Kevin Rader: Rick Scott 'Took a Page Out of My Playbook' on Teacher Raises
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Birthplace: Detroit, Mich.
Residence: Delray Beach
Education: Boston University, Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts
Occupation: Insurance agent
Previous Public Office: Florida House of Representatives, 2008-2010
Family: Wife, four children
Did you know? He may be the United States' first elected rebbetzin; his wife, Amy, is a rabbi in the conservative tradition.
One of three freshman representatives who have, in fact, served in the Florida House previously, Democrat Kevin Rader of Delray Beach is glad to be back in the Legislature, where he can pick up where he left off just two years ago.
“I felt like I had a lot of unfinished business,” he tells Sunshine State News, explaining why he decided to run last year for the seat he left in 2010, when he unsuccessfully ran for the Senate seat vacated by term-limited Dave Aronberg.
After ousting Democratic incumbent Steven Perman in the August 2012 primary by a vote of 57-to-43 percent – which he speculates “might be the largest beating of an incumbent in state history” in terms of margin – he handily won re-election with over 64 percent of his constituents' votes.
“It's all about trying to help the struggling middle class,” he says of his legislative agenda. “We're coming out of, basically, a depression that the federal government helped us survive ... and hopefully over the next three to five years it will be a very prosperous time for Florida and all the different social-economic levels of our society will be able to greatly benefit.”
In the hopes of banking in on that perceived economic rebound, Rader's introduced HJR 139 (“Minimum Salaries for New and Experienced Full-Time Teachers in Public Schools”), which would propose to the voters a constitutional amendment guaranteeing that teachers' minimum salaries would never be lower than the national average.
“It's so bad in our public schools that just to be average in the country demands that we give [teachers] a raise of over $10,000,” he explains. “I think Governor [Rick] Scott took a page out of my playbook [with his proposal of] $2,500 in average teacher raises. I think there's some movement there, and hopefully we'll see the Legislature want to take up my bill and move it forward.”
HJR 367 (“Basic Rights”) is another constitutional amendment, this one an exact replica of a measure that failed before voters in 2008. The measure seeks to eliminate a 1926 provision of the Florida Constitution -- which has its roots in anti-Asian nativism -- which allows the Legislature to eliminate the property rights of non-Americans, even if they are in the country legally.
“Unfortunately, the wording does not sound good,” Rader admits. “Immediately people think of illegal aliens, but this has nothing to do with that. Many legal aliens own land in the state of Florida; for example, many Canadians and Britons own condos and second homes here.”
At one point in American history, each of the states had a similar provision enshrined in its constitution; all but Florida have since repealed it.
HB 1019 (“Sound Devices in Motor Vehicles”) would revise Florida's statutes regulating how loud drivers can play their car radios, to bring the standards in line with a state Supreme Court decision last year which struck down the law as an unconstitutionally vague restriction on free speech. Rader's proposed revision treats all motor vehicles the same, getting rid of the exemptions that existed for vehicles used for political or business purposes.
The bill still bans the blaring of sounds that are “plainly audible” at a distance of 25 feet or more from a motor vehicle.
A measure he suspects will garner much less controversy is HB 913 (“Holocaust Victims Assistance Act”), which Rader says would “give more teeth” to the state's chief financial officer to help survivors recover property and other assets lost to them in the course of the Holocaust. He's co-sponsoring the bill with Rep. Michael Bileca, R-Miami.
“It's certainly a little more challenging,” he says of the prospects of getting one's legislation through when one is a member of the minority party. “It means you have to work harder, but I've got a very good relationship with many Republicans. I think I can get some things done and push some things through.”
Reach Eric Giunta at email@example.com or at (954) 235-9116.