BRADENTON -- Candidates Paula House (D) and Bill Galvano (R) are bidding for the newly-drawn District 26 (map) State Senate seat, which is largely comprised of Senator Mike Bennett's District 21. Bennett, who is running for Manatee County Supervisor of Elections, will term-limit out of office this year. Few of the priorities supported by both candidates differ much in face value, yet how they claim to obtain those goals have some distinct differences. Both have education and infrastructure at the top of their list. Where they seem to disagree the most is privatization of prisons and impacts of charter schools.
Paula House feels her experience as a former public school teacher, state prosecutor and mediator qualifies her for what it takes to bring functional representation to District 26. House sees her 20 years as a small business owner, running her private law practice, along with her work with child and family services, as even more experience useful to her constituents in the floundering job market.
House says she wants to insure that current and future generations have the qualified education needed to compete for well-paying jobs. Three generations of her family have lived and worked in Florida and fought to protect its water resources.
Bill Galvano, also an attorney and local business man, previously served four terms in the state House as representative of District 68. Galvano says he lives in District 26, his business is there and his children attend school there. He is also the past chair of the eight-county Bay Area Legislative Delegation and primarily responsible for the creation of the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority.
Galvano says his focus will be on "practical, real solutions" and sees privatization as a solution for many of the problems Florida is now facing. He says he favors Charter schools, where the "money will follow the child and not the institution" and he sees private prisons as another vehicle to save the state money.
Galvano agrees with Governor Scott on his refusal to accept federal funds whether it be for healthcare or rapid transit. He believes, with Medicaid, "Florida has been getting the short end of the stick, for decades." He said that under state control, we could be "more proactive."
House disagrees with both of Galvano's assumptions about charter schools and private prisons. She says, "Tests show class size was the only thing that made a difference," and that charters are leeching the funds necessary to run public schools properly.
House starkly disagrees with the idea that private prisons save the state money. "There is a strong conflict of interest there," House says, adding, "How can a business that relies on more prisoners for profit, be expected to work to reduce their number?"
Galvano notes that there are currently seven state prisons being run by the private sector and have been for years. He says they are saving the state money, though privatization opponents note that such comparisons don't consider the fact that the state is saddled with the prisoners, like the disabled and chronically ill, who cost the most to house.
House says these private companies lobby for more stringent laws that lock people up for crimes that seldom require incarceration, jailing those who's offenses can be dealt with successfully through less-expensive outpatient programs. She said, "Private prisons take money from those programs, costing the state much more."
Paula also argues for the need of federal funds for healthcare, saying, "three and a half million Floridians are without access to health care. $2.1 billion would have been available the first year." House also points out nearly half of all foreclosures are linked to healthcare cost and illnesses.
Galvano wants restrictions on businesses to be relaxed and the corporate tax eventually dissolved, saying, "we should try and stay out of the way of those who want to come here and do business." He added, we were one of the worst hit in the recession and now we are number three in recovery.
House says, "You can't separate the environment and the economy. We are already second, behind Texas, on relaxing regulations. People want to set-up businesses where there is sustainability, clean water and clean air."
House believes that there are many things that bring people to this state: beaches, the weather, nature and that it is less expensive then many places. She says a healthy environment is essential and preserving and protecting our natural resources are at the top of her list.
Both candidates have said they will vote NO on Amendment 8.
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