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Gov. Scott meets with Tampa Bay area lawmakers

Gov. Rick Scott had lunch on Thursday at the historic Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City with seven Tampa Bay area lawmakers. They included Sen. Jack Latvala, and representatives Jim Frishe, Shawn Harrison, Jim Boyd, Ray Pilon, Ed Hooper and Darryl Rouson.

("I'm the only Democrat in the room," Rouson remarked at one point. "You can change that," Scott said. "He's tried that," Latvala said. Much laughter ensued. Rouson was a Republican for a little over two years.) 

The free-wheeling conversation ranged from property insurance to the Republican National Convention, prison reform and unemployment compensation taxes. On prisons, Scott said he hopes in the next session lawmakers will find ways to help people released from prison find jobs and deal with substance abuse issues to keep them from ending up behind bars again.

Rouson made several requests of Scott. One, that he include a stop at a substance abuse treatment center as part of his recently announced workdays. He also noted that so far Scott hasn't appointed one African American to a judgeship. "Governor, be sensitive," Rouson said. The governor answered: "I believe in diversity." He said he appoints judges from lists provided to him, and told Rouson if he had any suggestions for African American judges he should contact his general counsel, Charles Trippe.

And finally, Rouson told the governor: "You've done well on some things in my book." But, the St. Petersburg representative said, he'd like to see the governor "soften" on middle and working class folks. "They are feeling a disconnect," he said. "They feel there's been an emphasis on corporations corporations corporations to the exclusion of the worker bees."

Scott said his focus on corporations will, ultimately, help working people: "If we get more corporations to do well, they'll hire more people."