Tim Ireland's article in the August issue ("Is the Legislature Irrelevant?") seems to portray the Legislature as not being pertinent or not relating to the issues at hand. While I understand the argument presented, I feel compelled to disagree.
With the 1995 legislative session now over, an overview of the accomplishments is indicative of how "relevant" the Florida Legislature is and can be with intelligent and focused leadership as the driving force behind short-term objectives and long-term goals. This year the Legislature, during its 60-day session, made historic, giant steps in the areas of 1) public safety, 2) improving education, 3) reducing the size and scope of government, 4) increasing economic opportunity and 5) reforming the broken welfare system. In my humble opinion, there is no necessary connection between working hard and working smart. Longer sessions and longer terms for House members are begging the question of whether the Florida Legislature is relevant.
The restoration and renewal of the Florida Legislature has begun, and it was initiated by Floridians who are tired of the old philosophies and who aspire to an era of improvement. The time for action is now. It's 1995! It has begun!
Representative, District 68
Tim Ireland is on track when he writes that legislative reform is long overdue. However, he is headed in the wrong direction.
Mark Twain has been quoted as saying, "Everybody's freedom is in jeopardy when the legislature is in session." The longer we allow our elected representatives to remain in session, the more stupid, ineffectual and costly laws we have to suffer with. We can no longer afford reams of proposed legislation which nobody knows the contents of.
It is time to seriously consider making the legislative session shorter, not longer! Every year, I admonish my representatives to vote against the enactment of all legislation they have not personally read and understood. I urge all concerned Floridians to do the same.
Tim Ireland makes several good points. He also misses some. It is clear that voters are sick and tired of more and more laws, rules and regulations. More down-to-earth common sense among legislators would be helpful. Perhaps 60 days of legislation every other year would help, with the first 30 days devoted to repealing irrelevant legislation. Cutting the bureaucracy by 30% to 40% might also help. A complete revamp of the Department of Transportation, the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services and the Department of Environmental Protection might also help. Florida government is long overdue for a major restructuring. The private sector has grown increasingly more efficient and productive while our Florida government has grown less efficient, less productive, more bureaucratic and less responsive. It's time for major change.
Charles F. Faddis
Our collective and complex problems, compounded by technological advances and social interdependency, are increased by interest group avariciousness and a self-centered rights mentality. These aspects are fracturing a capacity for political cohesion and united action for common political goals. The costs they impart to public services exceed society's will to tax itself.
Your August trilogy ["The Leadership Void"] makes this situation clear. The solution lies in restructuring Florida's government. The cabinet system of an executive branch must go. A unicameral legislature with strict standards barring the introduction of narrow legislation ought to replace the ponderous porous system now in place. Legislators do not need more calendar time; they need less trash.
A governor in every sense of the word and a one body legislature ought to produce an opportunity for unity of effort and purpose.
Robert J. Thomas
In response to the closing comment in John Berry's August "Florida Close-Up" column, calling for leadership programs for our elected leaders, I want to share with you that Leadership Florida is creating such a program for consideration by the Florida League of Cities. Current plans call for the class to begin in February 1996 for select city managers, commissioners and mayors. They will participate in a two-segment (each 2 1/2 days in duration) program, focusing primarily on community, cooperation and leadership.
We are very pleased about this opportunity, and in the short time since our conversations began with the League of Cities, we have been approached by a number of other statewide organizations who are interested in discussing the possibility of our creating a leadership program for their members.
The League of Cities program follows on the heels of a very successful Symposium on Statewide Community for Freshmen Legislators, presented this past January by Leadership Florida through a grant from the Florida Humanities Council. Five-to-seven-minute taped segments of each presentation are currently being featured on public radio throughout the state.
Thank you for your editorial comments regarding the value of the Leadership Florida program. We look forward to providing additional program opportunities for Floridians as we continue our mission to develop leaders in Florida who have a sense of statewide community.
Keith A. James
Chairman, Leadership Florida
I read with dismay your editorial comments in the July issue of Florida Trend regarding the governor's attempt this past legislative session to privatize the Department of Commerce. You stated that the governor's failure to have his privatization plan approved was due to "extreme partisanship" on the part of Republicans in the Legislature.
