For those enamored with the "fair and balanced" label, don't expect to see it on most of the packages Gov. Scott's advisers send to Floridians.
The new governor knows less about this state and state government than any governor in at least 40 years. Sure, I can imagine some of you thinking: "Darn right. Why does he need to know anything? Only an outsider can deal with all that spending and all those bureaucrats." I wouldn't go to a doctor who boasted about not having gone to medical school, but maybe that's me.
Anyway, after the election Gov. Scott created task forces to advise him. Conceptually, it's a fine idea. Assemble a diverse group of knowledgeable people, and let them offer up policy ideas before a governor takes office and gets insulated.
Yet there was nothing diverse about most of the task forces. Most participants were linked not only by ideology but by self-interest. My favorite individual was the Florida Power & Light executive who recommended - without putting his name to it - that Floridians subsidize FPL's investment in solar energy because renewable energy could bring Florida lots of jobs.
To really understand how stacked most of these task forces were, though, let's look at the six people who serve on the tort reform/insurance committee of the regulatory task force. Property insurance again will be one of the big issues for the Legislature, especially since Gov. Crist vetoed last year's insurance bill.
Chairman of the committee is William Large. He's director of the Florida Justice Reform Institute, which the Florida Chamber of Commerce created to fight "wasteful litigation."
Another member is Don Brown. He's an insurance agent and former Florida legislator who carries the title of "senior fellow" at the Chicago-based Heartland Institute, which advocates "free-market" solutions. In the Legislature, Mr. Brown's solution for property insurance was deregulation: Let companies charge what they want.
Another member is Marlin Hutchens. He's a vice president in Orlando for Walgreens.
Another member is Marc Salm. He's vice president for risk management with Publix, so he's in charge of protecting the company from lawsuits.
Another member is Corey Simon. He's a former Florida State University football player and vice president of a large Tallahassee insurance agency.
The other member is Phillip Walker. He's an Allstate insurance agent in Lakeland. In 2007, the Office of Insurance Regulation challenged Allstate's 41 percent property rate increase and forced the company to back down, by threatening to stop Allstate from writing its lucrative auto coverage. I'm sure the company doesn't hold a grudge.
Mr. Walker says he favors insurance deregulation. He also says his group "reached out to all constituents" and "is still gathering information." He referred me to Mr. Large for details. I spent more than a day last week trying to speak with Mr. Large, working through a Tallahassee law firm, but had no luck. During the transition, task force members were told not to grant interviews with reporters unless the transition team approved them.
Understand, such a group needs representation from insurance companies and businesses that get sued a lot. But to be diverse, it would have representation from consumer advocates and, eek, trial lawyers. This was like asking people from Hostess, Coca-Cola and Hershey's to make recommendations on reducing obesity.
Not surprisingly, the best recommendations came from the criminal justice task force. They follow the progressive thinking of other states that have realized the ultimate folly of sending the wrong people to prison for longer and longer times. The recommendations for Florida are to save expensive prison space for dangerous criminals and spend smarter to rehabilitate adults and juveniles. The recommendations didn't come from people who had money at stake in the decisions, so there's more good government in them.
Of course, Wansley Walters did serve on the juvenile justice task force, and Gov. Scott did appoint her to be secretary of the Department of Juvenile Justice. But not many insiders would consider that a plum job.
In most cases, Gov. Scott turned loose a lot of people who are seeking something from state government that would financially enrich themselves and/or their businesses, and they churned out wish lists. The task forces met in private, even when the meetings took place in public buildings. Floridians should consider those recommendations to be less about what the state needs and more about what the industries represented on the task forces want.
Randy Schultz is the editor of editorial page of The Palm Beach Post. His e-mail address is [email protected]