Florida Cabinet looks less relevant than ever in 2018

In busy election year, Governor schedules only eight meetings<br>
Attorney General with Dasher, a chocolate lab, at a Cabinet meeting in December.
Attorney General with Dasher, a chocolate lab, at a Cabinet meeting in December.
Published Jan. 2, 2018|Updated Jan. 3, 2018

The awkward power-sharing relationship between Florida’s governor and the statewide elected Cabinet members is unique among the 50 states, and in 2018 it will be on public display less than ever.

Gov. Rick Scott has scheduled only eight Cabinet meetings for the year ahead, with no meetings in April, July, October and November, those latter two months being close to a busy general election cycle when statewide candidates are usually far from Tallahassee.

As recently as the 1990s, the Cabinet met every other week. But since Scott became governor, Cabinet sessions have been more ceremonial and less substantive -- and less frequent, too.

More time is devoted to award ceremonies, and a regular feature is Attorney General Pam Bondi’s promotion of offering dogs for adoption.

But Cabinet meetings also are among those rare instances when Scott holds question-and-answer sessions with Capitol reporters. Those will be fewer and farther between in 2018.

UPDATE: In a statement, Scott’s office said, “Cabinet meeting dates are voted upon and approved by the entire cabinet. Additional cabinet meetings can be added throughout the year.”

The Cabinet, made up of Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, met 11 times in 2017 and 2016 and 15 times in 2014.

Kent Perez, a former long-time Cabinet aide who now works for the state Board of Administration, wrote this article in 2008 that provides perspective on its history.

Florida voters in 1998 voted to shrink the Cabinet from six to three members. Some governors, notably Democrat Reubin Askew and Republican Claude Kirk, bristled at having to share power with other elected officials. Kirk famously referred to the 1960’s-era Cabinet as the “seven dwarfs.”

Former governors Lawton Chiles and Jeb Bush used to take the Cabinet on the road to connect with average Floridians, but those road trips have disappeared as well.

Earlier this year, when Lincoln High School in Tallahassee won a state baseball title, the coach asked if the players could take a team picture with Scott. A staff member responded: “Can we recognize them at Cabinet?”