SCOTT talks free trade during visit to panama
On his first trade mission Thursday, Gov. Rick Scott talked with Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli about prospects for increased commerce though a free-trade agreement and expansion of the Panama Canal. The leaders seemed to hit it off, said Tampa port director Richard Wainio, among six Florida port executives who accompanied the governor. "He seems to be a good ambassador for the state," Wainio said in a telephone interview from Panama City. "I think this was a good education for him." Scott told Martinelli that he and Florida representatives in Washington are working to get a free-trade agreement through Congress. He posted on his Facebook page that he would "deliver the message that we are equipping Florida with the infrastructure necessary to handle the increase of trade that will come through the canal — better positioning Florida to become the gateway to Latin America and beyond."
Biden headlines Tampa fundraiser
Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to headline a fundraiser for Sen. Bill Nelson on March 23 at the Embassy Suites Downtown in Tampa. Cost: $100 gets you in the door, $5,000 gets you listed as a co-host. Earlier that day, Biden and Nelson will be in Winter Park, raising money at the home of Kelly and Alan Ginsburg. $500 minimum.
Bill would honor fallen officers
A bill that would honor five police officers killed since June in Tampa Bay is moving through the Legislature. State Road 687, which stretches from I-275 to I-175 in Pinellas County, would be named in honor of St. Petersburg police officers killed this year. It would be designated the "Sgt. Thomas J. Baitinger, Officer Jeffrey A. Yaslowitz, and Officer David S. Crawford Memorial Highway." In Tampa, State Road 583/N 50th Street, from Melbourne Boulevard/E 21st Avenue to State Road 574/Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, would be named the "Officer Jeffrey A. Kocab and Officer David L. Curtis Memorial Highway." Kocab and Curtis were killed during a routine traffic stop in June. "This symbolic gesture will serve as a reminder of each of these valiant police officers and the ultimate sacrifice they made to protect all of us," said Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, sponsor of SB 782. The naming bill's companion, HB 601 by Rep. Jim Frishe, R-St. Petersburg, passed its first committee Tuesday.
Bitner not scooting around his tasks
More than a few Republican activists in Florida have found it a bit jarring recently to see newly elected Republican Party chairman David Bitner. The former legislator requires a motorized scooter or walker to get around, the result of apparent diabetic neuropathy that hit him shortly after he won election as chairman in mid January. He's hopeful he'll be back on his feet in a few months. Still, the health problems don't seem to be slowing him down. Bitner, 62, has been busy traveling to county executive committees across the state and is preparing to kick off a statewide Greatest Generation Tour honoring World War II veterans across Florida.
Times/Herald staff writers Steve Huettel, Adam C. Smith, Katie Sanders, Patricia Mazzei and Michael C. Bender contributed to this report.