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In 1st House speech, Charlie Crist vows ‘Commitment to Civility’

Charlie Crist wants to see more of the Golden Rule in Congress, with a call for civil discourse on Capitol Hill.

In his first speech on the floor of the U.S. House, the St. Petersburg Democrat joined a bipartisan class of 46 freshman lawmakers who signed a “Commitment to Civility” pledge.

This pledge seeks to “restore collegiality, trust and civility to Congress, encourage productive dialogue, and work to build consensus and the public’s trust in America’s institutions.”

In the letter, the group promised to remain: “dedicated to showing proper respect to one another and all others, encouraging productive dialogue, and modeling civility in our public and private actions.”

“While we may vehemently disagree on matters of law and policy, we will strive at all times to maintain collegiality and the honor of our office,” they write.

Crist represents Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

“I am honored to represent Pinellas County in Congress, and I promise to fight for the needs of my home county. But I pledge to do so in keeping with the ‘Golden Rule,’ to do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” Crist said in his speech. “I am proud that our freshman class has put forward this ‘Commitment to Civility’ pledge. It states that despite our political differences, at the end of the day we must work together to move our country forward, putting people over politics and treating each other with respect — even when we disagree.”

Other first-year members of the Florida delegation signing the Commitment include Matt Gaetz of CD 1, Neal Dunn of CD 2, John Rutherford of CD 4, Al Lawson of CD 5, , Val Demings of CD 10, Brian Mast of CD 18 and Francis Rooney of CD 19.

Charlie Crist signs on to letter calling on GOP to refrain from cutting family planning funding

St. Petersburg Representative Charlie Crist is adding his voice to a collection of House Democrats opposing a vote scheduled this week that would ban funding for Planned Parenthood and other family planning organizations under the Title X National Family Planning Program.

“Title X-funded health centers, like Planned Parenthood, provide birth control, mammograms, cancer screenings and family planning services for millions of women across the country,” Crist said in a statement. “These attempts to restrict a woman’s access to comprehensive reproductive care – disproportionately impacting low-income women – cannot stand. We must stand up for women’s rights and the women’s health organizations that provide this much needed care.”

The letter was signed by members of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus. Other Florida Democratic House members signing on to the letter sent to House Speaker Paul Ryan include Kathy Castor, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ted Deutch, Val Demings and Darren Soto.

The letter criticizes the GOP in the 115th Congress for several other measures, including passing the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017, which would, among other provisions,  effectively make the Hyde Amendment permanent. That’s the 1977 law that has banned any federal funding for abortions. That bill would also ban federal funding for health benefits plans that cover abortions and ban federal facilities and federal employees from providing abortions.

Throughout his political career, Crist has at times referred to himself as both “pro-life” and “pro-choice,” but has consistently touted a pro-choice agenda since becoming a Democrat in December of 2012.

Here’s the letter sent to Speaker Paul Ryan:

Dear Speaker Ryan:

We write to express our grave concern for efforts to undermine Title X family planning.  Despite promises to focus on jobs and the economy, Republicans have started the 115th Congress with a total assault on women’s choices, access to care, and economic security by:

  • Charging ahead to sabotage and dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA) while making no promises to preserve vital protections for women;
  • Providing little to no details on their plans to replace ACA, while making a point to announce that their ACA repeal package will block access to Planned Parenthood, a high-quality, long-trusted provider of reproductive health services;
  • Rushing to impose and dramatically expand the global gag rule, harming women around the world; and
  • Advancing the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act(H.R. 7) through the House, effectively banning private insurance companies from covering comprehensive reproductive health services.

Now, with their most recent effort to weaken the Title X national family planning program through the Congressional Review Act, Republicans have demonstrated that they will stop at nothing to limit women’s access to vital health care.  Sadly, this includes contraception and family planning services that all women need.

For more than 40 years, Title X has served as a cornerstone of safety-net care. As the only dedicated source of federal funding for family planning, Title X allows a diverse network of providers to deliver high-quality care to low-income, uninsured, or underinsured individuals and to those seeking confidential care. In 2014 alone, Title X-funded clinics helped prevent approximately 904,000 unintended pregnancies, 326,000 abortions, and 439,000 unplanned births.  In addition to direct clinical care, Title X also supports critical infrastructure needs for health centers, including new medical equipment and staff training that are not reimbursable under Medicaid and commercial insurance. This infrastructure is vital to ensuring safe, quality care at health centers which serve and provide basic health services to high-need populations.

