through their first session.

Because House members are limited to four two-year terms, a group elected in the same year is generally referred to as a "class." Each class selects the Republican candidate to serve as speaker during their final term.

The new rules would not apply to Corcoran or the two men expected to follow him as speaker: Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, and Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor.

The draft also exempts any lawmaker who had taken steps to secure support from the 2022-24 class before the rules go into effect. However, the restrictions would also declare any pledges from that time period "null and void."

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