Everything happened so fast last year for Anthony Suarez.
In the span of a few days, he was elected as Orange County's
first Hispanic state legislator -- defeating a conservative in
a heavily Republican district -- and then immediately assumed
his place in Tallahassee.
The hectic pace seemed to suit him; Suarez, D-Winter Park,
won kudos for his freshman-year work. The state teachers union
gave him an award, and he worked hard to cobble together a Hispanic
But that was last year -- and Tallahassee politics doesn't
give much credit for past accomplishments. As a rare Hispanic
Democrat, who happens to favor Gov. Jeb Bush's One Florida plan,
Suarez is getting criticism from all sides.
Suarez, whose district includes east Orange and a small slice
of Seminole County, is determined to make his second year a fruitful
one. Some of the biggest issues in the Legislature regarding
Central Florida, including title-loan reform, have Suarez's name
Suarez is sponsoring a drug-free workplace bill and is the
author of another measure that would help area schools get state
money to provide bus service to students who live less than two
miles from school.
That idea, which is being pushed in a separate House bill
by Rep. Bill Sublette, R-Orlando, was sparked by the recent string
of accidents involving students walking to school.
The existing law makes getting such "hazardous conditions"
funding difficult and forces school districts to reapply each
year. Suarez's bill, like Sublette's, would streamline the process
and make it last until a problem is fixed.
"We're probably going to merge them into one proposal,"
Suarez is co-sponsoring another Sublette bill, this one capping
interest rates on auto-title loans at 30 percent -- rates can
exceed 200 percent now -- and providing state oversight for lenders.
Another top goal for Suarez this session is working on the
Equity in Educational Opportunity Task force. Bush appointed
him to the group, which will examine school funding and how it
is divided. Suarez said minority schools often don't get their
fair share of education dollars, putting those students at an
"That's an important priority for me," he said.
In the back of Suarez's mind is this November's election.
Three Republicans -- James R. Kallinger, Richard L. Krob, and
David Kenneth Moyher, Jr. -- have opened campaign accounts to
Perhaps with an eye toward the election, Suarez said he is
also interested in pushing campaign-finance reform in state elections.
"It's something I've been working very hard on,"