Oil spill claims administrator Kenneth Feinberg was on the agenda to appear today before the Senate Agriculture Committee. Committee chairman Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, had pledged before the start of this legislative session to bring Feinberg, and possibly BP representatives, to answer questions about the claims process.

Instead, what the committee got was a letter from Feinberg explaining that he couldn’t make it, and that he would like to return some time in May to take questions from Florida lawmakers. Problem is, the legislature’s session ends May 6. Siplin suggested the committee could use subpoena power or other means of persuasion to get Feinberg to testify before then.

“Frankly, I found it insulting,” said Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, who said Feinberg’s inability to show up suggested he didn’t care about the welfare of Floridians affected by the spill. “What good is it going to do to subpoena somebody who doesn’t care?” he said.

Feinberg appeared before a House panel in February. He also met with Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi during his visit; he pledged to make improvements to the process.

So far, the Gulf Coast Claims Facility has paid Floridians more than $1.5 billion, but most of it — nearly $1 billion — was paid during the emergency claims process, which wound down late last year, according to its latest data. Another $400 million has gone to 31,525 people and 10,620 businesses who have opted for the fund’s “quick payment” option.

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