Dade legislators become state VIPs on House committees

Miami-Dade is goFlorida State Capitol Buildinging to own Tallahassee this year.

Half of the leadership positions in the Florida House — the most powerful half — have gone to 305 legislators, giving the Miami-Dade delegation a louder voice in how priorities are sought and funded in the Sunshine State.

It starts at the top with State Reps. Jeanette Nuñez (R-West Kendall) as House Speaker pro tempore and Carlos Trujillo (R-Doral) as chair of the appropriations committee. Then we have State Rep. Jose Oliva (R-Miami Lakes), presumed the next Speaker of the House, serving as chair of the Rules & Policy Committee, and Reps. Jose Felix Diaz (R-Kendall) and Michael Bileca (R-Pinecrest) serving as chairmen of the Commerce and Education committees, respectively.

We haven’t had that many reps in leadership positions since… well, Ladra can’t remember when.


State Rep. and Speaker Pro Temp Jeanette Nuñez looks over the rest of the House leadership team from the 305 squad: (Clockwise from top left) Reps. Jose Oliva, Carlos Trujillo, Jose Felix Diaz and Michael Bileca

These are, arguably, the most important committees. And it could translate to a big year for Miami-Dade issues and projects. Tallahassee is a trickle up process. The agenda for those different policy areas are dictated by the chairmen of the committees. No education bill will move without Bileca’s approval. No bill on insurance, workman’s comp, gaming, energy, alcohol or tobacco will get to the floor without Pepi Diaz giving the green light. Oliva basically decides which bills make it to the floor, which Nuñez will now help run as Corcoran’s No. 2.

Appropriations is perhaps the most important because it has to do with the money. The pet projects all have to go through this committee — and Trujillo’s hands. He can rack up a ton of favors. 

“We are the leadership team,” Trujillo told Ladra. “Issues dealing with education, all policy, insurance and budget are controlled by Dade County. We have a seat at the table, influencing the decisions that are made.”

His priorities, he said, are going to be passing a balanced budget and increasing state reserves. “We will face a $1.8 billion dollar shortfall,” Trujillo told me about the upcoming session.

The number of local legislators in positions of leadership might be an indication that, after many years of infighting and bickering, the delegation has matured and there is a unified front that is gaining respect.

This could represent a legislative bounty for Miami-Dade residents in issues that are near and dear: changes in insurance rates, funding in education, funding for Jackson, funding for the Port of Miami.  

Nuñez, for example, has long waged war against MDX and their power to increase tolls. She may gain traction on this front this year because of the 305’s leadership role. Not necessarily because she will champion a bill. Committee chairs and Nuñez will be too busy to present their own bills this year. Its because she’s got more palanca now.

“People across the capitol and in the House know it’s important to the delegation,” Trujillo said.

What he didn’t say is that what’s important to the delegation just became important to them. Didn’t it? 

It should be a very good year for us.