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Jack Latvala 'temporarily' removed as Senate appropriations chairman

Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater was removed Monday as chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee as the Senate launches an independent investigation of allegations that he sexually harassed six women.

Senate President Joe Negron announced that Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, will take Latvala’s place as budget chairman.

In addition, Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, will take Bradley’s place as chairman of the Senate budget subcommittee on transportation, tourism and economic development.

“I believe it is in the best interest of the Senate for another Senator to temporarily serve as chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations,” Negron said in a memo to senators. “Senator Latvala‘s other responsibilities in the Senate will remain unchanged.”

Latvala released a letter he had sent to Negron Monday, asking to take a “leave of absence” from his chairmanship “until this matter is resolved. I look forward to defending myself against these untruthful allegations and believe I will be fully exonerated.”

For Latvala, the loss of the chairmanship, even temporarily, is a major political setback, and comes two months before the start of the 2018 legislative session.

Latvala won the coveted chairmanship after agreeing to end a four-year fight with Negron for the Senate presidency.

The appropriations chairmanship is the second most powerful post in the 40-member Senate, because it involves having a say in virtually every major spending decision in Tallahassee.

Latvala remains an Appropriations Committee member, but the endless line of lobbyists, citizens and organizations seeking state money will quickly move to Bradley’s office.