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Hernando legislative delegation hears pleas for money, support

BROOKSVILLE — School superintendent Bryan Blavatt would just like to see an education funding formula that is fairer to districts the size of Hernando.

David Welch, who heads up a new local mental health alliance, wants financial support from the state so the group can begin to provide mental health programs in Hernando.

For Pasco-Hernando Community College president Katherine Johnson, the final $6.9 million installment for the new Porter campus at Wiregrass Ranch is at the top of her wish list.

For two hours Monday at the Hernando County Government Center, members of Hernando County's legislative delegation listened to local officials and residents talk about state issues, ranging from sinkhole legislation to transportation funding, as the lawmakers prepare for their 2013 session in Tallahassee.

State Reps. Robert Schenck and Jimmie T. Smith and state Sen. Wilton Simpson, all Republicans, make up the delegation.

Matt Foreman, chairman of the Hernando County School Board, and Michael McHugh, the county's business development director, each urged the legislators to do whatever they could to help Hernando launch its adult technical education program.

McHugh also urged support for two state grants the county is seeking — one to help Accuform Signs build new headquarters and expand manufacturing facilities at the county's airport, and the other for the county's effort to lease and run the Chinsegut Hill property north of Brooksville.

Schenck said he wanted to see the county's report on the condition of the historic manor house at Chinsegut because he doesn't want state dollars going into a money pit.

Red-light cameras put up by the city of Brooksville are causing issues, County Commission Chairman Dave Russell told the delegation. In fact, the presence of the cameras, permitted under a new state law, has become an issue as organizers of the annual Family Motor Coach Association rally at the county airport consider whether to move their gathering next year.

Repealing the state sales tax on commercial leases would help the 120 businesses that lease space at the county airport, Realtor Gary Schraut told the delegation. He said if the county could add more businesses with that impediment removed, more revenue could be raised without having to increase property taxes.

Schenck noted that many legislators support the idea, but the Legislature has never acted.

At one point during the meeting, resident Robert Simons turned the tables on the delegation, asking whether any of them are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a lobbying group that writes bills for conservative legislators. He also asked whether they supported the state's "stand your ground" law and privatizing prisons.

Each lawmaker said he was not a member of ALEC, but each said he supported both the stand your ground law and privately operated prisons.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1434.

Hernando legislative delegation hears pleas for money, support 01/28/13 [Last modified: Monday, January 28, 2013 9:29pm]
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