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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Back from Bollywood, Buckhorn lobbies Scott, lawmakers



Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn didn’t have much time to rest after returning from India on Wednesday night.


Just a few hours later, early Thursday morning, he hopped aboard a plane to fly to Tallahassee, where he spent most of the day lobbying Gov. Rick Scott and Republican lawmakers.

“I was flying longer than I was in India,” Buckhorn said of his overseas trip, when he was in Mumbai promoting the International Indian Film Academy’s awards (the “Bollywood Oscars”) on April 23-26 in Tampa. Buckhorn spoke at one press conference surrounded by more than 25 cameras and numerous Indian movie stars and starlets.

“They’ve already sold close to 20,000 tickets,” he said.

Buckhorn’s change of scenery was staggering. Rather mingling with Indian celebrities, Buckhorn on Thursday was meeting with Scott, Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, who is slated to be speaker in 2015-2016 and Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater.

Buckhorn joined mayors Jack Seiler of Fort Lauderdale, Carlos Hernandez of Hialeah and Buddy Dyer of Orlando, who are part of the Florida Urban Partnership, which is made up of the mayor’s of the state’s seven largest cities.

But what exactly are they pushing for? The group’s legislative agenda is about as vague as they come: tax reform, local revenue sources, unfunded state mandates, water, film and TV incentives, homelessness.

Buckhorn said Tampa’s top priority will be getting lawmakers to approve allowing cities to vote for a sales tax referendum that could pay for transit or other services. Currently, sales tax referendums can only be approved countywide. In 2010, a sales tax that would have funded light rail passed by a broad margin in Tampa, but failed by an equally broad margin in the suburbs and rural areas of Hillsborough County.

Buckhorn sort of pushed for it last year, and it died. He said he’ll push it again this year, but there’s still no bill yet for it. With a staunchly conservative Legislature, it’s highly unlikey he’s finding any support from it, even from Tampa Bay’s own delegation.

“We’ll continue to push it in this session,” Buckhorn said. “We recognize it’s an uphill struggle.”

[Last modified: Thursday, February 20, 2014 2:37pm]


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