Throughout both Democratic and Republican administrations, Title X has been interpreted to prohibit state actions that block providers or classes of providers from participating in a Title X project based on factors unrelated to a provider’s qualifications to perform the required services. The networks include providers ranging from state, county, and local health departments as well as hospitals, family planning councils, Planned Parenthood affiliates, federally qualified health centers and other private non-profit organizations.  In fact, in instances when states have passed laws to limit provider participation in Title X, federal courts have consistently held that those state laws are contrary to, and preempted by, federal law.

In response to a growing number of states targeting family planning providers for exclusion from key federal health programs, including Title X, the previous Administration proposed the regulation “Compliance with Title X Requirements by Project Recipients in Selecting Subrecipients.”  The regulation, which was finalized in December 2016, helps ensure patient access to family planning services and supplies through qualified providers by reiterating that “no recipient making subawards for the provision of services as part of its Title X project may prohibit an entity from participating for reasons other than its ability to provide Title X services.”  During the rulemaking process, the Department of Health and Human Services received more than 145,000 comments, the vast majority of which supported the rule.

Women across the United States, and the men who support them, have had enough.  It is unconscionable that this common sense clarification has become a political football for members of Congress who want to limit women’s access to comprehensive reproductive health care. We urge you to stand in support of women and oppose this assault on contraceptive access and care.

Sincerely,

 

 

On MSNBC, David Jolly wonders how serious Donald Trump is taking the presidency

David Jolly is in New York this week, making the rounds at the cable news networks as one Republican not afraid to criticize Donald Trump.

On his latest appearance on MSNBC’s The Last Word (with guest host Joy Reid), the former (and possibly future?) congressman from Florida’s 13th District called Trump’s first month in office “his JV moment,” specifically referring to Stephen Miller’s performance on the Sunday morning shows.

Miller is the 31-year old senior adviser to Trump who is reported to be working alongside Steve Bannon in crafting the President’s messaging.

Among Miller’s most provocative comments was on CBS’ Face The Nation, when he said, “The media and the whole world will soon see, as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.”

“The first month of the Trump administration has been his JV (junior varsity) moment,” Jolly said on MSNBC. “Get the 31-year-old sweaty kid off the TV, and bring in the steady senior hand.”

Jolly compared the beginning of Trump’s presidency with that of George W. Bush’s, the last president elected without winning the popular vote. Jolly said that Bush 43 surrounding himself with senior Washington officials like Dick Cheney and Andy Card, who, he said, “whether you liked them or not, we’re a steady hand.”

“We will see turnover, and frankly, this 31-year old should not have been the voice of the president on Sunday morning TV when we’re in such a pivotal moment,” Jolly said.

Jolly also questioned how seriously Trump is taking his job as the most powerful man in the free world.

“I think this is the very quiet anxiety of most Republicans, including congressional Republicans, is how serious is the president taking this job?” he asked. “He is our president. President Donald Trump. Like him or loath him. But how seriously is he accepting this responsibility and the anxiety we have is based upon the decisions he made in the first 30 days, the people he is surrounding himself with?” Jolly asked.

Jolly appeared Monday on CNN’s New Day as well and is scheduled to make another appearance on MNSBC later this week.

The 44-year-old Jolly has been increasing his media profile in recent weeks (complete with stylish glasses and a new beard) as he keeps his options open regarding 2018. Jolly lost by 3.8 percentage points against Charlie Crist, in the race for Florida’s 13th Congressional District last fall.

He engendered speculation that he was considering another run for the seat in 2018 when he hired former Crist staffer Vito Sheeley last monthThe circumstances behind Sheeley’s departure from working for Crist remain shrouded in mystery, part of was has led people to wonder about Crist’s somewhat rough beginning in his short time in Congress.

Charlie Crist may be likable, but how soon before he eyes a new gig?

One of Charlie Crist’s best traits is his likability.

He can be a candle-in-the-wind on issues, depending on his audience. Changing parties infuriated Republicans and made Democrats skeptical. And once he gets a job, he tends to get wandering eyes for his next gig. But damn, he is a really nice guy. Despite his baggage, people like him and a lot of them vote for him.

