Florida House candidates focus on jobs

 

Florida House candidates focus on jobs

 

Date: October 14, 2010
by: Robin Roy | City Editor

 
 

Incumbent Republican Doug Holder frequently refers to his career as a small-business owner when describing why he should be re-elected to the Legislature.

Democrat Nancy Feehan, a former assistant attorney general for the state of Maine, believes that job gave her great insight into the legislative process, while her time in private practice provided her small-business experience.

Both candidates agree that the economy is the most pressing issue in Tallahassee, but their opinions diverge from there.


Doug Holder
(Republican)

Age: 42
Hometown: Marietta, Ga.
Family: Married with two children
Education: Political science degree from Middle Tennessee State University
Career: Small business owner

Why are you the best candidate?

This is election is about two things — jobs and the economy. Now more than ever, business-minded candidates have been stepping up all over the country. I am a small-business owner, so I understand the demands we face as a state and around the kitchen table. If we are going to get out of this economic slump, we need to aggressively tackle eliminating red tape and government spending. Doing this will attract business from around the world to set up shop permanently in Florida, not just visit.

What specific steps will you take to bring jobs to your district?
Last year, I sponsored several bills that created tax exemptions and incentives for small businesses. That is a first step in a long series of steps. As we ensure that our small-business community is able to grow and Floridians keep their jobs, I will continue to meet with the business community to search out their needs and suggestions. I will also work closely with our county and city officials to help find thriving and innovative industries that can establish themselves in the area to help put people back to work.

Aside from job creation, what specific things do you plan to do for your district?
Indeed, economic development and job creation are our paramount duty.  Beyond that, I plan to work on energy issues and look for ways to make Florida a leader in both production and consumption of alternative energies that will lesson our dependence on fossil fuels and foreign governments. Furthermore, I have been working with Mote Marine Laboratory to secure funding for independent research on the effect of the dispersants that were used to help reduce the effects of the oil spill — an effort that will help sustain local jobs. The most important thing we are focused on is job creation.

How would you make homeowners insurance more available and more affordable?
Florida has created a government-dominated market through Citizens Insurance, which discourages competition. We need to encourage competition, which is the surest way to increase availability and affordability. I am committed to making sure that insurance companies follow the law, pass along savings to consumers and treat Floridians fairly. I am proud to have supported the Homeowners Bill of Rights, which created consumer protections and reduced property owner risk. 

What is your stance on oil drilling in state waters?
I oppose drilling in state waters. As we discovered with the Deepwater Horizon blowout, the cost to our state would be too great if an accident like that were to occur near our beaches. I am committed to protecting our coast and will continue to fight with groups like Protect Out Waters and the labs at Mote to ensure that we are able to secure funding to conduct independent research on the long-term effects of oil and the dispersants that were used in the Gulf.

The state’s latest long-range financial outlook includes lower revenue expectations for the next three years. How would you propose the Legislature deal with that slower-than-expected growth?
As a small-business owner, I know that when times are tough you need to focus on the things you do well in order to survive. In Florida, we have always been the standard in areas such as agriculture, tourism and retirement services. Secondly, we will continue to recruit new industries to Florida. I know that the key to getting our economy back on track is to help the private sector thrive, and that’s why I believe we need business-minded individuals in Tallahassee now more than ever.

Are Florida’s public schools adequately funded? Why?
Since joining the Legislature in 2006, I am proud of the work we have been able to do to not cut a single dollar out of the budget for education. We are fortunate in Sarasota to have one of the best school districts in the state. However, I believe that as we begin to see general revenue increase, we will be able to look for ways to increase the funding we give to education.

Do you support continuing legal action against the federal government for its mandatory health-care plan?
Yes. I believe Congress erred in passing this bill by overstepping the federal government’s powers. The federal mandates behind President Obama’s health-care legislation will create an incredible strain on our budget and our economy. The new law will raise taxes and cut Medicare, threatening seniors’ access to high quality health care. It is imperative that the next attorney general continues the fight against President Obama’s health-care plan and for the members of the Legislature to back that effort.
 


