MANATEE -- The Manatee County Commission approved legislative priorities Tuesday, including four specific funding requests and six positions, including reworking laws concerning dangerous dogs that resulted in the Padi controversy and increased attention toward substance abuse and mental health issues.
The commission approved the priorities 6-0, with Commissioner Carol Whitmore absent during the vote. Nick Azzara, spokesman for the county, said the list of priorities was significantly shorter this year with only 10 items compared with the usual 30 or 40.
"We've found in meetings with legislators that we have very limited time and can only talk about two or three things," Azzara said. "These are the best of the best for you to consider this morning."
The item with the most action so far was a priority to change a law concerning dangerous dog bites. Padi, a 4-year-old dog in Manatee County, is facing euthanasia under a state law mandating dogs that kill or cause severe injury to people, including injuries requiring surgery or sutures, must be put down.
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Padi bit part of a child's ear off in a controversial June incident. The county has referred the case to a court that can rule on the constitutionality of the state law.
Legislation to allow a hearing to consider motivations of the dog, such as acting in self-defense, has already been picked up by state Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, after prompting by the county commission. Azzara announced Tuesday the legislation now also had a Senate sponsor.
The county is also requesting funding for four projects from the Legislature:
About $3.7 million for Longboat Pass jetty reconstruction, the Passage Key Inlet Management Plan and Longboat Pass Inlet Management.
$2 million for the Suncoast Regional Communication System, a project with Sarasota County for a public safety radio network to allow "seamless communication" between the two counties and 67 agencies.
Money from the state Transportation Trust Fund to be used for reconstruction of 15th Street East and U.S. 301 Boulevard from Tallevast Road to U.S. 41.
$276,000 for the Lake Manatee water supply and water quality project.
Kate Irby, Herald online/political reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7055. You can follow her on Twitter@KateIrby