BALD Chairman Rep. Bill Galvano says the group plans to focus on transportation issues next.
While the region's 38 lawmakers comprise 25% of the state Legislature, they have rarely coordinated their various agendas, limiting the group's overall effectiveness. Last March, the group decided to formally organize as the Bay Area Legislative Delegation, known as BALD, to meet regularly, hash out an agenda and pursue a more cohesive strategy.
Bradenton Rep. Bill Galvano says the move should create a formidable voting bloc representing seven counties that can better tackle critical regional issues, including water availability, affordable housing, insurance and transportation. "We have all these issues that are truly regional, and sometimes we're not all singing from the same hymnal, whether that be budget issues or leadership issues," explains Galvano, the delegation's chairman.
The state delegations representing central Florida and south Florida provided good examples of how powerful such coalitions can be, says Betty Carlin, communications director for the Tampa Bay Partnership, a local economic development group that supports BALD's initiatives. "That's why there was great support to try and formalize and try to get them to think and act as a regional group."
During the last legislative session, BALD collaborated on budget requests and got better results. The coordination of funding requests "made a difference because all of a sudden for the first time, we had these matrixes, and we could begin to understand the priorities for the other members," says Galvano. "Just to be standing shoulder to shoulder, we're able to move issues faster than ever before."
Next year, the group's top priority will be to create a multicounty regional transportation authority similar to the one formed a year ago in the Panhandle. Area lawmakers and local economic development organizations believe the creation of an eight-county transit authority is vital to ensuring continued growth in the region.
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