TALLAHASSEE — When Gov. Charlie Crist returns to the state Capitol on Tuesday — a place he likens to an "asylum" — he will encounter a changed political environment, one not entirely to his liking.
Budget negotiations between the Senate and House will continue, as lawmakers seek an accord on spending for health care, schools, transportation and public safety.
The lame-duck Republican governor, now seriously pondering a U.S. Senate bid as a no-party candidate, must try to salvage the remnants of his legislative program in the nine days left in the regular session: appointees to dozens of boards and commissions, a cut in Florida's corporate income tax rate, millions of dollars for economic development incentives, and a jump-start of the alternative-energy industry.
The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee will consider a long list of Crist appointees Tuesday. They include David Klement and Benjamin "Steve" Stevens to the five-member Public Service Commission, and dozens of others to college trustee boards, water management boards and regulatory commissions.
Allowing a governor's appointees to languish in political limbo is a time-honored way for a frustrated Legislature to flex its muscle.
Crist angered legislators last week with his veto of Senate Bill 6, an education bill, and he may have made things worse over the weekend when he said in a campaign speech, referring to certain provisions in the bill: "You have to kind of scratch your head and think: Who is running the asylum?"
Senate President Jeff Atwater called Crist's choice of words "very poor." And in a telephone conversation with a staffer that was accidentally overheard, House Speaker Larry Cretul repeatedly groused about the governor: "It's the asylum comment. It's the asylum comment."