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House budget targets excessive agency head travel

News reports of the extensive taxpayer-funded travel by a handful of Gov. Charlie Crist's agency heads have brought a reaction from the Legislature. The House's conforming budget language has a requirement that all agency heads and Public Service Commission members "shall, within 90 days after his or her appointment to office, establish permanent residency in or within 50 miles of Leon County."

The Times/Herald has reported on the travels by three agency secretaries: Frank Peterman at Juvenile Justice, Doug Beach at Elder Affairs and Ana Viamonte Ros at the Department of Health. Peterman, a former St. Petersburg legislator, has reimbursed taxpayers $26,811 for travel that Crist's chief inspector general found was unjustified.

"We've seen a lot of reports of agency heads working weekdays in Tallahassee and then doing a lot of travel to their places of residence," said Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami, the House's chief budget writer. "I think a lot of taxpayers want to know that the agency heads are working and living in the Tallahassee area."

The bill (PCB CEED 10-09) also would require agency heads to file quarterly reports with the Legislature detailing all travel reimbursements. "The report shall provide information for each trip taken, including the purpose and justification for the trip," the bill states.