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Rally planned at Bennett’s office

MANATEE -- Both houses of the Florida Legislature convene the 2011 session Tuesday in Tallahassee.

But while they are convening, demonstrators back home plan to protest what they call “draconian budget cuts being proposed by Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders.”

In Bradenton, the demonstrators have selected the offices of Michael Bennett, Senate president pro tempore, at 3653 Cortez Road for their rally.

Jack Cole, local project manager for Awake the State, said the coordinated rallies in more than 21 Florida cities, gives opponents of budget cutting a way to get together and present a unified message.

“The Republican National Committee is trying to pick a battle with the unions and it’s not a good thing,” said Cole, who does voter outreach with the Manatee Democratic Executive Committee.

Contacted in Tallahassee Sunday night, Bennett said he supports the peoples’ right to talk to their elected officials, or to protest as they see fit. “It’s a wonderful thing and it really doesn’t bother me. I hope they get a good turn out.”

Greg Steube, Jim Boyd and Ray Pilon, all state representatives and members of the Manatee Legislative Delegation, told the Herald last week that they will be focused on the state’s budget deficit, which could hit $4 billion, and doing what they can to help create jobs and stoke the state economy.

Dean Cannon, speaker of the House, released a memorandum stating that the first week of the session will “focus primarily on subcommittee and committee meetings with some limited time on the floor.”

“It is my intention to conduct an orderly and respectful process on the floor. I strongly encourage members to come to the floor prepared,” Cannon wrote.

The Senate website offers insight into the session: “The Florida Senate will approve legislation that will cap state government growth, allow you to make your health care decisions, reward quality teachers, and reduce frivolous lawsuits involving automobile crashes.”

IF YOU GOWhat: Awake the State rally Where: Sen. Michael Bennett’s Office, 3653 Cortez Road, Suite 190, BradentonWhen: 3-6 p.m. Tuesday

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.