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Politics

Neil Combee: Florida Should Publish Online All Local Government Taxes and Fees

December 20, 2012 - 6:00pm

Rep. Neil Combee, R-Polk City

Date of Birth: June 12, 1959
Birthplace: Lakeland
Residence: Polk City
Education: High School Diploma
Occupation: Agribusiness, real estate sales
Previous Public Office(s): Polk County Commissioner, 1988-2004
Family: Wife, two children
Did you know?Is a distant cousin to Florida Supreme Court JusticeCharles T. Canady and, possibly, fellow freshman Sen.Wilton Simpson, R-New Port Richey.One of Polk Countys newest legislators is an old county farm boy who says his priorities in the 2013 session will focus on helping Floridas local governments to be as business-friendly as possible.

Freshman Rep. Neil Combee, R-Polk City, has been a farmer his entire life, and has also worked in real estate. He sat on the Polk County Commission from 1988 to 2004. He sums up his goals for the upcoming legislative session succinctly: We need to create a better climate for businesses and job growth in our state.

Thats more than just a talking point for District 39s representative, who sits on the Houses Regulatory Affairs Committee and the Economic Development and Tourism Subcommittee two assignments he specifically requested as well as the State Affairs Committee and the Government Operations Subcommittee.

Combee is drafting at least two pieces of legislation which he believes will empower local communities to attract both businesses and residents.

The first is a bill that would require the state to publish, in a central online database, the taxes and fees imposed by every one of the Sunshine States 67 counties and 410 municipalities. He says hes had a number of conversations with Gov. Rick Scott on the matter, and believes the resource would be useful for local public officials and prospective business owners and homeowners.

It would be a tool for local decision-makers and a tool for folks interested in finding their spot in the Sunshine State, Combee tells Sunshine State News. People should be able to know ahead of time how much it will cost to live someplace, build a home, or start a business.

When I was a county commissioner for 16 years, hardly a week went by when we didnt want to know how we [in Polk County] were stacking up against our neighbors, in terms of business environment and affordability, he continues. Weve never had real good information on that.

Combees original idea was for the Legislature to put together some sort of panel to rank every city and county in terms of its taxpayer-friendliness, but he feels the creation of his proposed database is a modest first step in that direction, and in any event, the numbers will speak for themselves.

His second proposal is a bill that will exempt booster clubs and similar organizations from onerous regulations from the health department and fire marshals that, at least in Polk County, have prevented them from cooking hamburgers, hot dogs, and similar concessions at games and other community events.

Combees not the first in his family to take an interest in politics. One of his fathers cousins was a county commissioner coincidentally, also for a 16-year tenure and Combee himself is a third cousin of one of Floridas most prominent public servants: state Supreme Court Justice Charles T. Canady.

Canadys grandmother was a Combee, he tells the News. Ive always admired him and have been friends with him going way, way back; Ive sought his advice and help over the years. Hes quite the political strategist.

Combee might also be a distant relation of another freshman legislator: state Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-New Port Richey.

His mothers a Reynolds, and my grandmother was a Reynolds, Combee tells the News. But I havent yet researched the exact connection.

Reach Eric Giunta at egiunta@sunshinestatenews.com or at (954) 235-9116.


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