Scott's Order Freezing Rules Drawing Heat

By: John Kennedy, The News Service of Florida
By: John Kennedy, The News Service of Florida


With Gov. Rick Scott freezing agency regulations and ordering checks on the immigration status of state workers, the wide-ranging effect of his opening-day political statements was still being gauged Wednesday.

Some lawmakers and lobbyists praised Scott’s action – enshrined in four executive orders the new governor signed an hour after his swearing-in. Others dismissed his first moves as merely bolstering current policies – noting most government workers already are U.S. citizens and that lawmakers in November gave themselves more authority over agency rulemaking.

But some also raised alarms – saying Scott’s orders bring further uncertainty to a state government where a host of consumer safety and health standards are routinely met through rules and regulations.

“I don’t want to use the word disappointed, but I wish Gov. Scott had consulted the Department of Health before he signed the executive order, understanding the effect it may have on the Legislature’s attempts to crack down on pill mills,” said Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey.

New regulations on pain clinics have been in limbo since the Legislature this fall overrode former Gov. Charlie Crist’s veto and required lawmakers to review rules that carry a high price-tag for businesses. Law enforcement officials say clinics frequently dispense prescription drugs with little oversight to addicted patients, and have lobbied for stricter standards.

“We’re going to fully freeze rulemaking in this state, we’re going to evaluate the necessity of all rules and regulations,” Scott said in signing the orders Tuesday in his office.

“The goal of this is to be fiscally responsible,” Scott added. “It’s no different than what we’d do in a company. No agency under the governor can adopt new rules without approval from the office.”

But Eric Draper, lobbyist for Audubon of Florida, said Scott’s action consolidates enormous power in his office even as the new governor is struggling to hire staff. Also, Scott has set no standards for what rules he might allow to become law on a case-by-case basis.

“He’s not looking at what rules might be worthwhile or effective,” Draper said. “To stop rules arbitrarily, like he’s done, doesn’t make sense.”

Scott’s order suspends rulemaking for agencies he controls, which include the departments of environmental protection, health, children and families and a host of others which regularly enact standards. While the Legislature’s Joint Administrative Procedures Committee already has power to blunt rules that don’t meet an agency’s legal authority, Scott’s order gives the new governor tremendous power over the substance of regulation, Draper said.

By stepping into the arcane, but politically-charged world of rulemaking, Scott also is taking on industries – some that may have supported him in the governor’s race. Businesses, corporations and to a lesser extent, trade associations, commonly seek state regulations that can empower their industry or clients.

Doug Martin, lobbyist for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which represents state workers, said the organization has no problem with Scott subjecting employees to the Department of Homeland Security’s E-verify system, a web database, to determine immigration status. The requirement was already set in motion last year for new hires by Crist and the Florida Cabinet.

“But E-verify has been found to have a lot of errors, false positives,” Martin said. “If that happens, we will certainly fight for state workers.”

Martin, though, said the governor’s push to review state contracts topping $1 million – part of the rule freeze – could wring waste out of state spending, possibly helping public employees earn more money after years of wage freezes.

Rep. William Snyder, R-Stuart, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and a proponent of tougher immigration standards said Scott’s order was timely.

“Jobs are our number one priority and we must ensure the protection of jobs for Floridians who are legally eligible to work in our state,” Snyder said.

Scott’s orders also reaffirm a state prohibition on racial, gender and other discrimination. They also extend the Crist-created “Office of Open Government,” even as Scott is catching heat for a tightly scripted inauguration in which he interacted little with the public or media.

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  • by Hwy 20 Resident on Jan 9, 2011 at 12:34 PM
    @Anonymous on Jan 9, 2011 at 8:35am--Thank you for saying what so many needed to here. There has been too many lined pockets, pet projects and waste in this state. A governor comes along to stop all that or at least try (maybe), suddenly everyone is taking potshots. No one is happy all the time, just try to make some happy, some of the time.
  • by Anonymous on Jan 9, 2011 at 05:35 AM
    If Government is not a business then what is the meaning of the term "Government Business", a term used by all politicians. Some of you people constantly allow your ignorant, humming bird rearends to overload your alligator mouths. It's better to keep your mouths shut and look stupid rather than speak and erase all doubt. Scott is a Republican business man turned politician, Sink is a Democrat banker turned politician. They are both politicians! The only choice we had was evil or evil. Scott got the most votes. There will be another election in 4 years, those of you who know so much should get busy, find us an Independent person with No Party Offiliation that will satisfy the majority so we won't have to choose between the lessor two evils, either a Democrat or Republican. Independent NPA politicians are not bound to platforms of a political party. This idea that a person is either a Democrat or Republican is hogwash.
  • by Rip Van Winkle Location: In Bed on Jan 7, 2011 at 08:47 AM
    I must have slept a long time. Can someone tell me who won World Wars 8-10?
  • by Jc Location: Tallahassee on Jan 7, 2011 at 06:29 AM
    To Anonymous on Jan. 6, 2011 at 9:32 PM. You must not have read all the comments. See Scutellum Jan 6, 2011 12:21 PM. He refers to Nazi Germany which is certainly associated with WW11.
  • by Chuck Location: Tallahassee on Jan 7, 2011 at 06:06 AM
    What is the big deal with reviewing the Administrative Rules? I mean, how many can there be?
  • by Anonymous on Jan 6, 2011 at 06:32 PM
    To Hwy 20 Resident: What? I must not be seeing all the comments because you're the only one bring up the WWII references.
  • by Hwy 20 Resident on Jan 6, 2011 at 05:17 PM
    Boy, you get a Governor who wants state employee's to fly commercial and everybody hates him. You get a Governor who has a business mind instead of lining all the other politician's pockets with money and suddenly we are compared to Nazi Germany. We get a Governor who want to stop pet projects of others, increase jobs, suddenly he is branded "HITLER". It really doesn't matter who is Governor, nobody will be happy about any change. I say go for it Rick Scott, make those changes, maybe you'll get through the next 4 years making some people happy.
  • by Outraged Location: Quincy Fl. on Jan 6, 2011 at 03:34 PM
  • by Anonymous on Jan 6, 2011 at 02:06 PM
    Bob, do you work for this scumbag? Sure sounds like it to me. I can't see why anyone would support this man. Do people forget that he is a criminal and should be behind bars? HOW CAN YOU NOT SEE that he clearly broke the law and how can anyone truly feel that this man deserves to represent us as our Governor. This is ridiculous! He doesn't know the first thing about running a State if he feels it has to be run like a business...what a mess...and everyone will see it before too long, if not now.
  • by some lost in state Location: here on Jan 6, 2011 at 01:53 PM
    Guess again. They have stopped cleanup on many contaminated sites. Hows that water tasting? Still want your kids to play in the contaminated sand box? Plus all the forms changes. Minga!
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