Gov. Charlie Crist this week will name two members to the state Public Service Commission, the board appointed to keep Florida's utilities affordable and dependable.
It will be his last shot to appoint regulators who, as he puts it, represent the "best interest of the people, the consumers of our state."
His 2009 appointments didn't last. The state Senate, which for years endorsed the governor's appointments, rejected David Klement and Steve Stevens. The official line was that the former journalist and accountant didn't have the smarts to follow complicated regulatory issues.
Political insiders gave another reason. "The power [companies] said, guess what, we don't want them up here so [they] said 'Hey ... maybe we can get rid of them,' " Sen. Mike Bennett told lawmakers before they voted on Klement and Stevens.
Klement and Stevens were awaiting Senate confirmation when they joined the three other commissioners to unanimously reject most of Florida Power & Light's largest rate increase request.
That has led consumer advocates and politicians to speculate about what will happen to Crist's latest appointments.
The governor will leave office in January 2011, long before the Legislative session begins. Some of the political movers who stymied last year's confirmations will be gone.
But with the new legislature will come new leaders, and perhaps, renewed calls to return the state to a system of electing utility regulators.
2011 decision makers
This year, the utility industry and its lobbyists have given more than $260,000 to gubernatorial candidates and their committees, most to Bill McCollum, who lost to billionaire Rick Scott in the Republican primary. That amount doesn't include hundreds of thousands more from political fundraising committees that receive hefty checks from the utility industry.
The next governor could replace Crist's last two picks before their names even go to the Senate - as Crist did when he was elected.
Scott, a former health-care executive, told the Sun Sentinel that he wants knowledgeable people on the PSC "who are independent thinkers and know that their role is to do what is in the best interest of the citizens of Florida."
But he said he also supports making it easier for utilities to raise rates: Scott writes on his website that he wants to change "PSC processes to allow reasonable energy production and expansion."
Alex Sink, Florida's chief financial officer and Democratic candidate for governor, has called for changing how regulators are picked. "The deck is stacked against those who expect fairness in their utility rates," said Kyra Jennings, a campaign spokeswoman.
The new PSC appointees - the ones named this week as well as Ron Brisé and Art Graham, whom Crist appointed in July - will face the Senate utilties committee for confirmation. It now includes Chris Smith, a Democrat from Fort Lauderdale. He works for a law firm that represents FPL, an overlap that state police have suggested the Commission on Ethics investigate.
Smith told the Sun Sentinel last year that he stopped lobbying for the state's largest electric utility after he was elected to the Senate in 2008. He could not be reached recently despite a phone call and e-mail.
The most powerful man in the senate next year, President-designate Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, could change who's on the utilities committee. He also controls how the Senate handles the confirmation hearings.
He and his fundraising committee received more than $280,000 in campaign contributions from utilities and those who represent them this year and last. Haridopolos voted against Klement and Stevens.