State Politics

Behind Florida Gov. Rick Scott's plan to limit consumer protection 'quotas'

Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet meet Tuesday for the first time since their gathering in Tampa more than a month ago -- a meeting that did nothing to end tensions surrounding the forced ouster of a top state law enforcement official by the governor's office.

Scott has made no secret of his desire to remove three other state officials who oversee banking, tax collections and insurance -- all of whom also report to at least one Cabinet member. In telephone conferences with all three agencies, Scott's office has crafted new performance measures he wants to apply to evaluate banking regulator Drew Breakspear, revenue director Marshall Stranburg and insurance commissioner Kevin McCarty.

But in a proposal that should generate talk Tuesday, Scott wants to drop a proposal by McCarty's Office of Insurance Regulation for specific goals in protecting consumers from illegal and unethical insurance industry practices.

Scott's seven-page list of revised OIR benchmarks (see above) would strike out McCarty's stated goal to "protect the public from illegal, unethical insurance products and practices" by pursuing enforcement actions in most cases.

McCarty set a goal for his agency this fiscal year to take action in 85 percent of all cases in which market conduct examinations find violations. Scott would eliminate that provision, but he can't do it without Cabinet members' support.

Scott's office said: "We want OIR to enforce the law, but we do not want to encourage agencies to penalize companies by having quotas."

McCarty has two bosses: Scott and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, who just last week highlighted his efforts to protect consumers, along with, naturally, McCarty and Breakspear, as part of National Consumer Protection Week. In light of this news release from Atwater's office, the timing and wisdom of Scott's plan to end consumer protection "quotas" appears open to question.