Robinson, Mele Make Case on Pandemic, Environment

Todays News

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY MONDAY BUSINESS EDITION MONDAY OCT 19, 2020

With a pandemic going on, state Rep. Will Robinson, R-Bradenton, said this is a different environment to run in than when he first ran for his House District 71 seat in 2018.

“Two years ago we were in the grips of the worst red tide surrounding the entire district, so that was top of mind for everybody,” he said. “While the environment is still very important, top of mind now is the pandemic and how we can safely reopen.”

Democratic challenger Andy Mele, known in environmental circles for his work as the Suncoast Waterkeeper, said Republicans in Tallahassee including Robinson have fallen short on issues with public health and conservation.

“There’s millions of families in Florida who are suffering, unable to sleep with knots in their stomach,” he said. An unemployment system has failed Florida and there’s been poor leadership in the pandemic, Mele said.

Robinson for his part said the state definitely needs to do more with an unemployment system that needs to be overhauled. “We need to fix it or replace it,” the incumbent said. “People deserve the benefits they should be getting… I thing the state was sold a bad system destined to fail, and we have got to get it fixed yesterday.”

For his part, Robinson, who ran two years ago on his environmental record, feels plenty has been achieved on the water front. He notes the legislature increased fines for polluters, including cities, for sewage spills.

“We secured funding for red tide, and we put in two of the most stringent regulatory bills in a generation,” he said. That included the unanimously passed Clean Waterways Act, that implemented recommendations from two tasks forces that studied the causes of harmful algal blooms.

But Mele said the work has been a fraction of what needs to be done to protect water quality. The Clean Waterways Act? “Everybody voted for that, but it ignored 95% of what the Waterkeepers say needs to be done, and most of Gov. [Ron] DeSantis’ own algae task forces’ recommendations,” Mele said. Moreover, any good work was offset by developers giveaways on land mitigation and an expansive toll road planned through environmentally sensitive lands.

The two now make their cases to voters in House District 71, and voters on Nov. 3 will make the final decision who represents greater Bradenton and Downtown Sarasota in Tallahassee the next two years.

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