Freshman Republican Sen. Ileana Garcia will juggle eight different committee assignments during the 2021 Legislative Session, giving her the most appointments of any Senator from the South Florida delegation.
Of course, those assignments have varying levels or responsibility and prestige among the political class. Garcia nabbed a Vice Chair position Wednesday on the powerful Rules Committee. While she’ll also serve on two Appropriations subcommittees — the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government and the Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development — she did not earn a spot on the broader Appropriations Committee.
That influential body will feature Democratic Sen. Lauren Book and GOP Sen. Manny Diaz. Both of those Senators earned seven assignments, putting them just behind Garcia’s total. No other member from South Florida’s tri-county area earned more than six assignments.
Book will also chair the Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs and will serve as vice chair for the Committee on Regulated Industries. On Thursday, she was assigned to the committees on Appropriations, Health Policy, and Rules. She also received a spot on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services and will serve on the Joint Legislative Budget Commission.
Diaz will chair the committee on Health Policy and was named vice chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education. He’ll also sit on the committees on Appropriations, Commerce and Tourism, Education, and Rules, in addition to a slot on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.
Garcia earned dual vice chair slots on the Rules and Community Affairs Committees. She’ll sit on the Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs, which Book chairs. Garcia grabbed spots on the committees on Commerce and Tourism, Ethics and Elections, and Health Policy, in addition to her two appropriations subcommittee spots.
The Appropriations Committee will also feature House Democratic Leader Gary Farmer along with Sens. Bobby Powell of District 30 and Jason Pizzo of District 38.
Farmer and Powell will also sit on the Rules Committee. They’ll be joined by Book, Diaz and Sen. Perry Thurston of District 33.
“I have worked to incorporate the interests stated on your subject matter preference forms, as well as your comments from our personal conversations,” Senate President Wilton Simpson wrote Thursday in a statement announcing the assignments.
“Many Senators have a subject matter expertise gained by either professional excellence or prior legislative service. This experience is a tremendous benefit to the Senate. As you know, I also believe one of the benefits of a citizen legislature is the new approaches and differing points of view offered by individuals who have limited or no prior experience with a particular subject matter. I worked to balance these ideas in finalizing committee assignments.”
A special Select Committee on Pandemic Preparedness and Response also features two South Florida Senators — Democratic Sen. Pizzo and Republican Sen. Gayle Harrell. Both joined the Senate following the 2018 election.
Democratic Sens. Lori Berman and Annette Taddeo will return to familiar territory this upcoming Session.
Berman will once again serve on the committee on Education and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government. Taddeo will also repeat her service on the committee on Banking and Insurance and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development.
Both Senators served on those committees in 2019 and 2020. Taddeo also held a spot on the Banking and Insurance Committee in 2018 after her Special Election victory in District 40.
The three final members of the South Florida delegation — Democratic Sens. Tina Polsky and Shevrin Jones and Republican Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez — freshman Senators joining Garcia — all move over to the Senate after their time in the House.
Polsky and Rodriguez will sit together on the committee on Agriculture. Jones and Rodriguez will both serve on the committee on Transportation.
In a Wednesday announcement, Rodriguez was also named chair of the Finance and Tax Committee and vice chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.
And despite his freshman status and serving in the minority party, Jones secured a vice chair position on the Education Committee. Jones was a teacher prior to joining the Legislature.
“I entered public service to champion policies that will set all kids on a path for lifelong success and am humbled to serve in a leadership role overseeing this important issue in the Senate,” Jones said in a statement prior to securing that position.
“Just as I did throughout my time in the House, I look forward to working across the aisle and building consensus alongside Committee Chair Joe Gruters. As a state, we must continue to support our teachers, students, and families to make sure every community receives the tools and resources to give everyone a quality education. Smart investments in public education will pay off for all of us, regardless of partisanship, for generations to come.”