Married to Jeanette
Christ Fellowship –
Q:Who has most shaped you as a leader – your mother or your father? Why?
A:I think both. I strongly believe that the ideal setting to raise a child and for a child to grow up is in a stable home, not a prosperous home, not a rich home, but a stable home where their mother and father are in love with each other and they make it their joint mission to raise children, and I was the beneficiary of that. It is an influence that grows every day as my children get older. [When] I confront some of the challenges of parenthood and some of the desires that parents have is when I really begin to appreciate how much more difficult it was for them than it has been for me.
Q:You first served as a City Commissioner in West Miami before being elected to the Florida House of Representatives in District 111 in 2000. What was your motivation to run for public office?
A:The belief that government matters and that the decisions that are made at the Governmental level impact our lives, and that the people that are there are doing it for the right reason.
Q:Can you name a key issue or project that you worked on as a State Representative that you are most proud of?
A:Actually some of the things that I am most proud of are things that didn’t come to fruition, but I am proud of the fact that we are a voice in the wilderness when we were saying that Florida’s Real Estate Market was on the verge of collapsing and that we need to do meaningful property tax reform. I am pleased that the Florida House was a consistent voice for what was right and that we were able to do some defensive things. For example, we were able to prevent the irresponsible expansion of gambling all over the State of Florida, including a successful lawsuit before the Florida Supreme Court to invalidate the Governor’s compact with the Seminole Tribe of Indians. I am proud of the fact that we were able to keep government in check and that we were able to beat efforts to expand government or its revenue sources to the detriment of our people.
I am proud of the first bill I ever filed, which was a bill that was really motivated by a personal experience. My mom, in 1998, had a heart procedure that we had to spend four days fighting with an HMO to get it covered. So one of my first bills is one that would require that if an adverse determination is made by an insurance carrier, in essence, if an insurance company says that someone doesn’t need a procedure, [then] that decision has to be made by a medical professional that works for the company, a doctor, not an accountant or bureaucrat. [The doctor] has to sign off on that decision that it is medically necessary or unnecessary. It was my bill and it passed. It was my bill and it came out of my real life experience. It is not a big thing, but one I cared about.
The other one is one that didn’t happen when I was speaker. I chaired the committee on Property Rights, and we came up with Model Legislation that we passed here in Florida, which has become a model for other states in response to the Kelo decision before the United States Supreme Court.
Q: Please tell us about your book, 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida’s Future.
A:The book is based on two things. One of them is that government is best when it is about ideas as opposed to personalities or scandal or playing defense. The second one is that the process is not really adept in identifying emerging issues. We really only deal with things in Current Events when they become a crisis or when some Newspaper adopts it as its cause celeb, or when someone hires someone to tell us about it, like a lobbyist.
So what we did is we said let’s go out there and talk to people and ask them what they would do if they were in our position? What would they focus on? And from that, we picked up a lot of things. We picked up the Property Tax Issue before it was really polling. We picked up gang violence before it really started hitting the front pages of Newspapers. We picked up the need for career and vocational training in our schools. Even now, it is not talked about enough. I hope this will be a part of my US Senate Campaign as well.
Q:In your farewell speech, as the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives in 2004, you made profound statements about your belief in God and America. Among other things you stated that “God is real” and “God loves everyone.” Please comment about this speech.
A:The Farewell speech is really an opportunity for me to speak as an individual, not as a political leader, although I think there is nothing wrong with political leaders sharing their views on faith. I said that largely because it was something that motivated me in my life and grows stronger every day. If God is not real, then life doesn’t make sense to me and quite frankly, it is hardly worth living, and I believe that and I thought it was an important point to share. The point that I was trying to make was that sometimes those of us in government or involved in Current Events think that just because we passed the law or the Supreme Court says you are not supposed to talk about God in certain places, that somehow God isn’t there. And this notion that we have that we can actually keep God’s presence out of parts of our lives is ridiculous. God is wherever he wants to be and whether we want God’s hand to be real or not, it is involved in everything, in all human affairs. People don’t have to believe that, we can’t force folks to believe that, but I think that those of us who do shouldn’t have to apologize for it.
Q:Everyone develops an opinion about Presidential and Gubernatorial elections, but few people focus on local elections. What are your thoughts about this?
A:They are very important. What a President does or a US Senator does matters. The decisions the President makes will have a global impact that will impact the theme of your life, but what your City Commissioners do will probably impact the way you live your life on a daily basis. It reminds us that the most important job we will ever have is the job of a father, mother, husband, wife, neighbor, friend, son or daughter. You will influence real lives more in those capacities than you ever will in an elected one.
Q:Is there a person in American history that you truly admire, or are fascinated by and why?
A:All members of the Founding Fathers fascinate me. I mean, in terms of the sacrifices, the real sacrifices and risks that they undertook to bring about what was at that time a novel idea, the notion that somehow your rights were given to you by your creator, not by a king. Certainly Ronald Reagan is a great figure in American History. I have great admiration for the entire Greatest Generation, those folks that grew up in the depression and many that died in World War II, [including] women who went to work in factories. I think the greatness of America finds itself no better embodiment than that Greatest Generation, and I think that my children’s generation will have the opportunity in many respects to be the next great generation if given that opportunity. They will inherit a country better than the ones their parents had, not worse, but I am not convinced that if we continue down this route that that is where we will be [in future].
Please complete the following sentence
The one thing that I would change about Florida:
Leadership. I wish that Florida were a state where more of our leaders were willing to do what was right even though it wasn’t popular. That they were willing to make their decisions based on the long term rather than how it polls next week.
The one thing that I would change about the USA:
Merely the same, the only difference is that I would hope that our leaders would wake up and realize that were are on the verge of the first generations of Americans that are going to inherit a country worse off than the ones their parents inherited and that is unacceptable.