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Power posts go to local senators

State Senate President John McKay announced committee chairmen on Friday. Most are Republicans.

Giving the first glimpse at who will wield power in the Florida Legislature next spring, state Senate President John McKay named his key leaders Friday, and several Tampa Bay lawmakers are among them.

"There's a lot of Tampa Bay people in leadership because there's a lot of Tampa Bay Republicans," McKay said.

Nevertheless, McKay continued the Senate's longstanding tradition of bipartisanship by naming Republicans as chairs and Democrats as vice chairs on most committees. The Republicans control the Senate 25-15 and outnumber Democrats in the House of Representatives 77-43.

The House of Representatives is expected to name its committees next week.

In the Senate, Brandon Republican Tom Lee heads the powerful rules committee, which plays a big part in charting the Legislature's direction. The rules chairman works with Senate President McKay to determine which of the hundreds of bills filed every year make it to the top of the pile. Republican Ginny Brown-Waite, of Brooksville, is Lee's vice chair.

St. Petersburg Republican Jim Sebesta heads the Senate's Transportation Committee, which will handle the state's huge new road-building effort. The Transportation Committee also will deal with a multibillion-dollar high-speed rail network that voters supported this fall.

Jack Latvala, a Palm Harbor Republican, heads the Senate's Banking and Insurance Committee. Latvala said the committee will deal with reorganizing the state's Cabinet, which will shrink from seven members to three. Latvala's committee also will deal with rising worker's compensation costs.

"I think we'll also look at health maintenance organizations and the services they provide and don't provide," Latvala said.

Seminole Republican Don Sullivan heads the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, which will figure out how school dollars should be spent.

Temple Terrace Republican Victor Crist is vice chair of the Criminal Justice Committee.

On the Democratic side, Les Miller of Tampa is vice chairman of the Education Committee. Republican Ken Pruitt of Port St. Lucie will be chairman.

Four Republicans and one Democrat head the Senate's key Appropriations committees, which determine how tax dollars are spent. Jim Horne, an Orange Park Republican, oversees the four spending committees.

The Senate's Ethics and Elections Committee _ the group charged with sorting through Florida's now-notorious voting problems _ is chaired by Rockledge Republican Bill Posey. Freshman lawmaker Rod Smith, a Gainesville Democrat, is vice chair.

"That has quickly elevated from a committee of low priority to one of high priority," McKay said. "You can guarantee that whatever we come up with will receive national attention."

Other Senate committee leaders named Friday include:

+ Natural Resources: Satellite Beach Republican Charlie Bronson, chair; Tallahassee Democrat Al Lawson, vice chair.

+ Comprehensive Planning, Local, and Military Affairs: Altamonte Springs Republican Lee Constantine, chair; Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz, vice chair.

+ Commerce and Economic Opportunities: Westchester Republican Alex Diaz de la Portilla, chair; Boca Raton Democrat Ron Klein, vice chair.

+ Judiciary: Ormond Beach Republican Locke Burt, chair; Orlando Democrat Buddy Dyer, vice chair.

+ Agriculture and Consumer Services: Hallandale Democrat Steve Geller, chair; Miami Democrat Kendrick Meek, vice chair.

+ Governmental Oversight and Productivity: Hialeah Republican Rudy Garcia, chair; Fort Lauderdale Republican Debby Sanderson, vice chair.

+ Health, Aging, and Long-term Care: Naples Republican Burt Saunders, chair; Fort Lauderdale Democrat Mandy Dawson, vice chair.

+ Children and Families: Crestview Republican Durrell Peaden, chair; Jasper Democrat Richard Mitchell, vice chair.

+ Regulated Industries: Tamarac Democrat Skip Campbell, chair; Jacksonville Republican Jim King, vice chair.

+ Finance and Taxation: Sarasota Republican Lisa Carlton, chair; West Palm Beach Democrat Tom Rossin, vice chair.

Senate President McKay also named three Republicans to chair committees that will begin redrawing political districts in light of Florida's new census numbers.

The leaders of those committees are Orlando Republican Dan Webster, Sarasota Republican Lisa Carlton and Bartow Republican John Laurent.