March 1, 2024

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

The 'e-governor': Bush's use of a laptop and e-mail is part of a hands-on approach to managing the governor's office.

» Technology
Bush's administration made a big splash early with e-government initiatives, including the state's official website, The state made numerous services, including vehicle and professional license registration, state agency procurement and corporate filings, available online.

More recently, however, progress has stalled, clouding Bush's legacy. A 2005 Brown University report on state and federal e-government ranked Florida 31st, down from 13th only a year earlier.

» One Florida
Six years after Bush repealed affirmative action programs for state contracts and university admissions, prompting demonstrations that harkened back to the 1960s, One Florida's results are mixed. On the contracting side, Bush can point to successes. The governor's staff says that since 1999, certified minority spending by state agencies has increased 164%, from $263 million in fiscal year 1999 to $694 million in 2005.

At Florida's universities, the percentage of Hispanic students has continued to climb, but lower out-of-state admissions dropped the percentage of African-American students on campus slightly this year. The legacy factor is limited: Because One Florida is an executive order, Bush's successor can decide whether to keep it or chart a new direction.

» Privatization
Bush's efforts to outsource the work of state government were ambitious but lacked the accountability he tried hard to weave into other aspects of state government. In June 2003, Bush's inspector general found the state's contracts with private companies "in a state of disrepair." Government employees often have been unsophisticated in negotiating the best deal on behalf of the state, and some privatization efforts have been marred by inappropriate relations between vendors and state officials. The state's huge new privatized personnel system, People First, has performed poorly, botching paychecks for thousands of state employees -- including many in the state Capitol.

Bush has moved to provide more oversight with his Center for Efficient Government. But the jury is still out on whether that will be enough to fix the problems with privatization. In all, Bush calculates that privatization during his tenure has saved taxpayers nearly $600 million. The real test of his legacy on the issue will be in his most ambitious privatization effort yet: Shifting the state's $15-billion Medicaid program to private insurers, an effort that will play out mostly after he has left office.

» Turnpike Enterprise
Early in his administration, Bush considered whether to sell Florida's Turnpike Enterprise, the authority that operates toll roads in the state. He made it a quasi-autonomous arm of the state Department of Transportation instead, and the authority, free of many bureaucratic restrictions, has become one of the most entrepreneurial and effective parts of state government.

» Social Agenda
Whatever their polarizing effects on the electorate, Bush-supported social initiatives have left little lasting impact on Florida. Courts undid abortion-related laws requiring parental notification and limiting late-term abortions. "Generally, we've not been as successful in giving women when they're confronted with this choice, which they have a legal right to make, with more loving options," Bush says. The courts also struck down a 2003 law intended to prolong the life of Terri Schiavo.

» Next Generation
The Republican ascendancy provided entree into state government for some of the GOP's best and brightest young people. Bush, for his part, surrounded himself with wave after wave of tireless young true-believer acolytes who kept the administration's energy level high. Some have gone on to lucrative careers in lobbying, but it's too early to know if Bush's example will lead many to seek public office or careers in public service. Bush's biggest legacy in this regard may be his elder son, George Prescott Bush, who has gotten media attention as a confident, attractive campaigner and heir to the family's political ambitions.

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

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