A bipartisan team from the Florida congressional delegation is banding together to form a "ports caucus" to push the interests of the state's seaports in the nation's capital.
Florida's 15 ports are "huge economic generators — folks here are familiar mostly with Port Everglades [in Broward] and the Port of Palm Beach — and they involve, really, thousands of jobs in this state, and millions of dollars," said U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, a member of the caucus.
The Florida Ports Caucus has four co-chairs, all from the East Coast: U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Miami Democrat whose district includes part of south Broward; U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican whose district includes part of south Broward; U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville; and U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge.
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"It's very bipartisan," Frankel said. "With the Senate being Democrat and the House being more Republican, anything you can do bipartisan is much more effective."
The 17-member ports caucus includes U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton; Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter; and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston. (May 2 update: Wilson's office just emailed to say U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, is also a member, making it 18.) Florida has 27 representatives. Joining together on behalf of all the ports makes the members collectively more effective than each one operating individually, Frankel said.
"With powerful bipartisan interest in creating and sustaining jobs through Florida's ports, the time has come for a congressional working group focused on this issue.," Wilson said in a statement.
The caucus met last week on Capitol Hill to begin to sort out what's needed to improve the ports and how Florida should position itself as Congress prepares to reauthorize the Water Resources Development Act. Frankel said there are common interests in pushing for dredging and dealing with the bureaucracy at the Army Corps of Engineers.
"The port is vital to the present and future growth of Broward County's economy. The reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act is essential for all of Florida's ports," said Dr. Harry K. Moon, chairman of the Broward Workshop, an organization of the county's top 100 executives.
Terry Stiles, chairman and CEO of the construction and real estate company Stiles Corp., is chairman of the Broward Workshop's Port Committee and chairman of the Port Everglades Advocacy Team.
"Congresswoman Wilson should be commended for her leadership in leading the caucus for our Florida ports which could prove to be one of the most important economic development legislative efforts of our time," Stiles said in a statement. "We must invest in our ports to be competitive in the world's market."
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