December 1, 2022

Cover Story - Jeb Bush

Jeb's Legacy

Jeb bush's record has esxtablished him as one of the most influential governors in Florida's modern history.

Mark R. Howard | 3/1/2006

Leaving His Mark

By Cynthia Barnett, Barbara Miracle and Mike Vogel

During his two terms in office, Gov. Jeb Bush had undertaken initiatives across a wide range of policy areas. What follows is not an attempt to grade him on his performance in each notable initiative, but rather an attempt to gauge which efforts have created a true legacy -- influence that will extend significantly beyond his time in office.

» The Office
Changes in the structure of Florida's government -- including several that Gov. Jeb Bush aggressively pushed -- made the Florida governor's office a considerably stronger institution over the course of Bush's two terms. Voter-approved changes meant that in 2003, the Cabinet shrank from six to just three slots, giving the governor power to appoint both the education commissioner and secretary of state. Every previous modern governor had supported the change. To Bush fell the spoils.

The governor's power grew even more when Bush and friendly legislative leaders mounted a successful charge in 2000 to abolish the Board of Regents, handing Bush the ability to name the trustees of the boards of every public university in the state. Another big change: Bush, via a legislative change, seized the power to name the members of the commissions that nominate candidates for judgeships, all but cutting the Florida Bar out of the process.

All those changes are structural, meaning Bush has left a legacy his successors will enjoy as well. Bush also capitalized on Republican majorities in the Legislature and term limits that pushed out lawmakers with their own established power bases. It's unlikely that the next governor will enjoy the same latitude Bush enjoyed with lawmakers, who are eager to reassert themselves after acquiescing to Bush's vetoes of $1.7 billion worth of pet spending projects for seven years. But the structural and legal changes, as well as Bush's example of what's possible, mean "Florida has gone from being one of the weakest states in terms of the governor's office to at least middle of the pack. It's way, way ahead of where Florida has been," says Pete Dunbar, a Tallahassee attorney and former legislator.

Adds Dario Moreno, political science professor and director of The Metropolitan Center at Florida International University: "I think people are going to expect more from their governor after Jeb Bush. He leaves Florida a far more important place than when he began -- politically, nationally, economically, internationally."

Tags: Politics & Law, Around Florida, Education, Government/Politics & Law

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