State Politics

Scott picks loyalists to fill Constitution Revision Commission

Gov. Rick Scott named Republican Carlos Beruff, a home-builder, to serve as chairman of the powerful Constitution Revision Commission. Beruff unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio for the GOP nomination in 2016. Here he held a press conference at Vicky Bakery in Miami, Feb. 29, 2016.
Gov. Rick Scott named Republican Carlos Beruff, a home-builder, to serve as chairman of the powerful Constitution Revision Commission. Beruff unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio for the GOP nomination in 2016. Here he held a press conference at Vicky Bakery in Miami, Feb. 29, 2016. Giorgio Viera The Miami Herald

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday tapped members of his inner circle as well as his current and former appointees on various other boards to fill 14 spots on the powerful Constitution Revision Commission, which will recommend changes to voters in 2018.

The governor has a majority of the appointments to the 37-member board, which has the power to put proposals directly before voters on the November 2018 ballot. Earlier this week, Scott named businessman and long-time supporter Carlos Beruff to chair the board.

All of the governor’s appointees have worked for the governor or were named to other posts by him. His current and former employees include his former general counsel Tim Cerio; the governor’s former director of budget and policy for education, Nicole Washington; and his political consultant and data guru, Brecht Heuchan. Scott also named his education commissioner, Pam Stewart.

Beruff, a Republican who has never held elective office, was a heavy contributor to Scott’s election efforts. Beruff spent more than $8 million of his own money in an unsuccessful long-shot bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in 2016.

The commission will operate much like a Legislature as it screens ideas, debates the future of Florida, and decides how to reach compromise on putting issues on the ballot. To that end, the governor named only two people with legislative experience — Public Service Commissioner Jimmy Patronis, a former state representative from Panama City who was an early supporter of Scott’s bid for governor in 2010, and former Sarasota state Sen. Lisa Carlton. Scott named former state legislator John Stargel, now a circuit court judge, as an alternate.

Many of the governor’s appointees have lobbying experience, including Heuchan and insurance lobbyist Fred Karlinsky.

In addition to Stewart of Tallahassee and Washington of Miami Beach, the governor named people who have worked in education or held positions on state university boards of trustees. Among them: Belinda Keiser of Keiser College; Jose “Pepe” Armas, a physician from Miami; Marva Johnson, the Winter Garden businesswoman who chairs the Florida Board of Education, and Darlene Jordan, head of a Palm Beach nonprofit and a member of the university Board of Governors.

Senate President Joe Negron, who last week announced his appointees, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, each have nine appointments to the commission that meets every 20 years to revise the state constitution. Each of the presiding officers has said they hope to use the unique commission to revise how education works in Florida by increasing “school choice.” Corcoran has also said he wants the panel to reform the judiciary, especially imposing term limits on Supreme Court justices.

Negron named two people with legislative experience: former Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and former Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale.

Supreme Court Justice Jorge Labarga has made his three appointments to the panel, which included former state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa. Labarga said he chose his appointees in part because they value “judicial independence.”

Attorney General Pam Bondi is automatically a member of the commission. The governor named Bondi’s director of law enforcement, Emery Gainey, to the commission.

Appointees are independent members of the commission and do not have to be confirmed by the state Senate.

Here are the governor’s appointments:

▪  Jose “Pepe” Armas of Miami is a physician and chairman of MCCI Group, which he founded in 1998. Scott appointed Dr. Armas to the Florida International University Board of Trustees and reappointed him in 2016.

▪  Lisa Carlton of Sarasota is an eighth-generation Floridian and the co-owner and manager of the Mabry Carlton Ranch, Inc., in Sarasota County. A lawyer, Carlton served in the Florida House of Representatives from 1994 to 1998 and served in the state Senate from 1998 to 2008. She is a member of the Board of Directors for the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and is a founding member of the Florida Historic Capitol Foundation.

▪  Timothy Cerio of Tallahassee served as Scott’s general counsel from 2015 to 2016 and was chief of staff at the Florida Department of Health from 2005 to 2007. Scott appointed Cerio to the Judicial Nominating Commission for the First District Court of Appeal.

▪  Emery Gainey of Tallahassee is Director of Law Enforcement, Victim Services & Criminal Justice Programs for Attorney General Pam Bondi. Scott appointed Gainey to serve as sheriff of Marion County for several months in 2016 before he returned to the attorney general’s office.

▪  Brecht Heuchan of Tallahassee is founder and CEO of ContributionLink, LLC, a data analytics and fundraising company that works for Scott’s political committee, Let’s Get to Work. Heuchan also owns The Labrador Company, a Florida-based political and government affairs firm. In 1997, Heuchan was on the staff of former House Speaker Daniel Webster and coordinated Webster’s appointments to the CRC and monitored the CRC for Webster.

▪  Marva Johnson of Winter Garden is regional vice president for Charter Communications and is the chair of the Florida State Board of Education. She is a former member of the Florida Virtual School Board and Advisory Board for Rollins College’s Crummer Center for Leadership Development.

▪  Darlene Jordan of Palm Beach is executive director of the Gerald R. Jordan Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports education, health and youth services, and the arts. Scott appointed Jordan to the Board of Governors of the State University System.

▪  Fred Karlinsky of Weston is a lawyer and lobbyist at Greenberg Traurig specializing in insurance regulation. He was appointed by Scott to the 17th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission in 2011 and served as the vice chairman and chairman. He currently serves as Scott’s appointee on the Florida Supreme Court Nominating Commission.

▪  Belinda Keiser of Parkland is vice chancellor of Keiser University. She serves on the 17th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission of Broward County and was appointed by Scott to the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors.

▪  Frank Kruppenbacher of Orlando is a lawyer and chairman of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority. He was reappointed to the Aviation Authority by Scott in 2014.

▪  Gary Lester of The Villages is vice president of community relations for The Villages and is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church.

▪  Jimmy Patronis of Panama City served in the Florida House before he was appointed by Scott to the Florida Public Service Commission to a four-year term beginning January 2015.

▪  Pam Stewart of Tallahassee was appointed by Scott to be commissioner of the Florida Department of Education, where she first worked in 2004.

▪  Nicole Washington of Miami Beach is the state policy consultant for the Lumina Foundation. She was former associate director of government relations for the State University System Board of Governors, as well as the Budget Director for Education in the Governor’s Office of Policy and Budget.

Alternates: Tom Kuntz, chairman of the Board of Governors for the State University System; Don Eslinger, former sheriff of Seminole County, and John Stargel, judge in the 10th Judicial Circuit.