That’s one reason he rose above the political tsunami that swamped Democrats nationwide and beat another good guy in Republican David Jolly to represent Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

Given that, it’s puzzling that Crist so far apparently hasn’t used his best trait to solidify the home base, even as he adjusts to life in the U.S. House of Representatives. Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times reported Sunday Crist has had a series of stumbles that have supporters wondering what the heck is going on.

Smith wrote that Crist and his wife, Carole, who is paid to oversee his political activities, “generated widespread grumbling and head-scratching about his clumsy start in Congress, even among longtime friends.”

Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long, a Democrat, told the newspaper Crist hasn’t touched base with her since he left for Washington.

“I can only compare the two, and right after David Jolly was elected he was calling my office and asking for a meeting and wanting to work together,” she said. “We built a very tight relationship. I’m hoping we can build the same kind of relationship with Charlie.”

Compare Crist to other members of Congress from the area. Democrat U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor frequently returns to Tampa and Hillsborough County to keep in touch with voters.

Republicans Gus Bilirakis (District 12) and Rep. Dennis Ross (District 15) do the same.

Bilirakis, as was widely reported, held a second “listening session” Saturday with Pasco County voters who forcefully oppose his plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It was the second such meeting Bilirakis has had on that issue with constituents in his district. Give the man credit for showing up.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is another politician who never forgets to keep in touch with the home folks. And we all remember how the late U.S. Rep. Bill Young was an unrelenting champion for Pinellas County.

But where is Charlie?

If this trend continues, it likely will embolden Republicans to find a serious challenger to go after his seat in 2018. It might even inspire a primary challenge from Crist’s own party — assuming he still is a Democrat by then (you never know).

Or, we have to note, people may start to wonder if Crist will lose interest in his current job the way he did as governor and state attorney general and not run for re-election at all.

He could squash all that by just being good ol’ likable Charlie. People will be waiting.

Charlie Crist names Gershom Faulkner as Outreach Director

Congressman Charlie Crist has hired Gershom Faulkner as Outreach Director, to serve as the St. Petersburg Democrat’s liaison throughout Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

“Gershom is a great addition to our team,” Crist said Friday. “His dedication to service is unwavering – as a Marine defending our country, and through positions with former Rep. Frank Peterman and Congresswoman Kathy Castor. As a veteran, small-business owner and community leader, Gershom is uniquely qualified to serve as Outreach Director and we are excited to have him come on board.”

After graduating from high school in St. Petersburg, Faulkner joined the Marines where he served honorably during the Gulf War, receiving several commendations. After four years of active duty, he returned to St. Petersburg and began his service to the community, working with Frank Peterman, Jr. during his tenure as both a city councilman and state representative.

Before mounting a run for city council, Faulkner worked on several local and statewide campaigns, including Betty Castor‘s 2004 senatorial campaign and Kathy Castor‘s successful 2006 congressional campaign, afterward joining her office as Outreach Director.

During the 2016 cycle, Faulkner volunteered on the Crist for Congress campaign.

Faulkner expressed his thanks to Crist in a statement:

“I am pleased and honored to accept Congressman Charlie Crist’s offer to become our Representative’s Outreach Director. This is a position I did not seek but am honored to accept since I have a passionate desire to serve the community and have a firm faith in Congressman Crist’s ability to represent all people in our community in Washington.

“As President Obama evolved on the issue of gay marriage and LGBTQ issues, so too have I evolved. Like Congressman Crist, I am a strong advocate for equal rights and equal protection under the law for the LGBTQ community. I understand that in this ever-changing world, it is imperative to have a representative who is sensitive to the needs of everyone, not just the few or the privileged.

“Regardless of a person’s race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or gender identification, I will work collaboratively with the community as a member of the Congressman’s staff to ensure that every voice is heard and that the needs of all the people are always my first priority.

“I am a veteran of the Gulf War who served in the United States Marine Corps. I was honorably discharged as a Sergeant. After leaving military service, I served as a legislative aide to former State Representative Frank Peterman Jr., and Outreach Director to Congresswoman Kathy Castor, I truly believe that my knowledge of how government works and my strong relationships within the district, will serve Congressman Crist well as his Outreach Director.

“The challenges facing African-Americans, the LGBTQ community, Hispanics, refugees, labor unions and women’s rights, are ALL issues that I stand ready to tackle – relaying solutions to the Congressman as articulated by his constituents.

