- - Wednesday, July 14, 2021

In the wake of last year’s election, there was a sense on the right that the eschaton was imminent, that the Republicans would never win another election, and that the nation was doomed to a bleak and ever-deteriorating future.

The good news is that those who feared the worst were probably wrong.  The process has done what it is supposed to do — slow down and moderate everyone’s worse impulses.

The process also brings forth new talent and new ideas, especially in those states controlled by the party in the minority in DC.

Chris Sprowls, the speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, is one of those new talents.  The 37-year-old has been creating an impressive body of work, as Florida, along with Texas, have embraced their role as shadow governments.

Most importantly, Mr. Sprowls has led the fight against the theft of intellectual property from State institutions.  That effort was prompted by likely intellectual property theft from Florida universities and hospitals by communist China.

In June, Mr. Sprowls noted that Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signing of first-in-the-nation legislation against foreign espionage was a “warning” to any country who would steal secrets from Florida’s companies and colleges or try to control local decisions. 

“Today, we expose and stop foreign adversaries and their agents from walking through the front doors of our corporations and universities and sneaking out the back with our taxpayer-funded research,” he said.

“China’s spies can leave empty-handed,” he added, referring to China’s Thousand Talents state-sponsored program to embed their “researchers” to spy on American research facilities.

With respect to Florida’s most important treasure — her children — the legislature, with little fanfare but great import, passed the largest expansion of school choice in the United States, giving more than 1.6 million children in kindergarten through 12th grade (and their parents) choices with respect to schools.

The legislation allows students to receive full funding of K-12 education at a school of their choice.  It expands eligibility to children who are not enrolled in a public school, to children of parents serving in the military, or those who are adopted and siblings of those already receiving school choice scholarships.

The speaker has also correctly noted that an important generational challenge facing Florida is improving the environment, especially with respect to water quality and land conservation.  The environment and quality of life are closely linked in Florida.  As a newly-minted Florida resident, President Trump likes to say, we all want the cleanest air and water.

Consequently, the speaker championed legislation that requires — for the first time ever — Florida to develop a statewide plan to address the effects of flooding and meet those challenges with over half a billion dollars in funding.  These include investments in beach nourishment and state park maintenance, as well as investments in septic-to-sewer conversions.

Finally, Florida has taken the lead on workforce development.  The simple reality is that workforce development is stuck in an archaic and eroding model.  Local workforce boards, which are in many instances patronage, do not always do what they are supposed to do (shocker).

Legislation passed this session will transform Florida’s workforce and education systems to better serve job seekers, students, and workers of today and tomorrow. The speaker was characteristically direct: “Hundreds of millions of dollars have flowed into Florida’s broken workforce and education systems for years that … too often only measures inputs — not results.”

One of the advantages (problems?) of the Florida legislature is that they have strict term limits.  When asked about the effects of those term limits on Florida legislators, Mr. Sprowls, who has another term to serve as speaker, says simply that term limits mean: “If you’re going to matter, you better matter fast.”

What does all this have to do with the federal government and the jam in which we find ourselves?

If you want to address the challenges facing the nation, if you want to correct the problems we have inherited, if you want to realize the promise of the policies of the previous administration, we are going to need people with legislative, policy and political abilities.

Owning the liberals is great entertainment. Dishing out sick burns on Twitter is fun. But neither is a substitute for making concrete, lasting policy changes. To do that, you need to know something about how government works, about what a legislative body will and will not do, and you have to focus on a topic for more than a minute or two and go deeper than yelling into the void.

Willingness to fight is necessary but not ultimately sufficient. You need knowledge and ability. If we are going to avoid the fate of the previous administration — which was, mostly, a missed opportunity — we are going to need people like Chris Sprowls.

• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to President Trump and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.

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