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|Member of the Florida Senate
from the 38th district
|Preceded by||Anitere Flores|
|Member of the Florida Senate
from the 40th district
|Preceded by||Rudy García|
|Succeeded by||Miguel Díaz de la Portilla|
|Member of the Florida House of Representatives
from the 110th district
|Preceded by||Rudy García|
|Succeeded by||Esteban Bovo|
|Alma mater||Miami-Dade Community College (A.A.), Florida International University (B.A.), University of Miami (M.B.A.)|
García was born in Hialeah and attended Miami-Dade Community College, where he graduated with an Associate degree in 1996. Afterwards, he attended Florida International University, where he received a degree in political science in 1999. García then graduated from the University of Miami with a Master of Business Administration in health care administration in 2004. In 1995, while still in college, he ran for a position on the Hialeah City Council, but he received only 2% of the vote. Two years later, he ran again, and this time won with 18% of the vote. García was re-elected to his position in 1999.
Florida House of Representatives
In 2000, when incumbent State Representative Rudy García ran for the Florida Senate, which resulted in an open seat. René García ran to succeed Rudy García, and defeated Andy Pérez in the Republican primary with 55% of the vote. He was re-elected without opposition in 2002, 2004, and 2006, and could not seek another term in 2008 due to term limits.
When Rudy García could not run for the Senate again due to term limits, René García once again ran to succeed him. He faced no opposition in the primary or the general election, and thus won his first term in the 40th District unopposed. When Florida Senate districts were redrawn in 2012, García was redistricted into the 38th District, which included most of the territory that he had previously represented. Once again, he was elected unopposed.
While serving in the Senate, García joined with State Representative Michael Bileca to sponsor legislation that prevented state and local governments in Florida from doing business with companies that were connected to Cuba. When the Florida Chamber of Commerce opposed the legislation, Garcia blasted them, calling their opposition "an abomination to the very fabric of our state and country." The law was later struck down, however, by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which said that it "reaches far beyond federal law in numerous ways and undermines the president's exercise of the discretion afford him by Congress." Additionally, García joined with State Representative Manny Diaz, Jr. to sponsor legislation that would ban Cuban-trained doctors from practicing in Florida, noting, "The Fidel Castro medical scholarship program is purely a propaganda tool. Hopefully this legislation will stop American citizens from participating in Cuba's medical apartheid program."
García worked with Democratic State Senator Dwight Bullard to continue subsidizing private tutoring companies in Florida, an effort that ultimately failed. Speaking in defense of their proposal, García asserted, "What we're trying to do is keep it in law that the students have the option of tutoring services, both public and private. At the end of the day, the ones who benefit from this are minority students." García also joined Democrats in the Senate to defeat the controversial "parent trigger" legislation, which "would have allowed parents with students at F-rated schools to petition their school board to select one of the state's mandated turnaround options--which include converting it to a charter school."
During the 2011 Legislative Session, Senator García passed various pieces of legislation. Some of those bills are listed below. The first was SB514/HB 347 Vehicle Crashes Involving Death. This bill was done in memory of Ashley Nicole Valdés who was struck and killed by a vehicle on January 8, 2009. The driver of the vehicle which struck Ashley never stopped and was arrested 8 days later only because he had taken the vehicle to get repairs done. Crime Stoppers were notified by the shop owner after realizing the truck matched the description of the vehicle police were looking for. Soon after the driver was apprehended, but only spent 2 hours in jail before he was able to post bond. The criminal case against the driver who struck down Ashley in 2009 was tried in 2011. This legislation creates new penalties for those drivers involved in car crashes which result in death and speed away instead of stopping at the scene of the accident. A person arrested for fleeing the scene of an accident will be charged with a felony of the first degree. Those who have been previously convicted of leaving the scene of an accident, racing on highways, driving under the influence (DUI) or felony driving while having a license suspended, revoked, canceled, or disqualified must be held in custody until first appearance before a judge for a bail determination. If the accident occurs while the driver is under the influence, they shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 2 years. This legislation change gives judges the flexibility in setting the proper bond amounts.
A second bill passed into law during the 2011 Legislative Session was CS/SB 1922/ CS/HB 1125 Health and Human Services. During the 2008 Florida Legislative session, Senator García played an integral part in the creation of the company Florida Health Choices. This organization was set up to establish a voluntary marketplace in which insurance and health care vendors, insurance agents, employers and their employees could do business. It’s a web-based shopping experience that will provide easy access and side-by-side comparison of products and services. The program will assist small employers with compliance of all rules and regulations.
The goal is to make it easier and more cost effective for individuals to purchase health insurance. Senator García filed this bill in order to make the appropriate changes needed to streamline the process, remove redundancies, conform to the insurance code and permit alignment with common insurance industry practices.
