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Issues and people in Legislature to watch

Issues to Watch:

Budget
After a series of spending cuts totaling nearly $7 billion over the past two years, legislators may have to cut more as tax collections continue to slide. From where? Schools and health care account for most spending from general tax dollars.

Taxes
New taxes and fees on smokers, motorists, bottled-water drinkers and others could be on tap as legislators grope for money to cover a massive deficit that federal help can't completely hide. New property tax-cut proposals are on the table, too.

Insurance
It's a perennial issue for lawmakers who must confront it on two fronts. The hurricane catastrophe fund isn't big enough to meet its obligations, and State Farm Florida's retreat from property policies is set to scramble an already fragile market.

Gambling
Gov. Crist cut a deal with the Seminole Tribe to allow more gaming in exchange for a share of the money — without getting approval from lawmakers. They sued and won; now Crist is seeking their support for a new deal. But the lobbyist-heavy parimutuel industry will want something from the state, too.

Rail
An army of state and local officials, business leaders and lobbyists is pushing for legislative approval of a $1.2 billion Central Florida commuter rail project called Sunrail. Trial lawyers and labor unions halted it last year, but the venture has gained new momentum: Crist is leading the charge.


People to Watch:

Sen. JD Alexander R-Winter Haven
The strong-willed, plain-spoken citrus grower is the Senate's chief budget writer. He'll be squarely at the controls of virtually every major decision of the session.

Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla R-Miami
The Senate majority leader is a campaign consultant with a shrewd political mind whose duties include nailing down enough votes to move the Republican agenda.

Sen. Don Gaetz R-Niceville
A retired business executive and former Panhandle school superintendent, he figures to play a leading role as chairman of a Senate committee on Florida's economy.

Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff R-Fort Lauderdale
In a year in which lawmakers will look to raise revenues, the South Florida lawyer chairs the House Finance and Tax Council, the destination for all tax bills.

Rep. Dean Cannon R-Winter Park
The next-in-line speaker is always influential, but the House leadership shakeup that ousted Ray Sansom as speaker has hastened the rise to power of this Orlando-area lawyer.

BudgetTaxesInsuranceGamblingRail
After a series of spending cuts totaling nearly $7 billion over the past two years, legislators may have to cut more as tax collections continue to slide. From where? Schools and health care account for most spending from general tax dollars.New taxes and fees on smokers, motorists, bottled-water drinkers and others could be on tap as legislators grope for money to cover a massive deficit that federal help can't completely hide. New property tax-cut proposals are on the table, too. It's a perennial issue for lawmakers who must confront it on two fronts. The hurricane catastrophe fund isn't big enough to meet its obligations, and State Farm Florida's retreat from property policies is set to scramble an already fragile market.Gov. Crist cut a deal with the Seminole Tribe to allow more gaming in exchange for a share of the money — without getting approval from lawmakers. They sued and won; now Crist is seeking their support for a new deal. But the lobbyist-heavy parimutuel industry will want something from the state, too.An army of state and local officials, business leaders and lobbyists is pushing for legislative approval of a $1.2 billion Central Florida commuter rail project called Sunrail. Trial lawyers and labor unions halted it last year, but the venture has gained new momentum: Crist is leading the charge.



Sen. JD Alexander

R-Winter Haven

Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla

R-Miami

Sen. Don

Gaetz

R-Niceville

Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff

R-Fort Lauderdale

Rep. Dean Cannon

R-Winter Park

The strong-willed, plain-spoken citrus grower is the Senate's chief budget writer. He'll be squarely at the controls of virtually every major decision of the session. The Senate majority leader is a campaign consultant with a shrewd political mind whose duties include nailing down enough votes to move the Republican agenda. A retired business executive and former Panhandle school superintendent, he figures to play a leading role as chairman of a Senate committee on Florida's economy. In a year in which lawmakers will look to raise revenues, the South Florida lawyer chairs the House Finance and Tax Council, the destination for all tax bills. The next-in-line speaker is always influential, but the House leadership shakeup that ousted Ray Sansom as speaker has hastened the rise to power of this Orlando-area lawyer.

Issues and people in Legislature to watch 03/01/09 [Last modified: Monday, March 2, 2009 9:15am]
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  1. Pasco delays Irma food distribution after problems elsewhere

    Local Government

    DADE CITY — Pasco County has pulled the plug on a planned Food for Florida distribution at the Land O'Lakes Recreation Center that had been scheduled to open to the public on Sunday.

    Pasco County has postponed a planned Food for Florida distribution at the Land O' Lakes Recreation Center on Collier Parkway and is seeking an alternative site. Last week, commissioners said they feared a repeat of the long lines of traffic that appeared outside Plant City Stadium on Oct. 9. The nutrition program for people affected by Hurricane Irma had been scheduled to come to Land O' Lakes Oct. 18 to 27.  [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  2. Editorial: UF can set example for free speech

    Editorials

    White nationalist Richard Spencer is bringing his racist message Thursday to the University of Florida in a legitimate, if utterly repugnant, display of the First Amendment at work. As a public university, UF has little choice but to allow Spencer's speech to take place. Now the university and the broader community has …

    By responding with peaceful protests and refusing to be provoked into violence, UF and the Gainesville community can provide a powerful repudiation of Richard Spencer’s hateful message.
  3. Percussionist rocks out with a blazing triangle solo during Florida Orchestra performance (w/video)

    Blogs

    Oh, the poor triangle. It's the orchestra equivalent of a rock band's tamborine, and such easy fodder for jokes.

    John Shaw performs a triangle solo.
  4. Amazon expands in Tampa with Pop-Up shop in International Plaza

    Retail

    TAMPA — A new retailer known largely for its online presence has popped up at International Plaza and Bay Street.

    Shoppers walk past the new Amazon kiosk Tuesday at the International Plaza in Tampa. The kiosk, which opened last month, offers shoppers an opportunity to touch and play with some of the products that Amazon offers.
[CHRIS URSO   |   Times]

  5. Andy Serkis' directing debut 'Breathe' is not so inspiring

    Movies

    After such a revolutionary acting career, Andy Serkis should be expected to make an equally inventive directing debut. Breathe is anything but that.

    Clare Foy and Andrew Garfield star in Breathe as Robin and Diana Cavendish, an English polio victim and his devoted wife, who pioneered disability rights and wheelchairs with ventilators. [Imaginarium]