Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

LEGISLATURE NOTEBOOK; 2 Nominees for Public Service Panel Denied Crist Supporter Slams Vote as Revenge Tactic against the Governor

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

LEGISLATURE NOTEBOOK; 2 Nominees for Public Service Panel Denied Crist Supporter Slams Vote as Revenge Tactic against the Governor

Article excerpt

Byline: BRANDON LARRABEE

TALLAHASSEE - The Senate rejected two of Gov. Charlie Crist's appointments to the Public Service Commission on Tuesday, escalating a political feud between the Legislature and the governor that has raged for most of the session.

David Klement and Benjamin Stevens - a former newspaper editorial writer and an accountant - were voted down after a debate in which some senators said neither had a grasp of the complex regulatory questions that come before the PSC and others said they would dilute the diversity of a board that regulates most utilities in the state.

Klement was voted down 21-17; Stevens was defeated 23-14.

"They're probably nice guys, but I don't believe they're qualified to serve on this major, important body," said Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine.

"Having no African-American Floridians on that commission, I believe, sends the wrong message," said Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa.

After the vote, Klement issued a scalding statement, slamming the decision as "government at its worst" and the process "a farce."

"All I can say to the ratepayers of Florida is, hold on to your wallets," Klement said. "Because it seems clear that the Senate leadership is bent on appointing utility-friendly commissioners to the PSC. Make no mistake, this vote was not about ability, it was about money - and politics."

Sen. Mike Fasano of New Port Richey, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate and a close ally of Crist, slammed the vote afterward.

"It was a political vote to get back at the governor, and it was a political vote to help Progress Energy and Florida Power and Light. ... It was a huge defeat for every consumer in the state of Florida," he said.

Crist has spent much of the session clashing with GOP leaders, vetoing a fund-raising bill and an education reform measure that were among the leadership's top priorities. Crist, who is weighing the option to run for the U.S. Senate as an independent, said he was disappointed with the decision.

"The people of Florida were delivered a terrible loss today when the Florida Senate sided with powerful utility companies to block the newest appointees to the Public Service Commission," he said in a statement. …

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