April 18, 2014

The Business of Being Governor

Rick Scott and Florida Inc.

The corporate world lacks legislative and judicial branches. This month, as the Legislature convenes, Florida's first modern CEO as governor -- and the state -- will find out what that means for his plans to transform our state government.

Amy Keller | 3/1/2011

So far, so good. But as the legislative session convenes this month, Scott will have to engage forces that will test his focus and aggressive managerial approach. While he enjoys fawning support from business groups, he's already experienced a taste of what separated powers mean when Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam declined — politely —?Scott's request that the agencies under their control submit proposed rules for his review.

In addition, the Legislature, though GOP-dominated and presumably friendly to Scott, is rife with vested interests, lawmakers' personal agendas, lobbyist-driven machinations and citizen interest groups. Money for marketing alligators and sales tax exemptions for ostrich feed have remained part of the state's budget because it served some legislator to have them there.

Even Bush, who like Scott was hailed as a champion by the business community, got poor grades for his dealings with the Legislature early in his first term and complaints that he was a bully by the end of his second. Bush didn't get everything he wanted, and it's unlikely Scott will either. Before Scott released his proposed budget, state Senate President Mike Haridopolos had indicated that the budget shortfall means Scott won't be able to cut corporate taxes during the session.

"Clearly you have a Legislature, even if the majority are members of your party, they will have views. They will act on views, and sometimes it won't be in agreement," says Martinez. "Making policies on a corporate board for the CEO to carry out is quite different than the CEO of a government unit carrying it out because you have a legislative branch that's elected independently. It's quite different, the mechanics of it."

In addition to the cat-herding activity that goes into dealing with the Legislature, Scott, like Bush, likely will have to deal with court challenges to some of his bolder initiatives.

Scott expresses an almost wide-eyed belief in his ability to re-engineer the state. He says he has met most legislators and found them receptive to his goals. "My experience in life is that if I do things that are logical and I sit down with you and create win-wins, then I generally can have success. That's what I'm going to do."

Entering the legislative session, Scott has several considerable assets. One, says Martinez, is that he's built credibility by focusing on what he said he would do during his campaign.

More important, Martinez says, is that Scott is starting out with a clean slate. "Most people who end up holding the governor's office, like myself, were involved in government before you got there. He didn't go in with that. He can look at anything as objectively as he wants to because he had no part in having it done. There's no vested interest to defend. I think that's what makes him really different than others who may have gone before him. There's no program/spending in law that he was involved in getting it done, so therefore there is no empathy simply because you had a hand in it in the past."

Tags: Politics & Law

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