U.S. Rep. Trey Radel, R-19, and the entire Southwest Florida delegation gathered at Edison State College on Thursday morning in a roundtable to discuss issues that are pertinent on a local, state and national level.
The discussion focused on the just-finished legislative session in Tallahassee, as well as the goings-on in Washington, from Medicaid, to Benghazi, to the recent decision of rental car giant Hertz moving its headquarters to the area.
State Rep. Dane Eagle, R-77, said the dialogue was most constructive, with many of the important issues facing Florida residents discussed.
"Common Core, Medicaid, the Everglades, IRS and Hertz were all on the table. We had a good global discussion on how it affects our community, and it was great to have all the area delegation here. It was very valuable," Eagle said.
With the entire delegation being Republican, there wasn't much in the way of disagreement. It was more a matter of getting everyone on the same page. On the national level, it was the recent controversies regarding the IRS and Benghazi that dominated the discussion.
"We have to make sure government is in check and that they're working for us and not against us," Eagle said. "He's a freshman and he's trying to grapple with that."
For Radel and the rest of the delegation, it was about learning from each other what's important to the voters.
"I want to know what our local delegation had gone through in Tallahassee, what it went through, and what I can do to keep a better line of communication and help out in Washington and whether it needs to step in or step out," Radel said.
Radel said he also wanted to encourage growth in the area through the ports, railways and airports
Radel's view was that everything depends upon jobs and how to get more Southwest Florida residents to work, because without jobs, there is nothing else.
"Everglades restoration is critical to our environment and economy. Common Core is about our children growing up what they study," Radel said. "But I was excited when the talk switched to the economy because without a healthy economy, you don't have a healthy education system or a healthy environment."
As far as getting Hertz to come and perhaps other companies in the future, Radel said it's a matter of communication.
"We have a state that has so many incentives for people to come here. There's no state income tax, a solid education system, and palm trees and beaches doesn't hurt," Radel said. "Federally, we can offer stability so they know the rules. Symbolically, I can represent the area and show people who we are and what we're about."
Radel also discussed the uncertainty in Washington and how, while Florida got a balanced budget passed in 60 days, Washington continues to muddle.
"When you have the Affordable Care Act and businesses don't know what it's about, they aren't going to grow their business. When you have a tax code that nobody knows what it will be, they can't budget," Radel said. "We need to let people know what the rules are in Washington. Then they can invest in their business and in people,"
Those in the delegation were happy they had a chance to meet with their national representative and discuss items.
"We want to be sure we're connected because there isn't an issue that we don't face that isn't rooted in Washington and the decisions they make," State Sen. Lizbeth Benecquisto, R-31, said. "For Rep. Radel to want to be so immersed in our community we're grateful for that."