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Jeb Bush on Government Reform

Republican FL Governor; V.P. prospect


No conspiracy of hackers manipulating electronic voting

After the 2000 election, Jeb Bush promised to replace much of the state's hated voting technology, including Palm Beach County's butterfly ballots along with their notoriously dimpled, perforated, and hanging chads.

The new system the counties chose was touch-screen voting machines. Soon enough, 15 Florida counties had signed on. But that didn't work out too well. The costs were high. The glitches were constant. And worst of all, no one seemed to trust the electronic counts. Without paper records, how did voters know their choices were being accurately recorded? How could anyone be sure some evil hacker wasn't manipulating the results? Jeb dismissed those fears as "conspiracy theories." But in the run-up to the 2004 presidential election, the Republican Party of Florida sent out fliers urging their voters to use absentee ballots because of the disturbing absence of a paper trail from the Election Day machines.

Source: The Party's Over, by Charlie Crist, p. 92 , Feb 4, 2014

2005: Disallowed early voting in schools or churches

Luckily for everyone, 2004 did not draw huge crowds. But the race wasn't close, and the voting process was a clear improvement over the dark days of Bush vs Gore. In fact, early voting was popular enough in 2004 that the state's election supervisors asked the legislature for more of it in future elections--more polling stations, longer hours, and additional publicity.

But Republican leaders in the House and Senate would have none of that. They moved to curtail early voting instead. The early-voting schedule was cut again--from 12 hours to 8 hours a day. Strict limits were placed on where the early voting could occur. No more schools or churches or community centers. Now the early ballots could be cast only in election offices, libraries, & city halls.

The rollbacks sailed through the House, 82-36, on a largely party line vote. Over the objection of Democrats and local election officials, Jeb signed the reductions into law on June 20, 2005, a year and a half before I came in.

Source: The Party's Over, by Charlie Crist, p.140-141 , Feb 4, 2014

Legislative term limits strengthened Bush's executive power

Term limits were enacted in Florida in 1992 and, by a stroke of good fortune for the governor, became effective just as Bush took office, forcing out of the 2000 legislature more than half of the experienced members. This change had an effect similar to that in other states, emptying the legislature of experience and forcing green legislators to struggle with issues so complex that by the time they began to understand them, it was time for them to leave.

Throughout history, the state legislature has been viewed as the dominant political institution in Florida and in the 1980s was described as one of the strongest legislatures in the nation. Within a few years of Bush taking office, this dominance was reversed. The transformation was aided by term limits. Lobbyists and the executive office were the real winners in this environment and term limits gave Bush additional influence over the legislature.

Source: Aggressive Conservatism in Florida, by R. Crew, p.19 & 64-65 , Dec 11, 2009

OpEd: Foundation for Florida's Future hides campaign donors

The Foundation for Florida's Future did keep Bush in the public eye, but at some cost. It generated controversy for Bush on two issues. First, the foundation was attacked for failure to identify those who had made financial contributions, suggesting that they were simply disguised campaign contributions. Secondly, it was criticized for the proportion of its funds it devoted to programmatic concerns.

The FFF raised more than $1.7 million in 1995 & 1996, primarily in $5,000 amounts. While the foundation released the names of its donors, it did so only in general categories related to the size of their donation. Thus in 1995 FFF released the names of 131 donors of $5,000 or more, but would not connect name to specific amounts. [That left] reporters to ask, "Who gave $50,000, a sum 100 times greater than the $500 limit for the Bush re-election campaign?"

Jeb's foundation was also criticized for devoting far less of its resources to programmatic concerns than to administration.

