When the U.S. Congress and Barack Obama adopted the Unaffordable Care Act, they did something almost unheard of. They broke the long-standing government axiom that governments always operate in the margins.
It's too risky for their careers to do otherwise.
We'll see how breaking that rule plays out in November. (Our bet: Democrats will get creamed.)
In Florida, as this year's legislative session comes to life, we can expect no such surprises. Nothing that will risk tipping the balance in the Republican-controlled statehouse.
We used the phrase last week: “Do no harm.” That's the game plan. Republicans have elections this fall, and there's no point irritating voters.
Actually, it's a little more specific than doing no harm. It's more in the vein of allowing the members to say: “Look what we did — we cut your taxes and increased the amount of money we're spending in the schools.”
Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford telegraphed that message prior to the session's opening. Everything pretty much will be incremental change.
Consider President Gaetz and Speaker Weatherford's five priorities, laid out in Gaetz's opening address to the Senate:
• Tax cuts: $500 million, coming mostly by reducing vehicle fees.
• Protection for the vulnerable: tougher penalties on child molesters; stricter oversight of adult living facilities; more funds for needy children.
• Military incentives: Scholarships and other educational and job benefits for veterans, with the goal of making Florida the most welcoming state in America for veterans.
• Education: Give high school students the option to take more career-oriented technical courses than previously allowed; and expand the business tax-credit voucher program to give low-income children in lousy schools more school choice.
• Ethics: Toughen residency requirements for candidates; and allow the removal from office elected officials who don't pay ethics-violation fines.
When you go down that list, it doesn't exactly trigger your adrenalin or give you the sense: This is Big.
There are a few touchy issues lurking — expanding Medicaid, state-employee pension reform and casino gambling, among the most prominent. Don't expect much. Medicaid is DOA.
While we often lament lawmakers seldom showing great courage, this actually is a good year to have “government in the margins.” Florida is on track. There's no need to knock it off.
Floridians better off?
It's going to be absolutely dreadful — the gubernatorial campaign between Charlie Crist and Rick Scott.
In the end, voters will like the candidates less and dislike them more than when the race started. Not because they're bad people, but because candidates, unfortunately, let their handlers produce dumbed-down, disgusting advertisements, and because political PACs for both sides know that sleazy ads move the needles.
If only performance really mattered. Indeed, when Ronald Reagan clobbered Jimmy Carter in 1980, Reagan sealed his election when he asked Americans the simple question: Are you better off today than you were four years ago?
Floridians might keep in mind a similar question when they actually measure some of the key indicators during the candidates' terms in office — Charlie Crist, from 2007 to 2010, and Rick Scott, from 2011 to 2014.
To that end, study the data in the “Perspective” box below. Note the trend lines. And remember: Crist and Scott both served during the recession. Those trend lines tell a definitive story.