TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – 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.READ MORE: Art Basel Puts NFTs And Tech In Focus
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 could also 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 had already 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.READ MORE: Scott Carr Selected As FIU’s New Athletic Director
Candidates for speaker would also be barred from raising or spending money to try to influence Republican primaries that could decide the leadership race.
The new rules would apply to the speakership race for the class first elected this year. It 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.”
Incoming House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, portrayed the rules as part of an effort by Corcoran to overhaul the way legislative business is conducted in Tallahassee.
“In addition, we are putting an end to divisive intraparty races for leadership positions and are, instead, enacting rules that will require members to serve at least one full session before directly or indirectly soliciting pledges of support,” Rodrigues said. “House Republicans are picking up the baton of reform and running with it.”
Corcoran has also introduced rules for the full House aimed at curtailing lobbyists’ ability to influence the legislative process.
The House GOP changes come after a series of leadership contests that have ended messily. Former Speaker Ray Sansom resigned before his first full session in 2009 after being hit with criminal charges for his conduct as budget chairman, though the case was eventually dismissed. Former Rep. Chris Dorworth, who was set to be speaker in the legislative term that just ended, lost a re-election bid in 2012.
House members were also consumed this year by a fight over the leadership for the 2020-22 term. Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, R-Orlando, originally appeared to be in line for the spot, but his support eroded and Sprowls is now scheduled to be the speaker as long as the GOP retains control of the House.MORE NEWS: Homegoing Celebration, Funeral Service Set For Congresswoman Carrie Meek
The News Service of Florida’s Brandon Larrabee contributed to this report.