Miami Republican Rep. J.C. Planas is calling on House Speaker Ray Sansom to resign his leadership post because the Destin Republican's legal troubles have become too much of a "distraction." Sansom is under criminal investigation in connection with a hometown developer and a job he accepted at Northwest Florida College to which he steered $30 million in public funds. Sansom has since resigned the job.
Planas said he has called and emailed Sansom, asking him to quit the top job. He has not heard back from him.
The transcript: Planas: "Ray needs to step down. It's nothing personal. It's professional. His situation has become a distraction - for Republicans, for the House and for the state. There are businesses in Florida about to go under. I mean, these are serious times. And what we did in the special session with all these cuts was a warm-up. Things are going to get worse. We have a crisis on our hands and we need to focus on that. We need to keep the courts open, protect schools and healthcare. In the interest of making sure we debate those ideas fully and not get sidetracked by all this, it's not the time for him to be speaker."
Q: Do you think Sansom broke the law?
Planas: "I don't think Ray had criminal intent. That's not Ray Sansom. He's a good man. And he's a good leader. But this isn't the time for him to lead. He needs to focus on his case too much. I hope he'll be exonerated. I believe he'll be exonerated. I believe he had no intent in violating the law. He needs to let this play out in the arena of the courts, in another arena other than as Speaker of the Florida House."
Q: What about being isolated by fellow Republicans, stripped of committee assignments or facing other consequences?
A: "I can't think about that. Maybe one of the freedoms of term limits is you can't always think about politics. You have to remember what it means to do the right thing, say what you think without worrying about the political ramifications. I can't think about politics."
Q: What are you hoping to accomplish here? What's in it for you? "All I'm hoping for is the best, for all of us. We need to be free of this distraction."
Q: Whom have you spoken with?
A: "I've talked to friends, buddies, some law partners and my own family. My uncle and father are harassing me. The say this is overdue. I've talked to some of my fellow lawmakers. They think I'm crazy."
Q: You initially were one of only two Dade Republican holdouts against Sansom for speaker (Marcelo Llorente). What do you say to those who would accuse you of having sour grapes because your guy, Bill Galvano, lost the speakership race?
A: "No. It's not about that. It's about being free of a distraction that is taking up too much of our time when we have such important work. If he steps down, the Republican conference should decide Ray's replacement. Maybe by secret ballot, maybe by voice vote. Whatever is best."
Q: So you're not calling for a vote of no-confidence? A: "No. This is up to Ray. But this is what I think is best."