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House Transportation and Tourism panel begins vetting member projects

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The House Transportation and Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee began voting on nearly $500 million in member project bills Wednesday, as its chairman warned that the panel’s approval does not guaratee a project will make it into the final House budget bill.

“Our point here is to try to vet these to the extent we can in the time that we have,” Rep. Clay Ingram told committee members.

“As we pass or don’t pass them, it doesn’t mean they are going to be in the House bill, but it makes them eligible,” he said. “I think we’ve had in the neighborhood of 300 bills filed, and a whole lot more in the queue ready to be filed before session starts.”

Actually, House members had requested 319 projects worth $708 million by the House’s Feb. 7 deadline. The various appropriations subcommittees began culling the herd Wednesday.

Ingram said he had sidelined some projects that he knew just wouldn’t fly.

“My first paring down was looking at the bills. There are a whole lot that we just didn’t even consider to be brought up. The bills that were presented today are bills that I thought had merit and had already been vetted to some extent,” Ingram said.

He deep-sixed projects if he thought “the amounts were just absurdly too high, or it was not something I felt the House as a body would be comfortable funding,” he said.

“I tried to make it clear that this was one more step in vetting a project. It doesn’t guarantee it’s going to be in the House bill, but it’s one more step in the process.”

Among the bills that will move along are measures that would designate a portion of State Road 408 in Orange County the Arnold Palmer Expressway, for about $1,000 from the Department of Transportation budget; spend $2 million for Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, bike lanes, and other road improvements in Venice; and spend $200,000 to erect solar lighting on a road in western Broward County to help prevent cars running into a canal.

Another $3 million would support “community catalyst” projects statewide to help neighborhoods recover from the foreclosure crisis. Some $3 million would finance repairs and restoration of the St. Marks Lighthouse, in Walkulla County. A restoration project at an historic school in Hernando, in Citrus County, would get $396,400.

Additionally, the Taylor House African American museum in Tallahassee’s Frenchtown neighborhood would get around $200,000.

Ingram said House leaders have not yet told him how much money he will have to spend.

“Those decisions are made by the presiding officers before they present the allotted amounts to each subcommittee,” he said.

Michael Moline is a former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal and managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal. Previously, he reported on politics and the courts in Tallahassee for United Press International. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as editor of the Florida Flambeau. His family’s roots in Jackson County date back many generations.

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