BRADENTON -- The 26 members of the Council of Governments got a preview of the next legislative session, received their first assessment of just how much assistance will be coming in "Restore Act" settlement funds, were updated on school conditions and heard which school outdoor sport facilities will be open for night and weekend play at their quarterly meeting Tuesday.
1. Call to Order and Welcome -- Commissioner Larry Bustle
2. 2013 Legislative Preview -- Nicholas Azzara, Information Outreach Coordinator
Azarra previewed the next state legislative session and said the last session didn't have a huge impact on local revenues. Azarra said some of the issues coming up include expanding voting days and locations to combat long lines at the polls; fixing the Medicaid mess; a possible ban on synthetic drugs; and an internet sales bill that targets businesses outside the state of Florida. Azzara said legislatures would also be looking at a comprehensive ethics reform bill, and might revisit internet cafes/gaming businesses.
3. Restore Act Funding -- Charlie Hunsicker, Director, Natural Resources
Hunsicker reviewed the parameters of the "Restore Act." Hunsicker also summarized a variety of projects that fall into the categories Restore Act funds could be used for. The BP settlement made funds available to more than 20 counties to compensate for lost business and or opportunity. Manatee County stands to receive anywhere from $4.2 million to $19 million, depending on the what the panels conclude. Restoration, protecting and preserving natural resources; coastal flood protection; infrastructure projects and promoting tourism all fit under acceptable uses of the funds.
4. School Readiness -- Bob Gagnon and Dr. Robin Thompson, Manatee County School District
Gagnon first announced that Manatee County came in 47th of 67 districts in the state. He said "all roads point to focus on early learning; that 90 percent of brain development is done in the first five years." He said, "There is no quick fix; it takes time," adding that summer school for Pre-K kids is huge and can really make a difference in future success. Gagnon and Thompson support "wrap around" services, where being proactive with language, community support and participation are key to success.
5. Joint use playgrounds -- Cindy Turner, Parks and Recreation, and Mike Pendley, Manatee County School District
Pendley demonstrated how the use of a joint use grant of $30,000, plus a matching $15,000 could start opening school property for use by the public. There is an Interlocal Agreement between the school board and the county that dates back to 1995. The $45,000 raised will go to pilot eight schools in the project. (Full Story to Follow)