- October 10, 2017
1. What are three issues that are important to you, and how do you plan to tackle them?
As our State Representative, I have been our advocate for sound public policy in Tallahassee that allows our community to meet its challenges head on and continue to grow in a way that meets the needs of our residents, businesses, and communities. This starts with great schools so our families can have access to innovative classrooms and teachers while keeping them safe and prosperous. This past session we invested a record $24-billion in K-12 education while providing teachers with an additional $20-million for 154,000 teacher bonuses throughout Florida. A low tax environment is key to a healthy and growing Florida economy. I will fight any efforts to raise taxes and fees on Floridians and will support efforts that help reduce taxes and put more money back into your pocket as I just voted to reduce your taxes by $170-million in our last session. Lastly, we need secure communities where residents feel safe and their rights are protected. I will always stand with our law enforcement and first responders to keep our communities safe as I am honored to have the endorsement and support of the Fraternal Order of Police of Florida, Police Benevolent Association of Florida, Florida Professional Firefighters, Orange County Firefighters, and the Winter Garden Firefighters.
2. What is the biggest challenge facing District 44, and how would you address it?
Florida House District 44 is very unique in Florida because of our world-class tourism and hospitality community attracting 72-million visitors last year in addition to the revenue we generate for the state. As a basic principle, government does not create jobs, but it does create a regulatory and tax environment that attracts diverse businesses and helps private businesses grow through transparent legislation while investing in education and workforce development. I have been our voice for our local business community to help instill transparency where businesses can expand, wages can rise, and our local community can flourish. We must ensure that our transportation infrastructure needs are being met in addition to access to affordable housing for our workforce. We accomplish this through transparency by eliminating secret government contracts and voting on legislator’s projects one by one and not lumping them all into one bill while investing necessary resources for transportation infrastructure, affordable housing, and education.
3. Do you think the legislature should amend the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act? If so, what changes should be made?
This past session, we passed the most comprehensive and effective school safety bill our state has ever seen. I actually met with students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in addition to the family members of some of the victims. Their message was clear, do everything you can to prevent this from happening again. With only two weeks to pass this legislation, we ensured the conditions that allowed the assailant to commit these atrocities could not happen again in addition to heavily investing in mental health funding. It is important to make abundantly clear that nowhere in this legislation were we authorizing teachers to be armed in the classrooms, as I highly encourage you to read the actual bill. School Resource Officers are now assigned to every school in Orange County directly because of this bill. Next session, I look forward to implementing the results from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which was formed by the legislature to specifically analyze information from this school shooting and other mass violence incidents in the state and to address recommendations and system improvements.
4. Would you support a bill that gives local municipalities the authority to pass stricter firearms ordinances than what is allowed under state law?
This is exactly why the United States Congress needs federal legislation to take the lead on this important fundamental freedom outlined in the Bill of Rights. The state of Florida has this authority because it would be very difficult, just in Florida House District 44 alone, if Orange County, Orlando, Winter Garden, Ocoee, Windermere, Oakland, Lake Buena Vista, and Bay Lake all had different interpretations of the 2nd Amendment. Considering there are 67 counties and 412 municipalities in Florida, taking this responsibility in current law from the state would not be something I could reasonably support.
5. Toxic algae blooms are polluting waterways across Florida and devastating tourism-dependent businesses. In your opinion, what steps can be taken to diversify the economy?
There is no question that a diverse and educated workforce is a key to a thriving economy. Florida is proud of its tourism and hospitality community throughout the state which makes us the envy of the world and allows us to avoid state income taxes. Florida House District 44 is uniquely positioned with our world-class education and training available at UCF, Valencia College, and Orange Technical College to invest today in our jobs of tomorrow. Additionally, the opportunity we specifically have with the Horizon West community is exciting because we need true economic development opportunities to recruit and attract businesses and industries much like Lake Nona has done within health care. We need to work together with all levels of government as well as private businesses to ensure we actually have the right people speaking to these industries and organizations to bring sustaining economic opportunity and diversity to our community.
6. Florida’s environment is one of its greatest assets, but urban sprawl threatens animal habitats and stresses our groundwater supply. What is your plan for better environmental protections?
In just my first legislative session I was able to provide a budget appropriation for Oakland for their town’s water treatment which helps in our mission to restore Lake Apopka. I filled a bill in the House, and the bi-partisan companion bill with local Senator Linda Stewart, to preserve lands and the natural habitat for Florida black bears. Additionally, I fought for our rural settlements by getting Orange County exempted from a bill protecting all of the rural settlements in our community. I was present a few weeks ago when the Florida Department of Environmental Protection presented Windermere with a grant for investments in parks and preserving our community’s natural beauty. I fully support environmental protections as this past session I voted to allocate an additional $50-million to expedite repairs on the Hoover Dike to reduce the spread of toxic algae, $80-million in beach restoration projects, and nearly $50-million in the Florida Forever Program for the protection and acquisition of rural and conservation lands. The last two years, over $600-million has been invested in state water projects for drinking water and wastewater systems in local communities, $461-million for Everglades restoration, and authorization of almost $1-billion for the reservoir for Lake Okeechobee. I will continue to advocate for environmental protections in our local community and throughout our state.
7. Why should small-business owners vote for you?
As West Orange County’s pro-business champion in the Florida legislature with a business background both professionally and academically, it is imperative we continue to have a business climate that encourages job creation and sets up small businesses to succeed. This past session I brought back nearly $3-million dollars in appropriations for our district in my first session. I will advocate for a low tax environment where burdensome regulations are fought, rather than protected by politicians. I have the endorsement and support of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida, BusinessForce, NFIB of Florida, WOPA/West Orange Chamber of Commerce, International Drive Chamber of Commerce, Central Florida Hotel Lodging Association, as well as many other pro-business organizations throughout our community and state. I will be our community’s advocate in Tallahassee because I understand what it will take to protect what makes our community so great by providing opportunities for our families for a successful future.