TALLAHASSEE — House Speaker Larry Cretul reshuffled the leadership deck Monday by demoting some members, promoting others and stripping disgraced ex-Speaker Ray Sansom of all committee assignments.
Cretul, an Ocala Republican who took over for Sansom in February, merged two powerful budget-writing committees into one smaller one, headed by Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami, who appeared to be the big winner in the power shuffle.
Cretul eliminated four committees and reduced the number of lawmakers on each committee, which critics said reduces the number of House members in the decisionmaking process
"This is an abomination," said Rep. J.C. Planas, R-Miami, who lost his chairmanship of a committee on domestic security and instead was named chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Counsel Oversight.
Planas said he planned to file a rules complaint against the speaker, claiming the changes violated House rules because the membership had voted for a committee structure with two separate budget chairmen. Planas said Cretul was acting like Sansom by "bending the rules to consolidate his power."
The speaker's spokeswoman, Jill Chamberlin, said Cretul won't discuss the reasons for his changes. "He decided not to discuss details of individual decisions," Chamberlin said.
Sansom, who is awaiting trial on charges of perjury and official misconduct, lost his chairmanship of the Policy Council and his membership on two other committees. Hours before Cretul stripped Sansom of his duties, Sansom sent Cretul an e-mail message asking that he not be given any assignments.
Now that Cretul is reconsolidating the budget chairmanship, the speaker is undoing one of the last legacies of Sansom, who divided the post between Reps. Marcelo Llorente and Rivera.
Last session, Rivera used the budget to push issues that would have had political benefits for his Republican Senate campaign. With little debate, Rivera inserted budget language that would have banned using state higher-education money for embryonic stem-cell research and for travel to Cuba. The Senate blocked the measures.