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Manatee commissioners get post-legislative report

BRADENTON — With a massive oil slick possibly edging closer to the Florida shores, the Florida Legislature ended its session without taking a vote on a pro-drilling in the Gulf of Mexico bill.

That was one of the highlights the Manatee County Commission heard Tuesday in a post-legislative session report.

Nick Azzara, the county information outreach coordinator and legislative liaison, and Cari Roth, the county’s Tallahassee lobbyist, told the commissioners the disastrous oil spill scuttled any chances of a bill allowing oil exploration in the gulf to win support.

“The explosion happened while they were in session,” Roth said. “But that doesn’t mean it won’t come back next year.”

Stopping the bill was a top priority for the commission, which sent letters to the county’s legislative delegation more than once during the regular session.

But Roth said the issue will follow many of the legislators home who are up for reelection.

Another issue the commission wanted to see fail was a bill that would have limited any revenue increase for local governments to 3.5 percent a year.

That bill never gathered any momentum in the Legislature, Azzara said.

One piece of legislation that did get through both houses was a bill that would permit local governments to regulate golf carts traveling on sidewalks.

Residents of several mobile home parks in Ellenton have taken their cause to Tallahassee to get this bill passed. It is uncertain if Gov. Charlie Crist will sign it.

“This is a good example of lobbying not deserving the bad reputation (it usually has),” Azzara said.

He said the legislators heard from several homeowner associations about the issue.

After the meeting, Commissioner Larry Bustle said it was a good report for the county, considering the atmosphere in Tallahassee this year.

“This particular session was a mess,” Bustle said. “The partisanship between the parties hindered any good legislation from passing.”

But at the same time the bickering may have been a blessing for other issues, especially the revenue limiting bill, he said.

“The things pertinent to local governments should be left to local governments,” Bustle said. “I’m happy that did not pass.”

Roth told the commissioners several items not on the their priority list with a county connection also won approval.

Rep. Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton, was very instrumental in getting the red-light running legislation passed, she said.

“He capped his House career with a very, very hard battle to get it passed,” Roth said.