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Politics

Bay area gains clout in Capitol

Storms will head a panel, rare for a freshman.

By JENNIFER LIBERTO and ALEX LEARY
Published December 13, 2006


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photo
[Times file photo]
Senate rookie Rhonda Storms will run a committee that deals with policy impacting the lately troubled Department of Children and Families.

TALLAHASSEE - Tampa Bay area lawmakers scored plum assignments on Tuesday, as legislative leaders revealed who would get to steer policy and money over the next two years.

All of the bay area's Republican senators were appointed to run committees, including Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Brandon, a surprise for a freshman lawmaker. In the House, the Tampa Bay delegation scored two committee chairmanships and several vice chairmanships, with representation spread from education to health care and security.

"This way we have people focused on all the issues for the region," said Rep. Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City, vice chairman of the Infrastructure Committee. "That makes us a stronger delegation."

In the Senate, Republicans Mike Fasano of New Port Richey and Paula Dockery of Lakeland were both selected as majority whips or top party leaders who also will run important committees. Fasano will lead a group in charge of a $10-billion budget for transportation and economic development issues. Dockery will run a military and domestic security committee as well as another group that serves as the gatekeeper for court, crime, security and elections bills to get to the Senate floor.

"In the Senate, we've done extremely well, and I was really pleased," Fasano said.

Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, will again run a group in charge of doling out money for departments of corrections, law enforcement and courts. Sen. Nancy Argenziano, R-Dunnellon, will run a criminal justice policy group.

Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Treasure Island, will again run a group that oversees the gambling industry, despite criticism he drew last year for taking a trip to Toronto as a guest of a Canadian gambling company. Jones defended the trip, and he was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Bay area lawmakers in both chambers will run committees that deal with policy affecting the lately troubled Department of Children and Families. Storms will run the Senate committee and Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, will lead the House's efforts to negotiate solutions to the recent controversy over a funding shortfall that has left mentally ill inmates in jail longer than state law allows.

"We've got a big challenge before us," Galvano said.

Rep. Ed Homan, R-Tampa, will chair a group that oversees audit reviews of agencies.

The only Tampa Bay lawmakers who got appointed to serve on insurance committees are all rookies with no previous legislative experience, including Storms in the Senate, Rep. Janet Long, D-Seminole, and Rep. Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill.

[Last modified December 13, 2006, 05:35:57]


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