- The Washington Times - Friday, January 30, 2009

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida House Speaker Ray Sansom, who has been attacked for taking a job a state college after getting it extra millions in funding, is stepping down from his post, two key Republican lawmakers said Friday.

Republican Rep. Larry Cretul of Ocala will replace the Destin Republican in the “short term,” said Rep. William Snyder, R-Stuart, who added that legislators will now be able to focus on the budget and state’s economy.

“The attention now will leave Speaker Sansom’s legal difficulties,” Snyder said.

Rep. J.C. Planas of Miami was among Republican lawmakers who asked Sansom to quit the speakership. Planas said the House must now open the process to find Sansom’s permanent successor.

Sansom spokeswoman Jill Chamberlin told reporters outside the speaker’s office she expects a statement later Friday.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Sansom was looking to take a temporary leave from the job to handle his legal troubles or step down permanently.

Sansom, 46, is facing investigations by a grand jury and the state ethics commission after taking a $110,000-a-year job at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville the same day he became speaker. Critics say he was given the job as payback for channeling more than $25 million to the school. Sansom resigned the college job earlier this month.

Sansom has also been accused of putting $6 million in the 2007 state budget for an aircraft hangar to benefit a political supporter.

Gov. Charlie Crist would have no comment before an announcement from Sansom, spokeswoman Erin Isaac said.

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