Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is criticizing a new bill drafted in the Florida Senate that would remove Cabinet review from the confirmation of the head of the Department of Environmental Protection.
SB 1658, filed Thursday by Fernandina Beach Republican Sen. Aaron Bean, would streamline the confirmation process for acting Secretary Shawn Hamilton. The measure removes the requirement that appointment of the Secretary of Environmental Protection be subject to the concurrence of three members of the Cabinet.
The Bean bill contemplates no other changes. The Senate would still confirm the Governor’s appointee.
With three Republicans and one Democrat in the Cabinet, the outcome of a confirmation vote may not be in doubt. Nevertheless, Fried sees the attempt to sidestep Cabinet review as another attempt by DeSantis to diminish her role.
“Unfortunately, this is par for the course when it comes to transparency from Florida Republicans. DeSantis is too scared to have a real discussion about the DEP nominee so instead he’s having his allies in the Legislature change the whole appointee process and circumvent oversight from the Cabinet. Maybe now he’ll stop canceling meetings and start doing the state’s business,” Fried asserted Thursday, in response to an inquiry from Florida Politics.
Fried objected in September to DeSantis removing the interim tag from Hamilton’s title, saying she wanted the nominee presented to the Cabinet for “unanimous confirmation.” But time may be running out for that aspiration.
The bill would become effective immediately upon becoming law, which could happen quickly, with the Legislative Session starting next week.
Bean was not willing to say whether the bill was intended to check Fried, saying only that “it makes the DEP Secretary, like so many other secretaries, serve at the pleasure of the Governor.”
Bean, who leaves office this year, may be giving the Governor a gift, at least in terms of avoiding a fractious debate in the Cabinet room.
There likely will be little meaningful pushback in the Senate against the appointment of Hamilton, meanwhile. Hamilton has served 13 years at DEP. He has served as Interim Secretary since June 2021 and was Deputy Secretary of Lands and Recreation before that.
Florida Politics has reached out to the office of Gov. DeSantis asking for the Governor’s position on the bill. Should we hear back, this article will be updated.