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Irma spawns new panel in Legislature and a call for no 'pork projects'

The Florida House on Tuesday will announce the formation of a new Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness to analyze the state’s response to Irma and to find areas of improvement.

The committee will study whether protections for residents of nursing homes, group homes and ALFs should be strengthened as well as the Florida building code and ways to improve storage of food, water and fuel in advance of a menacing storm. 

NunezHouse Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, also called on all legislators -- including all 40 senators -- to forget the usual hometown projects in next year’s budget and to steer all discretionary spending toward hurricane recovery and mitigation efforts.

“I ask all of you, and our colleagues in the Senate, to join me in setting aside the business as usual of pork projects,” Corcoran said, “and instead invest all of those funds to either assist those in need after Hurricane Irma or prepare Florida against the threat to life and property that will surely come with future storms.” 

He noted that in the current year’s budget, lawmakers spent $638 million on member projects (a big chunk of which was vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott).

Corcoran, who scheduled a 1 p.m. news conference Tuesday to announce the select committee, populated the 21-member panel with lawmakers who represent some of the hardest-hit areas of the state.

The committee will be chaired by Rep. Jeannette Nuñez, R-Miami (in photo). Other Republicans include Reps. Holly Raschein of Key Largo, Dane Eagle of Cape Coral, Ray Rodriguez of Estero, Michael Grant of Port Charlotte, Chris Sprowls of Palm Harbor, Danny Burgess of Zephyrhills and Cyndi Stevenson of St. Johns.

The seven Democrats on the panel include Robert Asencio of Miami, Sean Shaw of Tampa, and three Broward lawmakers: Kristin Jacobs of Coconut Creek, Jared Moskowitz of Coral Springs and Richard Stark of Weston.

“With any event of this magnitude, lessons can be learned,” Corcoran said. “We must move quickly to assess our recent experience and pinpoint tangible, meaningful ways to improve Florida‘s hurricane readiness and response capabilities.”

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