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Lawmaker off to a fast start

She has been in office less than three days, but Republican lawmaker Deborah Tamargo is already racking up legislative victories.

Monday, her proposal to allow the University of South Florida to purchase a psychiatric center from Tampa General Hospital passed a Senate committee during the special session called to address school crowding. Tuesday, it passed a House committee and now appears headed for final approval.

"It was kind of special," said Tamargo, a USF alumna, who two weeks ago won a special election for the District 58 seat vacated by longtime Democratic legislator Elvin Martinez.

"I looked at it as a great opportunity for USF and a great bargain for the taxpayers," she said.

Tampa General purchased the building for $4.1-million in 1993 and has been losing money on it ever since. Under Tamargo's proposal, the state would purchase the center for $1.6-million.

Tamargo said she has been surprised so far by the cooperation between Democrats and Republicans in committee meetings. She expects to receive her committee appointments today from House Speaker Daniel Webster.

"She will have some equally as important as Martinez had and at least one that is more so," Webster said.

Webster said Tamargo's unexpected win gave Republicans a boost heading into the session.

"I think the ripple effect was pretty awesome. It wasn't just one person winning a special election. It set the whole tone for the week."