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Florida’s Scott Cannot Persuade Fellow Republicans on Anti-Union Bill

One of the bigger problems for Tea Party-fueled Governors who thundered into office with big ideas to revamp government is the law of diminishing returns. As their ideas take root and are found to be unpopular – which virtually every poll has shown in these states – they lose the power to persuade members of their own party to stick with them. In 2010, right-wing legislatures came in on the same ballot as people like Rick Snyder and John Kasich and Scott Walker, but increasingly, distancing themselves from the more catastrophic policies seems like the right play. And this has accelerated in Florida, where Rick Scott is historically unpopular.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott paid a rare, personal visit to the offices of four Republican senators Wednesday in a last-minute attempt to rescue an anti-union bill that appeared destined for defeat.

The governor asked the same question to Miami Sen’s. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, Rene Garcia, Anitere Flores and Inverness Sen. Charlie Dean. And he got the same answer: No.

Scott’s intervention was the “Hail Mary” pass of Sen. John Thrasher, the Jacksonville lawyer and former Republican Party of Florida chairman whose top priority was passage of the bill to ban public employee unions from using automatic payroll deduction to collect dues. But by the end of the day, Thrasher had all but conceded defeat.

“If it isn’t right and we can’t get the votes to get where we need to get to, we’ll come back and fight another day,” he said.

This is a big deal. Scott wanted to really hamper the ability for unions to collect their dues, imposing new costs on them. And the bill would have also required written authorization for union dues to be used for political activities. But the bill became toxic for Republicans to sign onto, and Rick Scott gave more than a helping hand to that.

Scott has had more than one setback recently. He wanted to pass an Arizona-type anti-immigration bill, change the state pension plan to a 401(k) and cut corporate income taxes. None of those initiatives will pass, as Florida Republicans have run away from Scott like the plague.

It’s not as if the Florida GOP is going completely soft – on many issues they are radically remaking government, particularly on election law. But Scott is so despised by the public in such a short time that Republicans have to keep their distance and scale back their agenda.

…just to cement my point that this is still a right-wing legislature, the House just passed a sweeping anti-abortion bill. The Senate seems to be a little more moderate.

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David Dayen

David Dayen