Gov. Ron DeSantis and his successors would have more say in making appointments to some top positions under a measure approved Thursday by the Florida Senate.
The Senate voted 26-12 to approve a measure (SB 1658), sponsored by Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, that would increase the governor’s power to appoint the secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, the commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the executive director of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
The issue emerged after a clash last year between DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried about DeSantis’ move to appoint Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Shawn Harrison without approval from the state Cabinet. The Cabinet has long signed off on the Department of Environmental Protection secretary and the leaders of a handful of other state agencies, including the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
The bill would change the approval process for those three positions, giving the governor more authority. Fried, a Democrat who is running for governor, called the proposal a “power grab” by DeSantis.
“While the governor and his cronies are attempting to change the law surrounding DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) secretary appointments, under current law he has missed a step in this process of bringing the nomination before the Cabinet,” Fried said in a statement. “Again, my quarrel is not with … Hamilton, it is with the law not being followed.”
The House version of the proposal (HB 1295), which awaits an appearance before the Judiciary Committee, would also address the appointment of the head of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.