Florida lawmakers are making final preparations for the 2018 legislative session, which is set to begin Tuesday, Jan. 9. There will be a lot on the docket for both chambers, but there's no question that this session will take place under the dark cloud of sexual harassment controversies. A couple seats are empty from lawmakers who resigned after being embroiled in such cases.
We spoke with Republican State Sen. Rene Garcia of Hialeah about the environment in Tallahassee. Will the tensions of sexual harassment complaints make for too big a distraction? What about the fact this is an election year, and some lawmakers are looking to boost their political careers?
Regarding the sexual harassment controversies that loom in Tallahassee, Garcia said he believes government officials need to address this uncomfortable reality.
“I think this conversation is long overdue. We've had to have this conversation,” Garcia said. “At the end of the day, there should be no room for anyone to feel uncomfortable in the workplace."
In Hialeah and neighboring districts with a high Hispanic population, it is commonplace to hug as a means of saying hello or goodbye. Although this type of embrace is a cultural practice, Garcia said one has to be cautious and professional in the workplace.
"I for one, in my culture, being of the Cuban culture, we generally hug. It's just the way we embrace and say hello," Garcia said. "But the one thing is how you hug ... you're not going to embrace someone and hold them for an extended period of time."
The senator concluded: "I just don't feel it's appropriate for anyone to use their position, whether in the public sector or in business, to harass their employees.”
Garcia is focusing on several bills for the upcoming session. He said one of the most important bills he has sponsored is SB 440: Florida Veterans Care Program. The bill will provide Florida veterans and their families with access to a quality alternative to the federal veterans’ healthcare system.
He said he believes the bill will have an impact on the immediate medical needs of veterans and also have a long-term healthcare component.
“Veterans should always be at the top of the list when it comes to getting services,” Garcia said.
For 2018 Garcia has also sponsored the following bills:
· S 590 Child Welfare
· S 682 Students Remaining on School Grounds During School Hours
· S 688 Charter County and Regional Transportation System Surtax
· S 722 Retirement
· S 724 Hospice Care
· S 770 Transportation Disadvantaged
· S 802 Drug and Violence Prevention Programs
· S 824 School District Price Level Index
· S 892 Financial Institution Payments to Surviving Successors
· S 894 Mortgage Lending
· S 910 Local Business Taxes
· S 914 Practice of Pharmacy
· S 1140 Residential Property Insurance Contracts
· S 1152 School-level Funding
· S 1238 Homeowners’ Associations
· S 1388 Preapprenticeship and Apprenticeship Programs
More Than Margaritaville
The Florida Keys offer an abundance of sun, palm trees and great music. Artist Miguel Perez is familiar with all the great things the Keys represent and his music reflects it.
Perez is keen on having a homegrown feel to his music, as well as embracing his Key West roots. He is a third-generation Conch, or person born in the Keys.
"Being a Conch is a dying thing out here," he said. "To me being a Conch is being respectful of Key West."
Musically the Keys have evolved from the early days of Jimmy Buffet. Although Perez appreciates the Keys' musical history, he is curating his own style that moves beyond Trop Rock.
"What I do, I feel is so separate from that," Perez said. "It feels like a totally different thing."
Perez's music reflects the laid-back and party atmosphere that's synonymous with Key West. Yet he adds his own style, which is influenced by elements of hip-hop and Latin music, soul, and electronic music.
Perez performs locally at many local bars and restaurants consistently. He also performs at weddings and has been commissioned to compose movie scores.
"There is a lot of freedom," he said about being a musician in the Keys.
You can hear more about Miguel Perez and his music on Tuesday's program.