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Irma spawns select committee in Florida Legislature

In election year, Corcoran wants all lawmakers to forget ‘pork projects’<br>
Published Sep. 19, 2017
Updated Sep. 19, 2017

TALLAHASSEE -- The Florida House Tuesday will announce the formation of a new Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness to analyze how the state handled Irma and to find areas of improvement.

The committee will study whether protections for residents of nursing homes, group homes and ALFs should be strengthened, as well as a review of the Florida building code and ways to improve storage of food, water and fuel in advance of a menacing storm. 

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, also called on all legislators -- including all 40 senators -- to forget the usual hometown projects in next year’s budget and to steer all discretionary spending toward hurricane recovery and mitigation efforts.

That will prove difficult in an election year when most lawmakers are running for re-election. It also could heighten tensions between the House and the Senate, which last year had a bigger appetite than did the House for hometown spending for wastewater projects, cultural facilities and social service programs.

“I ask all of you, and our colleagues in the Senate, to join me in setting aside the business as usual of pork projects,” Corcoran said, “and instead invest all of those funds to either assist those in need after Hurricane Irma or prepare Florida against the threat to life and property that will surely come with future storms.” 

In a statement, Corcoran noted that according to an updated revenue forecast from chief state economist Amy Baker, Florida is projected to have no extra money next year after allowing for critical needs, cash reserves and normal legislative priorities.

Corcoran noted that in the current year’s budget, lawmakers spent $638 million on member projects (a big chunk of which was vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott).

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: After Irma, Florida’s future revenue picture darkens

Corcoran, who scheduled a 1 p.m. news conference Tuesday to announce the select committee, populated the 21-member panel with lawmakers who represent some of the hardest-hit areas of the state.

The committee will be chaired by Rep. Jeannette Nuñez, R-Miami. Other Republicans include Reps. Holly Raschein of Key Largo, Dane Eagle of Cape Coral, Ray Rodriguez of Estero, Michael Grant of Port Charlotte, Chris Sprowls of Palm Harbor, Danny Burgess of Zephyrhills, Cyndi Stevenson of St. Johns and Paul Renner of Palm Coast.

The seven Democrats on the panel include Robert Asencio of Miami, Sean Shaw of Tampa, and three Broward lawmakers: Kristin Jacobs of Coconut Creek, Jared Moskowitz of Coral Springs and Richard Stark of Weston. Veteran House staffer Tom Hamby will be the staff director of the committee, which will be the focal point of an intense lobbying effort by nursing homes, utilities, builders, school districts and law enforcement, among others.

“With any event of this magnitude, lessons can be learned,” Corcoran said. “We must move quickly to assess our recent experience and pinpoint tangible, meaningful ways to improve Florida‘s hurricane readiness and response capabilities.”

The next period for legislative committee meetings is the week of Oct. 9.

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