Senate President Jeff Atwater on Thursday named Sen. Mike Bennett to chair the Legislature's panel that nominates new members of the Florida Public Service Commission.
Bennett, R-Bradenton, replaces Sen. Lee Constantine, R-Altamonte Springs as chairman of the Public Service Commission Nominating Council. Constantine was among 61 people applying for two PSC openings that will occur in June. The council is responsible for interviewing and then recommending finalists for the post to the governor.
The openings resulted from the Senate votes against confirming David E. Klement and Ben A. "Steve" Stevens III. Although opposing senators questioned the qualifications of two commissioners appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist, the votes were viewed by supporters as political payback against the governor and the PSC for opposing utility electricity rate hike requests.
The terms for the two seats would extend through January 2014. The Public Service Nominating Council is scheduled to meet on June 1 to consider the applications.
Atwater said that he has warned all the senators that serve on the nominating council to "abstain" from attending fundraisers or private events that include utilities while legislators are interviewing and evaluating potential PSC members. He said that he "expressed my expectations that the nomination process be conducted in an open, transparent manner; protecting the integrity of the process."
Meanwhile, PSC member Nathan A. Skop has applied for reappointment to his seat. Commission Chairman Nancy Argenziano has said she will seek reappointment but does not expect to be confirmed because she speaks the truth about the influence of utilities over the Legislature. The terms for seats would be from Jan. 2, 2011 through Jan. 1, 2015. Applications are being accepted for this two seats through June 17.
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