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Budget conference: House, Senate at impasse over control of Office of Energy

Energy Office move could short circuit in budget talks

The legislative budget conference committee addressing agriculture, environment, and natural resources issues is split over a proposed move of the Office of Energy.

The House passed legislation that would transfer the Office of Energy from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The Senate has not moved the bill.

That bill would return the office to the Department of Environmental Protection.

Chair Holly Raschein of the Agriculture and Natural Resources committee, which pushed that bill through, told Florida Politics Saturday that the House “is not going to contemplate that issue.”

She shot down a follow-up quickly, adding that she didn’t think she could be “any clearer than that.”

Before 2008, DEP handled the state’s energy policy. The office was moved to FDACS in 2011.

The bill, reflected in the budget offer, transfers 14 full-time equivalent positions, $605,934 in Salary Rate, $539,080 in general revenue funds, and $1,214,900 in trust fund authority.

Commissioner Nikki Fried has slammed the attempted “power grab … part of a larger plan to … subvert democracy” by giving “unchecked power to the Governor.”

Raschein noted DeSantis’ leadership on the environment as a good reason to move the office, meanwhile, sidestepping Democratic qualms about the move.

No savings or efficiency would be realized by the move, Raschein noted.

“It’s a wash,” she said.

“DEP’s mission is clean water,” she added. “It’s clean air. And clean energy is a component of all of those things. And so, the notion that we’re being political or doing something that’s outside of our arena is, I don’t know, I’m unclear on that.”

However, colleague Randy Fine was less devoted to kayfabe.

“Perhaps this is political,” Fine noted earlier this Session.

Speaker Jose Oliva defended the move as “a priority of the Governor.”

Priority of the Governor or not, the Senate hasn’t joined the so-called “partisan power grab.”

“I’m not even sure there’s a Senate bill on that issue and I would not consider that a priority of the Senate,” Senate Budget Chair Rob Bradley said earlier this year.

Initial budget deliberations still reflect the difference between the two. Conference committees have until 1 PM Monday to work out differences on these and other issues, before the issues are bumped up to Senate budget chair Bradley and House budget chair Travis Cummings.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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