Among this current climate of hyper-partisanship, it is increasingly rare to find members of one party saying kind words about someone on the other.
But that was the case this week when Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson gave a “shoutout” to Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala for his efforts in making sure 2010 BP oil spill settlement money intended for the Florida Panhandle actually makes it there.
Earlier this year, Florida received its first payment of $400 million – with $300 million of that amount slated for eight counties in the Panhandle most affected by the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The settlement totals $2 billion through 2032.
Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida reports that the Legislature’s Long-Range Financial Outlook applies that initial payment to the state’s general budget for the next three years. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has launched the House Select Committee on Triumph Gulf Coast which is tasked with supervising the state’s nonprofit corporation that will assign settlement money to counties.
However, Latvala, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, says that several lawmakers believe that the final decision on how to allocate the money should be in the hands of elected officials. The Clearwater Republican said he was not interested in using BP settlement money toward Florida’s general budget. The effort to move that money into the state’s general fund was a “glitch” in the system.
“We made the commitment,” Latvala said. “And I believe in keeping my commitments.”
Nelson, who helped write federal law mandating portions of the settlement money must go to affected counties, not the state.
“A shoutout to Jack in making sure that money goes to the counties where they have suffered economic damages,” Nelson said during a news conference in Tallahassee.