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DeSantis’ bid to appoint environmental leader advances in Senate

The bill would give Gov. Ron DeSantis more power to appoint the secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection without Cabinet approval.
New legislation would enable the governor to name a state department head without approval from the state Cabinet. Florida's Cabinet today, from left: Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried, Gov. Ron DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis.
New legislation would enable the governor to name a state department head without approval from the state Cabinet. Florida's Cabinet today, from left: Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried, Gov. Ron DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis. [ News Service of Florida ]
Published Feb. 8|Updated Feb. 8

The Florida Senate could be ready to hear a proposal that would give the governor more say in making appointments to top positions.

The Senate Rules Committee on Thursday voted 11-4 along party lines to approve a bill (SB 1658), filed by Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, that would increase the governor’s power to appoint the secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, the commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the executive director of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

The Rules Committee was the final hurdle before the bill could go to the full Senate.

Related: DeSantis appoints Florida’s environmental secretary; Fried challenges hire

The issue emerged after a clash last year between Gov. Ron DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried about DeSantis’ move to appoint Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Shawn Harrison without approval from the state Cabinet.

The Cabinet has long signed off on the Department of Environmental Protection secretary and the leaders of a handful of other state agencies, including the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

The bill would change the approval process for those three positions, giving the governor more authority.

For example, it would allow the governor to decide whether to seek concurrence from Cabinet members on the Department of Environmental Protection secretary or to appoint the secretary with confirmation from the Senate.

Fried on Monday called the proposal a “power grab.”

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