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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Cretul gives Robaina the boot



Julio_robaina Rep. Julio Robaina, R-Miami, has been stripped of his post as chairman of the Criminal and Civil Justice Policy Council after appearing to undercut a legislative priority of Attorney General Bill McCollum.

House Speaker Larry Cretul named Rep. William Snyder, R-Stuart, as chair and Rep. Sandy Adams, R-Oveido, as vice chair. The official line is that Cretul did not feel Robaina was a good fit.

But the real story is Cretul felt Robaina crossed him yesterday -- and violated an unwritten rule to heed the leadership playbook -- by amending a bill (HB 215) that McCollum is pushing with the speaker's support. It would limit the fees the AG's office pays to outside lawyers.

Robaina's amendment allowed for some leeway. He said payment caps would limit future AGs and felt some cases warrant higher compensation. He was backed by trial lawyers and others. The amended bill passed 9-1.

"As Speaker, one of my jobs is to provide a leadership organization that best serves the House over the next two years," Cretul said in a statement. "These decisions today are in keeping with that responsibility."

UPDATE: 5:50 p.m. Robaina reacts to the decision. Buzz audio here. "I think a very bad message was sent today. ... I think it's come to the point where it's more important to not embarrass people than to create good public policy. If that's the situation here, then I honestly don't want to sit here, either, as a chairman if I'm going to be micromanaged. ... But understanding the politics of Tallahassee, it's to be expected."

McCollum said the bill was made worse by Robaina's amendment, which came as a surprise. "I had an impression he supported the bill," he said in an interview. "We talked the day before the committee. We didn't discuss amendments. He didn't raise it. I didn't think of raising it."

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 7:31pm]


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