The internal wars within the Miami-Dade delegation erupted into a light-hearted feud late Wednesday as Rep. Marcello Llorente successfully defeated a measure by Rep. David Rivera that requires all state agency heads to live within 50 miles of Leon County.
Rivera, the House Appropriations chairman, pushed the bill through his committee last week in an attempt to highlight the troubles of two of Gov. Charlie Crist's appointees, who have come under fire for spending taxpayer dollars commuting to Tallahassee from homes in St. Petersburg and Miami. Rivera is a former top deputy to Crist's U.S. Senate rival Marco Rubio and Llorente was a one-time rival to Rivera for a state Senate seat.
Llorente's amendment would have removed the residency requirement because, he argued, it was needed to eliminate "one other obstacle to a governor in terms of recruiting top talent to positions across the state.''
Rivera defended it, saying that "when tax dollars are involved we need to make sure it’s about the people's business and not personal business." The Herald/Times disclosed that the heads of the Department of Juvenile Justice and Department were spending taxpayer dollars traveling to their homes outside of Tallahassee on the weekends.
The measure failed on a voice vote but when enough members demanded a roll call vote, House Speaker Larry Cretul was forced to make a rare quorum call to spare his budget chairman from an embarrassing loss. 113 members showed up. With several Democrats siding with Llorente, his amendment was adopted: 58-57.
What's left of Rivera's bill? A requirement that agency heads now compile reports every three months detailing how much they spend on job-related travel.
After the vote, both Rivera and Llorente were smiling -- amid plenty of blackslapping and gritted teeth.