The Bradenton/Lakewood Ranch Herald Editorial Board has forged a partnership with State College of Florida to present public forums on major issues that merit a thorough review. Titled Community Conversations, these free and open forums at SCF's Bradenton campus will begin on Jan. 23 with a discussion about the Legislature's 2014 regular session.
Three Manatee County legislators -- Reps. Jim Boyd and Greg Steube and Sen. Bill Galvano -- plan to attend and discuss their legislative priorities. Herald Editorial Page Editor Chris Wille and SCF President Carol Probstfeld will guide the conversation.
We invite the public to not only attend but to send us your questions and concerns about issues facing the state House and Senate as Florida enjoys the second consecutive year of a revenue surplus after years of deep budget cuts and fee increases. We'll address as many of your questions as possible during the forum.
As the title of these forums suggests, the format will be conversational -- a way to engage and inform the public on important matters.
Manatee County is blessed with veteran legislators. Both Boyd, an insurance and real estate executive, and Steube, an attorney, are now entering their second terms, having been first elected to the House in 2010.
Galvano, an attorney, enjoyed a highly respected and successful eight years in the House, from 2002-2010, rising to powerful positions. He now enters his first Senate session.
Legislative committees began meeting in September, so issues big and small are already in play. Our January Community Conversation comes in time for a two-way discussion whereby legislators outline their plans and the public can provide input into their priorities.
This is one of the most promising sessions in years with a windfall in revenue -- a budget surplus currently estimated at $1.2 billion. That money will become available when the next fiscal year starts on July 1, 2014.
During the economic downturn, the state slashed spending by $9 billion -- gouging education, social services, transportation and other key services. Should the Legislature restore some of those cuts? And reduce taxes and fees at the same time?
What are your thoughts? We invite public input via questions we can pose to the lawmakers. Please email those questions in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org or send regular mail to Mr. Wille at 1111 Third Ave. W., Bradenton, FL 34205.
This forum will take place at 7 p.m. Jan. 23 in SCF's Howard Studio Theater, located in Building 11 West on the college's Bradenton campus, just west of the Neel Performing Arts Center. Details can be found at www.scf.edu/maps. The forum will be broadcast by Manatee Educational Television on later dates.
Boyd, Steube and Galvano sit on key committees and will play important roles in Florida's future.
Boyd and Galvano are members of their respective chamber's Gaming panels, and with the Legislature again poised to discuss an expansion of gambling -- with large destination casinos a hot topic -- their voices will be important.
Galvano chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and also holds a seat on the Education Committee. His membership on the Rules, Appropriations, Agriculture and Health Policy committees as well as others will be influential, too.
Boyd chairs the Government Operations Subcommittee and sits on the State Affairs Committee and Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee, the latter of particular interest to farm- and ranch-rich Manatee County.
Steube is the vice chair of the Health Innovation Subcommittee and Business and Professional Regulation Subcommittee, and he's a member of the Appropriations Committee, one of the most powerful panels in the House.
All three have filed bills, on topics ranging from developments of regional impact and growth management to workers' compensation and a tax on sales, use and other transactions on commercial property.
We mention these assignments and legislative proposals so residents can consider steering their questions in those directions as well as other topics of interest.