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Pinellas Sandys come to House GOP's rescue

Rep. Sandra Mortham, R-Largo, announced this week that she had patched up the fuss among different GOP factions and would become minority leader of the state House in November.

The truce came in part due to the work of the other Pinellas Sandy, Rep. R.Z. "Sandy" Safley of Clearwater. Safley called together the Cuban-American caucus and the North Florida faction to meet with Mortham at a hotel in Tampa.

The Cuban caucus had objected to Mortham's campaign for the post of Republican leader, and threatened to withhold support unless Mortham named a Hispanic as leader pro tem.

The problem was, Mortham already had promised the second-in-command post to Rep. Dan Webster, R-Orlando.

The Hispanics negotiated the next best deal they could. Caucus chairman Miguel DeGrandy said Mortham has promised to appoint Hispanics to three top positions, including floor leader and vice chairman of the caucus.

"Our members feel satisfied with what we've been able to work out with Sandy," DeGrandy said.

Buddy Johnson balks at lowball

State Rep. Buddy Johnson said he thinks politics was the motivation behind reports of his removal from a House education committee several months ago.

"This is lowball at its best," Johnson said Saturday. "I know where this came from, and I plan to indicate it (at a news conference) on Monday."

Johnson, a Plant City Republican, was switched from a House education committee to a natural resources committee earlier this year after he visited education committee lawyer Sandra Coulter in the hospital.

Johnson said he visited Coulter two days after she had surgery to wish her a speedy recovery.

Following the visit, he was called to a meeting with House Speaker T.

K. Wetherell, who later said the situation was handled to the satisfaction of all parties. He said no formal complaint was ever filed against Johnson.

Wetherell said the situation was handled under rules established after the much-publicized sexual harassment hearing of Rep. Fred Lippman, who was accused of harassing House staff member Kathy Jennings.

"The issue, for me, is the motivation of why this story was even printed," Johnson said. "This was eight months ago. I think it was dealt with and put aside because there was no harassment."

Johnson is running against longtime Plant City educator Sadye Gibbs Martin for the state House District 62 seat.

Award-winning legislators

No one would say U.S. 19 and Dale Mabry Highway are models of urban planning. Nevertheless, Tampa Bay legislators led the way in 1992 awards bestowed by the Florida chapter of the American Planning Association.

Sen. Curt Kiser, R-Palm Harbor, was named Senate member of the year. Rep. Jim Davis, D-Tampa, was named House member of the year.

Kiser was cited for "advocating sound state planning" while Davis was singled out for developing a statewide energy plan.

In the Legislature, planning and conservation awards often go to legislators who have put up the best defense against the annual assault on the state's Growth Management Act by development interests, farmers and small counties.

Others cited for awards were Rep. Jim Hargrett, D-Tampa, and Sen. Howard Forman, D-Pembroke Pines, for their work on the Affordable Housing Act; Rep. Mike Abrams, D-North Miami Beach, and Sen. Ken Jenne, D-Fort Lauderdale, for leadership in tax reform; Rep. Vernon Peeples, D-Punta Gorda, for transportation planning; and incoming House speaker Bolley L. "Bo" Johnson, D-Milton, for sponsoring Preservation 2000.

_ Compiled by BILL MOSS and WENDY LEMUS