Ray Rodrigues: Require Government Agencies to Hear Public at Meetings, Let Every Absentee Vote Count
Around the State
Education: Berry College, Bachelor of Arts
Occupation: Budget manager, College of Arts and Sciences, Florida Gulf Coast University
Previous Public Office: None
Family: Wife, son
Did you know? A maternal great-great cousin, Webb Jernigan, served in the Florida House of Representatives in the 1940s and '50s.
Ray Rodrigues has never held elected office, but as the former vice chair of Lee County's Republican Executive Committee he's no stranger to politics. His major priorities this session include beefing-up government transparency and the rights of absentee voters, especially those in the military.
“I’ve always been politically involved,”
Rodrigues, R-Estero, tells Sunshine State News, when asked what motivated him to run to represent District 76, “I just saw this as an opportunity to continue to be active, and was really excited for the opportunity when this seat opened up.”
He sits on the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee and the subcommittees on Government Operations Appropriations, Healthy Families, Energy and Utilities, and Higher Education and Workforce. He specifically requested the latter two assignments, the last in particular because “I think higher education is key for our economic development in Florida, and economic development was one of my campaign platforms.”
The two bills he’s already proposed are likely to garner much public attention in the coming weeks.
The first, HB 23 (“Public Meetings”), is currently being considered by the Government Operations Subcommittee. If passed, it would require that all state government agencies receive public input about all propositions before them. It’s the House counterpart to a Senate bill (SB 50) filed by Joe Negron, R-Palm City, and the only specific piece of legislation Rodrigues promised to file when he campaigned last year.
Under Florida’s Sunshine laws, government agencies must be noticed and open to attendance by the public, but they are not required to receive public input.
“That’s not right,” Rodrigues says. “Clearly, taxpayers are the ones who pay for government, and I think it’s only right that they have the opportunity to offer limited input on agenda items that are going before a board for their consideration.”
Another bill, HB 386 (“Overseas Ballots”), would guarantee that overseas absentee voters who submit ballots postmarked by Election Day will have every vote on their ballot counted, so long as the local elections supervisor received them within 10 days after the election. Under Florida’s current laws, votes for the presidential race are only counted if received within that 10-day period.
“Our military voters overseas are sacrificing for us to have the opportunity to hold elections,” Rodrigues insists. “I think the right thing to do is to guarantee their full participation; I wanted to see their entire ballot counted in that 10-day window.”
Rodrigues says he will be proposing other pieces of legislation within the next four to six weeks, but declined to comment publicly on specifics, except to say he will be filing a local bill that alters the procedure for determining which cities sit on Lee County’s tourism development council.
Reach Eric Giunta at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (954) 235-9116.