Legislative rookies: Promising new Florida House members
Nearly 17 months ago, 57 legislative novices arrived in Tallahassee eager to make their mark.
[Photo: Meredith Geddings]
Making his mark: Almost from day one, Gaetz has engaged in lively floor debates, prolifically filing amendments to bills. In 2011, he helped draft significant portions of HB 993, a bill that streamlined Florida's environmental permitting process, and he considers it some of his most significant work to date. On and off the floor, Gaetz isn't afraid of making waves. In 2010, he and another lawmaker sued former Gov. Charlie Crist on behalf of a Crist campaign contributor who was seeking public records related to Crist's abrupt party switch. In 2011, he publicly chastised Okaloosa County officials over a disagreement about legislation that would have made changes to the county's pretrial release program. He's inspired the wrath of liberals for his stances on everything from abortion to teachers unions. Gaetz says his hard-charging, gung-ho style suits his district. "I come from the most Republican-performing district in the state — out of all 120, mine performs the most Republican — so in many ways my role here is to be a conservative champion and to provide a very zealous defense of the conservative cause. To do that, you have to keep your eyes open and your head on swivel."
Notable: Gaetz has powerful allies in the state Senate, most notably, his father, soon-to-be Senate President Don Gaetz. The younger Gaetz is making a name for himself in the social media world. "One of the interns that I'd hired to work in my office told me you aren't anybody unless you have an active social media presence. Someone just handed me a phone and showed me how to tweet, and they're probably regretting doing that."