Rivals both have Capitol experience
By ALISA ULFERTS
Published November 3, 2006
Neither state House District 53 candidate has pushed the green or red button that signals a yea or nay vote. Neither has had a line of lobbyists snaking outside his office door. And neither has tucked thousands of dollars for a hometown park or festival into the state budget.
But that doesn't mean Democrat Rick Kriseman and Republican Thomas Piccolo are strangers to the political processes - official and unofficial - that govern Tallahassee.
Well before he set his sights on treading the marbled, fourth-floor rotunda of the state Capitol as one of its elected members, Kriseman learned its ins and outs as a member of the St. Petersburg City Council's Legislative Affairs and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee.
As a committee member, Kriseman has researched legislation that could affect St. Petersburg and made recommendations to his fellow commissioners. The topics have ranged from transportation to water to drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico.
"I definitely am familiar with the process," said Kriseman, who generally takes a trip or two to Tallahassee during the legislative session to meet with area lawmakers. And while most of Kriseman's campaign contributions have been from local sources, he has received checks from a number of well-established Tallahassee political action committees, such as the Florida Hospital Association and the Florida Lawyers Action Group.
Piccolo hasn't pulled in as much money from Tallahassee. But he did get a bill passed. While still a student at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and serving as president of the student body, Piccolo persuaded lawmakers to pass a bill that would allow the school to raise student fees to build a student center.
Under the bill, a committee would have the ability to impose a one-time fee to borrow money. Half of the committee must be students selected by the student government president.
Piccolo traveled several times to Tallahassee during the spring of 2005, testifying before committees. The bill sailed through the committees and ultimately was passed by the Legislature.
But then Piccolo got the experience that lawmakers - the ones who beat the odds and actually get one of their bills passed - dread. Gov. Jeb Bush vetoed the bill, saying he didn't want a student fee law that applied to only one school.
Piccolo said the bill wouldn't have automatically imposed a fee increase.
"The goal was to give the students the ability to have this if they wanted it," Piccolo said.
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