Freshman Florida Representative Mark Danish optimistic on upcoming legislative session

Share on Nextdoor

One of the main tenants of his campaign was education, to Danish it’s one of the most pressing issues facing the state. As a member of the Education Committee, he says his 30+ years of experience as a teacher has given him a firsthand look at what needs to be improved in the education system, a part of the budget that’s been ignored for too long.

“It’s such a big part of the budget and when we have problems that’s the first part of the budget people want to cut. We’ve been cutting for years and it’s time to start putting money back into that. Education is a driver in this state to help bring business into, the two go hand in hand. When education is improving it’s going to help the economy as well…businesses look for states that have good schools.”

The slashing of the budget has hurt both teachers and students, and increased funding towards both is necessary to Danish. Inflation plays a large part in his opinion; the fact that supplies and living costs in general have increased yet funding has dwindled is something he says needs to be fixed.

“You have a lot of counties where the teachers haven’t seen a raise in five or six years, as a matter of fact they’re making less money than they did five or six years ago. Also in terms of per capita spending we’re almost a thousand dollars below where we were five years ago per student…everything costs more yet we’re spending so much less.”

Danish has been spending his time between Tallahassee and Tampa prior to the session and he’s optimistic that there will be a positive relationship between representatives of both parties to steer Florida in the right direction. He says that Florida politics lack the vitriol seen in Washington and says more can be accomplished this year in the state.

“Everyone (in Washington) is so busy posturing that they’re not getting anything accomplished. So far from what I’ve seen on the state side is a lot more bipartisanship happening, people are getting along.” Danish attributes this to the amount of fresh faces coming into the legislature and hopes the trend will continue. “You don’t know until you get into the session but I’m hoping it will hold.”

The debate over voter reform in Florida has helped build the environment of bi-partisanship that Danish seeks. From what he’s experienced in the planning stages, the debacle that resulted from early voting in the 2012 election has motivated both parties to improve the voting process. Danish is adamant that early voting options need to be expanded.

“One of the early things that needs to be discussed is election reform. You can’t tell people, “well it’s going to take six hours to vote”, the average working person can’t just take off six hours to go vote, that just doesn’t work.”

There has been a large amount of debate prior to the session over receiving federal dollars under the Affordable Care Act to expand Florida’s Medicaid coverage and Danish is in support of the idea. He say’s at the very least it will help lower the medical costs for Floridians by providing coverage for the uninsured.

“It’s our tax dollars coming back to us, and I think that’s very good for our state.”

With the official start of the session just days away Danish is looking forward to his time in the legislature and that the time he’s spent prior to its opening has prepared him on what to expect.

“I’m feeling very confident, now that I’ve gone through committee week, I’ve seen how things function there. I’ve had that sort of a learning curve of learning how Tallahassee works…I’m looking forward to getting in there and starting to make a difference.”

With the Florida legislative session beginning on Tuesday, freshman representative Mark Danish is looking forward to what can be accomplished.

The Democratic congressman, who represents District 63 (Lutz, Town N’ Country, and parts of Seminole Heights, Ybor and the USF area), won his seat in a surprise victory last November. The middle school science teacher waged an old-school style campaign, focusing less on advertising and more on face to face and phone interactions with his potential constituents.

After finishing his last day teaching for the school year on Friday, he’s headed to Tallahassee to begin the legislative period. Switching from the teaching life to one of a politician is a first in Hillsborough County politics, but Danish says figuring out a balance between the two has been smooth.

“The county’s been terrific, they've been very understanding. I think they like the idea that a teacher is going up there (Tallahassee), because it’s not a situation that’s happened before, that an active teacher has gone to the legislature from this town. I think they like the idea because they know someone is going up there to fight for them.”

Scroll to read more News Feature articles


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.