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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Gardiner warns Dudek, Armstrong: Expect tough confirmations in the Senate



The governor’s top health care appointees — Secretary Liz Dudek of the Agency for Health Care Administration and Surgeon General John Armstrong — should prepare for tough confirmation fights.

And Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, has told them as much.

“I met with Secretary Dudek last week and I told her, ‘You will get very pointed questions from the senators,’ and she needs to be prepared for that,” Gardiner said, adding, “Same thing with Dr. Armstrong, too.”

Speaking with the Times/Herald days after the resignation of Department of Economic Opportunity Director Jesse Panuccio, who was unlikely to be confirmed in at least one Senate committee, Gardiner said he expects particularly tough questioning for some agency heads. Dudek and Armstrong have to be confirmed by the Senate Health Policy Committee and the Ethics and Elections Committee before the full Senate decides if they can keep their jobs.

A long list of Gov. Rick Scott’s appointees is up for confirmation this session as the Senate punted many last spring.

That doesn’t mean they won’t be confirmed, though, despite persistent rumors in the halls of the Capitol that one agency head or another is in danger of losing his or her job. Gardiner said he knows nothing about rumors that Armstrong won’t be confirmed.

Just because the president hasn’t heard it doesn’t mean it isn’t going on. Gardiner, who is neighbors with Panuccio, said he didn’t expect the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee would have voted down his confirmation.

Officially, Panuccio resigned to “pursue new opportunities.” But Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, the committee chairwoman said Friday that Panuccio was in "extreme danger.”

“Even Jesse, who I liked and actually know well, I did not have a parade of members coming in here and saying, ‘We have a problem.’ "

[Last modified: Monday, December 7, 2015 5:04pm]


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