News from the camp of former House Speaker Marco Rubio that he raised "nearly" $1 million has set the political world abuzz that Gov. Charlie Crist could in fact have a tough road ahead in the GOP primary for U.S. Senate.
But the one-term governor may another problem brewing in the Florida Senate.
Sen. J.D. Alexander - the powerful chairman of the Senate budget committee - has made no secret in the past of his disdain for some of Crist's positions. But the Lake Wales Republican appears determined to wage a battle against the Crist administration on many fronts in the months remaining. It started last month when he pushed to have the state's long-range economic outlook include for the first time a statement that the financial condition of the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund - which was expanded by state lawmakers in January 2007 - remains a potential risk for the financial health of Florida.
During a legislative committee meeting on Tuesday, he grilled Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty over the state of Florida's property market - and then afterwards took umbrage at McCarty's statements. "He's artful to evading real answers to the questions,'' vented Alexander, although he later acknowledged that most senators knew the answers anyway.
Alexander remains steamed that Crist vetoed the insurance deregulation bill that could have kept State Farm from pulling out of Florida. He told reporters that the "consumer rhetoric" used by some was a "Trojan horse" and that he still found it inconceivable that a governor would think it was good riddance for State Farm to leave the state and potentially force hundreds of thousands of policyholders into the state-created Citizens Property Insurance Corp.
For his part, Alexander seemed ready to get back on board with a new version of the deregulation bill that lawmakers would once again potentially send to Crist.
But insurance isn't the only place Alexander could be a thorn in Crist's side. He is eagerly pushing ahead with efforts to scrutinize state government contracts even though Crist vetoed the bill that would have given the Legislature increased power to review them. Alexander directly the Senate budget staff this summer to start collecting information on contracts, with the result that he asked the Auditor General's office to look at a couple of the ones that he found.
Meanwhile, the state will soon will unveil the Transparency Florida website that will allow anyone get detailed information about anyone who gets state money. Alexander hopes the site will be ready for public consumption by sometime in November. He said on Tuesday that it would be the "most aggressive" transparency effort in the country and that he fully anticipates "gotcha" stories to emerge in the media once the information is uploaded from across the state.
Alexander said he met on Tuesday with Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink to discuss the ongoing effort, including some of the obstacles legislative staff have encountered. Alexander said one problem that they have run into is that certain travel reimbursements for anyone in state government have been treated as confidential information.