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Jeb Bush visits with Weatherford and House Republicans

Former Gov. Jeb Bush met with Florida House Republicans on Thursday, but what he told them is pretty much hush hush because the meeting was held behind closed doors with reporters stuck waiting outside.

“It was a really good talk,” said Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral, as he walked out. “He spoke on immigration reform and the importance of being inclusive.”

Bush was invited by House Speaker Will Weatherford, who worships him as his political model.

“I don’t know if you’ll find a bigger Jeb Bush fan than me,” Weatherford said. “We were honored that he took this much time to be here today.”

Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said he had about 10 minutes to talk with Bush for he spoke to the 76 Republicans in the House. He said's always enjoyed a special relationship with Bush.

"He’s always allowed me to have access to him, whether it’s on the phone or in person to seek his advice and counsel," Weatherford said. Thursday was no different.

“I wanted to get his thoughts,” Weatherford said. “We had a really good candid conversation.”

About what, however, Weatherford wasn’t saying. Specific issues that promise to be hot topics this session weren’t necessarily covered, he said.

 Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal to give teachers an across-the-board pay hike of $2,500?

“I don’t know if we talked specifically about the teacher pay raise,” Weatherford told reporters. “I think the governor certainly is in favor of paying teachers more, but I think, like the House, he’s also in favor of merit pay. He has a history of supporting that. But you’d have to ask him.”

Reporters would have, but, as they spoke to Weatherford, Bush slipped out another door.

Weatherford said he did have a moment to talk generally about the budget.

“I gave him an update on where we are in the budget and that we actually have a surplus for the first time in six years,” Weatherford said. “He had that nice exit where he had a $5 billion surplus and then a $6 billion surplus and it’s been tough sledding since then and this is the first year we’ve had any wriggle room so we joked about that. It was a great conversation.”

What about pension reform, the parent-trigger bill, teacher evaluations?

“We didn’t talk specifically about proposals,” Weatherford said. “We didn’t have that much time, he was a little late getting here and he had to speak before the body so I didn’t want to hold him up and have everyone waiting here.”

As for the speech, like the other Republican lawmakers who spilled out of the conference room at around noon, Weatherford gave it high marks.

“He just talked about being bold,” Weatherford said. “Being willing to take risks. Being willing to really fight for the issues that matter and to be prepared. It’s a battle of ideas. We can’t just show up to the battle without any ideas. We can’t just say no. We have to be willing to offer our own solutions, and that’s what he did as governor.”

Bush also told the crowd another important piece of news. His new book on immigration reform is out on March 1.