Source: Aggressive Conservatism in Florida, by Robert Crew, p. 10 , Dec 11, 2009

Refused to fund state agency requests for specific services

An overarching principle for governmental conservatives and for Jeb Bush was restraint in state spending. For Governor Bush this principle was defined as holding spending growth below the growth of personal income in the state. As the governor said, "the system is geared toward spending money. That's what this whole process is about. I just don't think government, as a matter of course, should grow faster than people's ability to pay for it." Bush pursued this goal relentlessly, using a wide variety of strategies: pressure on agency heads to limit annual budgetary requests, arbitrarily capping the monies that could be raised from service fees that were to be used for dedicated purposes such as affordable housing; and simply refusing to fund requests from agency heads for particular services, for example, beds for county jail inmates who had severe mental illnesses.
Source: Aggressive Conservatism in Florida, by Robert Crew, p. 26 , Dec 11, 2009

Mature society can empty government buildings of workers

Like other governmental conservatives, Governor Bush disliked and distrusted government and promoted the idea that smaller government--combined with more privatizing of governmental services--was more efficient government. He argued that "the most efficient, effective and dynamic government is one composed primarily of policymakers, procurement experts and contract managers." He expressed his general philosophy about government in his 2003 Inaugural Address when he stated that "There would be no greater tribute to our maturity as a society than if we make these [governmental] buildings around us empty of workers, monuments to a time when government played a larger role than it deserve or could adequately fill."

With this philosophy guiding his actions, Bush worked to diminish the credibility of government in Florida, to reduce its size and scope, and to make it more accountable to political overseers.

Source: Aggressive Conservatism in Florida, by Robert Crew, p. 30 , Dec 11, 2009

Judges should respect primacy of Legislature & Executive

The governor's effort to improve his influence over the appointment of Florida judges was driven by a desire to change what Bush believed was an improper, liberal judicial philosophy. But there was also ongoing hostility among Florida Republicans about the role they played by the judiciary in the American system of checks and balances. Bush and other Republicans regularly lamented the fact that public policy was made not only in the executive and legislative branches, but also in the judicial branch of government.

Bush personally distanced himself from the position held by generations of constitutional authorities that the three branches of government were co-equals. Bush pushed his position so intensely that the president of the Florida Bar questioned whether he believed in the separation of powers doctrine. Pursuing his own version of this doctrine, Bush promised to appoint judges who would respect "the primacy of the legislative and the executive as policymakers."

Source: Aggressive Conservatism in Florida, by Robert Crew, p. 61 , Dec 11, 2009

Asked judicial candidates: Are you a God-fearing churchgoer?

When filling judicial position, Governor Bush and his appointees were criticized for using criteria unrelated to fitness to serve on the bench as standards for appointment.

Several judicial candidates complained to a Miami newspaper that they had been subjected to a series of inappropriate questions by one of these commissions, including whether they were active in their church, whether they thought they were "God-fearing people," how they felt about the US Supreme Court `s 2003 ruling to strike down a Texas law criminalizing homosexual activity, and how they would feel about having the Ten Commandments posted in their courtrooms. One candidate, an assistant county attorney, was also asked whether she "would be able to balance her duties as a single mother of twins with her duties as a judge."

Source: Aggressive Conservatism in Florida, by Robert Crew, p. 62 , Dec 11, 2009

2004: Purged felons list from eligible voters

Governor Bush and his allies also continued throughout 2004 their efforts to purge the "felons list" of ineligible voters. The governor dismissed complaints from the media and the public about the felons list and refused to open it to public scrutiny, in what many perceived as another effort to depress minority voting. Ultimately, a lawsuit was filed by Florida newspapers and a Florida judge forced the state to reveal the voters list.

In reviewing the list, news organizations discovered that only 61 Hispanic voters were listed, but over 20,000 African American names were present. Hispanics in Florida, particularly Cubans, are more likely to vote Republican than Democratic and Africa Americas are heavily Democratic. Critics argued that this was proof that the governor & his allies had intentionally used the list for partisan purposes. The governor and his secretary of state claimed that the small number of Hispanic voters on the list was a function of a computer problem that they had been unaware of.

Source: Aggressive Conservatism in Florida, by Robert Crew, p. 96-97 , Dec 11, 2009

2005: Achieved goal of restraining growth in spending

As a proponent of small government, Governor Bush advocated slow growth in spending and smaller state budgets and his tax policy was designed to produce low levels of revenue per capita. An analysis of state spending over the time period 1999 through 2005 shows that the governor achieved his goal of restraining growth in that spending.

Over the 8 years of the Bush administration, state expenditures for all government activities increased by an average of 3.8% per year in 2000 dollars. Further, there was virtually no change in the level of state spending as a percentage of Florida's gross state product, or GSP, between 1998 and 2006. In addition, the governor was able (barely) to redeem his pledge to keep spending growth below growth in the personal income of the state's residents. In June 2006, the state had 43.6% more spending than when Bush took office and 46.5% more personal income. In absolute terms, then, the governor's spending growth goals were realized.

Source: Aggressive Conservatism in Florida, by Robert Crew, p.106 , Dec 11, 2009

Longer time and more fees to see public records

Even lower in his esteem than the other two branches of government were the members of the press and the public who attempted to obtain information about his administration that he did not wish to be generally known. He built new barriers to the state's public records law, forcing requesters to wait weeks or months, and then pay hundreds and thousands of dollars, to obtain information that should have been theirs for the asking. He instituted a regime of message control--rewarding journalists who carried his official line, punishing those who did not, but also attempting to censor outside entities, like a chamber of commerce study group that found far less than advertised in his touted educational gains.
Source: America's Next Bush, by S.V. Date, p. 41-42 , Feb 15, 2007

Scrubbed voter registration rolls to eliminate felons

Just as he had in 2000, he pushed ahead with an aggressive scrubbing of the voter registration rolls to eliminate felons, who under a dated, Jim Crow-era state law cannot regain their right to vote unless they first undergo a tedious clemency process. Needless to say, a disproportionate number of the felons are black, and blacks disproportionately vote for Democrats.

Jeb not only defended the creation of the list, but also the clearly unconstitutional law that prevented the list from being released as a public record. It took a lawsuit by CNN to get the matter before a judge--who needed about 5 seconds to declare the law unconstitutional & order Jeb to turn over the master voter roll to anybody who wanted it. And it took about 5 days for reporters to notice that there was something unusual about the felon list: it included virtually no Hispanics. Of course, Florida Hispanics tend to vote disproportionately for Republicans, but Jeb and his people said that that had nothing to do with the glitch.

Source: America's Next Bush, by S.V. Date, p.123-124 , Feb 15, 2007

Government is an obsolete dinosaur

Government is an obsolete dinosaur. I don't consider that being from the far left or far right, or far anything, said Jeb Bush, in his first run for governor in 1993. In 1994, Jeb said, "Quietly, without debate, we are transforming our society to a collectivist policy."

"There would be no greater tribute to our maturity as a society than if we can make these buildings around us empty of workers--silent monuments to the time when government played a larger role than it deserved or could adequately fill." In the context of the speech, it was clear what Jeb meant. He was repeating a refrain that both he and George have used through the years.

But words like that spoken by the state's chief executive, in a town where state government is the #1 employer, and following 4 years of proposals to whittle down government by reducing its workforce--well, it's understandable why the emptied-of-workers state buildings remark struck such a sour note.

Source: America's Next Bush, by S.V. Date, p.154-155 , Feb 15, 2007

Challenge relying on government for satisfaction

Florida's firm foundation is not built on misgivings and hesitation. Nor will the decisions made for her future. [We should] challenge the traditional thinkers who continue to rely on government for satisfaction. All great movements in history--and especially in Florida--withstood the rigors of the critics, the disdain of those protecting the status quo, and the notion that all good ideas originate from the tip of the government pen.

Over the past eight years, I have repeatedly faced two choices: either tinker with systems clearly not working, and rest on the laurels of having made a bad system a little less bad; or dive headlong into debates that would attract the critics, risk being ridiculed, and maybe, just maybe, transform the system. I chose the latter.

Source: 100 Innovative Ideas, by Marco Rubio, p. 1-2 , Nov 1, 2006

Even private citizens have a public service role

I challenge my fellow Floridians to consider their place in public service. One need not stand for election or sit in a legislative chamber in order to affect good government. With my term of public office nearing completion, I, too, will soon find myself living and working as a private citizen--but that does not excuse me from my obligation to society.

Each and every one of us has a role. For good or for bad, government affects our daily lives. Its success rises and falls on the attention and scrutiny we afford to its maintenance. Let the public become disengaged and unconcerned, and government will cater to itself. But let people become vocal and vigorous about its decisions, and government will have to respond.