“I am honored and excited to begin this new chapter of service to my community and my country. I will do everything in my power to live up to the trust placed in me by Congressman Crist. I am looking forward to helping citizens find solutions to their issues and restore the notion that government is an instrument of good for all people.”

Faulkner currently serves on St. Petersburg’s Civil Service Board and previously sat on the Southside St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) ad hoc Planning Committee. He is also President-elect of the St. Petersburg Midtown Rotary Club and serves on the board of the Neighborly Care Network.

Charlie Crist wants Trump administration to look into voter suppression, disenfranchisement

Democrats skeptical about President Trump‘s repeated claims of voter fraud in last November’s election are now challenging him to add voter suppression and disenfranchisement into his administration’s upcoming investigation.

On Super Bowl Sunday, Trump told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that Vice President Mike Pence will be in charge of a commission to probe what he believes was voter fraud in the election, despite a consensus among state officials, election experts — and both Democrats and Republicans — that voter fraud is extremely rare in the U.S.

“I’m going to set up a commission to be headed by Vice President Pence and we’re going to look at it very, very carefully,” Trump told O’Reilly in an interview taped Friday.

Seizing on that, Congressman Charlie Crist and 75 other Democrats are signing on to a letter originally penned by Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings, Alabama’s Terri Sewell and Washington’s Derek Kilmer calling for an evaluation of state voter restrictions in Wisconsin, North Carolina and Florida. Those states bar individuals with past felony convictions from voting unless they are able to meet a burdensome clemency requirement. This law has led to the disenfranchisement of an estimated 1.5 million Floridians. 

“Unsubstantiated voter fraud claims are being used as cover to enact policies aimed at disenfranchising certain voters — something Floridians are all too familiar with,” said Crist, the first-term St. Petersburg Democrat. “Voter suppression efforts are an attack on our democracy. I will fight to protect access to the voting booth, including for nonviolent former felons. It’s a matter of civil rights and fundamental fairness.”

“Voter suppression efforts are an attack on our democracy,” Crist added. “I will fight to protect access to the voting booth, including for nonviolent former felons. It’s a matter of civil rights and fundamental fairness.”

Clearly upset about the fact that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by more than 2.8 million votes, Trump has steadfastly maintained that if it weren’t for voter fraud, he would have won the popular vote on November 8.

Despite that refrain, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday show that while election fraud does occur, “there is no evidence that it occurred in such a significant number that would have changed the presidential election.”

Trump’s focus seems intent only on looking at what happened in November, so the Democrats call for a look into other voting issues will unlikely find a sympathetic audience. Nevertheless, it gives them the opportunity to get out their beliefs that there are sustained, legalized measures in place currently that intentionally suppress the vote.

Charlie Crist, Stephanie Murphy among top GOP targets for 2018

National Republicans, in an effort to boost their majority for the midterms, are targeting top House Democrats over the next two years – including Florida’s Charlie Crist and Stephanie Murphy.

POLITICO first reported on the list of 36 lawmakers coming from the National Republican Congressional Committee, with a particular focus on “blue-collar parts of the country where President Donald Trump is popular.”

Nearly one-third of the districts on the NRCC spreadsheet were taken by President Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton and won by a Democratic House member. Many of those are heavily blue-collar districts in the Midwest, a region Republicans believe see as winnable territory in the Trump era.

Florida’s 13th Congressional District, the district Democrat Crist won in November over incumbent Republican David Jolly, covers much of Pinellas County, which also elected Trump by a single percentage point.

POLITICO notes that there are two Democrats who were not key GOP targets in 2016: Reps. Dave Loebsack of Iowa and Ron Kind from Wisconsin. In 2016, Kind ran unopposed in the West Central Wisconsin district that Trump by more than four points.

“The success of our government depends on Republicans maintaining a strong majority in the House,” NRCC chair Steve Stivers said in a news release. “We owe the American people assurance that the agenda we were elected on — health care reform, a stronger national defense, and more good-paying jobs – is fulfilled.”

Democrats have issued their own list of 59 Republicans, released last month by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Democrats need a gain of 24 seats in 2018 to take back the House.

Charlie Crist named to influential House Science, Space committee; hires 2 constituent staffers

Charlie Crist announced Tuesday he would be serving on the influential House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

Also, the first-year Democratic congressman from St. Petersburg hired two new constituent service representatives — Michael Batista and Dillion Stafford — who will help assist Crist’s constituents of Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

Since Crist was recently named to the House Committee on Financial Services, which is considered an exclusive committee, he required a waiver from the Democratic Caucus to serve on multiple panels.

