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In Florida State House, Rubio Produced Real Conservative Accomplishments

Marco Rubio is leading the “Endorsement Primary” by a huge margin, but many are hard-pressed to name any of the Florida senator’s concrete accomplishments. While his record in the Senate may be scarce, Rubio has an impressive slate of achievements from his days in the Florida House, and these show what kind of conservative he would be in the Oval Office.

Rubio pushed many reforms, from limiting eminent domain to expanding school choice and education options for high-demand/high-skill jobs. His leadership also helped streamline Florida’s laws and even helped privatize toll roads.

“As speaker and in earlier leadership positions in the Florida House, Rubio demonstrated a willingness to delegate to focus on his strengths, communicating and negotiating,” National Review’s Jim Geraghty writes.

Donald Trump likes to say that Rubio has never hired anyone, and that may be true in the private sector. But in government, Rubio has much experience doing what presidents do: delegating.

One Hundred Ideas

When Rubio became speaker of the Florida House of Representatives in 2006, he gave every member of the group a book titled 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida’s Future. Rubio asked his fellow representatives to fill the books with ideas from constituents. This step may have been “flashy,” but it represented a governing philosophy -- to involve voters and other legislators as much as possible.

Similarly, Rubio gave more power and responsibility to state House leaders when he became speaker. He let members of his leadership team decide which representatives would chair committees, and he let committee chairs skip the subcommittee step on important legislation. Committees were given broad leeway in how to prioritize different concerns with the money they were allocated.

In his autobiography An American Son: A Memoir, Rubio wrote:

Under my speakership, committee chairmen would have more power than ever before, but a greater share of the responsibility as well, and greater accountability.

Rubio explained his reasoning for expanding their authority:

I trusted the leaders I had chosen.

As any executive knows, selecting the right leaders for a project is supremely important, and it also helps to give project managers enough leeway to do their jobs effectively. Rubio has demonstrated these management skills in the Florida House, and he would bring them to the presidency.

Making Those Ideas Law

But Rubio did not just delegate authority and pick good leaders, he also passed important legislation that changed Florida for the better.

In 2010, Rubio’s campaign for U.S. Senate declared that 57 of the 100 ideas had become law. PolitiFact’s Aaron Sharockman examined this claim and found it “Half True.” Only 24 of the ideas were indisputably on the books in 2010, while 10 are considered "partially" law, with some kind of asterisk. While 34 out of 100 sounds like a pretty bad report card, it certainly refutes the idea that Rubio has “no accomplishments.”

Indeed, the book of ideas was still in use as a benchmark after Rubio left the state House in 2008. Former state Representative Dennis Baxely told PolitiFact:

The book framed a practical set of issues that the people had brought to us. ... It gave us a platform to work from that was meaningful.

State Senator Don Gaetz, who worked with Rubio on education reforms in 2008 and helped him make four of the 100 ideas totally or "partially" law, said:

[E]ven still in 2010, as we put together health care and education bills, there will often be somebody, wryly or respectful, noting that what we’re doing is in the 100 Ideas book.

Rubio left a strong legacy.