Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried‘s allies from local governments around the state rallied to the defense of her cabinet department staying intact.
Forty local mayors and commissioners (mostly Democrats) signed on to a letter to Senate President Bill Galvano and House Speaker Jose Oliva imploring the Legislature not to move the Office of Energy to Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection.
Fried has described this as a “partisan power grab” by House Republicans at the behest of Gov. Ron DeSantis. Speaker Oliva confirmed that, saying it was DeSantis’ “priority.”
In the Senate, however, Fried hopes “cooler heads will prevail.”
There, the budget maintains the status quo, and there is no comparable yearning to move the Office of Energy.
The city officials hope it remains that way, saying that “the FDACS Office of Energy [has] also taken the lead in opening a crucial dialogue on state energy efficiency policy and addressing the climate crisis. In the past year, the FDACS Office of Energy also hosted the first state-level summit to address climate change in a decade, and released the Florida Energy and Climate Plan.
“We are concerned that moving the Office of Energy to the Department of Environmental Protection without any plans for success would be detrimental. Without appreciable cost savings or efficiency gains from moving the Office of Energy, we see no reason why it should be moved, now that it is working for the first time in a decade,” they note.
Mayors signing include the following: Jen Ahearn-Koch of Sarasota; Joe Ayou of Safety Harbor; Julie Ward Bujalski of Dunedin; John Dailey of Tallahassee; Daniel Dietch of Surfside; Steven Grant of Boynton Beach; Rex Hardin of Pompano Beach; Dale V.C. Holness, Broward County; Lori Lewellen, Dania Beach; Judy Paul of Davie; Helen Miller of White Springs; Gary Smith of Ponce Inlet; Matthew Sparks of Oakland Park; Philip Stoddard of South Miami; Matthew Surrency of Hawthorne; Ken Thurston of Lauderhill; Dean Trantalis of Fort Lauderdale; Raul Valdes-Fauli of Coral Gables; Lauren Poe of Gainesville; Michael Ryan of Sunrise; Frank Ortis of Pembroke Pines.
Former Senator and 2014 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Rich, now a Broward County Commissioner, is among the most recognizable names on the list of non-mayors who signed.
Three other Broward County Commissioners signed on also: Mark Bogen, Lamar Fisher, Beam Furr, along with Vice Mayor Steve Geller.
Though Tampa Mayor Jane Castor was not a signatory, four Councilmembers (Joseph Citro, John Dingfelder, Orlando Gudes, Guido Maniscalco) were, along with Council Chairman Luis Viera.
Hillsborough County Commissioners also back Fried: Pat Kemp, Les Miller, Kimberly Overman, and Mariella Smith.
Others on board from various points in the state: Wakulla County Commissioner Chuck Hess; Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long; Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor; Tallahassee City Commissioner Curtis Richardson; Midway Councilmember Braheem Russ.