Tallahassee, FL – Governor Rick Scott is moving private sector people into public sector jobs. Of the six agency heads that he's named, three come from the business industry, and as Lynn Hatter reports, two of them are giving public interest groups heartburn.
This week Governor Scott added two more names to his agency head list. Herschel Vinyard will now move into the Department of Environmental Protection, and Billy Buzzett will head the state's Department of Community Affairs. Both men are coming from private companies, and that has business lobby groups like Associated Industries of Florida, applauding the choices. Jose Gonzales is the Vice President of Government Affairs.
"We're actually excited about that, at least from the perspective of Associated Industries. We know what it's been like in the state with the old ways and the same names, and to bring folks with different perspectives, even if they aren't from Florida, will bode well for the state."
Part of Scott's platform was to shake up Tallahassee and get Florida's economy moving. During his inaugural speech, the governor identified regulation as one of the things that contribute to high unemployment.
"Unless they are pruned, regulations grow like weeds. While there are some regulations that are essential, for health and safety, and others that are essential to the protection of our environment, it is past time that every regulation be re-evaluated."
He's moving forward with that plan - naming Vinyard and Buzzett to the two agencies that have the most control over the state's regulations. Hershel Vinyard comes to the Department of Environmental Protection from BAE Southeast Shipyards. It's the nation's second -largest defense contractor. DEP is presently involved in a battle over water regulations with the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Linda Young heads the Clean Water Action agency. She says the appointment, while disappointing, wasn't shocking.
"We haven't had any environmental protection from that agency for about twelve years or longer. And I don't know how much more damage Mr. Vinyard can do. DEP has been very focused on avoided environmental laws, federal requirements, finding ways to sidestep them and circumvent them. So I think we'll see more of the same."
Then there's Billy Buzzett. He comes to the Department of Community Affairs from the St. Joe Company. St. Joe was the state's largest private landholder, and Buzzett oversaw efforts to start developing that land. AIF's Gonzales says for businesses, that department has been difficult to work with.
"And I think there's been an appetite in Tallahassee and around the state to consolidate the function of this department into or with DOT or other departments so we can create the best business climate in the state of Florida. Cause with the high unemployment right now, I think we're looking for government to stay out of the way."
Clean Water's Linda Young reserved her harshest criticism for Buzzett, whose appointment to the Department of Community Affairs she called an insult.
"To me, that's a real kick in the teeth to the people in Florida. And is a way of really saying to communities, local governments, taxpayers, that it's going to be a free-for-all. And we need to tighten our seatbelts and hide our wallets."
Scott's picks to head state agencies follow the agenda that he's laid out. The governor has said he wants to cut a billion dollars from the state's prisons. And he's picked Ed Buss of Indiana to do it. Buss lowered inmate housing costs while avoiding building more prisons. The governor has promised to cut the money spent on housing juvenile offenders by half- and he's chosen Miami-based juvenile justice reformer Wansley Walters to head that agency. For Emergency Management, he's chosen Walmart's Bryan Koon - who was in charge of that businesses disaster response. And he brought Kurt Browning out of retirement and back to the Department of State.