Florida Democrats are feeling pretty good about ourselves. President Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson won our state decidedly despite unprecedented Republican efforts at vote suppression; we netted four seats in the Congress; and Republicans in the state legislature lost their super majority.
But this is not the time to uncork champagne. As with the 2010 election, it's hard to tell if Florida voters liked one side better or simply the other side less.
The Republicans already seemed to have received the message. Rather than begin their legislative session with the usual promises to be even more conservative and ideological, they have promised reform and bipartisanship. In the wake of unthinkable voting lines at some polling places, they promise to fix Florida's election system (notwithstanding the irony of the promise) and rope in campaign finance excesses. And they have pledged to be open to Democrat's ideas.
Is it a mere public relations gimmick to be followed by only cosmetic changes to how Tallahassee operates? Or are the Republicans actually going to clean up Tallahassee this time?
There is only one way to tell. Democrats in the legislature should take the Republicans at their word and provide them ideas that serve as a true yardstick for the GOP promises to reform.
Here are a few big ideas that in prior years were soundly ignored but – if you believe what they are saying – ought to be considered and adopted by the Republican majority.
All these ideas, and others that would reform government, have been offered before and utterly rejected by a majority party defined more by its hubris than a desire to reform.
In order to tell if the legislature's leadership is truly serious they must be asked to adopt true reform measures. Talk is cheap and ornamental changes are generally all you get after the media loses interest. That is why Democrats need to push real ideas that would actually meaningfully improve the way Tallahassee does business.
If the Republicans adopt these big ideas, well then we can all uncork the champagne together.
Dan Gelber was a State Senator and former House Democratic Leader from Miami.