USA TODAY Network-Florida
During state Sen. Kathleen Passidomo’s recent appearance before the Southwest Florida Community Advisory Board, it became clear why the Naples Republican was tabbed by her legislative colleagues to serve as the Florida Senate's next president after the 2022 elections.
Throughout her nearly hour-long session with the advisory board, Passidomo reflected on the Florida Legislature’s recent efforts and future tasks in a thoughtful and plain-spoken manner – one that many of her peers in Tallahassee would do well to emulate.
For example, while Passidomo raved about how much the Legislature accomplished during its just-concluded session — which included turning an expected $6 billion deficit into an approved $101 billion budget with ample reserves, passing a major child welfare reform bill, passing a COVID liability bill to protect companies and more — she also freely admitted to some frustration that many achievements were obscured by the attention devoted to various polarizing, divisive bills that also surfaced along the way..
"This past session in my opinion — having been in the Legislature for now 11 years — was the most productive,” Passidomo said. “(But) a lot of important bills we passed were not really talked about . . . because of a few red-meat bills that took the air out of the room.”
Such words of those of a lawmaker who clearly puts a premium of getting real things done over conjuring up splashy headlines — and Passidomo’s sensible pragmatism was evident in other observations during the advisory board interview. When asked to name the biggest issue facing Floridians — and particularly those in her district — Passidomo didn’t miss a beat: “(It’s) water,” she said. “water quality, water quality, blue-green algae, red tide . . . Water quality is (No.1), No. 2 and No. 3.”
On the debate over the home-rule rights of local communities, Passidomo said she favored common-sense legislation that would protect the flexibility of individual governments to make policies that fit their specific areas — yet also provide check and balances to keep municipalities from pushing through poorly conceived laws that were unfeasible and largely unenforceable.
“We have some jurisdictions (in Florida) that pass ordinances that are, for a lack of a better term, stupid,” Passidomo told the advisory board. “The problem you have is that when a local government passes an ordinance like (that), what are the recourses for the businesses impacted by it?”
And regarding the challenges raised by Florida’s growing medical needs, Passidomo laid out a cogent, compelling case for simply expanding the number of health clinics across the state.
“When I was first elected, we basically shut down our local health department clinics,” Passidomo said. “I think we kind of threw the baby out with the bath water there. Rather than finding a way to get those clinics back to working the way they should, we shut a lot of them down.”
In short Passidomo comes across as a breath of fresh air amid a statewide political environment that often seems to be perpetually bloated with hot air. Given that welcome departure from tiresome norm, Passidomo's impending stint as Senate president has the potential to be both productive and refreshing.
Editorial written by The News-Press and Naples Daily News, part of the USA Today Network-Florida.
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