Lawmakers ignore Grover Norquist pitch for criminal justice reformby Dara Kam | March 24th, 2011
Conservative icon Grover Norquist is in Tallahassee pitching the national “Smart on Crime” agenda, a prison reform movement that’s got the support of other “center right” politicos including Newt Gingrich and William Bennett.
Hosted by business-backed Florida TaxWatch, Norquist spoke for more than half an hour at the tony Governor’s Club to a crowd of lobbyists, criminal justice providers and policy makers.
TaxWatch is pushing the reform agenda aimed at cutting back on prison spending. The reforms include revamping mandatory minimum sentences, something House Speaker Dean Cannon said is a no-go this session.
But Norquist said elected officials don’t have to be afraid to support reforms because conservatives like Texas Gov. Rick Perry have proven the reforms work and save taxpayers money, something that could win points with tea party activists.
“They need to feel it’s potentially safe, that they won’t get hit in the back of the head with a 30-second ad saying they’re soft on crime,” Norquist said.
Whether he’s able to move the House remains unclear.
Only three lawmakers – GOP Sens. Paula Dockery of Lakeland and Thad Altman of Viera and Rep. Dennis Baxley of Ocala – attended Norquist’s speech.
House criminal justice appropriations committee chairman Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City, almost made it. He was spotted smoking a cigar outside a local watering hole steps away from the venue as Norquist wrapped up.