: ST. PETERSBURG
cZ fl' a THE SUNCOAST U FLORIDA
ST. PETERSBURG TIMES ..___
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 20. 1976 IJ
Legislator vows to aid Pinellas in water fight
By VIRGINIA ELLIS
st. Peersburg Times Staff Wrier
TALLAHASSEE House Rules Commit-
tee Chairman A. H. "Gus" Craig, D-St. Augus-
tine, said Thursday that he will keep a promise
to help Pinellas County gain more strength on
the Southwest Florida Water Management
Craig, whose committee is one of the
Legislature's most powerful, confirmed that
late last year he struck a bargain with several
members of the Pinellas legislative delegation:
For their support of a constitutional amend-
ment that would establish a tax limit for water
management districts, he would use his power
to get the boards reapportioned this year.
"I TOLD THEM I would work with them
trying to get to the matter of representation,"
he said. "There's no question after the amend-
ment fails or passes it would be practical to do
Craig said he would support having the
boards elected instead of appointed.
The southwest water board, commonly
known as Swiftmud, is appointed by the gover-
nor, who is -prohibited by law from selecting
more than one member from each county. Pi-
nellas officials, who have threatened to sue to
have the board reapportioned, contend that
the present structure is unfair because popu-
lous counties are given an unequal voice
against the less populous rural counties in the
Rep. S. Curtis Kiser, R-Dunedin, con-
firmed that he, Rep. George Hieber, R-St. Pe-
tersburg; County Atty. W. Gray Dunlap, and
Pinellas special counsel John Allen met last
week with Craig to remind him of his pledge.
KISER SAID he was disappointed that
Craig had been unwilling to tackle the water
management problems until after the constitu-
tional amendment is voted on March 9. If it
passes, he said they would have only a month a crisis, something wll be done." He said he
to work on bills before the legislative session has not decided to oppose or support the
"I sure don't want to come and take a posi- Crai warned tha i the amndmen
'tion (in favor of the amendment) and then not heo as-
have the Legislature do anything," Kiser said. on t i oudaih er
"I'd have egg on my face." a nagemet district state agencies base in
Kiser said the Legislature should have alla assee unaer the governor and e a-
been working to reapportion the districts and net.
establish a uniform plan for the operation of "It's the only logical thing I can think of if
all five of them. it fails," he said. "Water is a prime problem.
We're going to have to take a practical look at
"I'M AFRAID the only way we're going putting it (water management) here in Talla-
to get this accomplished is a crisis .. ." he. hassee and operate it out of Tallahassee."
said. "Perhaps if we vote this down and create See WATER, 2-B'
Water from 1-
CRAIG SAID such legislation probably could not go
into effect until next year because the state does not have
the money to finance the districts this year.
Gov. Reubin Askew would probably veto such legisla-
tion since his agency the Department of Environmental
Regulation would lose what control it has over water
The constitutional amendment woula authorize a maxi-
mum 1-mill property tax levy ($1 in tax for each $1,000 of
assessed property value) for four of the five districts. It au-
. thorizes only a .05 mill levy for the fifth the northwest
NONE OF the districts taxes as high as 1 mill, and the
constitutional amendment would require legislative ap-
proval of any levy.
If the amendment fails, three districts would have no
money to operate. Swiftmud which includes Pinellas and
the Central and South Florida Water Flood Control Dis-
trict, which includes Dade County, could continue to oper-
ate under special acts in existence, but they permit taxing
of more than 1 mill.
Swiftmud, however, may lose'that power under another
law that requires it to change its boundaries next year. Cir-
cuit Judge E. C. Aulls of Eustis has ruled that the boundary
change would require voter approval before the district
could continue to tax. His ruling is being appealed to the
Florida Supreme Court.
Kiser, meanwhile is sponsoring a bill of his own in case
Craig does not push for an elective board. His bill would re-
move the prohibition against more than one appointment
to the Swiftmud board from one county.
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