Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Senate panel leaves PSC nominees in limbo

TALLAHASSEE — The fate of two Public Service Commissioners appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist as "fresh blood'' on the embattled panel appeared to be in jeopardy Tuesday when a Senate committee adjourned without voting on their confirmations.

Commissioner David Klement stood at the podium being grilled by the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee when Senate Republican Leader Alex Diaz de la Portilla abruptly called for the committee to adjourn. With no more meetings scheduled, the jobs of Klement and Commissioner Benjamin "Steve'' Stevens remain in limbo.

It was another shot from lawmakers at Gov. Charlie Crist, who angered the utility companies when he appointed Klement and Stevens from a list given to him by a legislatively-controlled nominations council. He said he picked them because they had not worked for the utilities or the PSC, which had been rocked by a conflict-of-interest scandal.

Despite Tuesday's setback, Crist remained optimistic. He said that after the vote, Senate President Jeff Atwater's office called to say the appointments would move forward, "and I believe that they will.''

The dustup was more evidence of the increasingly hostile battle between Crist and his fellow Republicans, and a sign of an internal fight brewing between Atwater and incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos.

"I've never seen the Senate at such a low point and what they did is a shameless act,'' said Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, a staunch Crist ally who called for a vote to confirm Klement and Stevens shortly before the committee adjourned. "The entire Senate should be embarrassed by this.''

Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, opposed confirming Crist's appointments while Atwater, a Republican from North Palm Beach who is running for chief financial officer, has made it clear he wants them approved.

When Sen. JD Alexander, chairman of the committee, refused to recognize Fasano's motion for a vote on Klement, Fasano became enraged.

"I think that is so inappropriate,'' Fasano said. "You have a gentleman (Klement) standing here who wants to serve the state of Florida, and you rudely allow (adjournment) without even allowing a confirmation of the gentleman.''

Atwater later told Fasano that he wants Crist's appointees confirmed in the next week and he will work to get House approval of a PSC reform bill to ban off-the-record conversations between the PSC and utilities.

"I would have liked to see Sen. Alexander finish the agenda,'' Atwater said. "I think he sensed the concerns in the room at the moment that it was probably the most productive thing to stand down and look at that another day.''

Senate Democratic Leader Al Lawson noted that Atwater is serving his last term and that his successor, Haridopolos, "doesn't like the way (he's) taking the Senate.''

Alexander criticized the governor for putting pocketbook issues before forward-thinking regulation and said he wouldn't vote for either Klement or Stevens.

"I don't think they're qualified,'' he said, adding that he disagrees with Crist's philosophy. "It's put us at great risk and it's time that I have to stand up and say no.''

Klement and Stevens will continue to serve on the PSC but, if the Senate fails to confirm them by the end of session next week, both men will have to reapply for their jobs. They would have to go through the nomination and appointment process and be approved by a new governor before facing the Senate once more next year.

Crist acknowledged Tuesday that the committee's move may have been payback for his veto of a teacher tenure bill and another on political committees for legislative leaders. But he bristled at Alexander's suggestion that his picks were unqualified and the state was being ruined by his populism.

"It was abundantly clear to many people that there was a problem at the PSC, that there was not enough transparency and openness in that process, and that we needed new blood there,'' the governor told reporters.

As for ruining the state, Crist added with sarcasm: "Wow. It's ruinous to be for the people?''

Times/Herald staff writers Marc Caputo, Steve Bousquet and John Frank contributed to this report. Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at meklas@MiamiHerald.com.

Senate panel leaves PSC nominees in limbo 04/20/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 21, 2010 8:52am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Video: Rays Souza on that oh-so-bad dive, and reaction from Twins fans

    Blogs

    What was Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. thinking when he made that oh-so-bad dive for a ball in the seventh inning Friday? Well, we'll let him tell you ...

  2. What was Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. thinking on that comically bad dive?

    Blogs

    What could Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. been thinking in the seventh inning Friday when he dove for a ball and came up yards short?

    Actually, he insisted after all the laughing, teasing and standing ovation from the Twins fans was done, it was a matter of self-preservation.

  3. Judge tosses life sentences for D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo

    Nation

    McLEAN, Va. — A federal judge on Friday tossed out two life sentences for one of Virginia's most notorious criminals, sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, and ordered Virginia courts to hold new sentencing hearings.

    A federal judge has tossed out two life sentences for D.C. sniper shooter Lee Boyd Malvo. [Associated Press, 2004]
  4. Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's national security adviser, dies

    News

    Zbigniew Brzezinski, the hawkish strategic theorist who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter in the tumultuous years of the Iran hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s, died on Friday at a hospital in Virginia. He was 89.

    Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, participates in Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on March 5, 2009, in Washington, D.C. [Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]
  5. USF eliminated by UCF in AAC baseball; Florida, FSU, Miami win

    Colleges

    CLEARWATER — Roughly 16 hours after a ninth-inning collapse against East Carolina in the American Athletic Conference's double-elimination baseball tournament, USF returned to Spectrum Field presumably set for a reboot.

    It simply got booted instead.

    ’NOLES win: Tyler Holton gets a hug from Drew Carlton after his strong eight innings help Florida State beat Louisville.