Governor and Cabinet wrap up the year with a flurry of activity
State pension fund chief Ash Williams got a big raise. Citizens Property Insurance got its first in-house watchdog. And Florida drivers will soon be able to show proof of car insurance by flashing their cell phones. All of that and more took place Tuesday during the final meeting of 2013 of Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet.
As we've noted previously, Cabinet meetings have devolved of late into marathon photo-ops with more fluff than substance. And on Tuesday, Attorney General Pam Bondi presented an adorable dog in need of a loving home, and state officials played a two-minute video of news clips, featuring cameos by Tampa TV news anchors Keith Cate and Denise White, touting new jobs. Then the gang of four (Scott, Bondi, CFO Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam) got down to business:
* Citizens' first inspector general will be Bruce Meeks, a former deputy attorney general and former I.G. for the State Board of Administration (SBA). The veteran lawyer was chosen over 87 other applicants for the job as chief in-house troubleshooter at the state-backed insurer of last resort. Citizens CEO Barry Gilway said the company continues to shift hundreds of thousands of policies to the private insurance market.
* Jerry McDaniel was honored on his retirement as Scott's budget director. The unflappable McDaniel spent 37 years in state government as a budget expert and is one of the very few high-level appointees to have worked for Scott and his predecessor and likely 2014 rival, Charlie Crist. After Scott summarized McDaniel's long career in government, he said: "When you talk, it sounds like I'm from the dinosaur age."
* FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey made a pitch for a bigger budget, including the need for new workers to do background checks for the continuing surge in applications for concealed weapons permits. Over Thanksgiving weekend, Bailey said, extra workers were brought in to process 13,500 checks.
* Highway safety chief Julie Jones got the go-ahead to implement a new law that will make Florida only the second state in the U.S. to allow motorists to electronically show proof of car insurance. She credited Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, with the idea, and said that the new law should be in effect by mid-January. "We're not concerned with a fraud issue here," Jones said. "Anything to help the motoring public."
* Williams, the executive director of the SBA, was hired more than five years ago at a salary of $325,000 a year. He got his first raise, and it was worth waiting for: It was for $42,500 to bring his paycheck to $367,500. Williams presented a detailed report showing that the fund has grown by 15 percent this year. "You're doing a great job, Ash," Scott told Williams.