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Govmt re-org includes loss of three state agencies

By TaRhaun Russ


Tallahassee, FL – The Florida House Select Committee on Government Reorganization met today Friday to discuss the creation of the Department of Economic Opportunity. TaRhaun Russ tells us a bill that would call for the merger of several of the state's economic and development agencies is about to spring up.

This new department being proposed will merge the Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development, Agency for Workforce Innovation, and the Department of Community Affairs under one roof. This discussion is a continuation from previous talks about reorganizing government.

"You've asked for increase coordination. You've asked for an increase in federal requirements. Your message was heard and it has been delivered today. We've got that message. I believe the materials that we are going to be working on this workshop today and a direct response to your voice and suggestions."

Chairman John Legg, a Port Richey Republican focused on what he calls a key component of this new department. He says the Governor will appoint a single person for the entire department. The leader will be known as the "Commissioner".

"Another important component that we heard from this committee is a single point of contact. This creates a single point of contact by allowing the Commissioner of the Department of Economic Opportunity to serve as the president of Enterprise Florida."

Enterprise Florida is the state's official economic development organization that helps attract businesses to the area. Legg says the Department of Economic Opportunity will help the Governor, state agencies, and local leaders boost Florida's economy.

The chairman also points out that this is simply a draft, not a bill. But if the piece of legislation is approved, the department will reach four benchmarks set by the committee, which are transparency, accountability, efficiency, and empathy.

"Empathy to help the business. Empathy to help the members of our community to know who to contact, how to make it easier, how to conduct business in the state, and most importantly how to create jobs to get Florida back to work."

Representative Mike Horner, a Kissimmee Republican, believes the committee is heading in the right direction in reorganizing some of the state agencies.

"It would not be an exaggeration to say that I love the concept that you have put in front of us. I'm very, very excited!"

However, the representative does have one concern regarding Visit Florida which is the Sunshine State's official source for marketing the state's number one industry; tourism.

" Where we are putting visit Florida. You may recall when we were work shopping this concept two weeks ago I had mentioned the value of keeping Visit Florida independent and I think a couple other members echoed those sentiments."

Horner says Visit Florida gains most of their money from the private sector already, so it should not be under this newly created department.
The draft bill brought up other concerns from members of the community surrounding one topic the Department of Early Learning.

"I worked for the Department of Children and Families for twenty years. I ran the licensing area. I know that they still have that responsibility and I can tell you without a doubt the Department of Children and Families is no place to put an educational program. Some of the employees and some of my friends who still work there will probably tell you the same thing."

Former Department of Children and Families Employee, Evilo Torres gave his reaction to only one of the items in the proposal. Before the topic about the creation of the department was set aside, Representative Legg left the members of the committee and Floridians with one message.

"I would ask as you digest this, I'm sure you will have comments and feedback that you get with us and provide feedback and provide input and we work on this for the next several days."

Legg says he hopes to have a written bill ready by Wednesday. He's also hoping the public will get a chance to express more of their opinions on Friday.