Monday, November 20, 2017
News Roundup

Pinellas leaders unveil legislative wish list for 2014

RECOMMENDED READING


More money to house the homeless, a solution to ballooning flood insurance costs, and changes to the Penny for Pinellas tax — all made Pinellas County's legislative wish list for 2014.

More than 20 items long, the list is largely a repeat from years past with recycled requests for more money and more flexibility that often go unanswered. But at a meeting Tuesday of county commissioners and local state legislators, the latter offered details on bills they plan to propose this spring to address some of the county's most pressing needs.

High on the list: A state-level fix for flood insurance costs, which increased dramatically across the country in October when the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act took effect. Bounded by water on three sides, Pinellas has 51,000 homeowners with federal flood insurance policies, many of whom have seen their premiums increase beyond what they can afford.

Two private flood insurance companies already have announced plans to offer policies in Florida. And state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, said he will propose legislation that would open the state to more. State Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, said he will sponsor a similar bill in the House.

"There are people that want to come into here, there is capital that wants to flow in," Brandes said Tuesday. "This bill will try to streamline the process."

His proposal met with skepticism from some of his Democratic colleagues, including state Reps. Carl Zimmerman of Dunedin and Dwight Dudley of St. Petersburg.

Private insurers "might come in and do 20,000 policies, that's good, that helps those 20,000, but that's not a complete fix," Dudley said. "We've got to come up with other solutions."

The group also discussed a proposal by state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, to modify the county's penny tax for infrastructure projects — known as the Penny for Pinellas — so that the money collected can be used for maintenance as well as construction.

"Why build things just to keep spending money when you can't afford to maintain what you've already built?" Latvala said. Similar proposals in years past have failed.

Latvala also plans to introduce a bill next year that would replace what he has referred to as a "hodgepodge" system of funding nonprofits and homeless shelters.

Latvala has previously said lawmakers need to create an organized approach to combatting homelessness, and not leave it entirely up to individual counties and cities to decide whether to spend taxpayer money to help the homeless, he said.

It's unclear where the funding would come from, but earlier he mentioned tapping into revenue from the documentary stamp tax, which gives the state a small cut of every real estate transaction and promissory note in Florida.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri urged a bit of caution Tuesday. According to the Homeless Leadership Board, Pinellas groups receive upwards of $40 million a year to aid the homeless, he said, with little oversight.

"I see a lot of duplication, a lot of redundancy," he said

The meeting ended with tensions within the local Republican delegation on public display.

Before a room full of elected officials and aides, Latvala cross-examined Commissioner Norm Roche over a proposal he introduced to repeal the property tax that funds the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority. Doing so would pave the way for county leaders to replace the property tax with a sales tax, if voters approve the swap in 2014.

It was an unusual suggestion coming from a commissioner who has been vocal in his opposition to PSTA's plans for a mass transit expansion and Latvala jumped on it.

Two years ago, the senator supported a similar bill that passed both the House and the Senate, but was ultimately vetoed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

"A lot of your friends were the ones that got the governor to veto it, so it's kind of a puzzling turnabout," Latvala said, referring to Roche's support within the tea party. "Where were you then?"

Roche responded that he had not supported the bill then, but couldn't understand why it wasn't on the agenda now. The bill is effectively dead, Latvala countered, because it needs the full support of all state senators from Pinellas and Brandes opposes it.

After a few minutes of strained debate, Roche walked out of the meeting. "It was clear that some people had a plan of attack," he said afterward.

Comments
Della Reese, of TV’s ‘Touched by an Angel,’ has died at 86

Della Reese, of TV’s ‘Touched by an Angel,’ has died at 86

LOS ANGELES — Della Reese, the actress and gospel-influenced singer who in middle age found her greatest fame as Tess, the wise angel in the long-running television drama "Touched by an Angel," has died at age 86. Reese’s co-star on the series, Roma ...
Updated: 12 minutes ago
Cannon Fodder podcast: One last look at Bucs-Dolphins

Cannon Fodder podcast: One last look at Bucs-Dolphins

Times Bucs writer Greg Auman looks back on Tampa Bay’s wild 30-20 win over the Dolphins, their second straight win and first on the road this season, the good and bad of that, plus a major off-field story now surrounding QB Jameis Winston. Listen bel...
Updated: 1 hour ago

FHP: St. Petersburg man, 24, died while trying to cross state road in St. Cloud

ST. CLOUD — A St. Petersburg man died Sunday night after he was struck by a vehicle while attempting to cross a highway, authorities said. Matthew Mitchell, 24, walked into the path of a 2008 Ford sport utility vehicle as he was trying to cross U.S. ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Largo police active shooter training ‘a sign of the times’ for participants

Largo police active shooter training ‘a sign of the times’ for participants

LARGO — The classroom was full, but the chatter was quiet as the students picked at doughnuts and sipped coffee from paper cups.Many were strangers to each other, but the reason they showed up at the Largo Police Department on a sunny Saturday mornin...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Chase by Lakeland police ends in crash on I-4; suspect still sought

Lakeland police were pursuing suspects wanted on felony charges when the suspects sped onto Interstate 4 headed west toward Tampa, the Florida Highway Patrol said.The suspects’ vehicle crashed near the 50th Street overpass, about 30 miles west, and t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Forecast: Florida retailers expect high holiday shopping sales

Forecast: Florida retailers expect high holiday shopping sales

Tis the season for holiday shopping, and this year is expected to be particularly kind to retailers. The Florida Retail Federation’s holiday shopping forecast predicts that a combination of high consumer confidence, strong tourism numbers and a littl...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Buccaneers-Dolphins Turning Point, Week 11: Cool, calm Fitzmagic

Buccaneers-Dolphins Turning Point, Week 11: Cool, calm Fitzmagic

On Sunday, the Buccaneers and Dolphins played one of those football games that gets only an obligatory mention at the end of highlight shows. In that spirit, this week’s Turning Point will focus mostly on the final three minutes of Tampa Bay’s 30-20 ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
‘He’s going to come back and finish me off,’ Adam Matos victim told her boss

‘He’s going to come back and finish me off,’ Adam Matos victim told her boss

NEW PORT RICHEY — At a hearing to decide whether he should live or die, Adam Matos smiled at family members Monday.He saw them sitting in a Pasco County courtroom as his sentencing for four murders began. A bit later, a witness reminded jurors of the...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Deputies: Port Richey woman arrested for hitting boy, 4, with hanger

PORT RICHEY — A Port Richey woman was arrested on a charge of felony child abuse after a 4-year-old boy in her care told deputies she hit him with a clothes hanger, leaving bruises, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said.Teresa White-Fry, 38, was arr...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Top 5 at noon: Adam Matos sentencing begins; Seminole Heights thanks first responders; and more

Top 5 at noon: Adam Matos sentencing begins; Seminole Heights thanks first responders; and more

Here are the latest headlines and updates on tampabay.com:SENTENCING PHASE CONTINUES IN TRIAL OF ADAM MATOS, FOUND GUILTY IN MURDER OF FOURThe sentencing phase begins Monday in the trial of Adam Matos, convicted Friday of first degree murder in the ...
Updated: 2 hours ago