The Florida Independent

December 21, 2010

Scott’s transition team: Scott should rebrand and restructure ‘the company’

By Travis Pillow

According to slides released Monday by his transition team, Gov.-elect Rick Scott‘s efforts to overhaul Florida’s state government could be branded as an attempt to “restructure ‘the company.’”

The barrier to Florida’s economic recovery is not regulatory red tape, according to the slides. The real problem stems from a failure of leadership, a collapse of the state’s brand identity and the absence of a concerted economic development effort. Turning the state around will require improving the “culture and attitude” of demoralized state agencies. Rather than competing with one another or duplicating efforts, they will need to work together.

The presentation — replete with business metaphors and outlining recommendations for regulatory reform — was released along with other documents laying out some transition advisers’ recommendations for the incoming governor.

One of Scott’s first orders of business should be to “freeze” state government till “the mission of ‘the company’ is clarified,” before implementing the state’s new “business strategy,” according to the presentation.

Then, it will be time to redefine the role of state agencies, especially the way they regulate the private sector. Scott should foster a cultural shift from “growth management” to “growth leadership.” In this vision, rather than presenting obstacles to growth, regulators should become a “tactical cornerstone” of the state’s economic development efforts.

What does that mean? The presentation offers some clues.

For example, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Community Affairs (the state’s growth management agency) should be combined into a single “Department of Growth Leadership” during the 2011 session of the Florida Legislature. Folding in other agencies, like water management districts, could be considered the following year.

This should not involve “blowing up” the Department of Community Affairs, one the slide emphasizes. “We just won a 10-year war on Hometown Democracy (aka Amendment 4). Itchy trigger policy could have significant consequences.”

It could be possible to reduce overhead expenses at the Department of Environmental Protection and the overlapping water management districts by between a quarter and a third, according to the presentation. It’s time for new management and a new culture in those agencies, the slides say, as well as a reduction of duplicate back office staff.

Under the “growth leadership” regime, transportation concurrency (a requirement that roads and other infrastructure be in place to accommodate growth before new development can take place) and other barriers to growth should be eliminated. Agencies should develop a “culture of partnership” with people and companies applying for permits as part of their new goal of driving growth and economic development.

Other ideas include promoting tort reform and eliminating redundant or unnecessary licensing requirements at the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

These are not fully baked policy proposals. They are, in the words of the Scott transition team, “innovative ideas from the private sector, success stories from other states, cost-saving opportunities and legislative priorities that will assist him as he prepares to officially take office in January.” In the coming weeks, more recommendations are likely to emerge from other committees appointed by Scott to offer advice on other areas, including education.

This is what’s referred to in the presentation as a “2011 paradigm.” Both the mission of state government and the terminology used to describe it should be updated accordingly. One of the slides offers a guide: