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Scott's Job Chief Lands Senate Backing

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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) --  Florida Goveror Rick Scott's new jobs chief was confirmed in the Senate Wednesday, just a day after a committee tabled the confirmation of a top state health official.

Jesse Panuccio, executive director of the state Department of Economic Opportunity, got the backing of the Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee.

The panel's chairman, Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, cast the only dissenting vote but declined after the meeting to explain his opposition.

A year ago, Panuccio's agency was criticized by a number of lawmakers for troubles with Florida's new $63 million "Connect" unemployment-compensation website. But Senate President Andy Gardiner, who was then chairman of the Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee, said that when the problems with the new system were exposed, Panuccio "took ownership of it and fixed it." Panuccio, who previously served as Scott's general counsel, moved into the $141,000-a-year post at the Department of Economic Opportunity in January 2013 following the resignation of Hunting Deutsch.

Panuccio joined the governor's office in early 2011 as deputy general counsel. Panuccio must still be approved by the full Senate.

On Tuesday, the Senate Health Policy Committee tabled the confirmation of state Surgeon General John Armstrong after questioning him about Scott's decision to oppose a plan to use federal money to provide health coverage to an estimated 800,000 Floridians through a private insurance system.

(The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.)


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