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Capital Report

Cannon takes gavel as new House speaker; derides federal government

Dean Cannon

By Gina Jordan

Tallahassee, FL – The Florida House convened this morning with a speech by the new Speaker. Gina Jordan reports Dean Cannon used much of his time at the dais lashing out at the federal government.

"A quorum being present, the House of Representatives is declared officially in session for the 113th regular session of the Legislature since statehood in 1845."

Speaker Dean Cannon was first elected to the House in 2004. He reminisced about his freshman term, and without mentioning names, subtly praised former Governor Jeb Bush while taking a dig at former Governor Charlie Crist.

"During my first two years in the House, I had the privilege to serve with a Republican governor who led this state as a principled conservative; who believed in transformational reform, and who believed that standing up for what is right mattered more than being popular. And now, as I begin my final two years in the Florida House, I am privileged to again serve with a Republican governor who leads this state as a principled conservative, who believes in transformational reform, and who believes that standing up for what is right matters more than being popular. And I am going to do my best to forget everything about the years in between."

Much of Cannon's speech was spent hammering the federal government. He bemoaned the nationalization of state politics and said the political system in Washington D.C. is broken.

"It has spawned a massive, unwieldy bureaucracy that looks at states as if they are administrative subsidiaries rather than as sovereign entities within a Federal system of government. It has created a paralyzing web of entitlement programs that is literally beginning to collapse under the weight of promises it cannot fulfill. It has avoided dealing with those problems by spending money we don't have and borrowing money we have no present sensibility to repay."

Cannon said Washington is addicted to foreign debt, like a fiscal heroin addict, and politicians in both parties have failed to do anything to stop it.

"In a Federal system of government, what happens at one level of government inevitably translates down into the other layers of government. And so a state like Florida - where we've maintained a responsible, balanced budget; where we've avoided significantly expanding existing entitlement programs; we're a state that has made substantial policy reforms during the last 16 years - we still faced the most significant fiscal crisis in our modern history."

Cannon said states have become increasingly dependent on Federal money in the areas of health care, social services, transportation, education and the environment. He pointed out that the House will take up a bill this week dealing with unemployment compensation.

"The State has been forced to act as an administrator for a mandatory Federal program and it's hurting our businesses and preventing people from getting back to work. Later in Session, we will take up a bill dealing with Medicaid, which is a Great Society Federal entitlement program run amok, and it has become the single largest cost driver in our state's entire budget."

Criticizing Washington lawmakers for getting caught up in poll numbers and special interests, Cannon warned his fellow representatives to be wary of lobbyists and others promising easy ways to do hard things.

"We will be tempted to balance our budget by reaching up to the Federal government to bail us out or by pushing down our burdens to local governments. As we move forward to put together the 2011-12 budget, I would ask all of you to recall this basic truth - you cannot cut government spending without cutting government services. That is reality."

Cannon encouraged the members to work at restoring the public trust. He said the duties ahead include making strides in teacher quality, creating a business climate that encourages entrepreneurship, and modernizing the courts system.

"This Session, this House, we've got an opportunity to defy expectations. We can refuse to follow our national leaders over the edge and into the abyss. We can prove to the people of Florida that we have the wisdom to know what is right and the courage to do what is right. And I look forward to doing that with you in the coming days ahead. Thank you very much."

Following the speech, House committees dove into meetings, spending the afternoon on agenda items like the septic tank inspection program, regulations of electronic communications, and a measure that would keep doctors from asking patients about gun ownership.