JD: Dear Gov., I think you broke the law
Quite a day in Separation of Powers 101 for new Gov. Rick Scott. First 26 senators rebuke him for cancelling high-speed rail money. And now Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander thinks the guv exceeded his authority in selling the state plane. Here's his letter to Scott:
First, let me applaud you for fulfilling your campaign promise to sell the state aircraft. As you know, for the past five years I have sought to sell the State planes, but was unable to accomplish this. I support your goal, but not the method. It is important that the proper procedures for accomplishing a goal we both support be followed.
In recent days, your office directed the sale of two of the State’s airplanes and used the proceeds of one sale (Plane One) to satisfy the lease obligation of the second plane (Plane Two). My concern is that this procedure may have violated state law. The satisfaction of Plane Two’s lease obligation with funds from the sale of Plane One appears to be an expenditure of state funds not made in pursuance of an appropriation made by law. See Article VII, Section 1 (c), Florida Constitution, and Section 216.181, Florida Statutes.
Furthermore, pursuant to Section 273.055(5), Florida Statutes, moneys received from the sale of Plane One must be retained by the custodian of the disposed property (Plane One) and may only be disbursed for the acquisition of exchange and surplus property and all necessary operating expenditures. The use of the sales proceeds to satisfy a lease obligation associated with Plane Two may be in conflict with the foregoing requirement.
These actions also appear to be contrary to the provisions of Section 216.195, Florida Statutes, which prohibits the impoundment of funds. The Section 6 of the Fiscal Year 2010-11 General Appropriations Act contains appropriations for lease payments, operations and maintenance of the two planes. Under the provisions of Section 216.195, Florida Statutes, the failure of an agency to spend an appropriation as directed in the appropriations act constitutes impoundment of funds.
It is my position that you should have sought the approval of the Legislature before undertaking the sale of the state planes and using the proceeds of the sale of Plane One to satisfy the lease obligation of Plane Two. My concern, of course, is that these actions may have violated the law and as such fail to recognize the Legislature by not respecting the Legislature’s constitutional duty to appropriate funds and your duty to spend appropriated funds in accordance with the law.