Letter from Tallahassee: Grounded

by Christian R. Camara on January 12, 2011

photo by karmablue/Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license

Greetings from Sunny Florida where the palm trees shelter us from the balmy January sun.

Last week ushered in the most dramatic exchange in political power in Florida history. For the first time in recent memory, every cabinet seat was officially filled by totally new members who have never served in any cabinet position. Tampa-area prosecutor Pam Bondi was sworn in as the state’s Attorney General, Former State Senate President Jeff Atwater the CFO, and Congressman Adam Putnam the Commissioner of Agriculture.  The state also celebrated the inauguration of its 45th Governor Rick Scott, a former health care executive. Jacksonville State Representative Jennifer Carroll (and mother of Miami Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll) became the state’s Lieutenant Governor.  All were sworn-in to office on the front steps of Florida’s Historic Old Capitol on Tuesday at noon.

Although Tuesday was celebratory in nature, Scott hit the ground running. Within minutes of his swearing in, he signed his first executive order freezing all new regulations and call for a review of all new rules to see how they affect job creation. Scott campaigned on a promise to create 700,000 jobs in four years.  He has also identified several issues that he will make top priorities. Among them, the state’s double-digit unemployment, insurance and regulatory reform, tort reform, education reform, and the overall economic recession, which has contributed to the state’s projected $3.5 billion dollar revenue shortfall. Unlike the Federal Government, Florida is required by constitutional mandate to balance its budget every year. In fact, the budget is the only item of business which the constitution requires every legislative session.

In addition to broad issues, he appears to be taking an interest in the little things, too. For example, he has already announced plans to reject his entire governor’s salary except for one cent.  He has also grounded the controversial state plane that earned negative press over the last several years due to alleged abuse by lawmakers and executive officers. Instead, he has indicated that officials should drive or fly commercial.

The clarity and focus coming out of the governor’s office seems to be a welcome change in Tallahassee after the last four years of Governor Charlie Crist. “We may not agree with all of Rick Scott’s agenda, but at least he has one,” said State Senator Nancy Detert, a moderate Republican from Venice, Florida.

Staying warm and grounded,

Christian R. Cámara, Florida Director

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