TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Miami’s influence over statewide politics became stronger Monday as Rep. Daniel Perez was designated speaker of the Florida House for the 2024-26 legislative term, becoming the second presiding officer from Miami in the last decade.
Perez, 36, a Republican, will assume control at a time when his party holds a super majority in both chambers and controls all statewide offices in Florida. But, despite his youth, his supporters say his reputation as a “straight shooter” and a self-confident, well-respected leader has many expecting him to chart his own course in a Legislature that for years has been overshadowed by the culture war agenda of an ambitious governor.
“He’s going to take the House back,’’ said Rep. Vicki Lopez, a Miami Republican who will be working with Perez to craft legislation next session relating to another round of condominium reforms.
“The impression is that the governor has had a very strong influence on the Legislature,” as leaders in the House and Senate wanted to help him seek the presidency, she said. But whether or not Gov. Ron DeSantis wins the GOP nomination and presidency, Lopez said Perez’s “personality is more inclined to say: ‘the House is the House, and I need this chamber to have priorities’.”
Perez didn’t spell out his agenda for his term as speaker during his designation ceremony speech, but told reporters afterward that the “only” issue he hears people ask about when he knocks on doors in his Westchester neighborhood is “property insurance.” He promised to continue “chipping away” at the issue but offered no immediate remedies.
Perez told his colleagues he would focus on “limited government,” would work to “balance the competing needs of our state,” and would not use the power of government to enable only one point of view.
“Just because we have the power to do a thing, doesn’t necessarily mean that we should. And just because we think we are right. It doesn’t mean we are justified,’’ he said. “If the only people allowed to be free are the people who are doing what we want them to do, then we have forgotten what freedom really means. The problem with wielding the power of government like a hammer is that the people start looking like nails.”
A child of Cuban immigrants, having an autistic sibling
Shaping his agenda, Perez said, was his upbringing as the oldest child of Cuban immigrants in a family with a younger brother, Brian, with autism. He spoke about how his family struggled with accessing services for his brother as eligibility requirements often changed for no reason.
“My brother’s condition and my parents also taught me what really matters in life,’’ he said. “The patience I learned from being with my brother, made me impatient in so many ways...Interpersonal drama is a waste of time. The simple things in life are so special. And I cannot tolerate incompetence in government.”
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