Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Partisan sniping occurs as Rick Kriseman's Pinellas-focused bill stalls

TALLAHASSEE — Pinellas County likes the idea of merging two planning agencies. So do its cities and its lawmakers.

But love for HB 1041, sponsored by Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, stops at the county line.

The legislation failed to make the agenda of its first committee stop, which has no more meetings scheduled this legislative session.

And now the nonpartisan Pinellas legislation is one of 115 local bills headed for a slow death.

The county's highest-ranking Republican blames Kriseman, the Democratic sponsor who has been one of his party's strongest voices in a year when Republicans have a veto-proof majority. Just Wednesday, he suggested Gov. Rick Scott resign if he does not take more aggressive action to recover money from oil giant BP.

"I think the person may have had something to do with it," said Rep. Jim Frishe, R-St. Petersburg, who serves as the party's whip. "Being vitriolic on behalf of trial lawyers and unions does not equate to being an effective legislator."

Kriseman pointed out that many local bills sponsored by Republicans, including two from Rep. Peter Nehr of Tarpon Springs, are just as dead as his.

"I would urge Jim to use his voice to fight for his constituents and not to start fights with colleagues," he said. "He has an important job to do this session and should focus on whipping up Republican votes, not drama and controversy."

Kriseman's bill lacks drama: It would consolidate the Pinellas Planning Council and the Metropolitan Planning Organization into one agency to handle both land-use and transportation.

The Legislature must approve the consolidation because the Pinellas Planning Council is established in state law, said Pinellas County Commissioner Karen Seel.

Seel, a Republican, said the move would save money and streamline government, two things hard to argue against.

"I can't remember when all 24 cities backed an effort like this," she said.

Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, chairs the House community and military affairs subcommittee that won't hear the bill. He said new census figures may shift the makeup of the Pinellas Planning Council and the Metropolitan Planning Organization, making a merger premature.

"As a chairman, it would be close to irresponsible for me to pass this bill knowing the census is going to reallocate the population," said Workman. "Good bill, wrong year."

Seel said county officials don't think the census figures will make much difference.

Does Workman have it out for Kriseman? "I never look at the bill's sponsors," he said. "I look at the bill."

Other Republicans, including committee Vice Chairman Ed Hooper of Clearwater, have been pushing to get the bill heard.

"I'm as frustrated as everybody else," said Hooper, who added that Workman did not tell him what the hangup is.

Seel doesn't understand.

"Downsizing government should not be a partisan issue," she said. "It'd be nice if there was a last-minute miracle, but I'm not holding my breath."

Jodie Tillman can be reached at or (850) 933-1321.

Partisan sniping occurs as Rick Kriseman's Pinellas-focused bill stalls 04/14/11 [Last modified: Thursday, April 14, 2011 9:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'Empire' star Grace Byers keynotes USF Women in Leadership & Philanthropy luncheon

    Human Interest


    TAMPA — The first University of South Florida graduate to address the USF's Women in Leadership & Philanthropy supporters, Grace Gealey Byers, class of 2006, centered her speech on her first name, turning it into a verb to share life lessons.

    Grace Byers, University of South Florida Class of 2006, stars on the Fox television show Empire. She delivered the keynote at the USF Women in Leadership and Philanthropy luncheon Friday. Photo by Amy Scherzer
  2. Southeast Seminole Heights holds candlelight vigil for victims' families and each other


    TAMPA — They came together in solidarity in Southeast Seminole Heights, to sustain three families in their grief and to confront fear, at a candlelight vigil held Sunday night in the central Tampa neighborhood.

    A peaceful march that began on east New Orleans Avenue was held during the candlelight vigil for the three victims who were killed in the recent shootings in the Seminole Heights neighborhood in Tampa on Sunday, October 22, 2017.
  3. It's not just Puerto Rico: FEMA bogs down in Florida, Texas too

    HOUSTON — Outside Rachel Roberts' house, a skeleton sits on a chair next to the driveway, a skeleton child on its lap, an empty cup in its hand and a sign at its feet that reads "Waiting on FEMA."

    Ernestino Leon sits among the debris removed from his family’s flood-damaged Bonita Springs home on Oct. 11. He has waited five weeks for FEMA to provide $10,000 to repair the home.
  4. McConnell says he's awaiting Trump guidance on health care

    STERLING, Va. — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday he's willing to bring bipartisan health care legislation to the floor if President Donald Trump makes clear he supports it.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he’s “not certain yet” on what Trump wants.
  5. Tampa's Lance McCullers shows killer instinct in pitching Astros to World Series


    HOUSTON — It felt like the beginning on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park, the arrival of a new force on the World Series stage. The Astros are back, for the first time in a dozen years, and they want to stay a while.

    Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers (43) throwing in the fifth inning of the game between the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, July 12, 2015.