Sunday, May 20, 2018
Politics

The Rookies: Spano finds motivation in new demands

RIVERVIEW — Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover, is having trouble sleeping.

It could be that while in Tallahassee, he's like a like a college kid, crashing on a futon. But it could also be the onslaught of concerns racing through his head each night: a big event the next morning, an upcoming speech, selecting which bills to sponsor.

"I'm not sure I really knew how crazy it would get," Spano said from his district office. "But it's getting a lot crazier than I thought it would."

As a "small-business guy" and attorney, Spano considered himself a busy person. But since taking office, his schedule has redefined the term jam-packed. In Tallahassee, Spano said he engages in back-to-back meetings about every 15 minutes.

"You're jumping from one topic to the next, and each topic you're expected to have some awareness of and knowledge about it and to know which direction you're heading on it and what you believe . . ." he said.

Spano, 46, pledged to read each bill he votes on — in its entirety — plus the staff analysis. He also maintains an open-door policy with constituents.

"Obviously, they're very knowledgeable about those issues, and they want you to have that same level of knowledge and interest," he said. "I do have the interest, but it's impossible for me to have the level of knowledge they do."

Instead of that paralyzing his efforts, it motivates. Spano plans to work harder than others, know the rules and do his research. He's also surrounding himself with people who have been there longer, including staff, senior members and lobbyists.

"I like to hear all sides," he said. "I ask a lot of questions. Probably more than they want me to ask."

The extensive questions stem from his experience as a lawyer. Although he recognizes that lobbyists can be a resource, he said he's uncomfortable with the amount of influence they wield.

"I want my decisions to be rooted in equity, in fairness and in the right policy, not in who has the most money or the loudest voice," Spano said.

In fact, his interests trend more toward the voiceless. One bill he's sponsoring seeks to help human-trafficking victims petition to have a criminal record expunged if they can prove it was a result of victimization or coercion through trafficking.

It's not hard to tell the issues he's passionate about. He'll sit up in his chair and talk faster, as if he has to squeeze every word out before the attention shifts.

He's confident his colleagues will consider the best ideas this session, not just those that fall along party lines or are sent down from leadership.

"There's a change taking place," he said. "We're looking at who's working hardest, who's the brightest. It's not just based on seniority."

Caitlin Johnston can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 225-3111.

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