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Legislature 2004

Byrd plans get funds; rate freeze foes don't

Republicans who voted against a phone rate freeze had their local water projects killed.

By JENNIFER LIBERTO
Published April 29, 2004

TALLAHASSEE - House Speaker Johnnie Byrd found plenty of money to pay for projects close to home, but he punished fellow Republicans who opposed one of his top priorities.

Five Republicans who voted against a phone rate freeze supported by Byrd saw their local water projects killed.

"It was in and then was taken out," said Rep. Car Domino, R-Palm Beach Gardens, who had wanted $5-million to restore Lake Worth Lagoon in Palm Beach County. "I was told it was because of my vote against the telecom freeze."

Byrd found $5-million for a new courthouse in Plant City, his hometown, and $12-million for the Tampa Alzheimer's center named after his dad.

Other Republicans weren't so lucky.

Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, said all the money she sought for Polk County water projects was pushed into water projects for Hernando County, which she also represents. She accused Byrd of penalizing Polk because three Republican House members voted against the phone rate freeze.

"The speaker was punishing members, so I just couldn't have the money," Dockery said. "But Hernando did very well."

Rep. Dennis Ross did not.

"Mine was taken away, and it was three years in the making," said Ross, R-Lakeland, who wanted $600,000 for a new sewage system for Mulberry.

"I am so frustrated that it has come to this, that our citizens are made to suffer this vindictiveness," Ross told the Lakeland Ledger.

The others who lost water projects were Frank Attkisson, R-Kissimmee, Marty Bowen, R-Winter Haven, and Ron Reagan, R-Sarasota.

They were among 16 House Republicans who voted against the phone rate freeze.

A Byrd spokesman said the House speaker was not punishing anyone. "Some people who voted with the speaker got funded, and some people who voted against the speaker got funded," said Tom Denham.

Legislative power has its privileges, and Senate President Jim King used his to steer $25-million to a chiropractic school at Florida State University. The project is a priority of Senate Majority Leader Dennis Jones, R-Treasure Island, a chiropractor.

King also directed $1.5-million for police and fire safety equipment for Welaka, the tiny town on the St. John's River where King owns a weekend getaway.

"There's never a night that goes by, when I'm sleeping in my trailer, that I'm not afraid there might be some rubber-boat attack," King joked.

King's home county of Duval also was the biggest winner when a controversial school funding formula was approved. "I had no idea that Duval would be the No. 1 winner," King said. He called it "a policy decision that made sense."

- Times Staff Writers Lucy Morgan and Steve Bousquet contributed to this report.

[Last modified April 29, 2004, 01:35:43]


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