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"F" for 2004 Florida Legislative Session

Florida democrats are out with their report card on the just concluded legislative session, and they're giving lawmakers a big fat "F".

The Florida Democratic Party rolled out a report card slamming the state Legislature for dropping the ball on a host of key issues this year: failing to adopt tough new guidelines for a statewide pre-kindergarten program, failing to put any real money in efforts to fight teen smoking and failing to pass any accountability measures to fight corruption in the state's school voucher program.

Among other issues they lay the blame squarely at the feet of one man, House Speaker Johnnie Byrd.

“He is without question the worst speaker of the House in the history of Florida in my opinion,” says Scott Maddox.

Byrd refused to consider some major reform proposals because the Senate wouldn't go along with his push to freeze a phone rate increase.

You won't often find Republicans and Democrats on the same page about anything in Florida, but even the Senate President blames some of the failures of this Legislature on Speaker Byrd.

Senate President Jim King was clearly frustrated at the communication breakdown with the House. In the past, he says he could at least talk with other Republicans even if they didn't agree.

“I'm not so sure that Johnny and I could have done that. I’m not so sure that we're just not so polarized that anything I would say was suspect and everything he was saying I didn't understand,” says King.

Johnnie Byrd makes no apologies for any of the people's work done or left undone. The campaign manager for Byrd's U.S. Senate bid says the speaker believes he was extremely successful over his two-year term in moving Florida's government in a more conservative direction.

Late Wednesday the House Speaker’s Office responded by saying speaker Byrd was just as adamant about advocating house legislation as Senate President Jim King was in fighting for the Senate's favored bills.


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