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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Concerned Patriots Express Their Concerns

Marti Coley and David Pleat, candidates for District 7 State Representative seat hold “Tea Party Town Hall” in Marianna By Sid Riley

Another huge crowd of involved citizens gathered at the Highway 90 Agricultural Center for the monthly “Concerned American Patriots” Tea Party meeting. A crowd of some two hundred local voting men and women, Democrats and Republicans, gathered for the opportunity to exchange views with their existing elected representative, Marti Coley, and her challenger in the upcoming election, David Pleat. Several locally elected officials were present, including Supt. Of Schools Lee Miller, Commissioners Edward Crutchfield and Chuck Lockey, and the Marianna Chief of Police, Hayes Baggett.

After the invocation by Reverend “Cap” Pooser and the Pledge of Allegiance, Director Elaine Thompson introduced the two candidates. Each was given a few minutes to give their backgrounds to the audience, as well as their basic beliefs and philosophies. Then the Question and Answer session began, with the subjects coming from a large stack of questions submitted from the eager crowd.

The questions understandably covered a wide range of subjects, including abortions, eminent domain, reductions of wages for state employees, Dozier closing, health care, no fault insurance, the method of selection of the members of the Public Services Commission, off shore drilling, water rights, and many other subjects of interest. Generally the two candidates held similar views on most of the subjects, but there where a few where their opinions differed significantly.

One of these was the divisive and sensitive subject of abortions. On this issue, Representative Coley flatly stated “I am against all abortions.” Meanwhile, Candidate Pleat described the personal consideration he has given this topic. He stated that the concept of abortion went against his Catholic beliefs and upbringing, but he felt that the matter had to be kept between the individual, the family involved, and their God….and that “Big Brother” government had no right to intercede in the matter.

Another area of differing views was the matter of cutting positions and wages for state employees as part of the budget trimming process. Pleat stated that he felt sure that during those days when money was flowing like a new found geyser into the State coffers that many positions, raises, and programs were started which needed to be reexamined in today’s economy. “If private businesses are being forced to eliminate positions, reduce hours and wages, and to trim in all areas of their operations…then the bureaucracy of the state should be engaging in the same processes.” Meanwhile Coley stated that she was aware of how many State workers there were in her district, and the important role they played in the economy of the area. She said that there might be some positions at the top levels of agencies which should be reexamined…but she felt those working for already low salaries should be protected. Ultimately, she stated she was against cutting pay and positions in most instances.

The subject of Tort Reform in health care was another topic where their views differed somewhat. Mrs. Coley was in favor of increasing the restraints on legal actions against medical practitioners, since excessive legal actions led to defensive medical procedures which increase costs, as well as the tremendously high cost of medical malpractice insurance. On the other hand, Pleat, who is a lawyer, seemed to feel that the matter of tort reform legislation which is already in effect is enough to solve the problem in Florida. He described the difficulty a lawyer has in processing a malpractice suit under existing rules. In response to a follow-on question he did admit the existing rules did not include the caps on settlements which are included in many other states with mal practice limiting legislation in place. His main point was that most of the revenues from the high malpractice insurance premiums was being realized in the profitability of the insurance companies, with only a very small percentage being paid in claims.

Both candidates were against off shore drilling, preserving Florida’s water rights, and a generally conservative approach to all fiscal decisions. The hour of open dialogue between the candidates and the Concerned Patriots passed quickly, and ended with many of the questions not being covered. However, the candidates promised to participate in another, similar session with the tea party group in the months prior to the actual election.

2010 is going to be an interesting year from a political perspective.

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