Central Florida reps pleased with tourism, health care subcommittee chairs


While no one from Central Florida will be chairing full committees in the Florida House of Representatives this spring, several local representatives will be chairing key subcommittees, Health Care Appropriations, Tourism & Gaming Control, and Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs.

The committee appointments came down Monday from House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

State Rep. Mike La Rosa, a Saint Cloud Republican, will chair the Tourism & Gaming Control Subcommittee of the Commerce Committee, a panel that’s not only critical to Central Florida’s economy but highly populated by Central Florida members. Orlando Republican Mike Miller will be vice chair, while Altamonte Springs Republican Scott Plakon and Orlando Democrat Amy Mercado also will be on it.

Sanford Republican Jason Brodeur will be chairing the House Subcommittee on Health Care Appropriations in the Appropriations Committee, a committee likely to be highly active as president-elect Donald Trump and the Republican Congress vow to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, moving responsibilities to the states.

Plakon will chair the Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee of the Government Accountability Committee, another panel likely to be busy with fall-out from the ObamaCare dismantling planned in Washington. Miller, Orlando Democrats Carlos Guillermo Smith and Kamia Brown also will serve on that subcommittee.

La Rosa that the Tourism & Gaming Control appointment is critical because, “Florida can enhance its position as a global leader in tourism and also optimize the current gaming industry arrangement for the mutual benefit of all Floridians. Now is the time to recognize that Florida needs to focus on gaining more visitors for our state and also realize this must be balanced by keeping our focus on keeping the advantage of being a family friendly region.

“The tourism industry is the largest employer in our state and we must also work on creating and promoting a positive business environment for companies involved in these endeavors,” he added.

His other assignments include the Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee, the Pre K-12 Quality Subcommittee, and the Ways & Means Committee.

Brodeur, who last year chaired the full Health & Human Services Committee, said he was thrilled to get the Health Care Appropriations chair, and said he’ll be in positions to affect both policy and budgeting of health care.

“We need to make sure we are spending all of our dollars in a way that really delivers to our most vulnerable citizens,” he said. “I think we need to look at every way we put money into health care and decide whether these are areas that truly need state help. There are many, many wonderful partners in health care in Florida, but there are a number of competing priorities for a finite number of dollars.”

Brodeur also is getting a seat on the Health & Human Services Committee, Public Integrity & Ethics Committee, Rules & Policy Committee, and the Joint Legislative Budget Commission.

Plakon’s subcommittee chair is similar to one he held in 2011, when there was a Federal Affairs Subcommittee. This one also takes in local affairs, and “this one has more substance,” he said.

He’ll also be on the Judiciary Committee and the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, appointments he said he is excited about.

Among other appointments, Republican Rene Plasencia of Orlando, a high school teacher in Orlando, landed a key Education Committee appointment, something he’s long sought. He’ll serve on the full committee and be vice chair of the Pre K-12 Quality Subcommittee. He’ll also serve on the Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee.

“I spent the last month making phone calls and meeting with the appoint people to plead by case. They listened,” Plasencia said of education appointments. “I’m excited because this is the whole reason I got into this in the first place.”

State Rep. Bob Cortes of Longwood will be vice chair of the full Education Committee, and also serve on the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee and the Ways & Means Committee.

Republican Eric Eisnaugle of Windermere will be vice chair of two subcommittees, Justice Appropriations and Energy & Utilities.

David Santiago of Deltona will be vice chair of the full Health & Human Services Committee and of the Insurance & Banking Subcommittee.

Jennifer Sullivan of Eustis will be vice chair of the Public Integrity & Ethics Committee, and of the Pre K-12 Innovation Subcommittee.

Miller also will serve on the Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee, and the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee.

Central Florida Democrats also got some key committee assignments.

Smith, whose district includes the University of Central Florida, Full Sail University and other colleges and universities, was named to the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee and the Post-Secondary Education Committee, as well as the Government Accountability Committee.

“From day one, the Bright Futures Scholarship program has been my number one issue in the campaign,” said Smith, who is a freshman. “Having the opportunity to have a seat at the table to not only influence higher education policy, but also having a direct role in shaping financing, and supporting the Bright Futures program, is a huge win for the constituents of House District 49,” he said.

Bruce Antone of Orlando will be the ranking member on the Pre K-12 Quality Subcommittee, and also serve on the Pre K-12 Appropriations Committee and on the Ways & Means Committee.

John Cortes of Kissimmee will be ranking member on two subcommittees, Government Operations & Technology Appropriations, and Health Innovation. He’ll also serve on the Judiciary Committee.

Mercado also got seats on the  Health Care Appropriations, and Public Integrity & Ethics Committee.

Brown of Orlando also will serve on two key education committees, the Pre K-12 Appropriations, and for Pre K-12 Quality.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


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