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    Peterman to stress economic vitality

    The Democrat says he will seek financial and technical help for small businesses.

    By CURTIS KRUEGER, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published August 3, 2002

    Frank Peterman Jr. said he wants to return to the Florida House to work for economic development, better pay for teachers and other issues.

    "Those perennial issues will have to be addressed, and we're just going to have to keep hammering away at them," said Peterman, a former St. Petersburg City Council member who was elected to the House two years ago.

    Asked what the Legislature can do to improve life in District 55, which includes southern St. Petersburg, and portions of Hillsborough and Manatee counties, Peterman said "this is a good time to begin pushing for more economic vitality in this district."

    He said he would fight for more programs to assist small businesses with loans as well as technical help. The government's assistance to small businesses should be focused especially in those areas "that have been traditionally economically depressed."

    Peterman, a Democrat, is being challenged by Republican Vincent K. Hopkins and Libertarian Thomas William Kilmon.

    Peterman said he supports a constitutional amendment to reduce class sizes in Florida's public schools. Polls indicate that voters favor the idea, and "if they're willing to do that, then we ought to be able to step up the plate as legislators and support the reduction of class sizes."

    How would he pay for it? He said the Legislature should look for ways to close exemptions in the sales tax, although such a proposal failed in the House this year.

    Peterman said he's proud that he sponsored a bill that will allow Pinellas County voters to decide if they want single-member districts in School Board races. Currently, the seven School Board members are elected countywide.

    Under the November referendum, voters could adopt a system in which four School Board members are elected from districts, and three countywide. He said he believes that makes sense for all Pinellas County residents, because an individual community could have greater influence on at least one race.

    Peterman also said he is working on legislation designed to make sure labor contractors don't overcharge migrant laborers for basic living expenses.

    A graduate of Lakewood High School and Morehouse College, Peterman, 40, is pursuing a master's degree from the Dallas Theological Seminary. Peterman is development director for Juvenile Services Program, a state-funded juvenile justice program. He is married with three children.

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