Both Senate President Jeff Atwater and House Speaker Larry Cretul yesterday pledged transparency and openness in the budget process.
"Frankly, we would want as a Senate -- and I know our partners in the House -- would like this process to move now forward with all the care and all the openness that this process must provide to the public and frankly to one another," Atwater said yesterday morning. "All offers and all acceptances are to be made in public."
“Everything’s going to be open," Cretul said later. "Anyone who wishes to witness, participate, attend – it will be open."
Sure it is, guys. The most transparent aspect of the process so far: the open cynicism of pledging transparency only to meet in secret or withold information. Consider:
1) When the various health committees met last night, there were no spreadsheets available until it was halfway over (or halfway begun if you're an optimist). So tracking what was agreed upon becomes an act of faith. The members even joked about "transparency." The spreadsheets for higher-ed (a major sticking point) were unavailable until the last minute as well.
2) Once again, this morning, the spreadsheets were unavailable for healthcare until after the meeting.
3) This morning, in the gambling conference committee, no spreadsheets were available -- even after the meeting. No one even bothered to drop the sheets off at the documents room. A Senate staffer told one person seeking side-by-side comparisons of the chambers' differences to look elsewhere and that the House might have copies. Ha!
4) Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla and his favorite Democrat, Sen. Jeremy Ring, were meeting in the Republican leader's office last night with an unknown member (running close to violating open-meetings rules). A Palm Beach Post reporter stumbled across it and, when Ring heard her, was found hiding behind a door. Boo!
5) Later last night, Sen. Jim King, held his annual food fest for senators at his house. Again, no meeting notice posted. But why do that? It's not like they're talking about legislative business. They were just chattin' 'bout transparency.
6) Just before then, back in the Capitol, Democratic leader Ron Saunders had to virtually beg for documents detailing the budget. Staff almost refused. He insisted on a copy of a document titled "Draft Allocations." Before it was handed to him, a staffer with the Department of Redundancy Department made sure to stamp "DRAFT" all over the document titled "Draft Allocations."
Document is here. Download Budget Draft Allocations