Saturday, June 23, 2018

Rommel Reflects on Legislative Session


Rommel speaks with Marco resident, Jim Lane. Photos by Steve Stefanides

Rommel speaks with Marco resident, Jim Lane. Photos by Steve Stefanides

For Bob Rommel his first session as a freshman state legislator from Southwest Florida was both eye opening and rewarding. Rommel was elected in November 2016 to represent District 106 in the Florida House of Representatives.

The 54-year-old legislator was born in Red Bank, New Jersey and grew up in that area. He owned a New Jersey mortgage company until 2002, when he and his partner sold it. The sale proceeds enabled him and his wife Sandy to move to the Naples area.

Although he sold his mortgage company, he still owned four restaurants with his partner, which today has been reduced to three; one in New Jersey and two in the Lee County area.

When you speak to Rommel he always refers to his working class background and speaks to the necessity of hard work. “Nothing comes to you if you’re not willing to work hard for it,” said Rommel.

Rommel’s district covers the coastal area of Collier County from Everglades City to the Bonita Springs area, which includes Marco Island and the East Naples area.

Rommel took on a full work schedule within the Florida House. He was assigned to committees ranging from a Criminal Justice Subcommittee, a Government Accountability Committee, a Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee and an Oversight, Transparency and Administration Subcommittee.

When asked, Rommel says he was most surprised by the budgeting process and the fact that the state government would use the last budget cycle to set the foundation for a department’s budget, rather than look a zero based budgeting process. This process would require an agency head to justify each program as to its ongoing successes of those programs.

“Because a program has always been there doesn’t mean it’s the most efficient way to spend taxpayers’ money to get a job done,” said Rommel. “We should always be looking at efficiencies to insure we have the best bang for our buck,” he continued.

Rommel was also very vocal regarding the issues surrounding the healthcare debate, which is often front and center on the state and federal level. “We need to give our citizens more choices in how they acquire healthcare and that may start with providing pricing for procedures upfront and letting the consumer choose where to go for those,” said Rommel. He referred to Oklahoma as being one state that has led the way in that regard.

Other areas he sees for reducing healthcare costs lie in tort reform, better education for the consumer on health care, and more personal responsibility regarding one’s own healthy lifestyle.

He is proud of his support for H.B. 7069, which helped to free up financial support for the Florida’s charter schools. This will provide them more money for operational and capital expenses, something local supporters of charter schools have always favored.

During his freshman year he also sponsored and received the support of other legislative delegation members for an additional $750,000 for the replacement of Fire Station 51, which was severely damaged in a lightning strike and fire in July 2016. “We truly came together as a team to get the job done. Several of us stayed over to insure those monies were included within the final budget during the Special Session,” said Rommel.

Rommel also complimented the city’s lobbyist, Ron Book, for his professionalism and support. “He certainly is a plus to work with and was very helpful in the success we had, in addition to assisting with a $500,000 grant for the upcoming Goodland Road Rehabilitation Project.

Rommel is hard at work preparing for the next session of the legislative calendar and hopes to put to work the knowledge he gained as a freshman to help him navigate the process next year. He looks forward to meeting with the entire Legislative Delegation and Southwest Florida community leaders in October, when they will voice their needs for the following year. In the meantime, he meets on a regular basis with constituents on a regular basis at his office in Naples.

To make an appointment with Representative Bob Rommel you may call his office at the Collier County Courthouse at 239-417-6200.

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