Bipartisan push in Senate to make Secretary of State elected
The Florida Senate keeps finding new ways to express its dissatisfaction with Gov. Rick Scott's administration. A bipartisan Senate Rules Committee voted 11-0 Wednesday for a proposed constitutional amendment that would make the office of Secretary of State an elected position and a Cabinet post, not an appointee of the governor.
The bill (SB 1424) now heads to the Senate floor, but its House companion is stalled. Both houses would have to pass it by three-fifths margins and 60 percent of voters would have to approve it on the November ballot. The Senate sponsor, Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, knows it's dead for this session: "It's not going to happen," he said.
Bean said the state's chief elections official "should be accountable directly to the people." Bean said the Cabinet -- technically the governor and Cabinet -- should be made up of an odd number of officials in case of tie votes.
Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said the chief state elections official should be independent. "We've had fits and starts" over bills to improve the elections process, Gaetz said.
Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, criticized Scott's appointee, Ken Detzner, for trying to purge suspected noncitizens from the voter roll and for his "hostility" to online voter registration in the 2015 session.
The office was a partisan elected position for more than a century until voters approved a proposal to shrink the Cabinet in 1998. The last elected Secretary of State was Katherine Harris, a Republican who will remain a memorable figure for her role in the 2000 presidential recount in Tallahassee.
Area lawmakers who voted for the bill Wednesday were Sens. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami; Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa; and Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater.