Lake O pollution, Obamacare key issues in Jupiter-Martin district

The race for Florida House District 82 this year pits two women against each other who vied for the spot four years ago: MaryLynn Magar, the Republican incumbent, and Mary W. Higgins, Democratic challenger.

Magar opposes the Affordable Care Act and wants to lure companies to Florida by increasing collaboration between state universities and employers. Lake Okeechobee’s pollution should be addressed by finding water storage and filtration land north of the lake.

Higgins hopes the Legislature will reverse itself and accept the federal money that would come through Medicaid expansion and the Affordable Care Act. “It’s our taxpayers’ money,” she says.

As for attracting companies, they won’t come to the district until the state addresses the blue-green algae crisis aggravated by discharges from Lake Okeechobee. To fix that problem, the state needs to acquire reservoir land south of the lake to create a flow-way into the Everglades, Higgins said. She also supports mandatory criminal background screens for gun purchases, which her opponent does not.

District 82 includes all of Martin County, as well as Tequesta and Jupiter in the northeastern corner of Palm Beach County. With 156,533 residents, the district added nearly 30,000 residents between 2000 and 2010, an increase of more than 23 percent. Its population is about 80 percent white, 13 percent Hispanic and 4 percent black.

Magar said her decision to run four years ago came partly because, “I got sick and tired of seeing my friends’ kids move out of state for good jobs.”

She wants to see Florida universities collaborate more closely with employers, to “expand our economic diversity not just in the service industry but in life sciences, science, aerospace manufacturing.”

The third-biggest state needs to build a top 10 university by acquiring the best professors and scientists, she said. “We need to make sure we have opportunity and that we have something to offer in the way of building a life here.”

She opposes “just writing checks” to lure companies to the state. Rather, she’d push to better fund universities to work with companies. And if a company leaves, she’d like to see the state “hold the assets,” such as a piece of the action of discoveries made with the help of the universities.

A small-business owner opposed to the Affordable Care Act, Magar would push for more health care savings accounts through employers. She also would push for more transparency from hospitals and other health care providers to make sure people about to undergo a medical procedure understand the costs upfront, she said.

By contrast, Higgins said that by accepting millions of dollars in federal tax money to expand Medicaid and accept the Affordable Care Act, 567,000 more Floridians would be insured. She supports the efforts of incoming Senate President Joe Negron — a Republican — to do that. “It is the moral and ethical thing to do.”

She also would work across the aisle and support Negron’s efforts to halt the polluted discharges that are clogging the district’s waterways with toxic blue-green algae. That requires buying land for a reservoir and flow-way south of the big lake, she said.

“In District 82, businesses are not going to come here with the environment the way it is. The algae bloom got international attention this summer. Until we fix that, we can’t do anything else.”

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