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Making a difference. State Rep. Anthony Suarez, Orange County's 1st Hispanic representative in the House, is poised to begin his sophomore session.


At home in the House

by Gwyneth K. Shaw

Published in The Orlando Sentinel on March 05, 2000
©Copyright 2000 The Orlando Sentinel. All Rights Reserved.

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 caucus.

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 on them.

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 said.

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 additional disadvantage.

"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 challenge Suarez.

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," he said.

Suarez bio

Occupation: Lawyer

Education: Fordham University, B.A., 1974; St. Johns University School of Law, J.D., 1977

Military service: U.S. Army Military Police; Military Intelligence, top-secret security clearance, 1972-1987

First elected: 1999

Born: Oct. 16, 1953, New York, N.Y. Moved to Florida, 1990

Honors: New York City Small Businessman of the Year, 1989; named one of 'Forty People to Watch Under 40' by Cranes New York Business, 1988; Distinguished Military Graduate, 1974

Community service: Seminole County Legal Aid Society board of directors; Community Housing Development Corp., Latinos in Action, board chairman

To contact: District office, Suite 7, 6586 University Blvd. Winter Park 32792-7495; phone 407-623-1360. Tallahassee office: Florida Capitol, 416 House Office Building, 402 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee 32399-1300; phone 850-488-2742. Send e-mail to

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