Candidate name: Kathleen Passidomo
Political position sought: Florida State Senator, District 28
Occupation: State Senator, District 28
Partner, law firm of Kelly, Passidomo & Alba, LLP
BA Cum Laude, Trinity College (now University), Washington, D.C.
JD-Stetson University College of Law
Why are you running for this office?
I have spent my adult life in civic and professional service in Southwest Florida. Over the past almost 40 years, I have pursued a career here, raised three children here and worked to improve our community. The time here has afforded me the opportunity to engage with people from all over our community and truly understand the issues that are important to them. I have always had the desire to run for public office to take what I’ve learned at the local level to the state level. In 2010 when my youngest daughter headed off to college, I became an “empty nester.” I seized the opportunity to continue to serve my community by running for public office. I was elected to the Florida House in 2010 and haven’t looked back. When Senator Richter termed out in 2016 I ran and was elected to the Florida Senate. I am invested in this community and my sole interest is making Southwest Florida a better place to live, work, raise a family and retire. There is so much work to do and I have many ideas on how to make this community and state better. I have the drive, determination and energy to continue to serve and I am hopeful that when the time of my public service comes to an end I will be able to say that the initiatives I led, the bills I sponsored and the constituents I helped may not have happened if I had not been here.
What makes you stand out from your opponent(s)?
My record of community service and experience in the practice of law for nearly 40 years provides me with a well-rounded understanding of the issues facing our community and state. Additionally, although the legislature is considered a “part-time” position, I am able to be fully accessible to my constituents to respond to their needs and to work on their behalf. From my service in the legislature for the past eight years, I have gained an understanding of the legislative process and I have the ability to focus on a myriad of policy areas ranging from education, the environment, the justice system, state infrastructure, regulated industries, health care and appropriations. This experience is invaluable when deliberating on proposed legislation and helping to craft a state budget. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, I am a consensus builder. I work well with my colleagues from all political parties and am considered an effective and capable legislator who gets things done.
Previous elective office/ elective office experience:
Florida House of Representatives: 2010–2016
Florida Senate: 2016- present
Do you have a criminal record? Have you ever been found to have committed any other civil or ethical violations?
No criminal record. No.
Would the state of your health impede you from serving in this position?
What are your three most important priorities if you are elected or re-elected?
Priority 1 Mental Health
Priority 2 Environmental-Septic to Sewer
Priority 3 Affordable Housing
How would you implement Priority 1?
Florida ranks near the bottom of all the states in the country in funding of mental health and substance abuse. When I was appointed to Chair the PreK-12 Appropriations Committee last fall, the first thing I did was to set up a workshop with School Superintendents from around the state to discuss their legislative priorities for the upcoming Session. Without exception, each participant told the Committee that the number one issue facing our schools was mental health. Students who come to school with mental health issues disrupt the classroom so that teachers can’t teach, other students can’t learn and the student in crisis can’t learn either. I determined that my number one priority would be to advocate for funding for mental health initiatives in our schools. The $69 million dollars mental health appropriation in the upcoming budget is just a start. We need more funding and more programs for substance abuse and mental health prevention, early intervention and treatment, not just for our youth but for their families and other community members whose only “treatment” is provided by the prison system, an expensive and ineffective placement for these individuals. .I want to continue the progress made the last Session, and, in particular, to fund SB 12, a comprehensive program to address Florida’s system for the delivery of behavioral health services that passed in the 2016 Legislative Session, but has not received adequate funding.
How would you implement Priority 2?
Much attention has been given to environmental issues pertaining to water quality, Everglades restoration, Herbert Hoover Dike repair, the Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir project and the overdue implementation of the 2000 Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. Over the last six years, the Legislature has spent nearly $1.1 billion on Everglades restoration projects. Additionally, with the $100 million the state has allocated to rehabilitation of the Dike, the Dike rehabilitation will be completed by 2023. The Legislature has also contributed over $200 million to the Kissimmee River Restoration Project, which is nearing completion and will attenuate the amount of water flowing into Lake Okeechobee by restoring more than 12,000 acres of wetlands. All of these projects will gradually improve the situation and reduce nutrient levels and temperature variations in our rivers. One significant area that has not been addressed is the seepage into the aquifer from the thousands of septic systems throughout South Florida. As the population of the state continues to grow and the septic systems age, it is imperative that the state considers undertaking a septic to sewer program. It will be an expensive undertaking but one that needs to be addressed. I propose to have an OPPAGA study performed to determine how such a program should be implemented, the cost, and the feasibility of the state borrowing the funds through the sale of “Environment” bonds to the public and/or amend the PACE statutes to include sewer infrastructure as an item homeowners may finance through the program.
How would you implement Priority 3?
When the legislature passed the Sadowski Act in 1992, creating the State and Local Housing Trust Funds, and raised the documentary stamp tax, it was with the promise that the monies would be used for affordable housing. It was supported by industry organizations like the Florida Realtors and the Florida Home Builders Association (who considered this to be a tax on their industries) based on that promise. Over the last 6 years, over $1.2 billion dollars in documentary stamp tax collections should have been allocated to these trust funds. In the same time period, over $662 million dollars have been swept from these funds. With the current crisis of the lack of affordable housing in this community (and in many other parts of the state), the last Session I filed a bill that would have prohibited the legislature from sweeping these funds. The Senate held off until the end of the budget negotiations on sweeping any of those funds, but in negotiations with the House ended up sweeping $182 million of the Sadowski funds. I am committed to continuing to pursue my efforts to stop the sweep of the housing trust funds so they may be used for the purposes intended in the 1992 legislation.
Do you support open records and open meetings laws? Would you ever support any exemptions to the public’s right to access information? Would you support efforts to expand these laws?
Yes, I support open records and open meetings laws. I support exemptions from the public’s right to access for personal information of certain individuals such as law enforcement, military members, crime victims, etc. and their families who may be susceptible to threats of bodily harm or injury. Florida has some of the most open, accessible and transparent records and open meetings laws of any state in the country so it would not seem to be necessary to expand the laws.
Do you support drug testing of elected officials? Why or why not?
I support drug testing of elected officials. Elected officials are responsible for decisions on collection and expenditures of public funds and making decisions that will impact the lives of all of their constituents. They need to be clear headed and focused .. An elected official should be held to a higher standard.