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Ridesharing bill advances to final vote in Senate

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Legislation creating a statewide regulatory framework for ridesharing companies was debated Tuesday on the Senate floor. Sponsored by St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes, SB 340 would require ride-sharing companies to carry $100,000 of insurance for bodily injury or death and $25,000 for property damage while a driver is logged onto their app but hasn’t secured a passenger. While with a rider, drivers would be required to have $1 million in coverage. It also requires transportation network companies to have third parties conduct local and…

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Senate advances plan for new Tampa Bay-area transit agency

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Legislation to reconfigure the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA) was approved Monday by the Florida Senate Commerce Committee. However, the bill passed with changes taking some power from the agency and giving it to the state. Sponsored by Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala, SB 1672 would change TBARTA to a transit agency (no longer transportation) and would encompass just four counties — Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco and Pinellas Counties. It’s been a top priority of the Tampa Bay Partnership this Session. However, two other…

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Bigger wine bottles could be coming to Florida

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Thanks to state Sen. Jeff Brandes, Nebuchadnezzar may come to Florida—the wine bottle size, not the king of ancient Babylon. Current law generally makes it illegal to sell wine “in an individual container holding more than 1 gallon.” A typical bottle is 750 milliliters, roughly a fifth of a gallon. Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, last week offered an amendment to a booze-advertising bill (SB 388). The amendment, adopted without objection, repeals the bottle-size law. It would allow wine bottles of all sizes, including the…

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Jeff Brandes wants to keep renewable energy bill clean

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A Senate panel approved a bill by St. Petersburg Sen. Jeff Brandes that would implement solar tax breaks approved by Florida voters in last year. More than 70 percent of Florida voters backed Amendment 4 in August, which makes it so the increased value of a home due to renewable energy improvements such as solar panels can’t be included when assessing a property’s value for tax purposes. SB 90, which is supported by environmental groups and solar panel installers, doesn’t…

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George Gainer, Jeff Brandes reverse positions on Tri-Rail, push bill to let controversial contract stand

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Tri-Rail’s controversial, one-source, half-billion, operations contract could go forward under an amended bill pushed Thursday by the Gov. Rick Scott administration and state Sens. George Gainer and Jeff Brandes. Just a few weeks ago, both Gainer and Brandes were hostile critics of the contract and Tri-Rail. Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, sponsored an amendment Thursday that strips away language that he and Scott had pushed for earlier that would have forced Tri-Rail to rebid the $511 million, 10-year contract. Tri-Rail’s operating…

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Sparks fly with Tampa Bay GOP senators over Tom Lee’s call for Tampa International Airport audit

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Sparks flew on the floor of the Florida Senate Wednesday between Tampa Bay-area Republicans after Tom Lee stated that “potential public corruption” is taking place at Tampa International Airport. The Brandon Republican then proposed inserting an amendment to the Senate budget calling for the Auditor General to review spending at the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, which is currently in the midst of a billion-dollar-plus master plan renovation. “There have been allegations of gross representation,” Lee told Dana Young of Tampa (as well as the…

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The case against Rick Baker running for St. Petersburg mayor

in The Bay and the 'Burg by

As coy as he has been with the local media and as busy as he is promoting the Rowdies referendum, Rick Baker is almost certain to run for St. Petersburg mayor this year. Last week, Baker was in Tallahassee for a series of not-exactly-clandestine meetings with top Republican donors like Brian Ballard and Nick Iarossi. Baker’s biggest cheerleader in the capital, state Sen. Jeff Brandes, set up the meetings. Baker does not particularly enjoy fundraising; At least not as much…

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