Sarasota, Manatee Leaders Tout Red Tide Approval



Lawmakers on Saturday approved a state budget as the Legislative Session briefly went into overtime. Leaders of the respective Sarasota and Manatee County legislative delegations say they felt good about a successful session for the region.

State Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, and state Rep. Will Robinson, R-Bradenton, both agreed the biggest win for the area came with approval of the Red Tide Mitigation and Technology Initiative. Legislation launching the initiative passed unanimously in the Senate and drew one ‘no’ vote in the House.

Robinson noted the initiative became a top priority for the entire Bay Area Delegation following the devastating algae outbreaks last year. “This allows us to get out arms around mitigating red tide," he said, "which was just an environmental disaster last summer."

The Legislature budgeted more than $6 million for red tide studies. But Gruters, who sponsored the legislation in his chamber, said the important part of the initiative is the recurring funding. The measure promises financial support for six years, which will allow scientists based at Mote Marine Laboratory to study long-term solutions.

Another recurring expense? The University of South Florida, Sarasota-Manatee scored $5 million in funding that will be recurring indefinitely. 

“The entire Sarasota delegation really knocked it out of the park with the money we brought home,” Gruters said.

Much of that came from the fortune of having Bradenton Republican Bill Galvano as Senate President, a role he will hold into next session as well. “The fact he’s our neighbor and he’s been willing to work with our delegation on our priorities, he deserves the credit,” Gruters said.

Robinson said beyond individual sprinkled for local projects, the region will also see benefits from general spending increases on education. The budget approved Saturday includes a $75 boost in per student spending. 

And Gruters notes a $21 million increase in arts and cultural funding. That’s eight times more than the state spends now. “There are so many cultural programs in Sarasota that benefit from that fund, so that’s a home run for us,” he said.

Photo by Jacob Ogles: The Sarasota Legislative Delegation met in January advance of session.

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