The pricetag for House Speaker Marco Rubio's "transformation of government" is in: $2.5 million, most of it for staff salaries. More here.
House Speaker Marco Rubio just named his committee chair assignments, snubbing Democrats from leading any panels (in contrast to Sen. Ken Pruitt's picks announced earlier today). While no representatives from Broward County were picked, Rubio's hometown supporters won a few leadership posts:
Anitere Flores, R-Miami (Committee on K-12); Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah (Committee on Health Innovation); Marcello Llorente, R-Miami (Committee on Constitution and Civil Law); Julio Robaina, R-Miami (Committee on Urban and Local Affairs); Carlos Lopez-Cantera, R-Miami (Committee on Business Regulation).
One Democrat -- Will Kendrick of Carabelle, -- came close to leading a committee. He recently switched to the GOP, though, and now heads the Conservation and State Lands committee. House Minority Leader Dan Gelber of Miami said, however, that Rubio has gone out of his way to accomodate Democrats and give them more of a voice.
Other appointees of note: Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, will head the Insurance Committee and Rep. Mitch Needleman, R-Melbourne, will head the Committee on Juvenile Justice. Needleman, who sat on the committees probing the juvenile deaths of Omar Paisley and Martin Lee Anderson, became an outspoken critic of DJJ chief Anthony Schembri last year because of Schembri's "lies" to lawmakers.
Miami Democrat Rep. Kendrick Meek was tapped today to serve on the powerful House Ways and Means committee, the tax-writing committee that has broad jurisdiction over the federal government.
Meek will be the only Florida member of the committee.
"This is the most powerful committee in Congress," Meek said, "and I intend to do everything I can to direct this power to help with our pressing issues in Dade Broward counties.."
Those include affordable housing, business growth and development, the creation of new jobs and helping working and middle class families more secure, Meek said.
Meek is close to incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who called him a "rising leader" in the House.
"He knows how to make government work and he will be a great representative of Florida on this key committee, which has power over so many crucial issues," Pelosi said Tuesday.
Governor-elect Charlie Crist is bringing to the governor's office two veterans of the Attorney General's office. Crist announced Tuesday that he is opening an "Office of Open Government" and that Pat Gleason would be the general counsel for the office and director of Cabinet Affairs, while JoAnn Carrin would serve as the director of open government. Both have jobs in the attorney's general. The role of this office will be to ensure full compliance with public records and open meetings law as well as provide training in the stat'es Sunshine Law.
Senate President Ken Pruitt handed out his committee assignments today and at first glance there are some big surprises. Top of the list: Sen. Mandy Dawson, who endorsed Republican Attorney General Charlie Crist over fellow Democrat Jim Davis, was named chair of the Health Policy committee. The lead person on the budget? Sen. Lisa Carlton, the Osprey Republican, who led the Ways and Means committee the last two years.
Other top positions: Sen. Jim King, chairman of the Rules Committee and the Oversight and Policy Procedural Calendar Committee; Sen. Bill Posey, chairman of Banking and Insurance; Sen. Alex Villalobos, chairman of the Judiciary Committee; Sen. Jeff Atwater, chairman of Health Regulation and the Economic Opportunities and Policy Calendar committee; Lee Constantine, chairman of Ethics and Elections and Sen. Al Lawson, chairman of the Governmental Operations committee. Sen. J.D. Alexander is chairman of the Agriculture committee and the General Government Appropriations committee.
Lawson and Dawson weren't the only Democrats who won top spots: Sen. Gwen Margolis was named the Senate chair for the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee, Sen. Tony Hill is Senate chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Intergovernmental Relations while Sen. Dave Aronberg is the Senate chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Everglades Oversight. Here's the complete list: Download senate_committee_assignments.doc
Phil Handy, the Orlando businessman who championed term limits and has been the chairman of the State Board of Education, hinted on Tuesday that he may not be returning to the board. Handy, along with fellow board member T. Willard Fair, was appointed this fall by Gov. Jeb Bush to a new four-year term on the board to start on Jan. 1.
Initially the campaign of Governor-elect Charlie Crist praised the appointments but recently Crist conceded that his team would review all appointments made by Bush and possibly recall them. (Florida governors have the power to recall any appointments that are subject to Senate confirmation prior to action by the Senate.) Any decision to recall both Handy and Fair could have implications for current Education Commissioner John Winn, who reports to the board and who did not turn in a letter of resignation like other agency heads that report to the governor.
At this morning's meeting of the State Board of Education, Handy gave a short speech talking about his legacy. He prefaced it by saying "This will be my last meeting, certainly as chairman." Handy then talked about he volunteered as chairman of the Board of Education because of his strong belief in education and how every decision he made for the "right reasons, with a good and full heart."
Governor-elect Charlie Crist may have canceled his inaugural ball, but Chief Financial Officer-elect Alex Sink still plans to hold a inauguration night shindig at the University Club on the campus of Florida State University. Sink's inauguration celebration is expected to cost about $150,000 said Richard Swann, who is leading the fundraising efforts for the party. Sink has already capped donations to her inaugural fund at $5,000 per donor. But Sink does not plan to report these donations until after the event.
Organizers have set up Sink's party as the "wind down" from a full day's worth of events. It's not scheduled to start until 9 p.m. and will feature just coffee, coffee drinks, dessert and a band, said Ruth Wagner, who is the head of the inauguration efforts. As of right now, neither Attorney General elect Bill McCollum or Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson have filed the required paperwork with the state to say that they plan to hold their own inauguration events.
Miami Sen. Alex Villalobos says he just got a call from Senate President Ken Pruitt informing him he'd be chair of the Judiciary Committee. Villalobos said he has put away his bitterness from the past election -- in which top Pruitt allies and fellow Senators targeted him.
But he won't forget what happened, either. "I don't owe anything to anybody," Villalobos said.
One idea he plans to float this year: Putting everyone under oath when they appear before state lawmakers. By doing just that in 2003 during the medical malpractice special sessions, he earned the enmity of some in the insurance industry.
Larry Ringers, a close friend of Jeff Kottkamp, will go to work for the incoming lieutentant governor as his chief of staff, the transition office of Governor-elect Charlie Crist announced on Monday. Ringers, an attorney at Henderson Franklin, one of the largest law firms in Fort Myers, was best man at Kottkamp's wedding and was at his side when he battled for his life in 2004.
Democrat Tim Mahoney, who will replace disgraced Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, is calling for an independent ethics office to oversee Congress.
The recent House Ethics Committee's report found no evidence that any current lawmakers or aides broke any rules in their response to signs of Foley's relationship with underage congressional pages .
"Congress will not reestablish its credibility and trust with the American people until accountability and oversight is established in Washington,'' Mahoney said in a written statement. "The Ethics Committee's refusal to hold House leaders accountable for their negligence in failing to protect Congressional pages affirms that Congress is unable to police itself.''
Mahoney also wants to ban members from accepting gifts, meals, and trips from lobbyists.