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This Legislature's 'smashing success' story: House Speaker Dean Cannon

I am amused by Rick Scott's claims of victory in this legislative session.

This was House Speaker Dean Cannon's party.

Scott entered the Governor's Office as a wildly firing cannon.

It was Cannon who aimed the cannon at the targets he wanted to hit, while sparing those he did not.

He was instrumental in orchestrating the greatest rightward shift in this state since secession.

Growth management, teacher tenure, government regulation: Gone, gone, gone.

Ultrasounds for abortions, HMOs for Medicaid, tax cuts for homeowners: Pass, pass, pass.

In Cannon's words: "A smashing success.''

He got more of what he wanted than did Scott or Senate President Mike Haridopolos. His only big miss was a plan to split the Florida Supreme Court like an atom at Los Alamos.

I recall when Marco Rubio became House speaker in 2006. He was a youngster with big ideas and a great presentation who got steamrolled by Charlie Crist and the Senate.

Cannon, much more low-key and a much better student of process, learned from Rubio's mistakes.

It didn't hurt that Cannon had a running start. The guy who was supposed to be speaker during the 2009-2010 sessions, Ray Sansom, resigned in disgrace. He was replaced by a cardboard fill-in, allowing Cannon to really run the place for those two years.

And so Cannon had all his House troops marching in lockstep by the time this session began.

When you have that kind of control, you can control a lot of the political process.

Just ask Haridopolos, who is running for U.S. Senate next year. In a sign of solidarity at the beginning of the session, Cannon endorsed him.

And now, at the end of the session, he may well have ended him.

Cannon outmaneuvered Haridopolos, steamrolled him on important bills, and exposed him as weak and inept. Haridopolos played nice and Cannon played to win.

It was the House Medicaid bill that passed, not the Senate bill.

It was the House bill cracking down on pill mills that passed, not the Senate bill.

Cannon cleverly punted the bill on illegal immigration to the Senate, where Haridopolos choked on it.

Cannon controlled his members, Haridopolos did not.

Cannon controlled the frantic, final day of the session, leaving Haridopolos bewildered and bitter.

In a particularly brutal maneuver, Cannon killed Haridopolos' humane attempt to compensate a man who was wrongly imprisoned for 27 years, and another man who was paralyzed after an accident with a sheriff's deputy. To paraphrase Barack Obama, Cannon spiked the football.

And what could the Senate claim for its victory? It killed a House attempt to deregulate interior designers.

High five!

This was the headline from The Miami Herald: "How Dean Cannon 'played' Mike Haridopolos"

"I just candidly never saw this coming," said Haridopolos, who added that he "learned a lot.''

When the Senate president says he learned a lot, that says a lot. And this is the guy who wrote "Florida History and Legislative Processes,'' a childish and unpublished missive on politics for which he billed taxpayers $152,000.

Do the big-money donors who fund Republican politics really want to put this guy up against Bill Nelson?

Do they really want someone in Washington who can't hold his own in Tallahassee?

Cannon was much more deferential with Scott.

After the governor bushwhacked him by killing high-speed rail, Cannon meekly signed off on the decision.

When Scott put a hold on SunRail, apparently trying to blackmail legislators, Cannon simply said that it was within his authority to do so.

But if Cannon was intimidated, it didn't show.

Scott wanted to revive the private insurance market by sharply raising rates at the state-owned Citizens Property Insurance. But Cannon's House killed this measure.

Cannon never caved on what Scott wanted most, deep cuts in school taxes and corporate taxes. But he allowed Scott to save some face by cutting $30 million in taxes on small business, and cutting property taxes that go to the bloated water management districts.

Scott now understands the game and the players. He understands next year there will be more opportunities to do the things he didn't get done this year.

And he will need Dean Cannon to do them.

mthomas@tribune.com or 407-420-5525

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