Tuesday, September 25, 2018
News Roundup

Bowen: A legislative wish list for which to be thankful

This column took some time to compose.

The initial scribbling came late on the night of Sept. 10 inside Pasco’s Emergency Operations Center as Hurricane Irma tracked across the county. Away from family. Stuck in a too-small work space with a bunch of other exhausted journalists riding out the storm. The mind focused on the state Legislature.

Yes, I have no life.

At the time, Pasco’s legislative delegation meeting had been scheduled for Sept. 17. Irma, it turned out, postponed that and legislators now are slated to gather Monday, Nov. 27.

The date is cyber Monday, the day on-line sales supposedly peak in advance of the coming holidays. So, Pasco’s legislators will be meeting on a presumed day of unabashed spending.

More on that in a moment.

This delegation meeting could be like no other before it. There will be a bunch of people on a high school theater stage trying to get your vote. Only, it won’t be for student council or class president.

Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, is running for governor. At least for now.

Speaker of the House of Representatives Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, is considering a run for governor and is raising millions of dollars for either his candidacy or to finance other campaigns near and dear to his heart.

Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, told a reporter for florida
politics.com in August that he planned to run for chief financial officer, and that he expected to announce his candidacy in the fall.

Rep. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, acknowledged to me that he will be very interested in running for District 20 senate seat if Lee jumps to a statewide campaign.

Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, already won his big race. He is slated to become senate president in 2020.

Give freshman Rep. Amber Mariano, R-Hudson, a little time and we probably will learn her future political ambitions, too.

Is this a delegation meeting or candidates’ night?

Since the meeting was announced, however, the entertainment value of Lat-vala and Corcoran sharing the stage has diminished greatly. Latvala surrendered his chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee after six unnamed women accused him of sexual harassment in story by PoliticoFlorida.

Almost immediately, Corcoran called for Latvala to resign from office. This is the same Corcoran who last year threw all of his political muscle behind a Pasco property appraiser candidate who had admitted tawdry behavior toward a female subordinate.

In the case of Latvala, it would seen the speaker used indignation to disguise political expediency.

The delegation meeting — this year it is at the performing arts center at Wesley Chapel School — is a time-honored tradition of people coming with long lists of wants. A year ago, some naively thought the lists would be filled in their entirety considering Latvala headed Senate appropriations and Corcoran oversaw the entire House of Representatives.

Sure, there were initial victories. Burgess even put out a press release touting the "record’’ amount of Pasco-specific appropriation dollars in the Legislature-approved budget. Basically that allowed Gov. Rick Scott to veto a "record’’ amount of Pasco appropriations from the final state budget.

This time around, there are initial hopes things would be different. It is a logical assumption considering the governor is eyeing a run for the U.S. Senate and might not want to disappoint the locals during an election year. Indeed, the governor rolled out a proposed $87.4 billion budget last week that seemed to include something for everyone.

Of course, this came as the Legislature’s top economist predicted a difficult budget year because of Irma-related spending, past legislative decisions to balance the budget with money from specific trust funds, and revenue projections that fail to cover essential state expenses in 2020 and 2021.

Next week, everyone can line up to ask legislators for millions of dollars for a new Interstate 75 interchange, flooding fixes for west Pasco and other public works projects. It will be cyber Monday, after all. Will promises of unabashed spending abound?

Maybe other priorities are in order.

This Thanksgiving week I am pulled back to the September memories of Irma’s aftermath. Just 10 weeks ago, many of us would have been grateful for chilled water, a five-pound bag of ice and a power grid that wouldn’t leave a hot and miserable community sitting in the dark.

That’s not too much to ask for, is it?

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