Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, shook up the Senate power structure in a big and unexpected way Tuesday, stripping some veteran Republicans of their committee assignments and rewarding others with new, high-profile assignments.
Negron told the Herald/Times on Tuesday that with 20 freshmen in the 40-member Senate, he felt it was important to redistribute influence.
"In an era of term limits, I believe it's important for each senator to be considered for additional opportunities to participate in the committee process," Negron said.
Nine Senate committees will have new leaders, including five of the seven budget subcommittees.
Negron removed Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, from his chairmanship of a Senate budget subcommittee for pre-K-12 education. Simmons' replacement in both positions is first-term Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, who like Simmons is an attorney.
Negron moved Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg from the Senate budget subcommittee on transportation and economic development to the panel that oversees civil and criminal justice, including the state prison system, courts, prosecutors and public defenders. In his new role, Brandes replaces Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, who lost that chairmanship but is now head of a Senate panel on utilities that was led by former Sen. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, who resigned in April.
The complete Senate committee reorganization can be found here.
Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, replaces Brandes as "TED" appropriations chairman, putting him in charge of nearly one-fourth of the state budget, including all road projects and the state highway safety agency.
Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, will replace Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Grimsley is a candidate to replace Adam Putnam as agriculture commissioner.
Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, acknowledged that while it is not common for Senate presidents to re-shuffle the committee chair line-up in mid-term, there also haven't been 20 freshman senators. She said the changes are a reflection of people indicating they have interests or strengths in previous areas and who's best suited on different policy issues."
"You've got to look at Joe Negron as a person,'' she said. "He's methodical and fair on policy -- and not vindictive."
Flores said it would be wrong for people to view Simmons' removal from the pre-K-12 Appropriations subcommittee as retaliation for his opposition to HB 7069. "That bill would have had the same result if it were held today,- unless there is a change in Senate District 40,'' she said, referring to the open seat of Sen. Frank Artiles being sought by Miami Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Democrat Annette Taddeo.
Like Flores, Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, saw no change in his assignments. Three Tampa Bay Republicans -- Jack Latvala of Clearwater, Tom Lee of Thonotosassa and Dana Young -- also saw no changes.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, also plans to announce a shakeup in House committee assignments. Under legislative rules, House assignments are for one year and Senate assignments are for two years.