Washington (CNN) – Saying that he wants to keep Florida early in the presidential primary calendar, a leading Republican state lawmaker is proposing to create a ten member commission that would study the best date for the state to hold its contest.
House Speaker Dean Cannon told reporters Wednesday that a bill would be introduced Thursday to create the commission, which by October 1 of this year would need to pick a primary date between the first Tuesday in January and the first Tuesday in March.
Florida's primary is currently slated for January 31, 2012.
That's in direct violation of the presidential nominating calendar ratified last year by the Democratic and Republican National Committees, which carved out February for the official start of the nomination fight and once again placed contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina at the front of the process. According to the DNC & RNC calendar, all other states would have to hold their contests no earlier than the first Tuesday in March.
Saying that "Florida's the largest swing state in the nation and essential to winning the White House," Cannon said that his ultimate goal is "whether we're first or fourth, we should be early in the process."
Cannon added that state Senate President Mike Haridopolos, a fellow Republican, supports the plan, which he said would be taken up by the House State Affairs Committee.
The date of Florida's presidential primary is at the center of a controversy for the second straight cycle. The Sunshine state held its 2008 contest on January 31, ahead of other large states and in violation of the national party committees' calendars. The early date led the DNC to temporarily penalize Florida by stripping the state of some of its delegates to the party's national nomination convention.
Florida's date currently remains on January 31. A vote by state lawmakers is currently needed to change the date, and the current state legislative session ends in 24 days. But the proposed measure would change the part of the law that requires approval by the state legislature to change the Jan. 31st date. The new date chosen by the proposed committee would not need such approval.
Cannon says the plan would "ensure that Florida remains relevant but ads flexibility," rather than keeping the state locked into a set date.
Adding that his goal is to "avoid a national foodfight over when the date is," Cannon said he and his staff have had on-going conversations with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, but noted that he has not talked to Priebus recently.
Last month the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida said he was open to moving his state's primary date from the first to the fifth position on the 2012 presidential nominating calendar calendar. His comments came hours after the South Carolina and Iowa Republican parties demanded that the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa be re-located to a different state unless Florida Republicans move their presidential primary to a later date. The RNC affirmed that the convention will remain in Tampa.
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