Lost in the swirl of the holidays - and the impending arrival of Governor-elect Rick Scott - is that the outgoing governor late last Friday used his executive power for one final time in a way that goes beyond the way it has traditionally been used.
Crist essentially ordered that the state begin to offer extended jobless benefits to Floridians that had been approved by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama.
So why the big deal? Because until earlier in this year it was assumed that only the Florida Legislature had the power to do this. In fact, legislators the last two years have passed bills authorizing previous extensions.
But Crist back in September - and now on his way out the door - circumvented state lawmakers and did it himself.
Now to be sure, without Crist's actions, there would have been a lag between Congressional action and the state extending the benefits. Yet if one just reads the executive order that ordered the extension you can see that Crist is trying to justify his executive power, by noting "substantial injury" to Floridians and that the extension is "vital to the welfare and economic security of Floridians."
But what the executive order does not say is that there is an actual emergency that justifies his decision to issue it. Florida law gives a governor tremendous power to waive normal rules and laws, but only if there is a declared emergency. Instead Crist's executive order points out that it is his "constitutional duty" to take care that laws are faithfully executed.
It appears that neither the Florida House or Florida Senate intend to challenge the decision.
Crist's action is a reminder that one part of his legacy will be how he expanded the power of the governor.
Crist throughout his four years in office issued executive orders and used his budget-veto pen in a way that legislators contended was likely illegal. But state lawmakers failed to challenge the legality of these actions because doing so would have provoked a political backlash. Some previous examples include Crist’s use of emergency powers to extend early voting hours in 2008 and his decision to veto a two-percent pay cut for state employees in 2009.
In only one major instance - when Crist unilaterally signed a compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida - did the Legislature follow through and actually sue the governor. The state Supreme Court sided with lawmakers and made it clear that Crist did not have the power to let the tribe sidestep existing gaming laws. This led to an impasse that was not eventually resolved until this past year.
More importantly, however, is whether or not Scott intends to use the precedent created by Crist during his four years in office.