Flood insurance and bipartisanship are the two leading issues facing U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis as of late, who drops three places in the 2014 SaintPetersBlog list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians, down this year to #14.
Working with Democrats is certainly nothing new for the Palm Harbor Republican, who has frequently walked across the aisle to get things done. Lately, though, cooperation has become essential if any lawmaker expects to make headway in the aftermath of devastating National Flood Insurance Program insurance rate changes — probably one of the most serious challenges affecting Pinellas County in quite some time.
With the end of federally subsidized flood coverage, Bilirakis once again reached out to the other side for solutions to keep his constituents from drowning in a wave of skyrocketing premiums.
But bipartisanship, especially in this political climate, comes with a price. Bilirakis was dropped from a House leadership “whip” team for the mortal sin of voting with Democrats in an unsuccessful attempt to force a vote on flood insurance legislation, which already passed the Senate.
In Congress, he also serves as chair of the Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communication, an essential appointment for the state of Florida, and one that puts him right in the center of the NFIP flood insurance dispute. His position gives him oversight of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, whose re-drawn maps were one of the factors that began the whole NFIP mess.
Bilirakis is also vice chair of the Veteran’s Affairs Committee, another important base for Tampa Bay since it advocates for veterans, as well as overseeing the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Before moving to Washington D.C. in 2007, Bilirakis also served four terms in the Florida House, where he sat on Crime Prevention, Public Safety Appropriations, and the Economic Development, Trade, & Banking committees.
In Tallahassee, Bilirakis was also known as someone willing to work with both parties to advance his agenda.
For a complete explanation of how this list was created and who comprised the panel that assembled it, please read here.