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    Bill may settle tiff over regulator's job

    A compromise on the structure of the state's chief financial officer post promises to end a legislative deadlock.

    By LUCY MORGAN, Times Tallahassee Bureau Chief

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published May 3, 2002

    TALLAHASSEE -- A compromise designed to end a bitter House and Senate battle over how banking and insurance are regulated won preliminary approval in the House Thursday night.

    In 1998 voters approved a constitutional amendment combining the offices currently held by Comptroller Bob Milligan and Insurance Commissioner Tom Gallagher. The two officials have been at odds over how the new chief finance officer should operate.

    Gallagher wanted the new official to directly control regulation of the two important industries, but Milligan wanted insulation between the elected official and the appointed regulator.

    While it appeared that legislators might side with Gallagher, Milligan announced plans to run for the post himself. That would have been a nightmare for the state's Republicans since the two men are both popular, widely known members of the GOP.

    After the details of the compromise were worked out Thursday, Milligan said the agreement may be enough to satisfy his concern and allow him to drop out of the race.

    "It's not the perfect solution, but it's a good solution and it meets my demand for separation of the CFO from the regulator," he said. "I can live with it."

    If the Senate follows the House lead and approves the bill, Milligan, 69, said he will retire at the end of his term in January and do volunteer work and spend time with his grandchildren.

    Milligan, a retired Marine Corps general whom the GOP has been trying to draft into a race for Congress, said he doesn't really want to go to Washington. Instead, he'll stay in Tallahassee, he said.

    Under the compromise, several divisions of the office including accounting and auditing, the state fire marshal, insurance agents, consumer services and workers' compensation report directly to the elected chief finance officer.

    Two officers, a director of financial services and a director of insurance regulation, would be appointed by the governor and Cabinet.

    Rep. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, sponsor of the bill in the House, said he believes the compromise will give Floridians the protection they need.

    The House will take a final vote on the bill today before sending it on to the Senate, where it is expected to win approval before the end of a special session May 13.

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    Lucy Morgan

    From the Times state desk