Gov. Lawton Chiles has initiated a grass-roots campaign to whip up support for revamping the state government, which is to be considered during this month's special legislative session.
The seven-day special session, scheduled to begin Monday, is the result of a ruling by the Florida Supreme Court that the cabinet cannot impose $622 million of budget cuts without legislative approval. The cuts were proposed after state budget officials identified a revenue shortfall this fiscal year.
Gov. Chiles has asked that, in addition to approving the cuts, lawmakers consider sweeping governmental reforms that include reorganizing state agencies, overhauling Florida's personnel system, and reforming budget-making procedures.
To help drum up support for these proposals, he recently brought his top staff together with 80 political organizers from 42 counties. "We asked the grass-roots organization that helped get us elected to come back in here and try to understand" these proposals "and then go back out and ... convince the people of Florida that change is needed," said Lieut Gov. Buddy McKay.
Gov. Chiles has asked lawmakers to abolish the state's Department of Highway Safety and its Department of General Services, and reduce the duties of the Department of Natural Resources to land management.
He has also proposed decentralizing Florida's Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, and reforming the state's civil service system to give managers greater authority.
In addition, the governor would have lawmakers give him greater power over the budget, including the option to withhold 5% of agency appropriations and a broader ability to veto legislation involving the use of state funds.
One lawmaker predicted that only about $300 million of spending cuts would be approved in the special session, with the remainder approved in early 1992. Florida's regular legislative session begins on Jan. 14.