Government news from around the Gulf Coast
vs. secret ballot
WASHINGTON — On March 10, House Democrats introduced what Congressman Connie Mack, IV, R-Cape Coral, calls “a reckless bill” — the Employee Free Choice Act, also known as “card check.”
The act has caught the attention of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and SAMA, the Sarasota-Manatee Manufacturers Association, who both sent out a “Call to Action” to their members recently. Both groups oppose the bill due to its potential adverse impact on small employers. The chamber pans it as a “catastrophic idea.”
The bill would replace a worker's right to a secret ballot for union organizing with a card check system. A union could be formed as soon as a simple majority of workers sign public authorization cards instead of federally-supervised secret ballot elections.
The Senate version of the bill will be heard first with the House taking it up later in the year.
A press release from Mack's office quotes him saying, “Card check invites coercion and intimidation by forcing workers to sign union organization cards in front of union organizers, employers and fellow employees.” Mack adds,
“It's very clear that the Democrats in Congress and the White House want to continue to reward Big Labor as part of their political payback for last year's elections. It's particularly ironic and troublesome that the very leaders who were elected by a secret ballot want to take that right away from millions of American workers.”
Mack is an original cosponsor of the Secret Ballot Protection Act (H.R. 1176), which protects the rights of workers to have secret ballot elections when forming a union. The legislation prevents unionization based solely on “card check,” and bars recognition of a union formed without a secret ballot election.
in Tampa region
FLORIDA — So far along the Gulf Coast, all the contested races for seats in the Florida Legislature are concentrated around the Tampa Bay area.
Tom Aderhold, a Tampa Republican is running for the District 47 seat being vacated by Rep. Kevin Ambler, R-Tampa. Ambler has filed to run for the State Senate District 12 seat along with fellow Republican Hillsborough County Commissioner Jim Norman. Senator Victor Crist, R-Tampa, is vacating his seat due to term limits and has announced that he is running for a Hillsborough County Commission seat.
Joseph Wendt, a Republican from Tampa, has filed to run for the District 60 seat held by Rep. Ed Homan, R-Tampa since 2002. Homan, a 65-year old orthopedic surgeon, is term-limited out in 2010. Another Republican, New
Tampa attorney and former Tampa City Council member Shawn Harrison, has announced plans to get in the race. Curtis Stokes, head of the Hillsborough chapter of the NAACP has also indicated he plans to run for the seat.
Stokes previous attempt at elected office failed when he was defeated in his bid for a seat on the Tampa City Council in 2003.
Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, is being challenged by Clearwater Republican Fabian Calvo for the District 50 seat. Hooper, who was elected to the Florida House in 2006, is currently chairman of the Pinellas County legislative delegation.
Other Gulf Coast area incumbents who have opposition and have filed to run for re-election in the Florida House are District 55 Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, opposed by Martha Allen a St. Petersburg democrat; and District 56 Rep. Rachel Burgin, R-Brandon, who is being challenged by Lewis Laricchia, a Democrat from Valrico; and District 48 Rep. Peter Nehr, R-Tarpon Springs facing Thomas McKone, III also of Tarpon Springs.
In District 67, covering parts of Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota counties, three are vying for the seat being vacated by Speaker pro-tempore, Rep. Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton. Seeking the seat are Republicans Jeremiah Guccione, Robert McCann, and W. Greg Steube, son of Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube.
Except for Rep. John Legg, R-Port Richey, who has not filed yet, all other Gulf Coast area House members who are not up against term limits have filed for re-election in 2010 and are currently unopposed. Only four Gulf Coast area senators are up for re-election and none, so far, face opposition.
LEAP of faith
PASCO COUNTY — Facing a $28.8 million revenue shortfall due to declining taxable property values, Pasco County is spending nearly $175,000 for what they are calling LEAP into Excellence, or Lean Efficient Accessible Pasco.
Initiated in 2007, LEAP's primary goals are to improve customer service, increase efficiency, and reduce expenditures.
A Budget 101 class for citizens to provide budget input is being promoted by the county, and focus group and stakeholder meetings are being held this month. Commissioner Pat Mulieri says, “We want input from citizens ... because government is getting to the point that we can't do everything.” According to Mulieri, the county effort will involve citizens in looking at how things are done in every department.
The county will also get input from the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), who the county has contracted with “to implement a proven model of performance excellence throughout county government.” The budget includes $15,000 for travel expenses and administrative costs and $5,550 for membership in the ICMA Center for Performance Management.
Lee County Property Appraiser Ken Wilkinson and Clerk of Courts Charlie Green will provide a property tax outlook and discuss foreclosure issues as the featured speakers March 25 at The Chamber of Southwest Florida's Issues and Barbecue luncheon. Registration begins at 11:30 a.m. and the program is from noon-1:30 -p.m. The event is being held at Hodges University, Room 364, 4501 Colonial Blvd. For more information, call (239) 278-4001 or visit www.chamber-swflorida.com/Events.
The Downtown Partnership of Sarasota's monthly luncheon forum is Tuesday, March 24 featuring a program titled, “Candidate Run Off — Who will get your vote.” Three city commission candidates, who were the highest vote getters in the March 10 primary election are in a run-off for two at-large seats on the five member board. The election is April 14. The luncheons are held at the Sarasota University Club, 1605 Main Street, 12th floor. The cost for the luncheon is $25 for members and $30 for non-members.