Most of Florida's political excitement has been revolving around the races for governor, U.S. Senate and state cabinet, but many are keeping an eye on some local contests where what's called a "veto-proof majority" is at stake.
“I veto Senate Bill 6.”
It can be a governor's most powerful political weapon. With his veto pen, Charlie Crist has overruled the republican-controlled legislature on a host of controversial bills. But if the prediction by incoming senate president Mike Haridopolos is right, the next governor could lose the power of veto.
“The Senate's going to have a two-thirds Republican majority, and that means we could override veto!” he said.
Right now, republicans outnumber democrats 26 to 13 in the senate and 76 to 44 in the house. But with two more votes in the senate and four more in the lower chamber, they'd have what's called a veto-proof majority.
Of the handful of democratic seats in play, two of the most likely republican pickups are in Tampa Bay: Senate District 16, where Charlie Justice is stepping down to run for Congress and House District 52, where incumbent Bill Heller is in a tight race.
Despite the term, having a veto-proof majority doesn't necessarily guarantee republicans can overrule the governor on contentious issues. That's because not all republicans come from identical ideological backgrounds.
Pete Dunbar represented Pinellas County in the house in the early 1980s. Back then, democrats had a veto-proof majority. But, getting the party's members to vote in lock-step was always a challenge.
“Even though you had them in raw numbers, the philosophy of Democrats from inner-city Miami versus rural Cedar Key varies widely, and they're not all on the same page on all issues,” Dunbar said.
Which means vetoes of controversial legislation, like teacher merit pay and abortion restrictions, are likely to stand. But in the end, the mere presence of a veto-proof republican majority could be enough to convince our next governor to think twice before using that pen.
Republican operatives say chances are slim the GOP will gain enough house seats for a veto-proof majority, but they're optimistic about picking up the two seats they need to throw the upper chamber into veto-proof territory.