Five questions for Senator Nancy Detert

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Senator Nancy Detert chairs the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee and sits on the Enterprise Florida board of directors. First elected to the House of Representatives in 1998, she was elected to the Senate in 2008 and re-elected last year. 

Detert founded the Osprey Mortgage Company and served as its president from 1983 to 2007. She was a member of the Sarasota County School Board from 1988 to 1992. She was president of the Republican Women’s Club of Sarasota and president of the Suncoast Chapter of the Florida Association of Mortgage Brokers, both in 1996. And she was legislative chair of the Florida Association of Mortgage Brokers in 1998. She’s also been a board member of the financial services division of the National Conference of State Legislatures and vice president of its Women’s Legislative Network.

Detert’s top legislative priority is the texting-while-driving ban, which she’s also filed three other times.

The News Service of Florida has five questions for Nancy Detert:

Q: You have two credit reporting bills this year. Why is that an issue for you?

DETERT: One is at the request of [Agriculture] Commissioner [Adam] Putnam. He’s come up with a really good idea that – and once again, we’re speaking to the fact that we’re trying to be very real world. We have a lot of people with bad credit. We have people that lost their homes, in dire straits, and we’re also riddled with fraud at every level.

Commissioner Putnam has found that children, who all have Social Security numbers – their identities are being stolen. And so he has me doing a bill for him that says parents can pay a $20 fee and have all their children’s credit reports frozen until they’re 18. Because they don’t really need them, but if somebody takes their Social Security card when they’re 8 and they don’t discover it till they’re 18, they’re going to have one heck of a time fixing their credit. They’re going to come into the world as an adult with bad credit.

And I have a second credit report bill. I’m finding that too many people are pulling your credit report. Unbeknownst to most people, your car insurance guy pulls your credit report and bases your rate on your credit score instead of on your accident reports. Now, we can’t fix that one, but we’re also having employers pull credit reports. So I’m saying no one should be allowed to pull your credit report for employment purposes unless you’re in a financial institution, dealing with stocks and securities, handling money or trade secrets. If you’re just an ordinary guy trying to work retail or work at an automotive place, you shouldn’t have your employer not hire you because he doesn’t like your credit score. Especially in today’s economy, when hundreds of thousands of people that had good credit before now have bad credit.

Q: You’re also drafting a revamp of the Road to Independence program for youths aging out of foster care, as a committee bill for the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee.

DETERT: I’ve gotten to know all the foster-care kids and heard their personal stories, which are very impressive. They’re good kids, they’re not whiners, they don’t have a sense of entitlement. They know life is hard, but we don’t need to spend money to make their life even harder. We need to spend money to make their life easier.

So this year we’re doing another reform of foster care because life changes. When I originally did foster care in 1999, I did the Road to Independence bill, of which I’m very proud, but the purpose of government was to protect kids who were in unsafe environments. This year in our reformation package, the overreaching goal will be normalcy, to try to make foster kids as normal as we possibly can. 

So instead of having them meet with case managers and all sorts of bureaucratic people that they don’t know – and those workers generally turn over every 18 months – we’re doing legislation that will make the foster parents more closely aligned with real parents. We’re going to let them be the deciders and we’re going to let the bureaucrats be the checkers. So the bureaucrats can check on the foster parents, make sure they’re doing the right thing, and the foster parents can develop relationships with the foster kids and try to give them stronger bonds. Because it’s hard to grow up and have a family if you’ve never had one.

These are all going to be great things, and a lot of the ideas came from the kids themselves.

Q: You’re also going to try to extend foster care to age 21.

DETERT: We feel we can do that for the same exact amount of dollars that we’re spending right now. And I think that would be a great thing to do. And it would offer the kids security. They don’t have to take advantage of it, because at 18 they’re emancipated and they can leave if they want to. But if they’re not comfortable leaving, they can stay till they’re 21, especially if they’re in school or getting trained for the workforce.

Real parents, we don’t stick our own kids out on the sidewalk at age 18 and expect them to do really well. A lot of our foster-care kids are ending up homeless or in prison.

Q: You’ve been on the Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs a long time. With the leadership change this year, do you see a new direction for the committee?

DETERT: This year – with our new Democratic chair, I may point out – Sen. [Eleanor] Sobel [of Hollywood] is our chair. And it’s always been children and families and elder affairs, but we’ve been neglectful of elder affairs. And that seems to be the spot she’s focusing on. And that’s a good thing, because we’ve neglected that and they certainly don’t need to be neglected. So she’s taking care of that, and I’m going to do the foster care committee bill, and I think that committee is going to have a great year.

Q: You’re also back with a bill to add more school guidance counselors.

DETERT: This year it’s even more relevant. Last year, what irritated me about how we deal with guidance counselors is schools are using the guidance counselors to also do lunchroom duty and bus stop duty. They’re the most educated and highest-paid person in the building. They shouldn’t be taking up their time doing lunchroom duty at a time when we have children with serious problems.

In the old days, the guidance counselor helped find you a grant or got you into college or got you a scholarship. Today’s guidance counselor might stop you from committing suicide or bringing a gun to school or dropping out of school. They need to spend their whole day working with students. And I’m asking for a different formula so that we can have more guidance counselors. And as I said in Education Appropriations, if we have more guidance counselors, we might need fewer grief counselors.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.