TALLAHASSEE (NSF/FBW) -- Newly elected House Speaker Will Weatherford on Nov. 20 gaveled in the newly elected Florida House of Representatives with a call for unity, decorum and bi-partisan respect, while the speaker’s pastor, Ken Whitten, offered the invocation during the organizational session.
Weatherford, a Wesley Chapel Republican who took over from term-limited Dean Cannon of Orlando, made a special note to members of his own party, who still enjoy a comfortable majority in both chambers, but may be stinging from defeat in the most recent national election.
Having lost some ground, including a supermajority in the House, Republicans must now work to implement some programs they vehemently opposed, such as the massive federal health care overhaul.
But Weatherford said, as he has before, that the rancor of the election season has to give way to pragmatic governing.
“Whether you were happy or disappointed with the results the truth is this: We have a president. For those who wish him to fail or, for that matter, wish our Congress to fail only wish for Florida to fail and that is unacceptable,” Weatherford said as the chamber erupted in applause.
“We are living at a time when the state of Florida needs us to act,” he said.
In his prayer, Whitten, pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, asked for God’s “favor and great blessing” on the organizational session.
With Thanksgiving Day just two days away, Whitten thanked God for a quiet hurricane season in Florida, while praying for those who continue to recover from Superstorm Sandy in the northeast.
Praying for his church member, Weatheford, Whitten said, “I pray as he leads this House, he’ll lead with courage and grace. I pray for wisdom as he manages its operations, presides over its sessions, makes appointments of committee members, and selects their chairs.”
Whitten also prayed for the other leaders of the House from both political parties and respectful debate among members of the chamber.
“Lord, would you give these men and women courage to govern unselfishly, love to promote unity, and insight to act resourcefully for the good of all Florida citizens,” he prayed.
“That is our prayer as we ask it for Florida’s good and Your glory, and we pray it in the strong name of Jesus Christ, the name above all names, our Savior and our Lord,” he concluded.
Weatherford will lead a chamber that has been altered not only by term limits but by newly drawn political districts that appear, at least at first blush, to have more evenly distributed political power in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans while the GOP holds undeniable supremacy in state government. The governor's office, all three Cabinet spots and both chambers of the Legislature are in GOP control.
The House welcomed 44 new members, including the largest class of Democrats the chamber has seen in decades. In the most recent Legislature, Republicans held an 81-39 super-majority, one more than the two-thirds margin needed to lock down most votes. The new 76-44 majority, though still commanding, will require more compromise and consensus.
During speeches Nov. 20, Democrats sent a pair of messages. Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, said the Democratic gains earlier this month point to the fact that the minority party deserves a better seat at the table regardless of the lopsided numbers in the chamber.
And citing recently defeated constitutional amendments and trouble at the election polls, Waldman said Democrats will be more vocal on issues they believe to be unconstitutional or being pushed by Republicans for political gain.
Incoming Democratic leader Perry Thurston echoed Weatherford, though, and said Democrats are also willing to compromise on some issues.
“The election is over, and we have enormous challenges ahead of us,” Thurston said. “Now, it is incumbent on each of us who serves in the Legislature to get to work, and not to wait. This, I believe, is a message sent to us by the voters.”
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