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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

It could be a long legislative session for Shawn Harrison

Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa

[Special to the Times]

Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa

17

February

Here's the latest from William March: 

State Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa, is "caught between a rock and a hard place," as Mayor Bob Buckhorn put it, in the internecine GOP feud over business incentives and tourism marketing.

That probably makes prospects dim for Harrison to push through appropriations he wanted for University of South Florida, and projects for New Tampa and the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority.

The rock: Gov. Rick Scott, who wants to continue funding the Enterprise Florida Inc. and Visit Florida and has the option of vetoing appropriations requested by legislators who don't go along.

The hard place: House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who adamantly opposes Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida and can squash any House member's legislative initiatives.

In the coming legislative session, Harrison had hoped to seek $500,000 to expand the TBARTA van pool program; $6.5 million for a New Tampa Cultural and Emergency Center; and $9 million for a science teaching and research facility at USF.

But legislators are saying privately that Scott has threatened to veto their appropriation requests if they don't vote his way on Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. Last week, he held a series of rallies including one in Tampa to single out legislators including Harrison who voted in committee for a bill killing the agencies. Scott said he was "shocked" by Harrison's vote.

In an interview this week, Harrison said he's taking his stance against Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida purely on the merits and hasn't felt political pressure from either direction. He said he hopes negotiations will lead to a compromise, which would ease the squeeze.

Between now and May, the end of the session, "I feel confident EFI will come back and prove its worth, and if they do, maybe this issue will resolve itself," Harrison said.

Buckhorn, a friend and occasional ally of Harrison even though they're in different parties, sides with Scott and appeared at Scott's rally, but sympathizes with Harrison's predicament.

"All of us that do this recognize there are consequences for every vote," Buckhorn said.

Harrison may think he has more to fear from Corcoran than Scott.

In a tight budget year, his requests could be long shots anyway, and while Scott's days as governor are waning, Corcoran will be followed as House speaker by Jose Oliva, R-Hialeah, who's solidly in Corcoran's camp.

[Last modified: Friday, February 17, 2017 6:04pm]

    

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