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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Rick Scott and Cabinet deadlock on insurance commissioner, delay appointment



The Florida Cabinet deadlocked on Tuesday over the next state insurance commissioner.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Chief Financial officer Jeff Atwater, the two most important votes on the cabinet for the position, could not agree on either of the two finalists that interviewed for the position, forcing them to reopen the application process with a shot a trying again in late April to come to a consensus.

It's another setback for the governor who since January has seen his top legislative priorities ignored by the Legislature, watched key members of his administration resign in the last three months and now was unable to get the rest of the Cabinet to go along with his top recommendation to replace longtime insurance commissioner Kevin McCarty, who resigned in January.

Scott pushed for Pinellas County resident Jeffrey Bragg, a former U.S. Treasury official who ran the nation's terrorism risk insurance program under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. In the 1980s, President Ron Reagan appointed him to a position at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Bragg promised to continue efforts to grow a "vigorous and active" private insurance market. After 2004, some major private insurers left the state's market after sustaining substantial losses after four hurricanes blasted the state in one year.

Bragg said McCarty and his agency has a strong reputation nationally and promised not to make wholesale changes to the Office of Insurance Regulation. He said instead changes he would make would be more surgical.

Atwater however refused to budge after recommending state Rep. Bill Hager, R-Delray Beach, for the position. Hager, besides being vice chair of the House banking and insurance committee was the former state insurance commissioner for Iowa. 

Hager also promised to continue growing the private sector insurance market in Florida and stressed his experience working with state government and in the private insurance industry.

But after Atwater proposed giving the job to Hager at $190,000 a year, Scott said he wasn't going to support the proposal and instead said the application process will be reopened with eyes of making the appointment in late April. Atwater agreed, but said afterwards that the decision does not prevent both Bragg and Hager reapplying and being considered again for the position.

[Last modified: Tuesday, March 29, 2016 4:52pm]


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