Scott Eyes Makeover for Florida Regulatory Bodies
PSC quorum hangs in balance as job-focused governor recalls appointees
Around the State
Gov. Rick Scott's recall of 168 Charlie Crist appointees reflects the new governor's desire to reshape -- and perhaps prune -- Florida's regulatory apparatus.
Ranging from the powerful Public Service Commission to the little-known Barbers Board -- which included Crist's personal barber -- the appointments have a greater or lesser impact on the business climate in the state.
The four PSC positions now under review are crucial because they constitute a working quorum of the utility overseer.
Scott, a former health-care executive who ran on a platform of making Florida more business-friendly, said his office will review each of Crist's appointments. Crist conducted a similar recall and review when he succeeded Gov. Jeb Bush.
To keep business moving forward, all withdrawn appointees will continue to serve until a successor qualifies. According to Senate Rule 12.72, the appointee can continue to serve until 45 days after legislative session if no other action is taken.
Scott's business focus and laissez-faire attitude could spell doom for some of the populist Crist appointees -- and could even lead to the dismantling of some agencies. The governor has pledged to downsize state government and streamline its regulatory functions.
"This reflects a process of re-evaluating Crist's appointees and in the process, it's possible that some of the people on this list could be re-appointed," said Scott spokesman Brian Hughes.
Scott spokeswoman Jennifer Meale said appointees need to re-apply if they wish to be considered for the remaining terms.
"The governor will consider each appointee on a case-by-case basis," Meale said.
Much is at stake for big investor-owned utilities such as Florida Power & Light and Progress Energy as they seek rate adjustments and other approvals for financing alternative energy from the PSC. Telecommunications companies also are regulated by the PSC.
PSC Commissioners Ronald Brisé, Eduardo Balbis, Julie Brown and Chairman Art Graham -- all appointed to the panel last year -- were among 168 Crist appointees withdrawn.
The PSC became a political football in the waning days of the Crist administration, as the panel had been reconstituted twice since 2009.
The Scott administration would not comment specifically on the PSC situation. But industry groups are hopeful that the governor's appointments will be a boon, not an impediment, to economic expansion.
Scott campaigned on a pledge to create 700,000 jobs within seven years.
Mike Antheil, head of the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy, said he and his organization are "holding our breath."
Expressing some concern, Antheil noted that a portion of the energy report from Scott's transition team "was written by an FPL employee." That report stressed the importance of building large-scale power projects.
But Antheil, whose group promotes smaller-scale alternative-energy ventures, said, "It's widespread distributive systems that generate the most jobs."
Meale confirmed to Sunshine State News that, per state statute, any replacements that Scott makes would come from the list provided to the previous governor by the nominating council.
One Crist appointee has already fallen by the wayside. Shannon Estenoz, who served on the South Florida Water Management District board, has moved on to take a job with the federal government.
Contact Kenric Ward at email@example.com or at (772) 801-5341.