New Fla. Speaker Takes Office With 100 ideas
By Pauline Vu, Staff Writer
Photo courtesy of Republican Party of Florida
Marco Rubio (R), who will be sworn in as the Florida Speaker of the House today, holds up a blank copy of "100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future" at the ceremony where he was elected last September. He asked Republican House members to find ideas to put in the book.
When Marco Rubio becomes Florida's first Cuban-American House speaker today, he'll already have his agenda laid out for him. That's because a year ago when fellow Republican legislators unanimously chose Rubio to be their next leader, he asked them to each give him 100 ideas on how to improve the lives of the average Florida citizen.
And he told them to get the ideas from Floridians themselves.
"We felt the best way was not just to do it ourselves but to actually go out and engage the people of our state, to ask them, what would you do if you were in our position?" Rubio said last week in Washington, D.C.
A book called "100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future" was released to the public yesterday. It will guide Rubio's tenure, but its agenda won't end when his two years are up. The next two prospective speakers, who have already been chosen by Republicans expecting to stay in control of the House, have promised to carry on with the plan.
The book, which was paid for by the state Republican party and which will sell for $27.95 on Amazon.com , touches on several themes, including upgrading Florida's education system, cracking down on sex crimes and making homeowners' insurance more affordable.
GOP representatives solicited proposals by hosting "idearaisers" - a play on fundraisers - around the state to allow the public to suggest new laws. One legislator mailed 4,000 letters to teachers asking for their suggestions on education, while more than a thousand ideas were posted to the project's web site, 100ideas.org.
There were three requirements for a submission: 1) It had to be relevant to daily life, 2) It had to focus on the future, and 3) It could not unnecessarily expand government.
Rubio said he took the scheme to Floridians because he wanted "the political debate (to) reflect what people talk about over the water cooler at work, over the dinner table with their family," he said.
For example, he said, one of parents' daily concerns is the time period from 3-6 p.m., Monday through Friday, when the kids get home from school and the parents are still at work. "During that time of the day juvenile delinquency jumps up, bad things happen to kids, and working-class parent have few choices," Rubio said.
The Republicans' answer to this is No. 32 on the list - providing incentives for more public-private after-school programs like sports, music or foreign language classes.
To assemble their top 100 ideas, House Republicans sifted through about 1,500 submissions, focusing on the issues people talked about the most, Rubio said.
Some of the proposals are vague - like replacing the current school standards with "a new, world-class curriculum" - but a few are specific and unique. One would give whistleblower protection to prostitutes informing on their pimps. Another would deny sex offenders and stalkers access to Internet networking sites like MySpace, while another would require schools to issue instructions as to what information students can post on such sites.
Some more offbeat ideas were left on the cutting room floor, like requiring smokers to pay a five-to-ten cent deposit on cigarette butts so they don't discard them on the street, forcing gas stations to advertise which country the gas originated from so that drivers can "choose to buy Texas, Alaska or Gulf of Mexico gas instead of Saudi Arabia," and deterring murder by televising electric chair executions ("Sound track should be included," the contributor wrote on the web site.).
The book's acknowledgments section includes the names of 2,832 people, most of whom submitted suggestions.
Rubio says he thinks several ideas on the list will have support across both parties. Rep. Dan Gelber (D), the incoming House minority leader, said he agreed with some of the project's goals but is waiting to see if the hype turns into results.
"The devil is in the details," he told The Palm Beach Post . "Talk only gets me to listen. It doesn't produce anything."
Legislators in a few other states are considering playing copycat. Officials in Oklahoma, Kentucky and Virginia have called Rubio's office for more details, while Jim Nussle, Iowa's unsuccessful Republican candidate for governor in the recent election, used "99 Ideas to Energize Iowa's Future" - 99 being the number of counties in Iowa - as his campaign theme.
Rubio would love for the "100 Ideas" movement to spread to other states, but doesn't expect too many to jump on the bandwagon yet.
"It needs to work in Florida before it catches on and spreads," he said. "Success breeds duplication."