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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

In first big move as House Speaker, Weatherford leans to the right



With the bipartisan spirit receding from last week’s swearing-in ceremony, Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford looked more like a typical conservative Florida Republican with the unveiling of his committee assignments this afternoon.

Weatherford placed a reliable social conservative, Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, in charge of the powerful Judiciary Committee. Baxley has helped write and sponsor some of the Legislature's more notorious pieces of legislation, including 2005's "stand your ground law" (which allowed use of deadly force to prevent "imminent death or great bodily harm" while removing a person's duty to retreat required in a previous self-defense law. It was blamed in the Feb. 26 shooting death of Trayvon Martin) and 2011's HB 1355 (which reduced the number of early voting days in Florida from 14 to eight while making it more difficult to register voters, some of which was later thrown out by a judge. Democrats and voting rights group have partly blamed HB 1355 for the chaos in Florida during the Nov. 6 election). 

In addition, Weatherford left Rep. Bryan Nelson, R-Apopka, an insurance agent, as chairman of the Insurance & Banking Subcommittee. 

Meanwhile, Weatherford denied one of the banking and insurance industry’s most vocal critics, Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, from serving on the Insurance & Banking Subcomittee.  Fasano listed it as his top preference along with the Transportation & Economic  Development Appropriations Subcommittee (he was given a slot on that subcommittee).

"Having Bryan Nelson chairing Banking & Insurance is one of the worst things to happen to the consumer," Fasano said. "It's the wolf guarding the hen house. Bryan Nelson carries the water for the insurance industry."

Fasano later tweeted: "Pasco and Hernando is ground zero for property insurance crisis yet not one member of FL House on Ins Comm."

It'll be Nelson's job during the next year to oversee changes to Citizens Property Insurance, which is currently embroiled in scandalous revelations from an internal probe. 

Rep. Richard Corcoran, the Pasco Republican who is in line to be speaker in 2016, got two significant posts: chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee and chairman of a select committee that will oversee the implementation of Obamacare.

Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, will oversee nearly a third of the state budget as chairman of the Education Appropriations Subcommittee, which now is in charge of K-12, community college and university spending.

The Ethics & Elections Committee, revived after six years of dormancy in the House, will be led by a second-term lawmaker, Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton. Two Tampa Bay Democrats are on that panel: Rep. Janet Cruz, of Tampa, and Darryl Rouson, of St. Petersburg.

See below for the complete list of assignments.

-- Steve Bousquet and Michael Van Sickler

[Last modified: Monday, November 26, 2012 7:43pm]


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