The final year of Gov. Charlie Crist's term was one that featured a running series of skirmishes between Crist and the GOP-controlled Legislature.
Crist never had a strong show of support among his fellow Republicans to begin with and his populist style of governing consistently rubbed many of them the wrong way. Of course, once Crist switched parties to run as an independent for the U.S. Senate his relationship with the Legislature went from strained to outright hostile.
But at least got Crist got some sort of honeymoon when he first came into office. It seems like an eternity ago but Crist came into office with sky-high approval ratings and lawmakers were eager to work with him. Within days of taking office, the Legislature signed off on a major overhaul of property insurance in an effort to get rate hikes under control.
Now let's look at the situation between Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature.
Scott hasn't even been in office the proverbial "100 days" and his style of governing is already creating friction.
First of all, there was his decision to try to sell his budget proposal by courting the Tea Party movement and not the people who have to pass it. Scott released his budget at a Tea Party rally in Eustis and repeatedly suggested that the current state budget was "bloated" even though Republicans have been in complete control since 1999.
This week's decision to scuttle high-speed rail without giving any advance notice to lawmakers appears to really have infuriated a number of Republicans. Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland and an early backer of Scott, gave him the ultimate knock and suggested that he didn't approach the decision like a "businessman." The Scott administration has done their own pushback by turning to conservative media outlets and looking to their Tea Party allies for support. A majority of the Senate, however, wrote a letter to U.S. officials asking that they give the state time to try to bypass the governor.
And then in a sign that the honeymoon is almost all but over Sen. J.D Alexander wrote a letter this week suggesting that how Scott sold off two state planes ran afoul of state laws regarding budgeting and the disposal of surplus property.
Senate President Mike Haridopolos on Friday sided with Scott on high speed rail against the majority of members in his own chamber, but the question is whether his decision is more about positioning himself in the 2012 U.S. Senate race then it is about siding with Scott.
This quick breakdown is not completely surprising. Here's what I wrote in the Florida Tribune back in December:
Dealing with the Legislature: There have been some comparisons made between Scott and former Gov. Bush. Both were businessmen who had never run for office before and found themselves in the thick of Tallahassee politics and government.
But that may be where the parallels end. Scott will likely get some sort of honeymoon with the GOP-controlled Legislature when he takes office. But it would seem unlikely he will get the same type of compliant Legislature that Bush got. Scott’s partners – Senate President Mike Haridopolos and House Speaker Dean Cannon – had a marriage of convenience after their candidate, Attorney General Bill McCollum, got bounced. But the two leaders have their own agenda – and own political futures – to consider over the next two years. And with a veto-proof majority, they don’t have to play nice.
Plus Bush was elected by a wide margin and enjoyed rock star status from day one. If you were a Republican legislator, there were clear political reasons to remain loyal. Additionally, Bush’s first term was enhanced by House Speaker John Thrasher, who made it clear that his number one goal was helping the Republican governor succeed.
So the bottom line is this: The 2010 session was fairly unpredictable due to the hostility between the Legislature and Crist.
Yet it seems that the 2011 session could be even more dynamic. In the recent past, a governor usually triangulated against the Legislature by aligning himself with one of the chambers against the other chamber.
Right now, it's not clear that Scott will have that luxury. Cannon has his own agenda - like making changes to the state's judicial branch - but so far he has refrained from warmly embracing priorities of either Scott or the Senate. Haridopolos may support Scott because of his own political aspirations, but it appears that his own GOP senators may be unwilling to join him.
The next few months could be one heck of a ride.