It has become a tradition. Every year, dozens of RLCers make the trek to Tallahassee for the annual “Lobby Days at the Capitol” — two days of tangling with legislators, drinking at Clyde’s and Costello’s and getting briefings from economists, grassroots lobbyists and think-tanks.
It is a lot of fun, and camaraderie is always a welcome result. But it is more than just fun.
RLC’ers express the views of the membership on key issues directly to legislators and teach them about the liberty Republican approach to policy. The group chooses issues that emphasize liberty and urges principle over party. View the 2011 Florida RLC legislative agenda.
This year, the issues agenda was longer than usual and Florida RLC Board member John Hallman helped us press the right issues in the right offices to be most effective as he led 34 of us around the Capitol building.
Top issues included supporting the governor on tough pension reforms, cutting spending and taxes, banning of red light cameras, repealing the REAL ID act, several state sovereignty bills, eliminating mandatory minimum sentencing and repealing the state septic tank inspection program.
Interestingly, Smart Cap — the institutional spending restraint billed as TABOR and Taxpayer Protection Act in the past — was on the list but didn’t engender the same enthusiasm of years past. This idea, which traditionally would limit the growth of state spending or revenues to a combination of inflation and population growth, passed the Senate before RLCers had left town. The Senate bill was pushed by its longtime champion Senate President Mike Haridopolos, but had been watered down with exceptions and even with a padded formula that increased spending in the early years and hence raised the spending trajectory forever. As a result, most of our lobbying on Smart Cap was urging House members to adopt a tougher version.
Another surprise is the interest we found in Tallahassee for medical marijuana. The statewide coordinator for the MedMar referendum effort, new RLC member Kim Russell, joined us as we made our rounds and we discovered several rookie legislators of both parties supported the idea.
RLC members received a briefing from our chief advisor, FSU professor of economics Randy Holcombe, on several issues. Also, Bob McClure of the James Madison Institute briefed us on the work the Tallahassee-based think tank is currently working on. Additionally, RLC member Greg Newburn of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, as did representatives of Floridians Against REAL ID.
RLC members met with dozens of politicians as a group and individually, as time was provided for us to visit our own legislators. As a group, RLCers met with, among others, Reps. Jimmie T. Smith, Matt Caldwell, Jeff Clemens, Alan Hayes and Sens. Joe Negron, Greg Evers, Scott Plakon, Mike Haridopolos and Don Gaetz.
Pictured: At top, Senate President Mike Haridopolos goes through our legislative agenda commenting and answering questions from RLCers. Next, Rep. Matt Caldwell addresses RLCers about his memorial calling for Congressional term limits and other issues. At bottom, RLC members Bryan Donnelly and Steve Burden listen to FSU professor Randy Holcombe.
A special thanks to Florida RLC Chairman Matt Nye and longtime RLC member Philip Blumel for their efforts to organize the trip.