But Gov. Rick Scott and members of the Florida Cabinet will hold their third meeting in the last few weeks in a yet-another effort to reach a consensus on who should replace the outgoing Kevin McCarty (pictured left with Scott). As has been well-reported, Scott and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater have been unable to reach agreement on who should replace McCarty. That's created a stalemate because Florida law requires both officials to agree on a replacement.
There are so many ways to view this ongoing drama, which has played out in public largely because of the rushed secretive way that Scott pushed out Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey at the end of 2014. In the end the governor and Cabinet were sued over the entire affair which resulted in new policies that were designed to end behind closed doors decisions regarding the hiring and firing of agency officials who report to the Cabinet.
Atwater has painted the standoff as a byproduct of a process that he says was created to make sure that top officials were deliberative in such an important hire.
But perhaps it would be good to take a brief history lesson in how we got here, and why in reality, the process now being used has never really been tested before. And along the way, maybe ask the architect of all this what he thinks about his handiwork (he actually kind of blames Jeb Bush.)
It would be tempting to trace all of this back to the Civil War (yes, really) but let's just say that it became recognized that in the '90s that Florida's governor was considered one of the weaker chief executives in the country.That's because the governor shared power with other elected officials - and in some instances had little control over important areas such as education.
Voters in 1998 were asked to approve a sweeping overhaul of Florida government. This proposal by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a number of things that has generated a lot of debate since then. The education commissioner was changed from an elected to an appointed position. A new State Board of Education (appointed by the governor) became responsible for hiring the commissioner. The governor and Cabinet, which used to be the state education board, no longer had that responsibility. The Secretary of State went from an elected position to an appointed position. And the elected positions of Treasurer and Comptroller would be merged into one new one: the chief financial officer.
As the commission was crafting this proposal, the plan was to also remove the agriculture commissioner from the Cabinet but an uproar from agricultural interests nixed this idea. That eventually created flareups because that leaves four voting members when the governor and Cabinet meet - and leading to discussions on how to weight certain votes so a decision can be made.
Flash forward to 2002: State legislators were under the gun to come up with new laws to put all of these above reforms into action (The amendment did not go into effect immediately). The changes in education, particularly in higher education, sparked an enormous firestorm.
When it came to creating the chief financial officer position, a key argument began to quickly emerge: Should the CFO have complete sway over the regulation of both the insurance and banking sectors - and invariably the large amount of campaign donations that would come from those seeking influence over such important parts of the state economy? In the past, the two jobs were split between the comptroller and treasurer. The treasurer was in essence the insurance commissioner. This led to a public tug-of-war between Comptroller Bob Milligan and Tom Gallagher, who was treasurer and planned to run for CFO.
It was state legislators, including a powerful Republican from Polk County, Rep. J.D. Alexander that came up with the compromise: The jobs of insurance commissioner and banking commissioner would be picked by the governor and the new shrunken Cabinet. And furthermore, there was this addition: The job of insurance commissioner would require BOTH the governor and CFO to agree on who they wanted for the job. The law also states that both elected officials must also agree to fire someone from the position.
Since this was created in 2002 there's been only person to hold the job of appointed insurance commissioner: McCarty. And he's been an ultimate survivor - thanks in no part to the bifurcated law that Alexander helped draw up. CFO Alex Sink wanted to fire him, but then-Gov. Charlie Crist refused to go along. Then during the storm over Bailey's departure it came out that Scott wanted him gone. But Atwater at the time refused to concur and McCarty remained in place until he submitted his resignation earlier this year.
Alexander himself tried to change the law that allowed McCarty to remain in place, saying he was wrong in how they crafted it. He pushed a bill to require that the commissioner be subject to a confirmation vote every two years. It failed to pass.
Now here we are - in a situation that has really not happened since the law took effect.
McCarty was supposed to resign effective May 2 - but then he offered to stay on until 45 days after a successor is chosen - to ensure that Florida has someone in place during hurricane season that starts June 1. Scott's own general counsel, however, maintained that McCarty couldn't do this because the governor and Cabinet had accepted his resignation and could not alter that date without - t'dah - a vote where both the governor and CFO agree. Not so fast, maintained Atwater's team: All the governor and Cabinet did was set a schedule to appoint a replacement. They never "formally" accepted it.
So how does Alexander view all this and how his creation has fared? Well, you could say he waxed a bit poetic about it all, but it sounds as if he is calling on Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam to assert themselves more. (So far Bondi and Putnam have called on Atwater and Scott work out their differences.)
"The genius of the American system of government isn't just democracy but of divided government,'' he said in a message. "Consequently, I wanted the CFO to have the lead over mgt of financial services and insurance. We were forced by the governor of the day to give more authority to his office. An unfortunate outcome of a four member Cabinet. At this point, hopefully the other Cabinet officers will weigh with a choice and consensus will prevail."
Alexander explained that "the governor in my opinion has plenty of power, the constitution seems to give principle authority to the CFO in these matters." He added that the decision all those years ago to keep the agriculture commissioner on the Cabinet "complicated" matters and required them that the governor be given a supervote on certain decision.
"The answer is to lose or gain one Cabinet member," he added. "In the order to pass a bill the governor required a larger role. It was part of the compromise, which we knew had this potential. My guess is the pressure will build and this will be resolved."
Guess we will know if that's true by mid-day Friday.