Nancy Feehan
(Democrat)

Age: 54
Hometown: Osprey
Family: Two children
Education: Bachelor’s degree in government and legal studies from Bowdoin College and law degree from Franklin Pierce Law Center
Career: Former assistant attorney general for state of Maine and private-practice attorney

Why are you the best candidate?
I understand government, the legislative process, business and our community. As a former attorney general, I drafted, interpreted and defended legislation. From being in private practice, I understand the challenges faced by small businesses. But, most importantly, I understand this community. I have lived here for almost 20 years, raised my children through our public schools and been devoted to making our community a better place through extensive community involvement.

What specific steps will you take to bring jobs to your district?
I propose reducing our corporate income tax rate from 5.5% to 4.5% on the condition that the big-box stores, such as Wal-Mart, that currently pay 0% to the state, pay their fair share here. This would allow our small businesses to expand, hire or just breathe, as our economy recovers. Additionally, I propose aligning our state laws with the federal depreciation schedules. Businesses will be able to take advantage of our new economic development ad valorem tax exemptions without fear that in 10 years, if the law sunsets, they will be subject to Florida’s capital-equipment tax.

Aside from job creation, what specific things do you plan to do for your district?
I will represent our community’s best interests in Tallahassee and not be beholden to any special interests. As a specific example, I’ve been approached by a veterans group to expand statewide a veterans diversion program that was started here in the 12th Judicial Circuit as a pilot project. After an arrest, if an Iraq or Afghanistan vet is diagnosed with a combat-related illness, he or she can opt for treatment instead of jail. This is not only the right thing to do for our veterans, it saves significantly in corrections costs.

How would you make homeowners insurance more available and more affordable?
Very few homeowners have been unaffected by cancellations and/or staggering premium increases. Additionally, we, as taxpayers, will end up paying for under-capitalized insurers in the event of major storm damage. We do need to encourage more in-state competition. However, policyholders need assurance that insurers are sufficiently capitalized. Insurers should not be allowed to divert their profits to the detriment of homeowners. We should also look into separating hurricane insurance from homeowners. And we should be pushing for a national catastrophe fund.

What is your stance on oil drilling in state waters?
I was opposed to near-shore drilling long before the BP disaster and before the Florida House, including Rep. Holder, voted to allow it. Our pristine beaches are the lifeblood of our local economy and essential to our quality of life. Far too much is at stake for what expert studies estimate is one week’s worth of national oil consumption. Although it is unlikely to happen in the upcoming session, there is already an effort under way to revive the issue in the Legislature. And because the current ban only exists until the Legislature decides otherwise, we should continue pushing for a constitutional ban.

The state’s latest long-range financial outlook includes lower revenue expectations for the next three years. How would you propose the Legislature deal with that slower-than-expected growth?
The best way to increase state revenues is to do all that we can to spur economic growth. The government needs to provide tax incentives for new and expanding businesses. At the state level, we should be encouraging all local governments to pass initiatives similar to the one we passed in August. We should also expand Florida First, which gives a bidding preference for hiring locally.

Are Florida’s public schools adequately funded? Why?
We in this community have continually demonstrated that we value a quality, not just adequate, education. However, education funding keeps shifting from the state to the local level. Approximately 10 years ago, 60% of education funding came from the state level and 40% locally. Today, those numbers are reversed, placing too much of the burden on local property owners.

Do you support continuing legal action against the federal government for its mandatory health-care plan?
No. Most legal experts agree that the lawsuit will fail, having cost our taxpayers millions. It is fear of and speculation about the unknown surrounding the federal health-care legislation that is causing most provider and citizen angst. Therefore, our focus should be on the rules and regulations that will be needed to implement the bill. That is where we can work to be sure that Florida is getting what it deserves — cost-effective health care.

Contact Robin Roy at rroy@yourobserver.com.
 

 

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