Rich Shopes, Times Staff Writer

Rich Shopes

Rich Shopes is a reporter for the Tampa Bay Times covering government and politics in Pasco County.

Before coming to Florida in 1999, he lived in Philadelphia and New Jersey. He worked at the Tampa Tribune before joining the Times in 2012 to cover Plant City. He currently lives in Manatee County with his lovely wife, Sandy, and their squirrel-obsessed Norfolk terrier, Charley.

Phone: (727) 869-6236

Email: rshopes@tampabay.com

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  1. Pasco County Commission: District 2

    Kyc

    County Commission | District 2

    Democrat Erika Remsberg is challenging Republican Mike Moore to succeed fellow Republican Pat Mulieri, who's stepping down from the commission after 20 years. This is Remsberg's first election run after having faced no primary challenger. Moore was anointed his party's choice after a three-person primary Aug. 26. By Rich Shopes, Times staff writer...

    Moore
  2. State House of Representatives: District 36

    Kyc

    State House | District 36

    Democrat Rep. Amanda Murphy won a special election last October to replace longtime legislator Mike Fasano, who resigned to become Pasco's tax collector. Now she faces Republican Chris Gregg, who easily defeated Jim Mathieu, Pasco's Republican Party chairman, in the Aug. 26 GOP primary. By Rich Shopes, Times staff writer

    Amanda Murphy, 44Chris Gregg, 44
    PartyDemocratRepublican
    Experience Murphy is making her first re-election bid after last October's special election. Election rules require she run this year as part of the regular election cycle. She served last session on the House Health and Human Services Committee and the Veteran and Military Affairs, Health Care Appropriations and Healthy Families subcommittees. Murphy has worked as a financial adviser at Raymond James Financial in Tampa for 15 years. Gregg is a regional director for Miramar-based American Health Associates, which runs blood testing labs for nursing homes and long-term care facilities. He earlier owned Elite Med Spa, a medical spa company. He was a flight medic in the Air Force from 1991 to 1999. He ran unsuccessfully as a no-party candidate in 2000 for the state House and as a District 3 Pasco County Commission candidate in 2012.
    InvolvementPasco Aging Network; West Pasco Community Service Council (former board member); Trinity Rotary (former treasurer); Leadership Pasco; Pace Center for Girls; Junior Service League of Greater New Port Richey (former board member).American Legion Post 173 in Holiday; Rotary Club of Trinity (2012); counselor at Oasis -A Pregnancy Care Center in Land O'Lakes; West Pasco Pregnancy Center; member of theChapel.cc, a nondemoninational church in Tarpon Springs.
    Why should voters vote for you?I ran for this position last year to continue to have somebody to fight for Pasco and protect against special interests. In my time in the House, I have shown that the people of Pasco are, and will continue to be, my No. 1 priority. I also proved that a freshman Democrat can be effective for Pasco. I was able to get multiple bills that I sponsored passed, as well as money in the budget for Pasco to help with economic recovery and to create jobs.Having served in the military, I bring leadership skills and a work ethic that will enable me to accomplish our goals. For the first time in over 20 years the voters of District 36 will have the opportunity to send a veteran to Tallahassee to fight for our community. We also need a Republican in District 36 who can work with the Republican House, Senate and governor.
    What will your top three priorities be in the House?My priorities will stay the same as during the last legislative session: To support economic recovery in Florida and Pasco County to create good, reliable jobs for hardworking citizens and to continue to give them tax breaks; to protect consumers from predatory utility practices like Duke's recovery tax and rising insurance costs; and to fund our schools so that teachers and students have the resources they need to succeed. The No. 1 issue is jobs. Every option to bring jobs to District 36 is on the table. We can't afford to lose jobs to other counties or states. The second issue is insurance costs. We need to bring more qualified insurance companies to the marketplace to lower insurance costs and increase the quality of service and coverage. Third, Duke Energy needs to build the nuclear power plant or return the money it collected.
    How would you address insurance costs?To stem rising insurance costs, we need to look at laws that inhibit insurers from coming to Florida. The easiest way to lower costs is to create competition. Similarly, I worked on last session's flood insurance bill to open the market to allow carriers to come in and offer affordable flood policies.We need to bring more insurers to the market. A free market will lower costs to consumers and increase quality in service and coverage. Also, insurers should have reserve ratios high enough to cover claims while allowing them to stay in business.
    Financial disclosureAssets: $495,314 Liabilities: $130,059 Income: $135,789 Assets: $224,500 Liabilities: $160,000 Income: $150,000
    PersonalMurphy and her husband, Matt, have three children. They live in New Port Richey.Gregg and his wife, Alena, have two children. They live in New Port Richey.
    Contactvoteamandamurphy.com; voteamandamurphy@gmail.comvotechrisgregg.com; chrisjgregg@hotmail.com
    ...

