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    Opponent: Legislator's absences hurt U.S. 19

    But Rep. Larry Crow says family responsibilities caused him to miss 23 of 30 transportation committee meetings in two years.

    By KATHERINE GAZELLA

    © St. Petersburg Times, published October 16, 2000


    State Rep. Larry Crow has missed most of his meetings for a committee that decides how transportation money is spent, and his election opponent is charging that the absences have cost the county valuable funding for U.S. 19.

    Crow, a Republican from Palm Harbor, missed 23 of 30 meetings of the Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Committee in the past two years, records show.

    His opponent, Democrat Sue Humphreys, said his attendance record is evidence that he is not standing up for the needs of Pinellas County. "It's an abuse of the public trust to be sent to Tallahassee and not show up to represent the people of Pinellas County," she said.

    Crow said he was absent from 14 of 17 meetings in the 2000 legislative session because his wife had a herniated disk in her back and he needed to spend more time at home with his two sons.

    "My family comes before my work every time," said Crow, a 40-year-old attorney. "It's always family-related."

    But Crow was absent from 10 of 13 transportation meetings during the previous session, before his wife's back problems. Those absences were due to conflicting work on other committees, he said.

    "During the session, you're constantly in committees," he said.

    In a recent interview with the Times, Crow criticized Sen. Jim Sebesta, vice chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, and Senate Majority Leader Jack Latvala for not getting more road money for Pinellas County. Humphreys pointed to those statements and said Crow shares blame for not getting more money for U.S. 19.

    "How characteristic of Rep. Crow to blame inadequate state funding for U.S. 19 on someone else," said Humphreys, 53, a real estate property manager who lives in Dunedin. "Mr. Crow has been in office for six years. He still expects others to show up and do the work."

    Crow said his absences from the transportation panel did not jeopardize his ability to fight for funding. He pointed out that he didn't miss votes or any "salient debate."

    Humphrey's charge "is just campaign rhetoric," he said. "I'm out there trying as hard as anyone to get more money."

    Former Rep. Carlos Valdes held the second-highest absentee rate on the transportation committee, with six absences in 18 meetings. Valdes resigned from office in 1999 to run for an open Senate seat. No one else on the committee had more than three absences.

    Crow also missed a majority of the meetings of the Reapportionment Committee and several meetings of the Election Reform Committee. He missed seven of 11 reapportionment meetings in 1999 and 2000, and three of seven election reform meetings in the 2000 session, records show. Attendance records for his other committees were not immediately available.

    - Staff writer Katherine Gazella can be reached at (727) 445-4182 or gazella@sptimes.com.

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