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Amendment filed to prevent legislators from going straight to PSC

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State Sen. John Legg says he considers former state Rep. Jimmy Patronis to be a friend and a fine man, but he doesn’t think he should have gone so quickly from the Legislature to the Public Service Commission.

And Legg has filed a bill amendment he said is aimed at preventing that from happening in the future.

Patronis, a Republican from Panama City, served in the House from 2006 to 2014, when he reached his term limits before being appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to the PSC. Patronis and Julie I. Brown were confirmed by the Senate Wednesday 37-1 with Legg casting the only vote against, according to The Associated Press.

Legg, a Republican from Lutz, said later that he had no problem with Brown’s reappointment but he thinks Patronis should have had to wait before going to the PSC.

“I like him,” Legg said of Patronis. “I think he’s a good man. But I think he should have two years off from being a legislator before serving on the PSC.”

Florida law and the state Constitution now prohibit former legislators from lobbying the House and Senate or executive branch agencies for two years after leaving office.

Legg has filed an amendment (782862) to a bill dealing with PSC ethics to prohibit any elected official from serving on the commission within two years of leaving office.

In addition to Patronis, Commissioner Ronald Brise served in the House from 2006 until 2010, when he was appointed by then-Gov. Charlie Crist. Brise, a Democrat, represented North Miami in the House.

SB 288, which Legg is seeking to amend, would establish PSC term limits, require public meetings around the state and define prohibited ex parte communication with commissioners.

The House bill limits commissioners from serving more than three four-year terms for those appointed after July 1, 2015, while the Senate bill allows only two terms. Legg’s amendment also would allow for three terms to match the House Bill, HB 7109.

Legg also filed SB 170, which would have limited commissioners to two terms while also requiring them to represent geographic districts.

Legg said he wasn’t targeting a particular commissioner nor Commissioner Lisa Edgar, who was reappointed to a third term in 2012 by Scott.

“You need fresh blood in there to have people living among constituents and hearing the ratepayers’ issues,” Legg said.

Legg pointed out that he voted against Edgar’s confirmation in a 26-13 vote on the final day of the 2013 legislative session but said that’s not why he filed the bill.

“While I personally don’t think she should be on there,” Legg said, “I don’t target bills for one person.”

SB 288 also would allow Duke Energy Florida to issue bonds for the $1.4 billion shutdown of its Crystal River plant. The bill is on the Senate special order calendar for Thursday.

Bruce Ritchie (@bruceritchie) covers environment, energy and growth management in Tallahassee. 

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