    Murphy
  3. Pasco posts ballot turnout

    Blog

    Unofficial results in Pasco County show Republicans enjoying an near 2-1 edge over Democrats in absentee ballots.

    As of 11:39 p.m. today, "turnout" for the mail-in votes seems to favor the GOP -- 108 Republican absentee ballots to 58 Democratic ballots -- though the votes have yet to be tallied respective to specific candidates.

    The numbers aren't surprising given Pasco leans Republican....

  4. Pasco baseball complex developer wants changes in deal

    Local Government

    WESLEY CHAPEL — The Tampa developer proposing a youth sports complex in Pasco County says he's nearing a deal with private investors to bring millions to the project, but two obstacles are slowing the deal.

    James Talton, owner of Blue Marble Strategic, says investors are on board with the proposed baseball complex north of the Shops at Wiregrass, but they want stronger assurances that the county will provide $11 million in Pasco tourism taxes toward construction. They also want ownership of the property to transfer to the investment group so it can eventually be used as leverage for financing....

  5. Pasco deputies cleared in shooting death

    Crime

    State Attorney Bernie McCabe's office has cleared two Pasco sheriff's deputies in the shooting death of an unarmed Zephyrhills man on July 1.

    Jerry Dwight Brown, 41, was shot three times during an undercover drug bust when he refused to surrender and appeared to reach for a weapon, according to an investigative report released by McCabe.

    Brown was inside an unmarked sheriff's car near Big Ben's Used Tires, 4128 Gall Blvd., trying to sell a bag of pills to an undercover deputy seated next to him when the deputy gave a signal for uniformed deputies to move in, the report said....

  6. Charlie Crist kicks off latest campaign tour with stop at Pasco home

    State Roundup

    HOLIDAY

    Charlie Crist kicked off a "kitchen table tour" with a stop at a Pasco County home Monday morning to talk about insurance and utility rates as polls show the Democrat locked in a virtual tie with Gov. Rick Scott.

    Crist chatted with Holiday retirees J.M. and Marge Gibbons in the Key Vista development after the couple responded to an email blast from Crist's campaign last month asking folks to participate in sit-down chats about pocketbook issues affecting middle-class Floridians....

    Charlie Crist sits at the dining table with Marge Gibbons, 68, while he visited her and her husband, J.M., Monday morning at their Holiday home. [BRENDAN FITTERER   |   Times]
  7. Need flood insurance? Past is no guarantee as new flood maps debut in Pasco

    Local Government

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Got flood insurance?

    Thousands in Pasco County who previously thought they didn't need the coverage could be in for a jolt.

    The county is set to roll out flood insurance rate maps Friday that show nearly 8,600 properties previously in designated 500-year flood zones, have shifted to 100-year flood zones and may now need the insurance.

    The remapping, the product of 10 years of studies, doesn't mean all those property owners will suddenly require flood coverage, but the consensus among real estate experts, insurers and county engineers is that hundreds of them — if not thousands — will be impacted....

    Homeowners affected by new maps likely will see letters from lenders over the next two months about insurance coverage.
  8. Pasco accepts grant to buy storm-damaged homes

    Local Government

    Pasco County commissioners have signed off on a $1.3 million federal grant to purchase 15 flood-prone properties severely damaged during Tropical Storm Debby in June 2012.

