First elected to the state House of Representatives in 1994, Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, is returning for a fifth term. His first four included service as House Majority Whip and Majority Leader. In 2002, he was elected to the Senate and served as Majority Whip and President Pro Tempore. He was term-limited from the Senate this year, and ran for a House seat, and faced no general election opposition.
Fasano is not afraid to mix it up, and has lost leadership roles as a result. Despite his experience, on returning to the House he didn’t get the seat on the Banking and Insurance committee he’d requested.
His day job: associate vice president for investments at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter.
Fasano had to drop out of school in his teens to support his mother when his father died. He’s known for his consumer advocacy, his devoted constituents and for ending conversations with “God bless.”
The News Service of Florida has five questions for Mike Fasano:Q: Gov. Scott and legislative leaders have made reducing the size of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. a priority. You’ve been critical of depopulation efforts. What should Citizens’ role be?
FASANO: For many of the 1.4 million policyholders in Citizens – those policyholders have nowhere else to go. So for our governor, our legislative leaders, those in the insurance industry that are doing their best to shrink Citizens – that’s good. I’m happy about that. But for many homeowners, Citizens is the only game in town.….So as they shrink it, I hope they will take that into consideration.
Citizens’ role should be exactly what it is today: the insurer of last resort. The private companies that have promised every time we passed a piece of legislation that they would expand, write new policies – we found that that was an absolute lie, that they were not honest with the Legislature, they were not honest with former and present governors.
So for those that think Citizens will one day going away – that’s just not going to happen. Because the private companies have made it clear, the All States and State farms of the world have made it clear they have no intentions of writing policies in certain areas, which they call the high-risk areas. So Citizens plays a major role, an important role of providing homeowners insurance for homeowners, for condominium owners, for manufactured home owners, for businesses small and large…property insurance that cannot be found anywhere else.
Q: You were left off the House Banking and Insurance Committee, though you requested a seat. What does that say about the House’s direction on the property insurance issue?
FASANO: Well, they probably didn’t want someone on there who was going to speak up and bang their fist on the table when they see something wrong that’s not in the best interest of the consumer, the ratepayer. It disappoints me that I’m not on the committee, even though I made it a priority as a request to be put on the committee, but this is part of the legislative life.
But that’s not going to prevent me from speaking out every time I see a piece of legislation or an amendment or an idea that’s going to hurt the consumer. Even though I may not sit on the committee, when I see something that’s not good for the consumer, I’m going to speak loud and clear. If it means that we have to have a press conference once a week, every time Banking and Insurance has held their meeting, and come out on the other side and explain the impact of that piece of legislation or that idea that’s being pushed in [the committee], then we’ll do that.
The person that is chairing Banking and Insurance, Rep. Nelson, who works for the property insurance industry, tells me that there’s going to be movement, or legislation, or amendments, if you will, that’s probably going to be pro-insurance. So we’re going to be ever vigilant, watching to see what comes out of that committee, and we’re going to do our best to make certain that whatever passes out on the House floor, it’s going to be leaning towards a pro-consumer [stance] rather than pro-insurance industry.
Q: You were willing to lose a Senate committee chairmanship over your opposition to prison privatization. What do you predict will happen when the 2013 Legislature takes it up?
FASANO: I don’t know if it will come back up this year. I’ve not heard any rumblings. I’ve not heard leadership talk about it. It’ll be interesting to see what the governor may have in his budget, if his budget does call for privatization. And using any and if – and I say “any” and “if” because I don’t think there will be any savings in the long run – but let’s see what his budget calls for.
Does leadership want to have the battle they had last year? Last year the only privatization of prisons battle was on the Senate floor, because the House never took the issue up. And they weren’t going to take it up unless the Senate passed it, and the Senate never passed it.
There are so many other more important things out there, from fixing our insurance crisis in the state, getting people back to work, helping those who are less fortunate in our state, looking for how we can help and enhance our educational system.
Privatization of prisons is only good for one thing, and that is the companies that run private prisons that trade on the New York Stock Exchange.
Q: You’ve been a Charlie Crist friend and supporter for years. What do you think of the idea of his running for governor as a Democrat? Would you support him against Rick Scott?
FASANO: Right now, I’m not supporting anybody for governor. [Crist] is a dear friend. I certainly would like to see others get involved in the gubernatorial process. Maybe we’ll see other Republicans put their hat in the ring. I hope so.
Certainly we want somebody, in my opinion, leading the state that gives everyone a seat at the table and considers the impact of any piece of legislation that comes before him or her before they sign it and put it into law.
Let’s not just pass legislation to help the insurance industry. Let’s not just pass legislation to help the gambling industry. Let’s not just pass legislation to help the companies that run private prisons. Let’s pass legislation that’s going to have a good, positive impact for all the people in the state of Florida.
And I would like to have someone in the Governor’s Office that will be that type of leader.
Q: It’s unusual for a state senator to run for the House. Why did you return to Tallahassee?
FASANO: Because I love it. I enjoy being a legislator, and I enjoy trying to do good things and also helping our constituents back home.
When I was majority leader of the Florida House, I told the freshman members back then, in 2000: It doesn’t matter what legislation you get passed in Tallahassee, nor does it matter what appropriations you may get to bring back home. The most important thing is taking care of your constituents: returning that phone call, returning that email and meeting with your constituents in your district and in Tallahassee. That’s the most important thing.