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    Bill lays out structure of financial officer post

    By ANITA KUMAR, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published January 24, 2002

    TALLAHASSEE -- For the third consecutive year, lawmakers are trying to figure out how banking and insurance will be regulated in this state.

    The pressure is on.

    Legislators must come up with specific ideas by January 2003 when the first chief financial officer takes office.

    Wednesday, they took the first step.

    An 823-page bill sponsored by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Palm Harbor, considered a compromise between bickering House and Senate members, passed a Senate committee. But it still has to make several more stops.

    "This is a good, solid position for us to take," Latvala said. "We are moving toward the House position."

    Some House members want the officers who regulate banking and insurance to be insulated from the elected chief financial officer and subject to appointment by the governor and Cabinet. Some senators want the regulators under the control of the elected official.

    Comptroller Bob Milligan has hinted he may run against Insurance Commissioner Tom Gallagher for the new position because the two also disagree on how the work should be divided.

    The House and Senate failed to reach a compromise the last two years. Latvala's bill creates a chief financial officer but also three appointed directors who will be somewhat insulated from the more political Cabinet position.

    "It's not the best bill because it does not directly follow what voters told us to do," Sen. Steven Geller, D-Hallandale, said. "It's as close as the right thing we can get. The House is simply unwilling to go along with what the voters explicitly told us to do."

    The Cabinet-level position was created by voters in 1998 as part of a plan to reduce the size of the state Cabinet from six to three positions. The chief financial officer will handle the duties previously performed by the comptroller, treasurer and insurance commissioner.

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