Florida Supreme Court rules against Scott, finds he violated separation of powersby Dara Kam | August 16th, 2011
Gov. Rick Scott overstepped his authority and violated the separation of powers by freezing state agency rulemaking, the Florida Supreme Court ruled today.
Shortly after he was sworn in as governor on Jan. 4, Scott suspended agency rulemaking and required the proposed rules be vetted by his office. He later created the “Office of Fiscal Accountability and Regulatory Reform” to review the rules, saying he wanted to make sure they did not slow down government, create barriers for businesses or cost taxpayers money.
But in a 5-2 ruling, the court found that Scott’s executive orders “infringe upon the very process of rulemaking and encroach upon the Legislature‘s delegation of its rulemaking power as set forth in the Florida Statutes.”
Chief Justice Charles Canady and Judge Ricky Polston, both appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist, dissented. Scott acted within his constitutional authority as the state’s chief administrative officer whose duty is “to manage, plan, and hold agencies under his charge accountable to State laws, including the APA. The actual facts before us do not demonstrate otherwise,” Polston wrote.
Canady called the majority opinion an “ill-conceived interference with the constitutional authority and responsibility of Florida‘s Governor.”
Scott also saw it that way.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me,” Scott said of the court ruling. “I don’t think it follows the constitution. It’s a disappointment.
“Think about it, the secretaries of these agencies report to me, they work for me at will, and I’m not supposed to supervise them? It doesn’t make sense,” he added.
Rosalie Whiley, a blind woman who receives food stamps, filed the lawsuit against Scott and was later joined by opponents of Scott’s new procedure, including Audubon of Florida.
Tuesday’s ruling apparently settles one of at least a half-dozen lawsuits filed against Scott since he took office eight months ago.
Florida Democrats praised the decision.
“Today, the Florida Supreme Court found that Governor Rick Scott – once again – ignored the law by exceeding his authority and overstepping the Florida Constitution in a continued effort to promote his Tea Party agenda. This is the kind of disregard for the law, and the people of Florida, that we have come to expect from this Governor and Republican Legislature,” Florida Democratic Party executive director Scott Arcenaux said in a statement.
Since his election, the governor has launched a wide-ranging rule review process which — while so far producing few proposed changes — he apparently will continue, despite the court setback.
“Part of my seven step plan was to look at the rules of this state,” Scott said. “When you look at what we’ve got to do to grow jobs…if we don’t really continue to think about the regulations killing jobs, we’re not going to grow jobs in our state.”