The third important bill passed during the legislative session of 2011 was SB 880/HB 281 Value Adjustment Boards. This legislation helps our cash strapped school districts, cities, and counties in obtaining greater funding during difficult economic times. Property owners who disagree with their property’s assessed value would be able to continue appealing to their county’s value adjustment board (VAB). There would just be needed changes to ensure that the process be done equally and beneficial to all citizens of the counties they reside in. Over the past few years legislation has improved the appeals process for taxpayers but has not addressed inequities in the payment terms of the tax collection statute. This has created long delays in the amount of time counties are taking to process their VAB cases. There are many people who game the system in order to delay paying their fair share of taxes owed.
As a result, taxpayers who pay their taxes on time are being disadvantaged by the current statutes governing tax collections. Technically current state law does not require a taxpayer to pay any part of the tax liability when they appeal the value of their property. However, the overwhelming majority of taxpayers with Homestead property pay their property tax on time, even when they apply for an appeal to the market value of their property. In fact as of January 2011, in Miami-Dade, 93 percent of those taxpayers that have filed for a hearing and have not paid their tax liability are non-homestead property owners. This trend is increasing as that statistic was 89 percent in January 2010 for the 2009 tax roll.
Moreover, this legislation would require all taxpayers appealing their taxes to the value adjustment board pay a portion of their ad valorem tax liability and require that a taxpayer pay at least 75 percent of their tax liability by April 1 of the year in which the payment is due. If the taxpayer has not paid 75 percent by April 1, then the petition will be denied. In addition, if the taxpayer pays 75 percent of the tax liability but the board determines that they owed a greater amount, then the unpaid amount over the 75 percent would be assessed at an interest rate beginning at 12 percent per year from April 1. Currently, if a taxpayer has a corrected tax notice issued due to an action of the VAB (they win), the taxpayer gets a 4% discount if its taxes are paid within 30 days of the mailing of the corrected tax notice. There is a 4% discount if the corrected tax notice is issued on April 1 or later should the VAB determines that the petitioner is owed a refund, the amount paid in excess of the amount due accrues interest at the rate of 12 percent per year from April 1.
During the 2012 Legislative Session the following bills were filed and passed into law. The first was SJR 1740/HJR 169 Homestead Exemption for Seniors. This joint resolution proposed an amendment to the Florida Constitution allowing for counties and local governments to provide certain low income seniors with the opportunity to be exempted from paying their property taxes. To qualify for the additional homestead tax exemption, a senior has to be 65 years old or older, have lived in their residence for at least 25 years, have an annual income of no more than $27,030 and the property must have a value of less than $250,000.00. This amendment was approved by the voters on Election Day 2012.
Another bill passed during the 2012 legislative session was CS/SB 1144/ CS/HB 959 State and Local Government Relations with Cuba or Syria. This bill creates a prohibition against contracting with companies that have business operations in Cuba or Syria. It prohibits a company with business operations in Cuba or Syria from bidding on, submitting a proposal for, or entering into or renewing a contract with an agency or local governmental entity for goods or services of $1 million or more. Beginning July 1, 2012. The law prohibits the State Board of Administration from investing in either country or companies that do business with Cuba or Syria. In 2013 the courts ruled against this legislation explaining that individual states do not have the power to determine the foreign policy of the United States as a whole.
In protecting the drinking water of Miami Dade County as well as promoting the preservation of the Everglades, Senator Garcia passed CS/CS/SB 182/ HB 377 Miami-Dade Lake Belt Mitigation Plan. This bill transfers, for a limited time, the proceeds of the Lake Belt water treatment upgrade fee from Miami-Dade County to the South Florida Water Management District to pay for seepage mitigation projects. These projects are needed due to the new one-mile long bridge, which is under construction and will allow a broad flow section into the Park in an area that has not seen comparable sheet flow since the trail was constructed almost 100 years ago. Unless the groundwater seepage from the park is controlled, releasing additional flow to the Park will not be possible, and the benefits of the bridge will not be realized.
Because of questionable actions and negotiations taken by some Executive Boards of Hospitals when selling or leasing public hospitals, Senator García and incoming Senate President Don Gaetz passed CS/CS/CS SB 1568. This bill would set up new requirements as to the steps needed to take when a public hospital is going to be sold or leased. Some of the new requirements include requiring any sale or lease of a public hospital that is owned by a county, district, or municipality to be approved by the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Florida, conduct an evaluation and have it published based on the pros and cons of selling the hospital, and provide public notice of a hospital that may be sold or leased. It is the intent of Senator Garcia to ensure that tax payers receive the best service for all the monies they have invested into public hospitals.
During the 2013 Legislative Session Senator Garcia worked hard in stopping two pieces of legislation that would have had a negative effect to all Floridians locally and statewide. CS/CS/SB 306 Economic Development or better known as the Miami Dolphins Stadium Bill would have created the Sports Development program. This program would have allowed applicants to apply to the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) for funding to assist in the construction, reconstruction, renovation, or improvement of a sports facility.
