Friday, September 26, 2014

Some unvarnished truth on Florida Governor Rick Scott, Jimmy Patronis, and the Great Destroyers … by gimleteye

At EOM, we posted on the Gov. Rick Scott appointment of state representative Jimmy Patronis to the Public Service Commission, describing it as yet another example of the cronyism that permeates Tallahassee.

Environmental writer Bruce Ritchie lends another voice describing why. We describe it as "blood sport". That is to say, the enthusiasm with which successive generations of insiders and lobbyists take enjoyment, even glee, and wrecking the natural resources of Florida.

It used to be called "back-room deal making". In the past, those deals had a modicum of what used to be called bipartisan consensus. The bad guys wanted to cover their bases, and cover their bases they did. They didn't used to laugh out loud, which is what Jimmy Patronis and his generation of Great Destroyers do now. And they do it without the Democrats. Now they don't even care.

Patronis jokes with Bruce Ritchie about the underlying reality because he knows there is no consequence to playing the "blood sport" with Florida's environment. Who is going to complain, "environmentalists"?

A disaster as big as Florida has many fathers. This one traces back to a significant shift in arrogance, following the election of Jeb Bush as governor in 1998.

Jeb was part and a leader of a radical experiment: focusing extreme conservativism and the influence of well-organized and funded conservative think tanks to revolutionize the relationship between government and corporations as people. At first, they tried calling it "compassionate conservatism". Now it's just state sponsored cronyism.

What happened was that policy went underground and actors on top, like earlier versions of Jimmy Patronis (John Thrasher comes to mind) started punching the proverbial clock; playing their assigned roles in proposing and advocating legislation that was written by lobbyists in Washington DC and Tallahassee. Think ALEC: the American Legislative Exchange Council that has taken its work a step further, penetrating down into county governments across Florida, the test tube state for extremism in the service of special interests.

Ritchie is right about Patronis' ascension to a higher position in service of Florida's biggest electric utilities, on the "public" service commission: someone will fill in behind him at the state legislature, to carry the water with humor and bonhomie. Maybe it will be Matt Caldwell, the state representative who has shown his willingness to front for Big Sugar.

Ritchie alludes to the only hope for environmentalists should Florida voters elect Charlie Crist to be the next governor of Florida: that this time, Crist will differentiate foes from friends.

It is hard to imagine that anyone could run the gauntlet of venom and vitriol without trying as governor to fix the wrongs of the extremist right.

Bruce Ritchie: Appointment of Patronis to PSC bad news for consumers
3:01 AM, Sep 25, 2014
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State Rep. Jimmy Patronis told me more than once that I would miss him after this year when he leaves the Florida Legislature because of term limits. Maybe I won't be covering him in the Legislature any more. But he'll still
be in Tallahassee.

Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday appointed Patronis, R-Panama City, to the Florida Public Service Commission. The move came as no surprise to me.

Patronis, 42, was an early supporter of Scott in the 2010 election. And, like the governor, Patronis is a darling of industry and business groups. Patronis jokingly said I would miss him because, as a reporter covering environmental issues at the Capitol, I wouldn't have anything left to write about.

That's because he introduced bills each year that would have rolled back environmental regulations and were a catchall for industry, developer and agriculture groups. He was as well known for his controversial environmental bills as his promotion of "seersucker suit" day at the Capitol.

In 2011, Patronis faced environmental opposition when he introduced the first of his wide-ranging bills in the Florida House, HB 991. The bill eventually died in the Florida Senate.

He credited industry lobbyist Frank Matthews with helping write the bill. Matthews played a key role with other Patronis bills in later years, describing himself to me in 2014 as a mere "scrivener" in the legislative process.

This year, HB 703, a bill introduced by Patronis, would have prohibited supermajority votes on changes to comprehensive plans. Aimed largely at Martin County, another provision also would have prohibited any county from rescinding urban zoning for properties that maintain an agricultural classification for tax purposes.

Mary Jean Yon of Audubon Florida told Patronis during the 2014 legislative session, "We're just fed up" with the bills every year, and said Audubon would be working toward a compromise bill.

Patronis described the environmental opposition as highly exaggerated. But he was always polite.

"They (environmental groups) have used their own concerns for fundraising for advocacy," he said. "If that's what it takes to get their membership engaged and involved to raise resources for their mission, I guess my bill has provided them with the opportunity to enhance their business model."

His bill this year died in the House without a floor vote after the Senate companion bill stalled in a Senate committee.

Patronis also was never confrontational or evasive with reporters. And that's another reason why he was able to joke that I would miss him.

But I won't for a number of reasons.

For one, I suspect that another legislator will replace him as the legislation standard-bearer for developers and industry.

And I will see Patronis starting in January in his new role as a PSC commissioner, even though I don't expect him to be as chatty about energy issues.

Commissioners have become more guarded about commenting after ethics controversies in recent years.

And I expect environmentalists and renewable-energy supporters will argue that the deck remains stacked against them in favor of the utilities — or perhaps even more so with Patronis replacing Commissioner Eduardo Balbis. So I don't expect anything to really change. Unless perhaps if former Gov. Charlie Crist gets re-elected, this time as a Democrat.

Bruce Ritchie is an independent journalist covering environment and growth
management issues in Tallahassee. He also is editor of Column courtesy of Context Florida.


Anonymous said...

Throw Scott and Crist in the garbage. Vote for Adrian Wyllie.

Anonymous said...

A vote for Wyllie is like a vote for Scott.

Anonymous said...

A vote for Scott is a vote for Scott, a vote for Crist is a vote for Crist and a vote for Wyllie is a vote for Wyllie.
So simple a 5yr old can comprehend it.