Source: 100 Innovative Ideas, by Marco Rubio, p. 3-4 , Nov 1, 2006

Keep legislation small and focused: no mammoth “train” bills

House Bill 1053 was originally created to address issues that would improve overall administration of various transportation programs in our state. As the bill moved through the legislative process, a multitude of different proposals were added onto the original language. By the time House Bill 1053 was approved on the last day of session it had become a mammoth piece of legislation, most commonly referred to as a “train.” In its final form, House Bill 1053 exceeds 300 pages and makes almost two hundred different changes to current Florida law.

As would be expected, a bill of this size and complexity brings forth concerns. For one, the sheer range of issues addressed in House Bill 1053 provides a textbook example of logrolling, the kind that makes it difficult to provide Floridians with good, sound public policy.

In closing, I would encourage the sponsors of this bill to repackage the good ideas and create new legislation for next year.

Source: Veto notification on House Bill 1053 , Jun 14, 2001

Reform Civil Service: “Service First”

Source: Press Release , Mar 1, 2001

Privatize & outsource govt; fee holidays for contractors

Senate Bill 1016 is a broad piece of legislation dealing with the regulation of professions. It also implements a number of the Administration’s priorities reflecting a smaller, more efficient government.

Among these priorities, Senate Bill 1016 provides a “fee holiday” for 14 professions, ranging from electrical contractors to veterinarians to surveyors. Over the course of the next two years, the fee holidays will provide over $18 million in savings to these professions.

Senate Bill 1016 also encourages the privatization and outsourcing of certain governmental activities. It calls for the privatization of elevator inspections and contains provisions known collectively as the Management Privatization Act. These provisions will allow for the outsourcing of licensing and investigative functions of regulated professions. All told, these changes should lead to less government and more efficiency.

Source: Approval notification on Senate Bill 1016 , Jun 23, 2000

No campaign spending limits; no public financing

Q: Do you support requiring full and timely disclosure of campaign finance information?

A: Yes

Q: Do you support imposing spending limits on state level political campaigns?

A: No.

Q: Do you support partial funding from state taxes for state level political campaigns?

A: No.

Source: 1998 Florida Gubernatorial National Political Awareness Test , Nov 1, 1998

Proper role: public order & general welfare

    We must ask ourselves what the proper role of government should be. We must find the things government does well or should do well. In doing this, we should keep in mind 3 principles:
  1. Government is at its best when it is providing public order and safety, when it is preventing our encroachment upon one another, when it is building and maintaining roads and bridges. We must move towards letting government do these things first.
  2. Government does have a role to play in the general welfare of its citizens. Public education and assistance for those truly in need are legitimate and important areas for government involvement. However, improved results will only come from a shift in decision making away from bureaucrats to a new social management team-volunteers in our communities.
  3. Too often in the past, we have created social policy without asking basic questions. What kind of behavior will this legislation encourage or discourage? How will a particular policy afect families and communities?
    Source: Profiles in Character, by Jeb Bush & B.Yablonski, p.180-81 , Nov 1, 1995

    Reforms must respect state's rights to select electors.

    Bush adopted the National Governors Association position paper:

    The Issue

    In the wake of the United States presidential election in Florida, the Congress and the administration has expressed interest in federal standards for elections. Recognizing that Articles I and II of the United States Constitution grants states, not Congress, the authority to determine the manner of selecting presidential electors and conducting elections generally, most legislative proposals do not mandate federal standards. Rather, current proposals direct federal agencies or commissions to study and make recommendations concerning the election system. Nonetheless, the possibility of legislation in the 107th Congress requiring states to implement federal election standards remains. If enacted without adequate funding by the federal government, such legislation could also result in an unfunded mandate to the states.

    NGA’s Position

    Articles I and II of the United States Constitution grant states the authority to determine the manner of selecting presidential electors and provide that states are responsible for establishing election procedures generally. However, in the wake of the 2000 presidential election, the nation’s Governors recognize the need for election reform. NGA will continue to monitor federal legislation addressing this issue, but has not taken a position in support of or opposition to election reform efforts.
    Source: National Governors Association "Issues / Positions" 01-NGA11 on Aug 1, 2001

    Other candidates on Government Reform: Jeb Bush on other issues:
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    Page last updated: Aug 18, 2014