TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott appointed a new state jobs chief on Thursday who could boost Scott's chances of getting one of his top priorities through the Florida Legislature in 2016.
Scott promoted Cissy Proctor to lead the Department of Economic Opportunity, replacing Jesse Panuccio, who announced his resignation earlier this month at a time his tenure was considered in "extreme danger" with state senators. Panuccio repeatedly clashed with senators over job-creation programs and technical glitches with the state's unemployment compensation system.
"He's picked somebody we can work with," State Sen. Nancy Detert, chairwoman of the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee and one of Panuccio's biggest critics, said of Proctor. "This would be an upgrade."
Before becoming chief of staff at the DEO in January, Proctor had been a director of legislative affairs and director of the Division of Strategic Business Development for the DEO, roles that put her in regular contact with the Legislature. Before that, she was a lawyer and lobbyist in Tallahassee for 10 years. Lobbyist registration forms show that her clients back then included Lykes Brothers, Tampa Bay Downs and UnitedHealthcare.
Scott emphasized Proctor's legislative history in touting her appointment. "She has a strong background in legislative affairs, and I know she will be a great partner with the Florida Legislature to continue to diversify our economy," he said.
Panuccio was often criticized by state senators for not communicating well and displaying "arrogance" as State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, labeled it during a contentious committee hearing this fall. Detert, R-Venice, said this month that Panuccio was in "extreme danger" of not being confirmed by the Senate.
Latvala said Thursday that Proctor, who officially takes over Jan. 9, has reached out to him, giving him hope there will be a better relationship with the Legislature.
"I'm going to give her the benefit of the doubt," said Latvala, chairman of a budget committee that has jurisdiction over Scott's job-incentive programs.
Proctor will be taking over while Scott is pushing the Legislature to give him $250 million that he can use to negotiate incentives to lure businesses to Florida — the signature issue of his five-year tenure. Just six months ago, the Legislature rejected Scott's push for $85 million for the same Enterprise Fund program, giving him only half of what he sought.
But this time, Scott has changed how he plans to manage the program, seemingly addressing a concern Latvala and others had about the Enterprise Fund. Scott has proposed no longer keeping money in escrow to be paid out in future years as companies hit job-creation goals. Other changes would limit incentive deals to a maximum of 10 years and require legislative leaders to sign off on incentive packages more than $1 million.
Proctor's appointment has to be confirmed by the Senate.
Contact Jeremy Wallace at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263. Follow @jeremyswallace.