Privatizing the Department of Commerce and transferring the majority of its funding and responsibilities to Enterprise Florida may be a very good idea. The problem was that no one supporting the governor's effort could produce any facts or figures to show how many new jobs would be created or how this state's economic outlook would change as a result of the transfer. I know, because I asked many times for any information which would indicate what degree of success we could anticipate from doing away with the department and expanding Enterprise Florida. No information was ever forthcoming. The attitude was: trust me, privatization will be better than we have today. That blind faith attitude didn't get very far in the Senate when you are talking about $96 million dollars, which is the total budget for the Department of Commerce.
The governor's plan didn't fare much better in the House of Representatives, which is controlled by the governor's own party. Divided support there resulted in his plan being substantially revised through the committee process before being considered and finally passed by the House. Since the end of the session, I've talked to many individuals in the economic development field, and the majority have said that they prefer that no legislation was passed as opposed to the privatization plan ultimately approved by the House.
As one can see, partisan politics had very little to do with the governor's past failure to privatize the Department of Commerce. He will, however, have another opportunity. Economic development is a high priority of Senate President Jim Scott for the 1996 session, and during the interim, the Senate Commerce Committee will be addressing that issue. This interim effort will include contacting economic development officers and leading business executives around the state to get their input. More than likely, the privatization issue will be discussed in some fashion. If the facts and figures show that it's a good idea, the governor may get his wish.
Senate Committee on Commerce and Economic Opportunities
Top Public Companies
I just finished reading the July issue of Florida Trend and found the "Florida's Top Public Companies" article quite informative. I fully realize that this type of endeavor can be a statistical nightmare, and there must have indeed been a cutoff date for companies to qualify as being "headquartered" in Florida. However, it is important to note that as of April 27, 1995, Ideon Group Inc. (formerly SafeCard Services Inc.) officially located its corporate headquarters in Jacksonville.
Using your definition of revenue as the rankings were calculated, Ideon Group would have been number 65 based on reported subscription revenues of $173,434,000, up 10.8% for our last fiscal year ended October 31, 1994. Subsequently, we have changed to a calendar year-end.
For your information, the other components of the table for Ideon were: net income, $20 million; return on equity, 9.2%; market capitalization, $440 million and employees at fiscal year-end, 700. Thanks again for a solid look at the state of business in Florida.
William G. Lackey
Vice President, Investor Relations
Ideon Group Inc.
Editor's Response: Standard & Poor's Compustat, our source for the Top 250 Public Companies listing, did not receive Ideon Group's financial reports in time for our deadline. Next year, Ideon Group will be listed. We apologize for excluding the company.
Florida Trend and [Editor] John Berry are to be commended for publishing "The High Cost of Urban Sprawl" and for having the courage to address the contentious issue of short-term development rights versus the inherent right of the natural world and its inhabitants to exist in perpetuity. So-called conservatives who support the "property rights amendment" favor a police state that protects their commercial interests, but loathe efforts to conserve our native soil. Let's not confuse government confiscation of a person's home for an interstate highway, a "taking" that should be more than fully compensated, with efforts to prevent a sleazy developer from destroying the last habitat of an endangered species.
A great controversy arose pertaining to the proposed development of Kanapaha Prairie in a rural part of Alachua County southwest of Gainesville. This ill-planned residential development attempted to take advantage of a loophole in our comprehensive plan by trading development rights on a biologically important wetland (which could not legally be developed anyway) for a higher-density zoning variance. It was a classic case of "leapfrog" development into a rural area served by an inadequate infrastructure. The rest of the county taxpayers would be stuck with the bill for necessary schools, roads and other services that these transplanted suburbanites would demand. The citizens of the area rose almost as one to protest the proposed development.
The issue came before the County Commission Development Review Committee, most of the members of which are staunchly pro-development. The developer and his hired flunkies sat there smugly confident that the variance would pass, but no one expected such a massive turnout of local residents vehemently opposed to the project. I and other citizens had faxed the committee members copies of "The High Cost of Urban Sprawl." The arguments were irrefutable. At one o'clock in the morning the exhausted commissioners voted their consciences and the variance was denied. Thanks again to Florida Trend for giving us the facts to back up our convictions.
Bruce J. Morgan