MIAMI, Fla. - People are not pleased with Governor Charlie Crist's over use of ceremonial bill signings during his first four years in office.
While Jeb Bush was in office, he held about 65 ceremonial bill signings during his eight years. Crist has held about 90 in only four years.
While it is not unusual for Florida governors to hold such ceremonial bill signings on important or popular measures, Crist has made multiple uses of these legally unnecessary events. They usually happen weeks or even months after the official signing has happened.
Each event can cost taxpayers thousands of dollars in operating expenses for the state airplane and, sometimes, the governor's extensive security detail. According to the state Department of Management Services, in 2009, flights to bill signings cost roughly $30,000. That doesn't include other transportation or security costs.
Critics believe they are cloaked campaign events paid for by the public. They allow the governor to cherry-pick issues and create events likely to make the evening news. Crist spent about $7,200 flying to Ocala, St. Augustine, and Naples to sign a small business bill last May, about a week after announcing his Senate run.
"He's doing these ceremonial bill signings in multiple venues not only to garner free media but also to be able to do it on the taxpayer's dime," said Daniel Smith, a University of Florida political science professor. "It becomes a question of where does this become excessive?"
In his defense, Crist said "I'm using the authority of the governor's office to let people know the good legislation that's
been passed on their behalf, and what better way to do it than to go right to the people?"
An analysis showed he hasn't held more signings since announcing his Senate bid last year, though some of the events have supposedly felt more like political rallies since then.