Sunday, November 19, 2017
Politics

March column: Rep. Harrison stuck between Tallahassee powers

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State Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa, is "caught between a rock and a hard place," as Mayor Bob Buckhorn put it, in the internecine GOP feud over business incentives and tourism marketing.

That probably makes prospects dim for Harrison to push through appropriations he wanted for University of South Florida, and projects for New Tampa and the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority.

The rock: Gov. Rick Scott, who wants to continue funding the Enterprise Florida Inc. and Visit Florida and has the option of vetoing appropriations requested by legislators who don't go along.

The hard place: House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who adamantly opposes Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida and can squash any House member's legislative initiatives.

In the coming legislative session, Harrison had hoped to seek $500,000 to expand the TBARTA van pool program; $6.5 million for a New Tampa Cultural and Emergency Center; and $9 million for a science teaching and research facility at USF.

But legislators are saying privately that Scott has threatened to veto their appropriation requests if they don't vote his way on Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. Last week, he held a series of rallies including one in Tampa to single out legislators including Harrison who voted in committee for a bill killing the agencies. Scott said he was "shocked" by Harrison's vote.

In an interview this week, Harrison said he's taking his stance against Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida purely on the merits and hasn't felt political pressure from either direction. He said he hopes negotiations will lead to a compromise, which would ease the squeeze.

Between now and May, the end of the session, "I feel confident EFI will come back and prove its worth, and if they do, maybe this issue will resolve itself," Harrison said.

Buckhorn, a friend and occasional ally of Harrison even though they're in different parties, sides with Scott and appeared at Scott's rally, but sympathizes with Harrison's predicament.

"All of us that do this recognize there are consequences for every vote," Buckhorn said.

Harrison may think he has more to fear from Corcoran than Scott.

In a tight budget year, his requests could be long shots anyway, and while Scott's days as governor are waning, Corcoran will be followed as House speaker by Jose Oliva, R-Hialeah, who's solidly in Corcoran's camp.

Buckhorn, meanwhile, doesn't appear to be moving in the direction of running for governor, according to a story last week by the Tampa Bay Times' Adam Smith.

In the past, he's hinted that running for state chief financial officer could be an alternative.

But the resignation of current CFO Jeff Atwater to take a post at Florida Atlantic University could throw a wrench into that idea.

Scott will get to name a temporary replacement. As the mayor noted last week, "It could go from an open seat to a seat with a Republican incumbent in it — for any Democrat that would be a hurdle to overcome."

Meanwhile, former state Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, who's openly interested in the CFO race, will speak in March at Café con Tampa — a program run by public relations executive Bill Carlson, a political foe of Buckhorn.

Will it be Miranda vs. Maniscalco in Tampa?

Is Tampa City Council member Charlie Miranda really mad enough at fellow council member Guido Maniscalco to leave his safe citywide seat to run in Maniscalco's West Tampa district?

It seems unlikely.

But it turns out the discord has some deep roots. As described with a laugh by Maniscalco, it goes back to the days when Maniscalco's family and the Mirandas were backyard neighbors and argued over a storage trailer in Miranda's backyard.

More recently, the two have disagreed over a citywide stormwater assessment — Maniscalco for it, Miranda against — and a long-running, hotly contested rezoning request by St. Joseph's Women's Hospital. Maniscalco favors it while Miranda, who lives nearby, recuses himself but opposes it, saying the hospital hasn't treated its neighbors well.

Miranda typically doesn't talk about his political plans in advance, and won't say whether he expects to run for re-election to his current seat, take another shot at the mayor's office, or jump to the district race.

"He'll file at the last minute after seeing what I do," Maniscalco said. "I think he could win re-election easily, but coming into my district, I don't know."

He said his Seminole Heights has changed drastically in character in the last decade, and the Beach Park areas of the district were solidly in favor of the stormwater plan.

GOP women host conservative comic

The Tampa Republican Women Federated will host right-wing Jewish comedian Eric Golub at their March 6 dinner meeting.

Golub is a speaker and author who says he wants to take back the world of comedy from liberals, and whose material has made him controversial.

Samples of his tweets: "Andy Puzder withdraws. I wish Barack Obama & Hillary Clinton's fathers had both withdrawn." "Of course Democrats are leaking. They can't help it. Their leaders are old bats. Old people leak."

Contact William March at wemarch@gmail.com

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