Chris Hart resigned as CEO of Enterprise Florida on Monday, leaving the embattled jobs agency in the middle of a fight for its life with the state Legislature.
Hours after Hart resigned, a House panel passed a bill, HB 7005, that eliminates Enterprise Florida and several other tax incentive programs aimed at luring companies to the state. The panel also passed a measure, HB 9, that imposes strict oversight measures on Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing arm.
“Enterprise Florida does not hold all of the business handles of the state of Florida,” said Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami, chairman of the House Rules committee that passed the bills. “The state of Florida has done it because people have wanted to live here. How many incentives could have gotten people to live here prior to air conditioning?”
In a resignation letter to Gov. Rick Scott and Enterprise Florida board members, Hart said he couldn’t come to an agreement with Scott on the future of the department.
“I have come to realize that Governor Scott and I do not share a common vision or understanding for how Enterprise Florida, Inc. can best provide value within his administration. This difference of opinion is of such a critical nature that I no longer believe I can be effective in my position,” Hart wrote.
The news was first reported by Politico Florida.
Hart was hired Nov. 30, after the agency spent five months looking for a replacement for Bill Johnson. But Hart never signed a formal contract with Enterprise Florida. His three-month tenure leaves the department without a leader as it battles with the state House, which is pushing a bill to eliminate it.
The move caught Scott off-guard.
“It is odd that Chris Hart never shared any differences of opinion or vision with the Governor until we first read that he had them in his resignation letter,” Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz wrote in a statement. “The future of EFI and its role in creating more jobs in Florida as we compete with other states is more important than one person’s sudden change of opinion or position, no matter how surprising.”
Hart is a former state House member who worked as head of CareerSource Florida, a state-run job training agency, under the Scott administration before moving to Enterprise Florida.
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