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Politics

Rick Scott Reappoints Unconfirmed Agency Heads

May 3, 2015 - 6:00pm

Gov. Rick Scott wasted little time in reappointing 16 agency heads, including the leaders of two health-care agencies and the state's elections chief, after the Senate did not confirm them before the end of the regular legislative session.

Each reappointment announced Monday is only good for a year. To retain their jobs for longer than that, the appointees will again have to go through the Senate confirmation process, which was rough for a few this year.

Scott, who attended "job growth" events in Immokalee and Riviera Beach on Monday, didn't include any statement with the reappointment list.

Scott has 45 days from the end of the session, officially last Friday, to reappoint people who failed to get confirmed by the Senate.

A spokeswoman for Senate President Andy Gardiner said a number of senators weren't satisfied with some answers they were getting from appointees during the committee process.

"President Gardiner believes the confirmation process should be more than a simple rubber stamp," spokeswoman Katie Betta said in an email Monday.

As the legislative session was falling apart over a budget impasse, Gardiner, R-Orlando, maintained he wasn't playing political games with Scott's agency heads when asked if they would be confirmed.

"I think there are some of our senators that have had concerns about some of the responses from secretaries," Gardiner told reporters after an April 23 floor session. "By no means would we be playing games or threatening or anything like that."

Gardiner's comment came a day after Scott threatened to veto a number of Senate bills if the chamber didn't move his requested $673 million tax-cut package. Scott's tax cuts remain in limbo, awaiting a special session on the budget.

During the regular session, the Senate Health Policy Committee tabled a confirmation vote for Surgeon General John Armstrong after questioning him about Scott's decision to oppose a Senate plan to use federal money to provide health coverage to an estimated 800,000 Floridians.

Armstrong, who is the secretary of the Department of Health, at one point said he had not "formulated an opinion" on the Senate plan, which some lawmakers didn't consider an adequate answer.

Members of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, while voting in support of Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Liz Dudek, were also skeptical about the way the Scott administration has handled negotiations with the federal government about key health funding issues. Those issues include the state's attempt to extend the $2.2 billion Low Income Pool program, which is scheduled to expire June 30. Senators were skeptical, in part, of the idea that Dudek's agency was unaware that LIP funding and potential Medicaid expansion were tied together in the negotiations.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner also drew some flak during the committee process over his opposition to a proposal, eventually approved by the House and Senate, to set up an online voter-registration system by late 2017.

Others reappointed on Monday were: State Technology Director Jason Allison; Department of Transportation Secretary Jim Boxold; Department of Children and Families Secretary Mike Carroll; Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Christina Daly; Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones; Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Ken Lawson; Lottery Secretary Cynthia O'Connell; Agency for Persons with Disabilities Director Barbara Palmer; Department of Management Services Secretary Chad Poppell; Department of Elder Affairs Secretary Samuel Verghese; and Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Jesse Panuccio.

Scott also announced reappointments of Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Jon Steverson and Florida Department of Law Enforcement Executive Director Rick Swearingen. Both positions also require Cabinet approval.

The Cabinet, which gave support to Steverson and Swearingen in January, meets Tuesday.

Of the 338 appointments Scott made prior to or during the 2015 session, the Senate approved 190, including Florida National Guard Adjutant General Michael Calhoun and Public Service Commission members Julie Brown and Jimmy Patronis. The majority of those receiving Senate confirmation fill positions on state, regional and local boards.

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