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Local legislators provide update on session issues

By Staff | Jun 6, 2009

A day after announcing his candidacy for Florida Attorney General, state Sen. David Aronberg, D-Greenacres, wasn’t touting his experience as an Assistant Attorney General, but reviewing the latest legislative session.
Speaking Friday at a meeting of the Council for Progress, a group of Cape Coral business leaders, Aronberg outlined the difficult budget process and railed against the possible sale or lease of Alligator Alley to a private company.
“This year was the toughest legislative session I’ve seen,” Aronberg said.
The Florida Legislature needed to call a special session last month to pass the budget, despite the help of federal stimulus funds.
“We wouldn’t have balanced the budget without those federal stimulus dollars,” Aronberg said, warning the federal help would not be forthcoming in future years.
He also warned against the possible 75-year lease of Alligator Alley, saying Florida could be liable if the road shut down due to a hurricane or fire hazard, and have no control over increases in tolls.
“I don’t think it’s good policy to sell or lease our public roads to private companies. It’s not great for public safety when you have foreign (companies) controlling the roads,” Aronberg said.
State Rep. Gary Aubuchon, R-Cape Coral, also was on hand to recount the past legislative session, touting bills he sponsored that were passed and signed into law.
Aubuchon’s bills provided first-time home buyers with downpayment assistance, levelled the legal playing field for developers disputing impact fees, and required notification of local governments when the Florida Department of Health shuts down a beach due to health hazards.
His most popular piece of legislation, at least among Council for Progress members, was a bill that provided state funds for the widening of Pine Island Road from two lanes to four from Chiquita Boulevard west to Burnt Store Road.
Under the legislation, the state will pay Cape Coral back for the $54.5 million project, at a rate of $5 million per year beginning in 2015. The city will use assessments to properties along the road and increases in property values to pay for the road, which has been eyed for expansion by the city for more than two decades.
“We are right at the finish line. We cannot fall short when we’re this close after 22 years,” Aubuchon said.
Cape Coral city council members, scheduled to vote on the issue Monday, must sign off on the project, as well as the Metropolitan Planning Organization, which will take up the issue during its June 19 meeting.
Aronberg did take time to address the 2010 campaign season, but spoke of the “domino effect” U.S. Senator Mel Martinez’ decision not to run for another term has had on other politicians seeking office instead of his own campaign.
“It’s going to be political bedlam in 2010,” Aronberg said, noting Gov. Charlie Crist and state Rep. Marco Rubio, R-Miami, have declared their intent for Martinez’ seat.
As for Aronberg’s own race, he may have some local competition. Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, a North Fort Myers resident, has said he is considering a run for Florida Attorney General but has not made a final decision.