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Power on Tampa Sports Authority might shift

The population of unincorporated Hillsborough County has grown, and one legislator wants the Tampa Sports Authority governed with more of the county's interests in mind.

Under a bill written by Rep. Kevin Ambler, R-Lutz, the authority, which plans, develops and maintains sports and recreational facilities, would get more members from the Hillsborough County Commission and fewer from the city of Tampa.

The 11-member TSA board currently has four members appointed by Tampa's mayor, four named by the commission, one county resident named by the governor, a Tampa City Council member and a county commissioner.

The bill would increase the county-appointed members to six and cut the city-appointed representatives to four.

This comes at a time when County Commission Chairman Jim Norman has proposed building a $40-million amateur sports complex near Plant City.

Ambler notes that when the TSA was created in 1965, Tampa made up 63.4 percent of the county population. Today, it makes up 28.4 percent.

Another of Ambler's bills would similarly reorganize the 11-member Hillsborough County-City Planning Commission, increasing county representation from four to six and cutting the city from four to three.

Other local bills proposed:

* Increase the level of no-bid contracts the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority can award from $15,000 to no more than $30,000.

* Allow alcoholic beverages to be served at the new Tampa Bay History Center.

* Give the Hillsborough Public Transportation the power to adopt a rule ensuring a variety of public vehicles are available with wheelchair accessibility.

* Exempt information technology employees from civil service, a change argued for as a way of making it possible to hire high-tech workers more quickly and at more competitive rates - legislation sought by Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee.

* Restructure the city of Tampa Fire and Police Pension Fund in keeping with new union agreements at no public cost.

* Adjust pension plans for general employees of the city of Tampa at a cost of $980,000.