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Who's who and new

TALLAHASSEE

The state Legislature's revolving door has a new face — 35 to be exact. That's how many freshmen just joined the 120-member state House of Representatives. Seven new senators also were sworn in last Tuesday but all are seasoned legislators, having served in the House.

"It's extremely exciting," said Rep. Lake Ray, 52, a freshman Republican from Jacksonville who served for eight years as a city council member.

"It's hard to put all the faces with all of the names yet," said Rep. Seth McKeel, 33, a Lakeland Republican starting his second term, who looks like a grizzled veteran next to all of his freshman colleagues.

The class of 2008 arrives at a perilous time. The aftershocks of the economic crunch have led to huge budget shortfalls that have put enormous stress on the budgets of the state and the local governments it supports.

Even after billions of dollars in spending cuts, the current budget is more than $2-billion in the hole, and next year's projected shortfall is as much as $5-billion.

Contrary to perception, most state legislators are not lawyers. In fact, nine new House members work as mortgage brokers, real estate agents or other jobs tied to the state's severely weakened real estate market — a fact sure to affect debates over how to bolster the economy.

The first official news for the freshmen isn't quite what they expected: The budget is so tight that legislative leaders have shut down the process for seeking state money for hometown projects such as parks, libraries and storm water improvements.

The latest crop of newcomers continues a trend begun in 2000 when the "eight is enough" term limits law first began to impact the political system. That year more than half of the House turned over, and the change has only barely slowed since.

Florida voters in 1992 supported term limits so overwhelmingly that legislators ever since have been fearful of tinkering with the eight-year limit.

Constant turnover brings fresh blood and enthusiasm but saps the Capitol of institutional knowledge that helps in grappling with challenges that face education, health care, transportation and criminal justice.

One of the 35 freshmen doesn't know it yet, but he or she is likely to be the speaker of the House in the 2014-2016 term. The jockeying for that plum post is already well under way, even though the freshmen haven't even cast their first votes.

A byproduct of term limits is that lawmakers start in the House, then move to the Senate if there's an opening. That allows a legislator to serve up to 18 years. (Senate terms are staggered, so some senators serve 10 years.)

Not surprisingly, many newcomers favor the term limits law that hastened their arrival.

"I don't believe we should be career politicians," said Rep. Ray, an eighth-generation Floridian. As exciting as his swearing-in was Tuesday, "It should only be a part-time opportunity," Ray said.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at bousquet@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

House RepublicansAgeOccupationFirst

Elected Office?
Moved to Florida
Rep. Janet Adkins, Fernandina Beach43Legislator (no outside job)NNative
Rep. Esteban Bovo, Hialeah46External Affairs Dir.NN/A
Rep. Rachel Burgin, Tampa26Legislator (no outside job)YNative
Rep. Steve

Crisafulli,

Merritt Island
37Real estate brokerYNative
Rep. Brad Drake,

DeFuniak Springs
33Small

business owner
YNative
Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, Orlando31AttorneyYNative
Rep. Erik

Fresen, Miami
32Land use consultantYNative
Rep. Tom Grady, Naples50AttorneyY1958
Rep. Mike Horner,

Kissimmee
40Chamber executiveYNative
Rep. Debbie Mayfield, Vero Beach52Mortgage brokerYNative
Rep. Marlene O'Toole,

Lady Lake
63Project directorY1992
Rep. Scott Plakon,

Longwood
49PublisherYN/A
Rep.

Lake Ray,

Jacksonville
52Civil engineerNNative
Rep. Ronald Renuart, Ponte Vedra Beach44Osteopathic physician YNative
Rep. Ken Roberson, Port Charlotte65Funeral directorYNative
Rep. Kelli Stargel,

Lakeland
42Property managerYNative
Rep. John Tobia, Satellite Beach30College professorY1990
Rep. Charles Van Zant,

Keystone Heights
65ArchitectYNative
Rep. Mike Weinstein, Jacksonville59Child advocateYNative
Rep.

John Wood,

Winter Haven
56Attorney, RealtorYNative
Rep. Ritch Workman, Melbourne35Mortgage brokerY1980
Senate Republicans
Sen. Thad

Altman,

Melbourne
53Contractor-consultantN1957
Sen. Nancy Detert, Venice64Marketing representativeN1978
Sen. Andy Gardiner, Orlando39Health care executiveNNative
Sen.

Garrett Richter, Naples
58BankerNN/A
House DemocratsAgeOccupationFirst

Elected Office?
Moved to Florida
Rep. Joseph Abruzzo,

Wellington
28Hospitality workerY1999
Rep. Leonard Bembry, Greenville61Home builderYNative
Rep. Dwight Bullard, Miami31TeacherY1981
Rep. James Bush III, Miami53TeacherNNative
Rep. Gwyndolen Clarke-Reed, Pompano Beach68Retired

educator
YNative
Rep. Adam Fetterman, Port St. Lucie38AttorneyY1973
Rep. Mia Jones,

Jacksonville
40N/ANNative
Rep. Mark Pafford, West Palm Beach42Agency directorYNative
Rep. Kevin Rader, Delray Beach40Insurance agentY1972
Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, Tallahassee48AttorneyY1977
Rep. Hazelle Rogers, Lauderdale Lakes56Loan officerNN/A
Rep. Richard Steinberg, Miami Beach35AttorneyNNative
Rep. Dwayne Taylor, Daytona Beach41Writer-producerNNative
Rep. Alan

Williams,

Tallahassee
33Marketing consultantYNative
Senate Democrats
Sen. Dan

Gelber,

Miami Beach
48AttorneyNNative
Sen. Chris Smith, Fort Lauderdale38AttorneyNNative
Sen. Eleanor Sobel,

Hollywood
62Health care executiveN1976

Who's who and new 11/22/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 10:07am]

    

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