The senator had many concerns with the Dolphins bill since it was filed for the 2013 Legislative Session. There was a lot of information being discussed regarding how good or bad the passage of this bill would be. Unfortunately the more information the senator reviewed and the more he spoke to people knowledgeable on the sports stadium funding process, the more skeptical he became and the greater his worries were. His biggest concern with this bill was that both the State and Local governments were going to hand over a total of over $300 million of tax payer money to fund a renovation project for a private entity who could afford to pay for renovations on their own.
The second concern with this bill is that as it moved through the legislative process in the Senate it kept changing. By the time the bill was heard and voted upon on the Senate floor it had been loaded up with other sports projects from the rest of the state which also would have been allowed to apply for state funding. Senator Garcia was only one of four senators who voted against the Dolphins bill. He saw it as a personal insult to the people of Florida who entrust the legislature in Tallahassee to use our limited tax dollars in the most efficient manner. As a Republican who believes in small government, limited taxes, and personal responsibility; giving away millions of dollars to billionaires equals corporate welfare.
A second bill Senator García was also against was CS/CS/HB 867 Parent Empowerment in Education which is better known as the Parent Trigger Bill. This bill would have enabled parents, through a petition process to the school district, to request the implementation of a parent-selected turnaround option for low performing schools. The turnaround option most likely being to convert the public school into a charter school. Assuming the petition was signed by a majority of the parents of students currently enrolled in the school and/or students who would be in the following school year, the district school board would have to hold a meeting to decide whether or not to accept the parents option or choose another course of action to improve the low performing school. If the district school board did not adopt the parent-selected option, it must include that option with the implementation plan submitted to the State Board of Education. The State Board of Education would have the final say as to whether or not a county school board would have to implement the parent-selected option or their own option.
Senator García spoke with various educators throughout the district and heard from concerned parents throughout all of Florida. They were all opposed to this bill. He was in agreement with the supporters of the bill that the Florida education system needs some much needed reforms. He disagreed with them over their process to find a solution. In order to find the best reform method, a conversation must be held between all the education stakeholders: parents, teachers, students, administration, etc. The senator feels that when the input of those most involved in shaping our children’s minds and futures are included in this conversation, the best ideas will be debated and discussed with the end result being a real consensus as to what the right course of action to take is.
During the 2013 Legislative Session, the Florida House stopped the State of Florida from receiving billions of dollars to expand Medicaid. The Florida Senate President formed the Select Committee on PPACA to study one of the most complex pieces of legislation to ever be implemented in our country. The Senate came up with a Florida-based alternative to expansion of the current Medicaid program. It was called the Healthy Florida. The proposed program would have used available federal tax dollars to fund premium assistance for uninsured Floridians to purchase private health insurance. There had been concerns in both the Senate and the House about adding an estimated one million new enrollees to the current Medicaid system during a critical stage of implementation for the statewide Medicaid managed care reforms passed by the Legislature in 2011 and also about the cost to the state after the first three years the Federal Government promised to pay 100% of the Medicaid costs.
The Senate’s Healthy Florida plan centered on private insurance options and personal responsibility. It included the proper benchmarks to ensure the state of Florida is protected if Washington fails to send the federal tax dollars of Floridians back to the state to fund this premium assistance for the uninsured. The Healthy Florida plan would have used available federal funding to assist individuals and families with purchasing private insurance coverage. The program would be operated separately from Florida’s current Medicaid program by building on the successful framework of Florida Healthy Kids. Under the Senates Healthy Florida plan, enrollees would be provided a choice of plans and options to select individual or family coverage. All plans would have also required that a health reimbursement account (HRA) or comparable health savings account be established for Healthy Florida enrollees to encourage and incentivize healthy behaviors.
Unfortunately the State House of Representatives was in favor of their own health insurance plan that relied on using state general revenue to fund private coverage options for a more targeted population of uninsured Floridians. Neither chamber was able to come to an agreement during session. It is the senator’s hope that both chambers continue to monitor the implementation of PPACA over the summer and fall and come back next session ready to re-evaluate the options we have to extend coverage.
Expanding Medicaid and accepting the Federal Governments 100% funding for the expansion is not something that needs to be decided right now. The option to accept 100% federal funding will be available through 2016. Even after 2016, we will have the option to accept additional federal funding, however, the state will need to begin covering a portion of the costs. Florida can also rescind the expansion at any time.
- "Hispanic caucus blasts chamber of Cuba-Syria law". Jacksonville Business Journal. October 26, 2012. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
- Beasley, David (May 6, 2013). "Florida's Cuba Contract Ban Blocked by U.S. Appeals Court". Bloomberg. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
- Turner, Jim (January 29, 2013). "Bill Prohibits Cuban-Trained Doctors from Practicing in Florida". Sunshine State News. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
- Laforgia, Michael (May 1, 2013). "Lawmakers end subsidized tutoring program". Miami Herald. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
- Pillow, Travis (May 1, 2013). "'Parent-trigger' bill defeated in Senate for second straight year". Tallahassee Democrat. Retrieved May 24, 2013.