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  1. Florida Politics

A look at St. Pete mayoral candidate Rick Kriseman's Florida House record

St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, left, and mayoral candidate Rick Kriseman share a light moment during a forum in St. Petersburg in September.
St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, left, and mayoral candidate Rick Kriseman share a light moment during a forum in St. Petersburg in September.
Published Oct. 27, 2013

ST. PETERSBURG — Even before Rick Kriseman arrived in the Florida House in 2007, the freshman lawmaker knew he faced an uphill battle to pass laws bearing his name.

With the Democrat being in the minority party, only two of the 46 bills he proposed became law. Many were never considered by a House committee, while several other of his ideas became law only after Senate Republicans backed similar legislation.

But that's fine for Kriseman.

He frequently tells voters he spent six years in Tallahassee making bad legislation better for Floridians — not just for special interests.

"I wanted the best legislation that didn't have unintended consequences," he said. "I slept very well at night. I wasn't willing to sell out my constituents."

The former City Council member proposed laws banning oil drilling in Florida waters, increasing term limits for Florida House and Senate members, creating a recall provision for the governor and Cabinet offices, and limiting deductions and other benefits for businesses that pay the state's corporate income tax.

Mayor Bill Foster's biggest attack against Kriseman, 51, in the race to Nov. 5 has been that Kriseman was an ineffective lawmaker.

Mike Fasano, a former Republican senator from New Port Richey who served with Kriseman, called the criticism unfair.

"Being effective doesn't mean you pass 100 bills and bring home $100 million," said Fasano, now the Pasco County Tax Collector. "He was an advocate for everyone."

Fasano said he isn't taking sides in the race, but stressed that it is difficult for Democrats to pass legislation in Tallahassee. He lauded Kriseman for his debating skills on the House floor.

"Some Republicans were happy to see Rick leave the House," Fasano added.

At mayoral forums, Kriseman often touts how well he worked with Republican Mayor Rick Baker to improve the city.

Jim Frishe said he didn't see any sign of that bipartisanship in Tallahassee. The former St. Petersburg lawmaker and majority whip said Kriseman frequently voted against legislation to create jobs. His record shows he didn't help constituents, Frishe added.

"Rick was a true liberal Democrat," he said. "He was for big government spending.

Kriseman scoffed.

"He's quoting the party line," Kriseman said. "I'm proud of my record in the Florida House."

In the Florida Legislature, Democrats are the minority party and cannot bring legislation for a full vote. House rules limit lawmakers to filing or sponsoring six substantive bills each year.

Here is a look at bills that Kriseman was involved in:

Legislation passed

• In 2007 and 2008, Kriseman introduced proposals to require drivers to stop for pedestrians in or entering crosswalks. The 2008 bill passed unanimously, but Kriseman wasn't attached to the legislation.

Fasano, the bill's Senate sponsor, received credit. But he said Kriseman initiated the proposal and asked him to sponsor it, otherwise, it had "no chance of getting passed."

• Kriseman led the charge on a 2007 law that required people convicted of DUI to carry 10 times the liability insurance of other drivers, or $100,000 for one injured person. Former Pinellas Republican Dennis Jones sponsored the Senate version.

Jones said Kriseman had a record of working well to build coalitions to either pass or defeat legislation. "The goal is to find the best policy solution," said Jones, now a Marion County resident. "Rick was effective. He did a good job."

• Two years later, a Kriseman-sponsored measure that encouraged service-learning courses in schools ended up in a Republican-sponsored Senate bill that became law.

Sponsored legislation

• An 8-year-old St. Petersburg student, Brooke Ingoldsby, was struck and killed in 2005 when a substitute school bus driver dropped her off on the wrong side of the road. Kriseman co-sponsored a bill in 2007 to pay her family. The effort succeeded after the Senate passed a bill to award the family $1.3 million.

• In 2008, Kriseman co-sponsored legislation to ban bullying in schools. The bill became law in June 2008. He also filed a bill in 2010 urging the U.S. Congress to repeal the prohibition against gays and lesbians from openly serving in the military. The effort failed, though it did win him praise from Equality Florida.

• In 2009, another Kriseman co-sponsored measure became part of a Senate bill that paid a South Florida man $200,000 for injuries he suffered as result of negligence at Memorial Regional Hospital.

Bills Kriseman opposed

• In 2009, Kriseman fought to stop oil companies from leasing in the Gulf of Mexico less than 10 miles from the coast. He railed against House leadership and lobbyists. The House passed the bill, but the Senate rejected the legislation.

As a result of his opposition, House leadership removed Kriseman as the ranking Democrat on an energy committee.

• The same year, telecommunications giants lobbied heavily for a bill to remove regulations for all but the most basic land line phone services. Kriseman voted no, but a House committee passed the legislation backed by Wesley Chapel Republican Will Weatherford.

The Senate eventually passed a watered down version once consumer-friendly provisions were added to expand the Lifeline phone program for 500,000 poor Floridians. The bill left basic phone rates alone and capped annual hikes at 10 percent. The old law was 20 percent.

Kriseman said he pushed Weatherford and lobbyists to make changes. Weatherford, now the House speaker, didn't return multiple calls for comment.

• In 2011, Kriseman battled against a bill that allowed firms to pass on reinsurance costs to policyholders, shorten the window for filing sinkhole and storm-related damage claims, and limit claims for damage caused by sinkholes to primary structures. He called the legislation the "holy grail" for the insurance industry, but his efforts were for naught. The bill became law.

That same year he opposed a bill to shield online travel companies from paying taxes on the retail price of hotel rooms they sell and instead allow them to continue to pay taxes based on wholesale costs. For years, counties had asked lawmakers to tax online firms at the rate equal to what Florida hotels pay. Business interests prevailed in 2012 when a judge said he couldn't require Internet travel firms to pay the taxes.

• Kriseman sponsored legislation in 2012 to overturn a law that banned doctors from asking patients questions about gun ownership. His effort failed, but a federal judge later struck down what is known as the "Docs-vs.-Glocks" law. The state appealed the ruling.

Contact Mark Puente at mpuente@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow on Twitter @ markpuente.

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