Tom Lee's proposal to augment CFO duties dies in committee - Florida Politics

Tom Lee’s proposal to augment CFO duties dies in committee

A review panel has killed a proposed constitutional amendment that would have added financial oversight duties to the state’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO).

The proposal (P68), filed by Commissioner Tom Lee, died on a tie vote in the Constitution Revision Commission‘s Executive Committee on Tuesday as some panel members raised fiscal and legal questions. A parliamentary attempt by Commissioner Don Gaetz to revive the measure later failed.

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But Lee, a Republican state senator from Thonotosassa, said he next plans to take his proposal to the full Commission for consideration.

He previously has said he also intends to run for CFO in 2018; former state Rep. and later Public Service Commissioner Jimmy Patronis was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to fill the rest of then-CFO Jeff Atwater‘s term after he left for a university job.

His amendment, in part a response to a recent lawsuit by House Speaker Richard Corcoran against the Florida Lottery, would have required the CFO “to review and certify contracts … if the contract requires payment of more than $10 million,” a staff analysis said.

Corcoran’s suit alleges that the Lottery went on an illegal spending spree last year when it inked a 15-year, $700 million contract with IGT (International Game Technology) for new equipment for draw and scratch-off tickets. Corcoran won at trial, and the Lottery appealed; both sides now are seeking a settlement.

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Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, appointed Lee to the commission.

“You have an obvious problem in state government in that there’s a lack of accountability, checks and balances, internal controls,” Lee told Florida Politics after the committee meeting. “Government has an opportunity to run like a business … yet given an opportunity, we don’t avail ourselves of it.

“I was really disappointed that the basis for voting down the proposal … (included) matters that could have been addressed” by the time the measure reached its next committee, he added.

One problem raised by staff was an increase in costs to the CFO “due to additional staff required to perform contract review.”

Another raised a separation of powers concern. Allowing the CFO to essentially veto contracts could trigger vendor challenges in courts, which might “determine that the (language) does not provide legislative standards or thresholds specifying the CFO’s obligations.”

Attorney General Pam Bondi, also a commission member, voted for the proposal but warned Lee she had “concerns” over the “potential constitutional issues.” Other commissioners voted no, saying they agreed with Bondi.

The CFO’s office was itself created by the 1997-98 Constitution Revision Commission, which shrank the Florida Cabinet from six members to three: An Attorney General, a Chief Financial Officer, and an Agriculture Commissioner. It merged the Cabinet offices of Treasurer and Comptroller into a then-new CFO.

Jim Rosica covers state government from Tallahassee for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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