BY BUDDY NEVINS
There was a time when Broward County ruled Tallahassee.
From the late 1970s to the early 1990s, Democrats controlled everything in the state Capital. That put Democratic-heavy Broward in the driver’s seat. No county had a more powerful House delegation than Broward.
These House members could get things done. They could get bills passed. And money into flowed into Broward:
The airport, the Interstate, Tri Rail, a downtown college campus, parks, libraries and schools.
The old timey legislators were doer, not whiners.
Sadly, the numbers have changed. Today, all that the Broward Democrats can do is follow. They can’t lead. That ended in 1996 when Republicans took control of the House.
My pals, Sun-Sentinel writers Linda Kleindienst and Diane Hirth, summed up the disaster that the 1996 election was for Broward:
“Broward County loses the most political punch in the new Legislature. Of the delegation’s 18 members, 16 are Democrats. Most of the 11 Broward Democrats in the House have held leadership positions for a decade or more.
‘We’re screwed,’ said Rep. Steve Geller, D-Hallandale, who is expected to lose his chairmanship of the Regulated Industries Committee.”
Broward has never recovered.
I bring this up because I’m part of a forum on the 2014 legislative session at the Tower Club in downtown Fort Lauderdale on Thursday. The details are here.
I was thinking of similar forums I did years ago on the Legislature. There were major achievements to trumpet then.
This sums up the session for us in Broward this year:
The local delegation did get more money this session, mainly because there was more money from the economic recovery to spread around.
But with few exception — State Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, is one with the medical marijuana bill. State Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, who sponsored the overhaul of the child welfare system, was another . — the Broward delegation had little impact on major issues.
Below is a picture from happier days. This picture of six members of the Broward Legislative Delegation is from 1985.
Today if six members of the Broward delegation were talking on the floor, they were probably discussing where to go for lunch. Back then, they were setting policy:
Six Democrats from the powerful 1980s Broward delegation: (From left) State Reps. Walt Young, Anne MacKenzie, Tom Armstrong, Joe Titone (half hidden), Irma Rochlin and Jack Tobin.