Jeb Bush: Still Running Florida?
AP’s Martin Merzer notes that it seems that Jeb Bush, who left Florida’s governorship four years ago, still seems to be running the show.
All of those measures, and others, championed by former Gov. Jeb Bush have been approved by the Florida Legislature or are advancing through it. The Republican left office nearly four years ago, but he’s finding that as a private citizen, he’s become a legislative Wizard of Oz — thunder and lightning and pulling the levers of power from behind the curtain.
“Unfortunately, this is his best legislative session ever,” said state Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach. “The more right-wing proposals that eluded him as governor seem to have a lot of momentum this year.”
Among the measures that have cleared the Legislature or seem likely to:
• A new constitutional amendment to ease the caps on class sizes. Bush vigorously opposed the original amendment, which was approved in 2002 and will be watered down if voters ratify the new measure this fall.
• An expansion of school voucher programs, which were started under Bush and form a centerpiece of his educational reforms.
• A cut in the corporate income tax rate, from 5.5 percent to 4.5 percent, for the first $1 million in taxable income, satisfying a key tenet of Bush’s bedrock conservative philosophy.
• An overhaul of the state’s Medicaid system that substantially widens a largely privatized managed-care pilot program started five years ago by Bush.
• Conditional authority for property insurance companies to boost premiums without government approval. In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Bush said undercapitalized insurance companies need rate increases, and he urged Crist to sign the measure.
• And the transformation of teacher pay and tenure standards. Coincidentally or not, it punishes the state teachers union, an enduring Bush foe.
Bush recently scoffed at speculation that he is setting himself up for a 2012 presidential campaign.
“I don’t wake up each day thinking about running,” Bush said during a March 22 interview on Fox News. “And I’m involved in policy, which I love. I’m involved in helping others that are principle-centered, that want to believe in conservative principles and have a passion for reform, particularly in education.”
Amusingly, none of this success seems to be doing Crist any good. He’s getting absolutely crushed in the Republican primary battle with Marco Rubio and is heavily rumored to be about to bail from the party altogether and running for re-election as an independent.
It’s hard to imagine another Bush winning the presidency any time soon, even with polls out now showing roughly half the country prefers George W. Bush to Obama. And Bush has some uncomfortable family issues that he’d presumably prefer not to reopen. But he’d be a formidable candidate in the Republican primaries.