Peter Schorsch: Testy process, minimum wage debate, geese tips

Among the four top statewide officials, no one walked away a winner from last week’s battle over the next insurance commissioner.

Neither Gov. Rick Scott nor CFO Jeff Atwater got the candidate he wanted, with both settling on the third name Atwater threw out at Friday’s emergency Cabinet meeting, David Altmaier.

And that was by a design that Atwater himself, a former lawmaker and Senate president, once approved.

Still, it’s the latest round of high-profile bad blood on the panel, beginning with Scott’s bungling of the 2014 ouster of FDLE head Gerry Bailey.

That resulted in recriminations, lawsuits, and a tense Cabinet meeting in February, with the Governor’s “I could have handled it better” mea culpa.

“Are you disappointed that Gov. Scott didn’t show more deference to you?” Tampa Bay Times reporter Steve Bousquet asked Atwater.

The CFO laughed. “As I said a few days ago, I thought the process was working out just as designed. I wasn’t disappointed in that. I certainly had my opinions as to how the process was going. I thought we would all be heard. I thought the governor had strong opinions of candidates and he knew I did as well. And here we are.”

Should the process be changed, he was later asked. Right now, state law requires that both the governor and CFO have to agree on a position that ultimately falls under the CFO’s supervision.

No, said Atwater, who was among lawmakers who passed that law.

We “did not want this decision of selecting an individual that would lead this (agency) in the hands of any one person,” Atwater said.

“Historically, there were concerns of the politicizing of the office….We knew it might cause an occasion of a prolonged process, but that was intentional.”

Now, here are the top five stories from state government last week.

  1. Shut down.

Bridges of America is fighting to keep its programs in Broward County open, despite being told by the Department of Corrections it was ending its relationship with the Orlando-based nonprofit. According to the organization, department officials said they were shutting down the program to use its space for expanded offices.

The Department of Corrections said zoning changes in Lauderdale Lakes were forcing them to move, but Lauderdale Lakes officials said that’s not the case. And the shutdown has gotten attention from Republicans and Democrats alike. Rep. Dana Young penned a scathing letter, scolding Corrections Secretary Julie Jones. So did Reps. Dennis Baxley, Rene Plascencia, Randolph Bracyand Victor Torres.

2. Gambling questions.

A proposed constitutional amendment to give Florida voters the “exclusive right” to decide whether to allow casino gambling left state economic analysts scratching their heads.

The question: If approved, would it outlaw legal types of gambling. The Financial Impact Estimating Conference spent some time discussing just that during a meeting last week.

While the analysts were told to determine the effect the amendment would have on state and local government revenues, they first needed to figure out whether it was retroactive.

The group pushing the amendment’s response? We’ll get back to you.

3. California Dreamin’.

Headed to the left coast this week, Scott waged war against California’s minimum wage hike. Enterprise Florida released a radio ad last week attacking California’s decision to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022.

The advertisement is expected to air in Los Angeles and San Francisco and encourages businesses to move to Florida. The minimum wage in Florida is $8.05. A spokesman for the governor of California fired back, saying the state added twice as many jobs as Florida since Scott last visited.

4. Challenged.

Add another nursery to the list of nurseries challenging the state over medical marijuana. Treadwell Nursery filed a petition for a formal administrative hearing, challenging how the Department of Health responded to a new state law that, among other things, allows the DOH to approve more dispensing organizations.

The Central Florida nursery was one of eight that applied to be a dispensing organization in the central region. It lost out to Knox Nurseries.

5. Look away.

Canadian geese have taken over the Capital Circle Office Complex in SouthWood, and the Department of Health has a few tips for the state employees coping with the birds. The geese are known for getting a bit touchy during spring nesting season, and maintenance workers have gone to great lengths — including orange fencing — to separate man from geese. The Department of Health offered a few tips on how to deal with the birds, including don’t feed them, don’t wave your arms and don’t make eye contact.

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Peter Schorsch is a new media publisher and political consultant based in St. Petersburg, Florida. Reporters Jim Rosica, Ryan Ray and Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster contributed to this report. Column courtesy of Context Florida.   

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.



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