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Gaetz completes Senate committee assignments

by Dara Kam | November 28th, 2012

Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, has finalized the make-up of his chamber for the next two years, tapping five Democrats to head committees and appointing Sen. Joe Negron as the head of a select committee on the federal health care law. Negron, R-Stuart, is also chairman of the Senate’s budget committee.

Some of the key positions include two new committees set up by Gaetz:

Gaming Committee: Chairman Garrett Richter, R-Naples; Vice Chairwoman Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach.
Select Committee on Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart; Vice Chairwoman Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood.

Other high-profile committee assignments:
Judiciary Committee: Chairman Tom Lee, R-Brandon; Vice Chairman Darren Soto, D-Orlando.
Budget subcommittees:
Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations: Chairman Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island; Vice Chairwoman Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa.
Education Appropriations: Chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton ; Vice Chairman Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee.
Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development: Chairman Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando; Vice Chairwoman Gwen Margolis, D-Miami.
Health and Human Services Appropriations: Chairwoman Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring; Vice Chairwoman Anitere Flores, R-Miami.

Several freshmen senators, who also served in the state House, will also serve as chairmen.

Gaetz also boosted Democrats’ clout in the chamber, appointing five Dems to head committees compared to just two last year. And nearly every committee is co-chaired by a Democrat. Democrats picked up two Senate seats this year, breaking the GOP’s supermajority hold and winding up with a 26-14 split.

Gaetz’s bipartisan approach earned kudos from Democratic Leader Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale.

“I am grateful to Senate President Gaetz for listening to the interests and desires of my Caucus members to serve on various Senate Committees. By appointing them as Chairs of five of them, President Gaetz underscored his commitment to bipartisan cooperation for the good of the people of Florida. And I applaud him for his actions,” Smith wrote in a press release.

Read Gaetz’s memo after the jump.

The Senate is blessed to have Senators whose talents reflect the experience and abilities of the Floridians each Senator represents. In determining the attached committee assignments, each Senator’s subject area expertise and interests were considered, as well as the work we need to accomplish over the next two years. Leader Smith provided a great deal of input in the committee assignment process, and I am grateful for his efforts.

Breaking with past Senate practice, I have asked every Senator to serve on two appropriations subcommittees. As you know, nearly forty percent of the body is comprised of new Senators. Additionally, the entire Senate has turned over since 2006. We are fresh off of redistricting, with 40 brand new Senate districts and even returning Senators may represent new constituents and different areas of the state. As I indicated in my remarks during the Organization Session last week, this combination of factors is conducive to taking a look at all areas of the budget. My goal is to ensure that ensure all Senators, new and returning, understand what is included in the base budget so that each Senator can be equipped with the information necessary to make decisions on what should be funded moving forward. I am confident these appropriations assignments will allow all Senators to participate in a meaningful way with the preparation and finalization of funding priorities at the subcommittee level.

Every Senator has been offered an appointment as the Chair or Vice Chair of a Senate Committee. Five Democrat Senators have agreed to serve as Chairs. Senator Ring will serve as the Chair of Governmental Oversight and Accountability; Senator Montford as the Chair of Agriculture; Senator Sobel as the Chair of Children, Families and Elder Affairs; Senator Abruzzo as Chair of the Joint Committee on Legislative Auditing; and Senator Joyner as Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Counsel Oversight. Democrats are also named as Vice Chairs to the vast majority of Senate Committees.

As I indicated last week, we are formally creating the Senate Select Committee on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This select committee is charged with analyzing this federal law and related regulations, assessing the potential impact of these regulations in Florida, evaluating the State’s policy options, and recommending legislation necessary for implementation of the law in Florida. In conducting this analysis, the select committee should consider:

· The comparative costs of implementation alternatives and state policy options for taxpayers, employers, and individual consumers;

· The value of a robust and competitive health insurance market and the conditions necessary to sustain this market environment; and,

· The need for meaningful and enforceable consumer protections.

I appreciate your time and contribution to this process. Taking into account the constraints of a block calendar in which several committees meet at the same time, we worked to accommodate the requests from each Senator. Depending upon the needs of the Senate, these assignments and the block calendar may be reevaluated following the 2013 Session.

I look forward to seeing each of you in Tallahassee next week.

“On behalf of the Senate Democrats, I look forward to the coming year and continued full participation in the legislative process. The future of our state will be better for it.”

Here’s an excerpt from Gaetz’s memo to senators announcing the committee assignments:

“Breaking with past Senate practice, I have asked every Senator to serve on two appropriations subcommittees. As you know, nearly forty percent of the body is comprised of new Senators. Additionally, the entire Senate has turned over since 2006. We are fresh off of redistricting, with 40 brand new Senate districts and even returning Senators may represent new constituents and different areas of the state. As I indicated in my remarks during the Organization Session last week, this combination of factors is conducive to taking a look at all areas of the budget. My goal is to ensure that ensure all Senators, new and returning, understand what is included in the base budget so that each Senator can be equipped with the information necessary to make decisions on what should be funded moving forward. I am confident these appropriations assignments will allow all Senators to participate in a meaningful way with the preparation and finalization of funding priorities at the subcommittee level,” Gaetz wrote.

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