Fitzgerald Town Hall

05/21/08 Virginia Hoffman
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State Rep. Keith Fitzgerald for Legislative District 69 spoke to constituents at a Post-Session Town Hall Meeting last night.

Fitzgerald started his Town Hall with a happy tone due to excitement over a face to face meeting with presidential candidate Barack Obama. As the subject changed to the Post-Session theme, he became serious. Claiming the downturn in Florida is not just because of the economy but because of poor revenue policies in general. He is disappointed and angry that the Legislature didn't do a better job. Serious issues such as affordable housing, growth management and insurance cost were not dealt with adequately, he said..

As a minority member Fitzgerald explained he must go to the other side to get things done. He brokers agreements with majority members to attach initiatives to their bills. On the Environmental Protection Committee he found agreement for an energy policy promoting conservation and “net metering.” That’s an initiative providing Floridians a way to get into the energy business. Citizens who invest in solar power can sell their excess energy back to the power companies.

First to comment was Shirley Brown, a Sarasota School Board member and past District 69 representative. She described Sarasota as a property rich county that gives out ample tax funds which assist other county school systems. She asked if more cuts were coming and about future funding for schools. Fitzgerald explained that the Legislature expanded Gov. Charlie Crist’s authority to dip into the “Rainy Day Funds.”

During a general discussion about tax cuts and the shaving of sales tax exemptions. Fitzgerald warned that Amendment One has not taken effect and will create even more cuts. He said it gives tax relief to people who did not need it. Specifically homeowners like him who receive the benefit of portability, emphasizing this does not help empty nesters or those who own commercial real estate.

On the home front local administrators asked Fitzgerald to add something to the growth management bill called the “Urban Place Making Initiative.” This would relax restrictions for development in areas of aging neighborhoods where transition in a traditional urban setting is needed.

With the 2008 session over Keith Fitzgerald continues his political science professor duties. He will do what other State House incumbents around the state are doing; work on fundraising and organizing their re-election campaigns.

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