    The funds will be combined with a $433,000 local match to buy the properties and demolish the houses, eventually returning the parcels to their natural state.

    "They'll remain as open space and in some cases could be used for passive recreation," Annette Doying, director of emergency management, told commissioners Tuesday....

  9. Pasco approves $1.2 billion budget, wage increase

    Local Government

    NEW PORT RICHEY -- Pasco County commissioners on Tuesday adopted a $1.2 billion budget for 2015 after just 20 minutes of discussion and only one comment during a public hearing.

    The budget holds the line on property taxes, although commissioners have already approved a separate increase in gas taxes to pay for road improvements.

    That increase, which adds another 5-cent-per-gallon levy at the pump, produced a backlash by Republican groups and others at a public hearing two weeks ago....

  10. Two assisted living centers proposed for Pasco County

    Growth

    Two companies are proposing assisted living centers at opposite ends of Pasco County.

    Quad States Cos., based in Ridgeland, Miss., is proposing a 120-bed assisted living facility on Madison Street near State Road 54 in New Port Richey; and in Hudson, West Palm Beach-based Mainsail Healthcare Group is nearing approval for a facility to care for people with Alzheimer's disease.

    Arrington Developers of Florida, the Land O'Lakes subsidiary of Quad States, last week sought permission from county planning officials to change the New Port Richey site's zoning from a multifamily designation....

  11. Lacoochee's longtime Officer Friendly Cpl. Hink retires

    Public Safety

    LACOOCHEE — Whether mentoring at-risk kids or helping provide families with furniture and other necessities, Pasco County sheriff's Cpl. David Hink was a familiar face to residents of this impoverished, rural area north of Dade City.

    For eight years, Hink served as "Officer Friendly," a term used to describe the Sheriff's Office program in which deputies work closely with children, residents and community groups to deter crime....

    Cpl. David Hink spent 32 years in law enforcement, eight as Officer Friendly.
  12. Support for Pinellas transit plan wavers in Pasco

    Blog

    Pasco County officials so far are refusing to lend a hand to Greenlight Pinellas.

    Asked Thursday to support the transit-expansion initiative, board members for Pasco's Metropolitan Planning Organization couldn't muster enough votes to back the plan.

    The initiative would raise Pinellas' sales tax rate to 8 percent while removing the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority's property tax levy. Supporters say the measure will increase bus service and create a 24-mile light rail line from Clearwater to St. Petersburg....

  13. Withlacoochee River Electric customers in Pasco, Hernando could see higher bills under proposed emissions standards

    Energy

    DADE CITY — Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative members could see higher energy bills under proposed emissions standards aimed at reducing carbon levels at coal-fired power plants.

    The cooperative has already invested millions of dollars to lower carbon levels at a coal plant in Palatka that produces most of its electricity, but the stricter federal standards likely will force it to spend even more and pass those costs on to its 220,000 members, co-op officials say....

  14. Pasco commission approves 5-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase

    Local Government

    DADE CITY — Pasco commissioners on Tuesday approved increasing the county's gas tax to 12 cents a gallon — highest in the Tampa Bay area.

    The 5-cent-per-gallon hike puts Pasco's gasoline tax at the most allowed under state law and 5 cents higher than in both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties and 3 cents higher than in Hernando.

    County commissioners, who didn't relish passing the increase, found themselves at a crossroads after a recent spate of new construction and years of budget cuts....

  15. Wesley Chapel ice skating complex aims for October groundbreaking

    Growth

    WESLEY CHAPEL — The company proposing a massive ice skating complex at Interstate 75 and State Road 56 in Pasco County says it will likely break ground in October once it receives building permits from the county.

    Deborah Tamargo, a spokeswoman for Tampa-based Z Mitch LLC, said the company had hoped to start work on the four-rink complex this month but will miss that target because it's awaiting approval of a construction plan from planning and zoning officials....