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Pam Stewart, Jimmy Patronis among Rick Scott constitutional review panel picks

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Gov. Rick Scott on Friday released the rest of his appointments to the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), the panel that meets every 20 years to suggest rewrites and additions to the state’s governing document.

Unsurprisingly, his selections are heavy with friends, appointees and supporters, including Education Commissioner Pam Stewart and former state Rep. and now Public Service Commissioner Jimmy Patronis. The picks also are rife in conservative bona fides.

“These members stood out as exemplary choices for this historic Commission whose diverse backgrounds and experience in education, business and policy will ensure we continue to champion policies that make Florida the best place for families for generations to come,” the governor said.

In a press release, Scott disclosed the remaining picks, after previously announcing Carlos Beruff, the Manatee Republican homebuilder who ran for the U.S. Senate in 2016, as chair and Jeff Woodburn, currently the governor’s Policy Director, as the executive director.

According to the release, they are:

Dr. Jose “Pepe” Armas of Miami, “a distinguished physician and healthcare executive whose focus on patient-centered care has defined his career.” He currently serves as the Chairman of MCCI Group, which he founded in 1998, a physician healthcare group in the Southeastern United States. Scott appointed him in 2011 to the Florida International University Board of Trustees, and reappointed him to in 2016.

Former state Sen. Lisa Carlton of Sarasota, a lawyer and “an eighth generation Floridian and co-owner and manager of the Mabry Carlton Ranch, Inc. in Sarasota County.” She’s also a director for the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and founding member of the Florida Historic Capitol Foundation.

Tim Cerio of Tallahassee, the governor’s former general counsel now practicing with the GrayRobinson law firm. He also was chief of staff and general counsel at the Department of Health and now serves on the 1st District Court of Appeal Judicial Nominating Commission.

Emery Gainey of Tallahassee, a veteran law enforcement official and “member of the Attorney General’s senior executive management team and currently the Director of Law Enforcement, Victim Services & Criminal Justice Programs. Scott also tapped him to serve temporarily as Marion County sheriff last year.

Brecht Heuchan of Tallahassee, who helps run Scott’s Let’s Get to Work political committee. He founded and is CEO of ContributionLink, a political data analysis and fundraising firm. He also owns The Labrador Company, a political and government affairs firm, and was House Speaker Daniel Webster‘s liaison to the 1997-98 CRC.

Marva Johnson of Winter Garden, chair of the Florida State Board of Education and regional vice president of state government affairs for Charter Communications. She previously was a member of the Florida Virtual School Board and Advisory Board for Rollins College’s Crummer Center for Leadership Development.

Darlene Jordan of Palm Beach, executive Director of the Gerald R. Jordan Foundation, “a nonprofit organization that supports education, health and youth services, and the arts.” Scott appointed her last year to the Board of Governors of the State University System. She’s a former assistant attorney general for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Fred Karlinsky of Weston, the governor’s go-to man on insurance issues and co-chair of the Greenberg Traurig law firm’s Insurance Regulatory and Transactions Practice Group. He’s “recognized as one of the top insurance lawyers … throughout the U.S. and internationally in a wide variety of business, operational, regulatory, transactional and governmental matters.” Scott named him to the 17th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission and the Florida Supreme Court Nominating Commission.

Belinda Keiser of Parkland, vice chancellor of Keiser University and past member of the Workforce Florida board of directors, where she also served as chair. She also sits on the 17th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission and the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors.

Frank Kruppenbacher of Orlando, an attorney who has been on the Florida Commission on Ethics, Florida Commission on Sales Tax Reform, Greater Orlando Chamber of Commerce, Orange County Ethics & Campaign Finance Reform Taskforce, Orange County Oversight Committee, Orange County Charter Commission, Central Florida Zoological Board, Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau and Orange County Sheriff Department Oversight Board. He now is chair of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, appointed by Scott.

Dr. Gary Lester of The Villages, its vice president for community relations and a Presbyterian minister. He too has served on a number of boards and advisory groups,  including the United States Military Academy Nominations Board and the Judicial Nominating Commission for the Middle District of Florida.

Jimmy Patronis of Panama City, former state representative from Bay County and now a Scott-appointed member of the Public Service Commission, the body that regulates the state’s investor-owned utilities. With his brother Jimmy, he owns and runs the Capt. Anderson’s restaurant in Panama City Beach. He also has been on the Florida Elections Commission and Bay County-Panama City International Airport and Industrial District.

Pam Stewart of Tallahassee, the state’s education commissioner.  She has a 37-year history in education, beginning as a classroom teacher, and later guidance counselor, testing and research specialist, assistant principal and principal in both elementary and high schools, and asa district deputy superintendent in St. Johns County.

Nicole Washington of Miami Beach, state policy consultant for the Lumina Foundation, an educational grant maker. “In Florida, Ms. Washington has served as the Associate Director of Governmental 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 (OPB).” She’s on the board of Florida A&M University, the LeRoy Collins Institute and the Veterans Trust Board.

Scott also picked three alternates: Tom Kuntz, chairman of the Board of Governors for the State University System of Florida; Don Eslinger, former Sheriff of Seminole County; and Judge John Stargel, a circuit judge in the 10th Judicial Circuit and husband of state Sen. Kelli Stargel

Scott’s appointees join the 12 previously-released selections of Senate President Joe Negron and Chief Justice Jorge Labarga. (Those appointments are here and here.)

House Speaker Richard Corcoran said he planned to disclose his nine picks next Monday, the day before the 2017 Legislative Session begins.

The state constitution says the commission must be “established … within (30) days before the convening of the 2017 regular session of the legislature.” A first meeting of the panel has not yet been announced.

The “commission shall convene at the call of its chair, adopt its rules of procedure, examine the constitution of the state, hold public hearings, and, not later than one hundred eighty days prior to the next general election, file … its proposal, if any, of a revision of this constitution or any part of it,” it says.

As governor, Scott chooses 15 of the 37 commissioners, and he also selects its chairperson. Corcoran, as House Speaker, gets nine picks, as does Negron as head of the Senate. The chief justice is alloted three picks. Republican Pam Bondi is automatically a member as the state’s Attorney General.

The commission has met twice before, in 1977-78 and 1997-98, but this will be the first to be selected by a majority of Republicans, virtually ensuring it will propose more conservative changes to the state’s governing document than previous panels.

The nonprofit Partnership for Revising Florida’s Constitution has suggested several issues the commission could address this year, including transportation, natural resources, crime and justice, representation, and “youth, elderly & the underserved.”

Any changes the commission proposes would be in the form of constitutional amendments, which would have to be approved by 60 percent of voters on a statewide ballot.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at

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