The Legislature’s Problem: Tallahassee


The indictment of  former House Speaker Ray Sansom is just the latest in a long line of corrupt Tallahassee politicians.

A former speaker and his wife were convicted of tax fraud in the 1990s.  A former president of the senate was convicted of corruption a few years ago.

In 1995, nine of the 40 senators were in the news for misconduct everything from criminal acts to ethical laps.

By 1998-99, it got better.  Only nine lawmakers were indicted.
Part of the problem is Tallahassee.

Its hundreds of miles from where most Floridians live.

Florida’s capital is 442 miles from Fort Lauderdale.

It lies 242 miles from Orlando and is even 163 miles from Jacksonville.

This place is so remote it fosters a separation with people.

It is far from the watchdogs, gadflies and regular voters who could keep an eye on the Legislature if it met in a more convenient place.

Lawmakers are stuck in rural Tallahassee for the 60-day annual session.  For two months, they socialize mainly with lobbyists and other legislators.

It’s the ultimate closed society.

And the demigods of this society are the office holders especially the 120 legislators and 40 senators during the session.

They control the budget which pays the bills for Tallahassee and those who work there. 

A lawmaker needs the skills of Tim Tebow to navigate the halls of the Capitol during the session.  They have to weave around fawning lobbyists and government sycophants begging for attention everytime they walk out of their office.

It’s heady stuff.
No wonder they start to believe they are special.  No wonder they start to believe that the rules that govern the rest of us don’t apply to them.

Arrogance is the number one export of Tallahassee.

I believe lawmakers might act more responsibly if the Capitol was in less insular city with more eyes watching.

In the mid-1960s, there was talk of moving the Capital to Orlando.

Having the Capital in Orlando would have been better for this state. 

People today would have better access to government.  Travel time and cost for state employees would be dramatically less.

Legislators didn’t see it that way.

First they poured state money into Tallahassee to make it harder for the state to move without losing millions already invested. 

They rushed to construct new state office buildings. They suddenly decided Tallahassee needed a new, skyscraper Capitol, which was built. 

Then they proded Leon County to legalize liquor sales.  This really appealed to the legislators, who previously had to drink on the sly in the dry county!

The talk of moving to Orlando disappeared.

It was the work of legislators doing what they do best.

Gaming the system.

Far from the eyes of the public. Against the wishes of the public. Against what was better for the public.

In Tallahassee. 

4 Responses to “The Legislature’s Problem: Tallahassee”

  1. Have Grown Apart says:

    North and South Florida have grown apart. There are things we want down here that they won’t give us up there for reasons that make sense up there but not down here. They are very different than we are, we are more diverse and different in our thinking than is the case up north. There is too little evidence of any desire to bridge the gap. There is sound cause for South Florida to study secession from the rest of Florida. First, the effort to study the benefits alone will awaken new focus on the problem. Second, we might actually learn that it’s better for us. And third, if we do nothing, then nothing politically can change. Nothing will get the attention of Tallahassee quite like an attempt to create a State of South Florida.

  2. State Of Fear says:

    We in South Florida continued to be dictated to by the crackers and rightwing Republicans north of here. The way to solve this is to have fair reapportionment, so that the population is fairly represented. It is interesting that the Florida House is 2-1 Republican, but there are more Democrats in this state than Republicans. As far as the capital, they should slowly move state offices and agency headquarters to other areas of the state. Butterworth ran the AGs office out of Fort Lauderdale. Other agency heads should try that, then the capital will move.

  3. It Won't Happen Unless says:

    The party in power in 2010 will be the party that redistricts in 2011 when the census is finished and reported. That’s what the Republicans did in 2000 and that is why they are still in power. The only way around that is a constitutional amendment on how districts can be drawn. There is such an effort but it’s not clear if it will win.

  4. Ron Jacobs says:

    Remember what was placed in the Lobby of the then new capitol building and is still there today: “This plaque is dedicated to Senator Lee Weissenborn, whose valiant effort to move the Capitol to Orlando was the prime motivation for construction of this building.”