No. 23 on the list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians: Jay Collins

This is Collins' debut in the Top 25, and it looks like he might be on the way up.

Knocking off a well-funded, battle-tested incumbent was enough to land Sen. Jay Collins in the also-ran category on the 2023 list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians. Securing a couple of Legislative Sessions under his belt was enough to actually make the list, at No. 23.

Collins, a Republican, defeated former Sen. Janet Cruz in the 2022 Midterms, ousting her from the Senate District 14 seat that she had claimed — and flipped — just four years prior. Collins’ win was part of a red wave that swept Hillsborough County and much of the state as Democrats overperformed pretty much everywhere but the Sunshine State. Now, Collins is still riding the wave.

“Sen. Jay Collins has established himself as one of Tampa Bay’s most influential politicians through his impactful work in Tallahassee over the last two Legislative Sessions. Sen. Collins has played a crucial role in advancing key initiatives such as bolstering economic development, enhancing infrastructure, and improving public education,” said Edward Briggs, Vice President of Community and Government Affairs for RSA Consulting.

“He serves as Chair of the Agriculture committee and is a member of the education committee. His leadership in securing significant state funding for regional projects and his commitment to addressing critical issues such as cultivated meat, foreign national land purchases, and streamlining efficiencies to facilitate business licensing in the state have been noteworthy.”

In just his second Legislative Session, Collins sponsored more than 60 appropriations requests in 2024, representing more than $286 million in funding for local projects. While not all were funded, he took the strong initiative to bring home the bacon, asking for funding spanning a variety of priorities, causes, and projects such as road improvements, health care programs, higher education initiatives, and feeding the hungry.

“Sen. Collins’ ability to effectively navigate complex legislative challenges and deliver tangible results underscores his influential role in shaping the future of the region,” Briggs added.

It’s not uncommon for members of the upper chamber to go all-in on funding requests, but it showed he knows how to leverage the GOP supermajorities in both chambers to benefit his constituents, even those who don’t share his particular party affiliation.

That’s not to say Collins is a particularly nonpartisan guy. He’s a Republican’s Republican, to be sure.

Collins sponsored a measure (SB 150) to allow eligible gun owners to carry a concealed firearm without a permit. It passed, and the Governor signed it, much to the chagrin of Democrats who opposed the measure.

Collins also sponsored legislation (SB 668) to ban flags from flying over government facilities unless they were Governor-approved. He later filed an amendment with a list of allowable flags, including the Confederate flag, but quickly withdrew it and his original bill from consideration. That left a similar version of the bill still under consideration, though it also died. Both were widely believed to be aimed at showing support for gay pride, which cities in liberal areas often do.

In another piece of red meat thrown to the GOP base, Collins successfully sponsored a bill (SB 1264) mandating communism history education in schools beginning in the 2026-27 school year. Supporters, including Collins, argued it’s important to ensure Florida students understand the pitfalls of communism.

Democrats were less sold on the idea, offering concerns about using the words “socialism” and “communism” interchangeably. The GOP has found success in Florida largely through accusing Democrats of supporting socialism, a tactic that was particularly effective in South Florida where a large contingency of Cubans live after fleeing the communist island nation.

He also filed a resolution to condemn officials from Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa for meeting with the Cuba Ambassador. It specifically called out Tampa City Council member Guido Maniscalco, Hillsborough County School Board member Karen Perez and Hillsborough Clerk of Court Cindy Stuart, all Democrats. The resolution died without receiving a floor vote, though it did clear its sole committee stop.

But not everything Collins has accomplished has fallen along party lines. He worked with Republican Sen. Danny Burgess to expand a bill establishing a Florida Veterans’ History program by ensuring additional provisions to improve veterans’ lives, such as increasing access to business programs and grants, establishing better opportunities for entrepreneurship among veterans, and pushing other programs to expand opportunities for those who served our nation. The measure passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

He also worked in the 2024 Legislative Session to establish more flexibility among pharmacists and pharmacy techs, allowing the pharmacists to supervise techs, verify prescriptions and counsel patients remotely without having to physically be present at the pharmacy.

Collins emphatically insisted his proposed “hybrid” model was needed to ensure that those in hard-to-reach areas — as he was at various points throughout his 23-year career in the armed forces as a Special Forces Medic, a Green Beret and part of Special Operations Command — have access to pharmaceutical care when needed.

The bill he filed (SB 444) died in its first committee stop, but not before Collins made his case that access is vital.

Collins’ influence is also on display through work outside his personal purview. His wife, Layla Collins, is challenging incumbent Nadia Combs for the Hillsborough School Board. Layla Collins has, as of the most recent reports available, raised more than $95,000, a huge amount for a School Board race and more than triple what Combs herself has raised.

Combs is one of 14 incumbent School Board members across the state Gov. Ron DeSantis is targeting to oust in the 2024 elections because he says they don’t adequately protect parental rights or effectively block “woke” ideologies from being taught in schools. Layla Collins has been raking in support from conservative interests, including some that supported her husband’s bid for Senate.

As conservatives continue to dominate in Florida, it’s worth watching Jay Collins’ trajectory into the second half of 2024 as Democrats hope, yet again, for a blue wave this Presidential Election cycle.



We define the Tampa Bay region as Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco, but can also include Hernando, Polk or Sarasota — if the politicians from those counties impact either Pinellas or Hillsborough.

We define a politician as being in office or running for office.

Being first on a panelist’s list earns the politician 25 points, second earns them 24 points and so on, to where being listed 25th earns a politician 1 point. Points are added and, voilà, we have a list.

Special thanks go to our experienced and knowledgeable panelists, who were essential to developing the 2024 list: Christina Barker of the Vinik Family Office, Ashley Bauman of Mercury, Matthew Blair of Corcoran Partners, Ed Briggs of RSA Consulting, political consultant Maya BrownRicky Butler of the Pinellas Co. Sheriff’s Office, Reggie Cardozo of The Public Square, Ronald Christaldi of Schumaker, Ana Cruz of Ballard Partners, Justin Day of Capital City Consulting, Barry EdwardsJoe Farrell of Pinellas Realtors, pollster Matt Florell of Vicidial Group, Shawn Foster of Sunrise Consulting Group, Adam Giery of Strategos Group, political consultant Max GoodmanMike Griffin of Savills, Natalie King of RSA Consulting, political consultant Benjamin Kirby, TECO Energy Regional Affairs Coordinator Shannon Love, Merritt Martin of Moffitt Cancer Center, Mike Moore of The Southern Group, political consultant Anthony PediciniRon Pierce of RSA Consulting, J.C. Pritchett, pastor of St. Pete’s Faith Church, Darren Richards of Tucker/Hall, Preston Rudie of Catalyst Communications Group, Amanda Stewart of Johnston and Stewart, and Alan Suskey of Shumaker Advisors. With Michelle and Peter Schorsch.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected].


  • Dont Say FLA

    May 29, 2024 at 11:04 am

    #23 out of a list of 25 at the bottom of the barrel is at the very bottom of the barrel. It’s Tampa.

    Now if Elon Musk buys Tampa, then we are talking about real red power: Tampa-x.

    Sorry for the ancient joke but Mush-X put a new spin on it.

  • Pancho Villar

    May 30, 2024 at 11:03 am

    That confederate flag issue, man. Sloppy work by him or his staff.

Comments are closed.


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