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Reacting to Supreme Court's Whiley decision, Sen. Gaetz and Rep. Gaetz define Scott's rulemaking role

Last year's Supreme Court ruling that Gov. Rick Scott overstepped his authority by weighing into agency rulemaking really rubbed some conservative lawmakers the wrong way.

Especially Don and Matt Gaetz, the Legislature's only father-son duo and sponsors of a proposal that directly responds to the court's decision. If Scott is the chief executive, they say, and he hires the agency heads who oversee rulemaking, then why can't he formally say whether he likes or doesn't like the rules?

They want to clarify in state law that ultimate oversight of rulemaking -- which is delegated by the Legislature to implement policy -- belong to the governor. As Sen. Gaetz explained it, it allows the governor to weigh in on rules after they are proposed and before they enter the public comment process.

"The Legislature did not create a fourth branch of government which could frustrate the policy direction of any Governor, present and future," according to a staff analysis.

The language is on its way to Scott, as of today. Their proposal, HB 7055/SB 1312, passed the Senate on Friday by a 29-11 vote, with Democratic Sen. Bill Montford crossing the party line. The House approved it along similar party lines last week.

Most Democrats worry it muddies the separation of powers for agency control, gives too much power to Scott and may limit public access to rulemaking. The Gaetzes disagree, saying his effort does not short-circuit required notice and comment periods.

“I don’t care what anybody says,” said Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston. “They’re giving him more power and I don’t think it’s called for.”

Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, joins Rich in apprehension of the consequences, mainly because Gaetz was so opposed to the court ruling and she liked it.

“He likes a strong executive,” she said. “I get concerned about a strong executive.”

Scott created the Office of Fiscal Accountability and Regulatory Reform on his first day in office to formally sign off on proposed rules, but the court ruled his order invalid after a blind woman, Rosalie Whiley, sued because it interfered with her access to food stamps.

It’s the first time the Gaetzes teamed up on legislation, and it's probably the last. For the next two years Don Gaetz will be Senate president, a position that doesn't usually sponsor legislation.

You can tell the Gaetzes had fun -- their kind of fun -- with the 33-page bill, the first portion of which is spent opining on executive branch power and criticizing the majority opinion in the Whiley case.

An excerpt: By Article IV of the State Constitution the people vested supreme executive power in the Governor and apportioned specific substantive powers among the other elected officers designated in that Article, including the Lieutenant Governor, the Attorney General, the Chief Financial Officer, and the Commissioner of Agriculture.

As noted by Alexander Hamilton: "Energy in the executive is a leading character in the definition of good government .... A feeble executive implies a feeble execution of the government. A feeble execution is but another phrase for a bad execution: And a government ill executed, whatever it may be in theory, must be in practice a bad government."

"It’s an issue that speaks to us.” Rep. Gaetz said.