October 02, 2007

Cabinet appoints new revenue director

The former general counsel and long-time legislative director of the Department of Revenue, Lisa Echeverri, 42, was named the agency's new director by Gov. Charlie Crist and the state Cabinet today.

Echeverri replaces Jim Zingale, a 34-year veteran of state government, who is becoming the interim head of the Agency for Enterprise Information Technology. The newly-created agency will focus on IT development between agencies in state government and provide coordination for large-scale, multi-agency projects. Zingale will retire in February.

August 08, 2007

Bronson says no to 10 percent budget cuts

Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson has told Gov. Charlie Crist and the GOP-controlled Legislature that he cannot recommend up to 10 percent in budget cuts as ordered by Crist and lawmakers earlier this summer. Each agency was required to turn in plans today that spelled out what budget cuts could be enacted by the Legislature, which will meet during a September special session to cut at least $1 billion from the state budget.

In a letter sent today to the governor, Bronson said that his agency has been repeatedly cut in recent years: "We have undergone budget cuts and re-structuring for the last 15 years...A 10% budget cut for us would mean a $26.1 million reduction. To get to that figure would mean making drastic cuts to food safety, fire-fighting capabilities, consumer protection and seriously hamper our ability to help sell our Florida products which ultimately affects jobs, the State's sales tax collections and our overall economy. Because of the numerous cuts that have been previously made, further reductions to these core areas would be detrimental to the services we provide to the citizens of the State."

Bronson only recommended a 3.5 percent cut that amounts to $7.9 million of his current year budget.

Read his letter here: Download bronson_letter.doc

July 19, 2007

Orange Juice waste to go green for FPL

Building on the momentum of Florida's new green wave, Florida Power & Light announced today that it will start building an ethanol production plant in Hendry County this year using citrus waste.

Orange peels, seeds and membrane will be converted into 4 million of ethanol every year and blended with gasoline to produce 60 million gallons of fuel and supply what is expected to be a growing demand for the alternative biofuel. The company made the announcement at the Farm to Fuel Summit hosted by Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson in St. Petersburg.

The ethanol plant will be operated by FPL Energy. using technology developed by Citrus Energy, a Boca-Raton based company. Citrus waste now is converted into animal feed at a cost to citrus producers, said David Stewart, CEO of the company. But, because the ethanol technology uses yeast to help the citrus waste ferment, it converts the waste to energy and does it more efficiently and with less cost than corn-based ethanol, he said.

"We're turning a liability for the citrus industry into an asset,'' he said.

Gov. Charlie Crist, who attended the conference, said FPL's announcement is more proof that Florida "has reached the tipping point'' and will soon become "a national leader as it relates to ethanol.''

March 01, 2007

Crist postpones clemency vote on felons rights

Gov. Charlie Crist postponed efforts Thursday to have the Florida Board of Executive Clemency vote on a plan to allow most felons automatic restoration of voting rights after they have served thier prison time.

   The governor appeared to have the votes necessary to have Florida join all but two other states and end the Jim Crow-era law that disenfranchises felons from voting, serving on a jury or obtaining many work-related licenses, but he wanted to avoid isolating fellow Republican, Attorney General Bill McCollum, as the lone vote.

Crist seeks compromise on felons rights on eve of clemency board meeting

On the eve of his first clemency board meeting as governor, Charlie Crist stepped up efforts to work out a compromise between his Cabinet colleagues on how to provide automatic restoration of civil rights to most felons. More here.

February 28, 2007

McCollum says meet more often to reduce clemency backlog

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum has weighed in today with his answer to the backlog of felons awaiting approval from the Clemency Board for the restoration of their civil rights: meet more often.

In a letter to Gov. Charlie Crist, McCollum acknowledges that the backlog is "unacceptable'' and proposes as a solution to have each member of the Cabinet commit two people from their staff to help work on eliminating the clemency backlog and require the Cabinet to meet at least monthly -- and perhaps more often -- as the Clemency Board until the waiting list is gone.

Here is McCollum's letter to the governor: Download clemency_letter.pdf

February 27, 2007

Cabinet names Bustle as new highway head

Gov. Charlie Crist and the Florida Cabinet today named Electra Bustle, assistant commissioner at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, to be the new head of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Bustle replaces Fred Dickinson, the long-time chief of the department who resigned two weeks ago. Bustle was formerly chief of FDLE's missing child clearinghouse, the sex offender registry and was instrumental in the implementation of the child protections required under the Jessica Lundsford Act. She previously served as general counsel, captain and major at the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office and also worked at DHSMV 10 years ago.

The Cabinet and an audience of Bustle's co-workers from law enforcement gave her a standing ovation.

"Wow,'' Bustle said. "Together, we will be looking for ways to better serve citizens...I look forward to hitting the ground running and getting started March 7.''


February 26, 2007

New Highway Safety director up for vote Tuesday

Gov. Charlie Crist will ask Tuesday morning that his fellow members of the Florida Cabinet vote to name Electra Bustle, assistant commissioner at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, to replace Fred Dickinson, the long-time chief of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Dickinson announced two weeks ago that he was stepping down from the agency that he has led since 1992. Since the agency reports to both the governor and Cabinet, the selection of Bustle must be approved by Cabinet members as well.

January 18, 2007

New traditions at first Cabinet meeting

Gov. Charlie Crist and the new Florida Cabinet held its first meeting Thursday and Crist used it to drop long-standing traditions. The governor in the past would normally field five minutes worth of questions from the media prior to each Cabinet meeting. This gaggle would occur at the bottom steps of the stairs leading from the first floor of the Capitol. Crist, however, has nixed this tradition and instead  has decided to do a 15-minute availability in his large conference room.

During his first pre-Cabinet briefing, Crist was asked about his thoughts on whether the insurance consumer advocate post should remain under the control of Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, and whether discussions to move it were a result of fears that Sink may run against Crist. Crist's response: "I don't know if I plan to run for re-election."

At the Cabinet meeting, Crist, Sink, Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson and Attorney General Bill McCollum voted in favor of Crist's choices to lead the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Veterans Affairs. They also voted to reaffirm Coleman Stipanovich as the head of the State Board of Administration.

Crist and Cabinet also took time to meet with a group of roughly 100 Brevard County residents angry about their insurance rates. All four elected officials thanked the group and said they were more important than anyone else in the Capitol right now.

"We've got plenty around of lobbyists around. There the guys with the suits. We pay more attention to the people in the tee-shirts,'' said Sink.

October 20, 2006

Show Copeland the money

Eric Copeland is like the stepchild of the Democratic party's statewide candidates this year, the one who gets the least attention and praise.

But the candidate for commissioner of agriculture and consumer services got some love at a fundraiser last night in Coconut Grove. Among the people on the host committee:  top fundraiser Alex Heckler, former state Rep. Elaine Bloom, Miami-Dade Public Defender Bennett Brummer and Miami-Dade School Board Member Betsy Kaplan.

Copeland has raised about $56,000 and loaned himself $167,000. Republican incumbent Charles Bronson has collected $1.5 million.