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Politics

Crist's name is on the invitation, but it's not his party

By STEVE BOUSQUET
Published December 31, 2006


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The politically well-connected from all over the state have been invited to a three-hour cocktail party at Tallahassee's Silver Slipper restaurant Monday on the eve of Gov.-elect Charlie Crist's inauguration.

The big draw? It's Jim Greer, said to be Crist's choice for the next chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

The networking event is a fundraiser for Greer, a councilman from the suburban Orlando city of Oviedo, whose bid for party chairman will be decided in a vote among activists in January. He is seeking to replace Carole Jean Jordan.

"Governor-elect Charlie Crist cordially invites you to a pre-inaugural reception," state the invitations, which include the political disclaimer of "the Jim Greer for chairman of the Republican Party of Florida Committee."

That's news to Crist. He says he is not going and never authorized his name to be on those invitations, though he did not single anyone out for criticism.

"I did not appreciate it," said Crist, who will have most of his family in town for his inauguration the next day.

Remembering former President Gerald Ford

Tuesday has been declared a national day of mourning in memory of the death of former President Gerald Ford, who died Tuesday at age 93. While flags at all state buildings remain at half-staff and a moment of silence is expected during Crist's inauguration, the mourning of the 38th president will not affect the festivities.

The Florida Constitution requires that the governor be sworn in on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in January.

Rearranging deck chairs in capital

Crist's pick of Rep. Holly Benson, R-Pensacola, to run the Department of Business and Professional Regulation is forcing some changes in the leadership lineup.

Benson was the new chair of the Safety & Security Council, overseeing criminal justice, courts, homeland security and legal issues.

House Speaker Marco Rubio has replaced Benson with Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland. Ross, who played a key role in the development of a controversial 2006 insurance bill, is no longer a member of the House Insurance Committee.

The new chairman of the insurance panel will be Rep. Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton, an insurance agent by profession.

In addition, Rep. Kevin Ambler, R-Lutz, was named to the powerful Policy & Budget Council.

Not wild about Holly

Benson works as a municipal bond lawyer with a small Pensacola firm. At DBPR, she will supervise more than 1,500 employees and a budget of more than $150-million.

Benson said she will get to work immediately building a "top leadership team." One fellow Republican lawmaker is less than impressed with Benson's selection.

"I don't agree with him on that choice at all," said Sen. Nancy Argenziano, R-Dunnellon. She said it appears that Crist gave Benson the post as a consolation prize in lieu of the post Benson wanted as head of the Medicaid program in the state Agency for Health Care Administration.

This could get interesting when the legislative session begins. The nomination of Benson, and most other agency heads, require full Senate confirmation.

Those @#$%&* calls!

Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson, in his end-of-the-year report listing the top 10 categories of consumer complaints, notes that once again, the most gripes are from consumers about businesses violating the state's "Do Not Call" program.

For an annual fee $10 the first year, $5 thereafter, Florida consumers can be placed on a list given to telemarketers, who with few exceptions are prohibited from calling those numbers. But the calls - and complaints - keep coming. Bronson said his office got 4,782 complaints of that type this year, about 600 more than last year.

Got a complaint? Call 1-800-HELP-FLA (800-435-7352).

 

[Last modified December 31, 2006, 01:07:13]


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