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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rep. McKeel of Lakeland will be House budget chair



House Speaker-designate Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, announced his first major committee assignment Tuesday, naming Rep. Seth McKeel of Lakeland as chairman of the budget-writing Appropriations Committee for the next two years.

McKeel, 37, a real estate executive, is expected to share the budget-writing duties with Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, but incoming Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, has not announced any appointments as yet.

"Seth's expertise and background as a small business owner, a former Lakeland city commissioner and the previous chairman of the House State Affairs Committee will prove to be invaluable as we manage our state's future budget priorities," Weatherford said in a statement. "Seth will be a great leader by example for the next two years."

McKeel's selection is potentially good news for his home county of Polk. The job of divvying up billions of dollars in taxpayer dollars is highly parochial, as the citizens of Polk discovered when they got Florida's 12th state university -- largely due to the work of one man, outgoing Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, who chaired the Senate Budget Committee for the past four years. 

So in the event that Florida Polytechnic University has to ask for more money in the next two budget cycles, it just so happens that a hometown legislator -- McKeel -- will be holding the purse strings in Tallahassee.

"I am honored and appreciate the confidence Speaker-designate Weatherford has placed in me," McKeel said in a statement. "Florida continues to face budget challenges, but I am optimistic we can find solutions to balance th ebudget without burdening Floridians. I look forward to getting started as we prepare for the next budget year."

Republicans currently hold an 81-38 majority in the House, with one seat vacant. Weatherford will be installed as speaker during a one-day legislative reorganization session on Tuesday, Nov. 20.

[Last modified: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 11:48am]


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