« Gaetz: It was a good year for education | Main | How Will Weatherford saved the 'Dreamer' tuition bill »

Legislators use session to showcase a softer election-year image for GOP

End of SessionThe Republican-led Legislature in a blue presidential state comes out of a 60-day session with an image makeover leaders describe as compassionately conservative.

Policy shifts on immigration, marijuana and safety net spending reflected a party philosophy that moved closer to the middle on social issues — all of which poll well, even in conservative districts.

Republican lawmakers also delivered legislation to their base, and big-money special interests. They passed bills expanding private school vouchers, imposing new abortion restrictions and protecting gun rights. Biggest of all is what they chose not to do: expand Medicaid.

Yet Republicans are touting bipartisan support for the budget and a more moderate stance on some social issues as proof that they are listening to voters.

“The world out there is changing,’’ said Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, who was House speaker more than a decade ago and now is Senate Rules Committee chairman. “I have three adult children. They talk about things that I would have never thought of when I first got elected to the Legislature.”

He believes the votes on immigration and medical marijuana occurred because younger Republicans arrive with new points of view. “Republicans have been in control of the Legislature almost 20 years now,’’ he said. “I think people are listening better to the public now than ever before.”

But for many Democrats, who supported the budget and helped pass the tuition bill for undocumented immigrants, the GOP’s tack to the middle dwarfs the impact of the decision to withhold billions in federal money and keep 750,000 Floridians from getting health insurance. Story here.

Photo: Steve Cannon, AP

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/05/03/4096620/republicans-use-session-to-remake.html#storylink=cpy