Science, Space, and Technology have oversight on issues that directly impact both CD 13 and the entire state of Florida. The committee has authority over National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), including the National Weather Service (NWS).

Among the committee’s jurisdictions is the space industry, hurricane preparedness, and response efforts as well as climate change policy. It also oversees nonmilitary research from the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, and the Department of Homeland Security.

“In this role, I will be a fighter for the scientific consensus that climate change is real, happening and caused by humans. I will work to maintain robust support for NOAA and the National Hurricane Center to keep our communities safe,” Crist said in a statement. “And when it comes to investment in the aerospace industry — critical to our state’s economy and our country’s continued leadership in space exploration — I will be a vocal advocate.”

Hiring Batista and Stafford is to give Crist’s constituents better access to Social Security, Medicare, and Veterans benefits and outreach services. The two will be based out of the congressman’s flagship district office in downtown St. Petersburg, 696 1st Avenue North, Suite 203.

Also, Batista will serve as the congressman’s LGBTQ community liaison.

“I am thrilled to have Michael and Dillion join our team, helping provide constituent assistance and community outreach — vital roles to carry out our No. 1 job: serving the people of Florida’s 13th District,” Crist said. “Both Michael and Dillion are committed to serving our community, and their experience and understanding of the needs of Pinellas County residents will be an asset to our office’s commitment to excellent, responsive constituent service.”

In thanking the congressman, Batista said: “As a Floridian and a fellow resident of St. Petersburg, I am honored and overjoyed to have the opportunity to work alongside such a distinguished public servant as congressman Crist, now representing my home and the 13th District of Florida. It is also my pleasure to be assisting my friends and neighbors in Pinellas County.”

Batista also applauded Crist’s work to protect St. Petersburg waters and his dedication to equal rights in Florida, calling the opportunity to work with him “an honor and privilege.”

A Florida native, Batista is a graduate of the University of South Florida with several years’ experience in community outreach, volunteer work, and nonprofit lobbying for human rights issues. Before joining Crist’s office, he worked with the Florida Democratic Party Coordinated Campaign as a Voter Protection Assistant, and was a congressional intern for Tampa Congresswoman Kathy Castor.

Stafford, another University of South Florida graduate who began his career as a field intern for Crist’s 2014 gubernatorial bid, also had high praise for the former governor turned congressman.

“Congressman Crist exemplifies strong leadership and has dedicated his life to not only St. Petersburg, but the entire State of Florida,” Stafford said. “I am both proud and excited for the opportunity to work alongside him in serving the people of Pinellas County.”

Stafford also brings a broad community experience to Crist’s office: former field organizer for State Rep. Mark Danish in Florida House District 63; community organizer with Floridians for Solar Choice; campaign manager for Tampa City Council member Lisa Montelione‘s bid for HD 63; and as a member of the research team for U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy‘s 2016 Senate campaign.

Charlie Crist named to three key financial services subcommittees

Charlie Crist, as a member of the House Financial Services Committee, was tapped to serve on three of its principal subcommittees.

The freshman St. Petersburg Democrat has been named to:

— Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, which covers all matters relating to banking, including oversight of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, mortgages, and federal regulators of financial institutions;

— Monetary Policy and Trade, which has jurisdiction over the Export-Import Bank and the International Monetary Fund as well as the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy, which impacts access to capital and interest rates; and

— Oversight and Investigation, which is tasked with overseeing administration actions relating to financial services to promote good governance in this sector.

These assignments will serve as a complement to Crist’s work on the full committee, such as ensuring flood insurance is more affordable and enacting Wall Street reform.

“Our work on the Financial Services Committee — and particularly these subcommittees — will have a direct impact on residents of Pinellas County,” Crist said in a statement. “I look forward to having the opportunity to affect policies to increase access to capital for small businesses, particularly women- and minority-owned businesses that drive our local economy, as well as defending the Export-Import Bank, which has supported $200 million in exports from Pinellas County businesses since 2012On the Oversight Subcommittee, I will be a faithful watchdog on behalf of the people and their hard-earned tax dollars.”

More information on the roles and responsibilities of Financial Services is available on the committee website.

