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Jesse Panuccio one step closer to staying DEO chief

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Jesse Panuccio is now a step closer to remaining executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

With a 5-1 vote Wednesday, the Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Committee cleared Panuccio’s nomination.

State Sen. Jack Latvala offered no comment when asked why he would not recommend Panuccio to remain as Florida’s economic developer in chief.

Leading the DEO for two years, Panuccio played a key role in Gov. Rick Scott’s business recruitment and job creation efforts since 2011.

“Our policies have led to a resurgent economy leading the nation in economic growth,” Panuccio told the committee. “Policies matter in people’s lives and we try to remember that each and every day.”

DEO’s focus is lower taxes, workforce investment, a safety net for people to get back to work and marketing economic opportunities in Florida, Panuccio explained.

Tensions increased between Panuccio and some lawmakers because the DEO’s failed to rank applications from sports teams seeking state money for stadium improvements.

Previously, Latvala said he believed DEO officials “punted” on the issue.

Also showing signs of strain is the relationship between the Senate and the governor on Medicaid expansion; senators support an expansion plan, while the House and Scott oppose.

Before the TED meeting, state Sen. Oscar Braynon told the Senate Democratic Caucus to pressure Scott nominees on health care during confirmation hearings. Braynon was one of the lawmakers who punted on the issue while questioning Panuccio.

The committee asked a single question, about a grant problem. After providing an update, the committee voted to move forward with Panuccio’s nomination. The next step is a full Senate vote.

Last year, senators confirmed Panuccio 37 to 0.

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