Speaker Crisafulli, I thank you for your open door policy and for directing OPPAGA to conduct a study on the issues relative to unemployment and poverty.
To my home city of Lauderdale Lakes, you believed in me and gave me my first opportunity to represent you when I ran for the city commission in 1996. This was after losing the race by only two votes in 1995. Vice President Al Gore should have asked me about hanging and dimpled chads and how to overcome them.
I would not have been here as part of this noble and humbling process without the loving support of my best friend and husband of 42 years – Clifton Rogers. I thank you and appreciate the sacrifices you have made to make my service possible.
To the matriarch of my family, my mother, EulaLee Bax – I want you to know that I live for you to be proud of me and I don’t ever want you to cry for me unless it’s tears of joy. I thank you for loving and taking care of my husband from the day you met him until today. I am sure he would be a lot thinner if it were not for you and Kacey’s Restaurant feeding him while I am away.
Members, I had the option of taking a legislative aide with Tallahassee experience, but I chose someone that I knew would love the people of my district and bring a skills set that would be invaluable to our office. Please join me in thanking Patricia Amiel-Young for her 8 years of service and dedication. I would be remiss if I did not recognize my former district secretary for seven years, Elizabeth Honorat and to the lady that took the baton when she left and made the loss in my last year less stressful -- Caroline Rucker.
To my community supporters, campaign leadership, and volunteers, although I told you I had no interest in coming to Tallahassee because I hate flying -- you did not give up. I would like you to know that I did you proud by being one of two freshman members of my class to pass two pieces of legislation in the first year. HB293 - Motor Vehicle and Mobile Home Transfer, which governs the transfer of title for motor vehicles in a person to person sales transaction hereby protecting the seller, and HB 1493 Substance Abuse & Mental Health Service which, when implemented, will make substantive changes with regard to substance abuse and mental health deliverables.
During my first session which was a Special Session, after debating Rep. Glorioso on the true intent of the Sadowski Funds, we developed a mutual respect for each other and he and former Rep. Evers (now Senator Evers) helped to guide HB 239 through the process.
District 94 now 95, you did not just send me here – you supported me all the way by recommending bills and staying involved, thank you Mayor Kaplan and others who actively participated in the process by attending committee meetings, floor sessions, and other activities. Colleagues, I don’t know about you. What I do know is that I am 8 years older, stronger, and wiser!
Like you, over the past 7 years, I sponsored and co-sponsored several pieces of legislation -- some have passed and have been signed into law. In addition to the two previously mentioned, a bill entitled “Dress Code of Student Conduct” which, among other things, requires school boards to include an explanation of the responsibility of student regarding appropriate dress code during the Academic Day. Another bill, Canned or Perishable Food Distributed Free of Charge, grants sovereign immunity to public schools with respect to the donation of canned or perishable foods to a charitable or nonprofit organization, and Exemption from Legislative Lobbying Requirements, which revises the definition of the term "expenditure" to Not include the use of a public facility or public property that is made available by governmental entity to legislator for public purpose.
The majority of my priority bills focused on small business and economic development. Many of my priority bills never received a hearing. A bill requiring the state to unbundle large contracts in an effort to utilize more small and minority-owned businesses, as well as, prompt payment from primes to subs within 14 days.
Another bill would have encouraged investment by the state and local partners in economically disadvantaged communities with double-digit poverty and unemployment under DEO. Sadly, they never saw the light of day, meaning a hearing. I ask you not to forget those communities in your economic development policies and appropriations decisions.
It is said that great ideas from Democrats are hijacked by the R’s, I can testify that Dem’s do the same thing to Dems.
I am a results-oriented person and I take this position seriously. When I am not here, I am in the community educating my constituents on policies from state and local government, such as the 40 Year Building Inspection program; depopulation by citizens and working with Citizen’s Insurance in hopes of waiving the 30-day waiting period when forced–placed insurance is involved.
I had the privilege of a visit to my district from Jessi Punnaccio former director with the Department of Economic Opportunity and his staff, also Rep. La Rosa, and most recently, Bill Johnson from Enterprise Florida for several successful and productive meetings with the local businesses. Thank you all for taking the concerns of my community in your decision making.
For me, a special accomplishment last session was a partnership with Broward College and the Greater Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce on a program that will provide business-to-business mentoring, onsite training of property owners and businesses on the incentives and the benefits of public private partnership operating in an Off-port site Foreign Trade Zone. Special thanks to the Economic Development staff of the City of Lauderdale Lakes.
The district Annual Christmas toy give-a-way in partnership with the City of North Lauderdale and the South Florida Realtist Women, wherein we use this fun holiday event to teach financial literacy to the children by giving them play money to purchase the toys they want. Children learn that gifts are not always free and how to budget their money to get the gifts that they want.
I am especially proud of the partnership with Farm Share and the many successful dignified feeding events we have held in the district. More than ever we need to fund this initiative. We do have many working poor, veterans, the homeless, and the elderly on fixed income participating in feeding programs across the state.
A special thank you for those organizations, individuals and civic groups who took time to visit with me in Tallahassee. Among them, the Lauderhill Regional Chamber, the Greater Caribbean American Chamber, the South Florida Realtist Women, The Guyanese Chamber of Commerce, Journey of Joy Children’s Events, Governor of Kiwanis, Florida District, South Florida Realtors, Fort Lauderdale Realtors, and the Latin American Association of Insurance Agents, and the American Cancer Society.
To the strangers that held my hand during many of the flights to and from the district – thank you! And to my dearest friend Rep Gwendolyn Clarke Reed, who I have the honor to call roomie, thank you for your friendship and the fond memories. Although we experienced a period of loss when one leg of the three-legged stool, Betty Reed left, we remained friends.
Members, March 12, 2016, one day after Sine Die, marks 20 consecutive years of public service for me. Thanks to the residents of Lauderdale Lakes for believing in me and giving me my first opportunity as an elected public servant. I brought that experience and conviction to Tallahassee and I trust that my 8 cities over these 8 years will agree that I have lived up to their expectations.
My only regret in this process is not being able to vote with you for a pay raise for our hard-working state employees. Special thanks to the staff that makes us all look good, to include those who feed us and clean up after us.
Colleagues, it is my pleasure to have had the opportunity to serve with you. Special thanks to my chairman, Rep. Ingram, and to Reps; Fresen; Ray; Rouson, and Albritton for your kindness and assistance and to Chair Corcoran and Leader Pafford and Rep. Cruz for always pronouncing my name as was called by my parents.
Members, lobbyists provide a valuable service to us and I thank them and Mr. Brian Pitts for the education.
To my friends from local government, Rep. Dwayne Taylor, and Rep. Mia Jones, it was nice serving with you in this process. Special recognition to my praying colleague, and friend, Rep. Daphne Campbell.
I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge my friend and former State Rep. and Lt. Governor who started Caribbean Heritage Day with me – Jennifer Carroll – thank you for your legacy.
Finally, to my colleagues who will be returning next year, remember it is all about meaningful, respectful and dignity of service in this great institution.
Thank you Mr. Speaker, and thank you Members.