Manatee County, its delegation score well in Legislature's session

May 8, 2013 

The Legislature's newly minted $74.5 billion state budget holds a variety of substantial appropriations for Manatee County thanks to a delegation that found success on several other meaningful fronts as well.

Manatee legislators

Rep. Jim Boyd enjoyed a prominent session as one of the pivotal players in major reform measures on elections, ethics and campaign finances, all top priorities of legislative leaders. As chairman of the House Ethics and Elections Subcommittee, Boyd sat in the hot seat while steering the ethics and campaign reforms through the legislative minefield.

Boyd and Sen. Bill Galvano teamed up to sponsor the Manufacturing Competitiveness Act, which authorizes local governments to establish a local manufacturing development program that provides for master plan approval for certain sites. This will expedite development and growth, especially for large companies like Tropicana.

Galvano, an adept lawmaker who served with distinction in the House before joining the Senate, also played key roles in some weighty legislation.

The most significant was the important ethics reform measure that Sen. President Don Gaetz entrusted the Bradenton attorney to write ahead of the session. Gov. Rick Scott has already signed the bill into law, and the tighter restrictions on lawmakers should improve Florida's poor reputation on ethics.

Galvano also shepherded the education budget with the teacher pay increase and an extra $1 billion for schools. He co-sponsored a bill that gives parents final approval of individualized instruction plans composed by educators for special needs students.

Rep. Greg Steube's high-profile bill allowing principals or district superintendents to designate specific school personnel to carry concealed weapons in schools failed but not before sparking debate on campus safety.

His measure promoting public-private partnerships expands the options for governments by allowing for greater private sector participation in the delivery and financing of public buildings and infrastructure projects, with each party sharing in the risks and rewards potential. It also authorizes certain public entities to contract with not-for-profit organizations on public services and construction projects. It awaits the governor's signature.

While Boyd, Galvano and Steube are all Republicans, two Democrats represent slivers of Manatee County. Both won prominent posts in their party's caucuses. Rep. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg will be the leader of House Democrats in 2014-2016, and Sen. Arthenia Joyner of Tampa will preside over Senate Democrats during that same time span.

Key economic impacts

Since the governor enjoys a line-item veto power over the state budget, allocations are not guaranteed until Scott signs the document. But Manatee County is in line to win a number of generous grants.

Anna Maria Island beaches took a pounding from Tropical Storm Debby last year, losing significant amounts of sand to erosion. But with the state budget's $3.175 million in matching funds, the county's tourism industry leader can restore the lost beaches. The money will match federal funds, which also require local contributions.

Galvano made this one of his priorities, and he expressed confidence the governor would not veto beach renourishment so critical to tourism and Florida's economy.

Another giant player in Manatee County's economy, IMG Academy, stands to get $2.3 million. The rapidly expanding sports performance powerhouse attracts athletes from around the world and plans to schedule additional events and open its gates to the public. The state money, IMG's first grant from Florida, will boost those expansion efforts.

One of the region's most promising economic asset, the world-class rowing center under construction in Sarasota across the Manatee County line, received a $5 million allocation. Though the butt of snide comments from elsewhere in the state, Nathan Benderson Park holds great potential for the region, and Manatee County has partnered with Sarasota on the project.

The Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine won a $1.7 million appropriation to support Florida residents enrolled in the school. This will help the region's health care industry as graduates hopefully remain here to practice.

For these allocations and their leadership on high-impact legislation, kudos to Manatee County's delegation.

Coming Thursday: A broader look at the Legislature's 2013 regular session.

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