Tampa Bay area legislative delegation tries to figure out if local governments can work together on a transportation fix

State legislators representing the eight counties that make up the Tampa Bay area Legislative Delegation spent two hours in Clearwater on Wednesday discussing attempts to find a way to begin adequately dealing with the region’s myriad transportation issues.

According to a new white paper prepared by the D.C. based Enos Center for Transportation for the Tampa Bay Partnership, a regional structure for transportation planning, operations and decision-making is paramount to developing a regional transportation system. Which might make an interested observer ask – isn’t that what TBARTA was supposed to be all about?

The Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority was created by the Florida Legislature a decade ago to develop and implement a regional transportation master plan of the seven-county West Central Florida region. Yet as Manatee County GOP Senator Bill Galvano recounted on Wednesday, it was created without a funding mechanism, after then Governor Charlie Crist vetoed the $8 million in appropriations that were created with it.

Galvano said, “That was  a shock to all of us,” adding that, “I don’t think he (Crist) realized the connection and it felt through the cracks.”

Whether TBARTA can ultimately become that vehicle as intended was only mentioned towards the end of the meeting held at Ruth Eckerd Hall.

Lawmakers heard from Lightning owner and Channelside developer Jeff Vinik and Barry Shevlin, co-chairs from the transportation working group with the Tampa Bay Partnership, who worked with the Enos Center to produce the white paper.

Vinik’s comments were more general, saying that waiting another five to ten years to develop a master plan will constrain the growth of the Tampa Bay area. He said all options for transportation improvements – roadway expansion, BRT lines, light rail, commuter rail, etc. – all were on the table. “I know it’s critical that we reach consensus in a direction that we want to head,” he said.

Shevlin delved more into specifics.

“We’re a top twenty metro area, but we’re acting like a collection of municipalities and counties and not a region,” he stated, adding that there was obviously no regional structure for trnasportion planning  or decision making in general happening in the region. And twice during his public comments, Shevlin lamented the fact that on last Saturday, there were 14 different buses moving from Dover in Eastern Hillsborough County to downtown Tampa, yet there wasn’t a single vehicle going from Tampa to Clearwater or St. Petersburg.

Shevlin outlined four priorities that the Partnership believes need to happen.

One is to create a multi-county Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). The second plan is to support a regional center for transit operations. Shevlin said HART and PSTA, the two biggest transit agencies in the Bay area, should have a “closer relationship,” but left it open as to how that happens.

Clearwater Republican Senator Jack Latvala called for a consolidation between the two agencies more than four years ago. After two different studies were conducted, that merger never happened, though the agencies are poised to sign an interlocal agreement which will necessitate more joint efforts.

Shevlin also called for a uniform regulatory law in the state regarding ride share, which Tampa Republican Representative Jamie Grant later assured would happen in this year’s session. And the fourth priority is the regional transit study being conducted right now by the Florida Dept. of Transportation which involves the very controversial Tampa Bay Express project.

TBX was almost an afterthought in the discussions, even though the multibillion dollar plan has been hailed as a much needed congestion relief package. Democrats Sean Shaw and Darryl Rouson, who represented the neighborhoods slated to be deleteriously affected by the TBX proposal, both counseled FDOT to double down on its efforts to communicate with the local community. “As it relates to TBX, my constituents don’t feel that they’ve been heard,” Shaw said.

Senator Galvano said that there has been too much parochialism in the past when it comes to local governments wanted to help out other governments in the 2.9 million universe that is the Tampa Bay area.

“I don’t know if we can get there,” he admitted. “It’s a real challenge, getting the mindset that you may have to ante up in your community for a regional plan that’s not going to impact your community for maybe one, two, three or maybe four years.”

As to whether TBARTA could ever become that agency?

“They are operating on a shoestring budget, cobbled together on donations from local governments,” state HD 63 Republican Shawn Harrison, who served on the TBARTA board when it was first created.  “If we can take that vision and expand, I really do think we do have at our disposal a vehicle that can plan and put assets on the road. ”

“We do have a shoestring budget,” echoed Ray Chiaramonte, TBARTA’s executive director. He did say that every local government except for Sarasota funded the agency last year.

Galvano said he appreciated the work from the Tampa Bay Partnership, but said looking at his colleagues, ranging from counties as diverse as Sarasota to Polk, that “it’s not about the Tampa Bay Partnership, it’s about us, and it’s going to take some effort.”

 

 

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