Matt Hudson and Kathleen Passidomo, Republican candidates for state Senate seat for District 28, shared their ideas, views and goals with 35 members and guests at the Press Club of Southwest Florida April 18 luncheon at the Hilton Naples. District 28 boundaries were recently redrawn and now include all of Collier and Hendry counties and part of Lee County. Sen. Garrett Richter is stepping down from the seat due to term limits.
Hudson said he moved to Florida in 1977 and has been involved in Collier County for a long time. He feels his experiences in being an umpire for baseball and softball helped prepare him for his first government job because it requires him to have a mastery of the rules and be unbiased in dealing with situations. He first ran for office in 2007 when his friend, Mike Davis, House District 80 seat in the Florida House of Representatives, died of cancer. Hudson ran for his seat and while campaigning, he and his son knocked on 5,000 doors in four weeks, resulting in Hudson winning the election by 150 votes. Since he was elected, he has served as chairman of the House health care appropriations subcommittee, has worked on the budget for six years and has been Speaker Pro Temp for the last several years. He pointed out that competing priorities, especially on budget issues, create some challenges. He feels strongly that Florida is a model for the rest of the country in handling things if a crisis occurs. “I’m willing to take whatever comes in District 28,” he said.
Passidomo has lived in Collier County since 1979. She feels her previous experience as a practicing attorney, especially the pro bono work she did for many charitable organizations during the years in the community, helped her understand what this community is like and what the people expect from an elected official. It was because of the foreclosure crisis in 2008, when 14,000 construction workers left Collier County and left behind their homes, that she decided to run for office. Passidomo was elected to the Florida House District 106 in 2010. She feels she helped rework the foreclosure process which resulted in Florida creating many jobs, many good paying jobs, since 2010. “We can’t go back, we can’t let it happen again,” she said. “We need to be vigilant, we need to protect our small businesses.” She feels Florida has done well in creating jobs and coming out of the recession. “But, Florida is No. 48 in the country on tort reform, so that is something I focus on and feel qualified to help improve,” Passidomo said. She spoke about other issues that she feels are important: “We need to make Florida a place for our college students to come back to after they graduate, elder abuse is another problem that we need to work on to protect our older citizens, and we need to do the right thing about the Everglades and releasing polluted waters from Lake Okeechobee into the Cocohatchee River.
During the Q&A portion of the luncheon, the candidates answered questions:
“How do you get Naples Community Hospital and the Lee Memorial Health Care system to work together?” Hudson replied that NCH is a not-for-profit hospital, Physicians Regional is a for-profit hospital and Lee memorial is a public health care system cooperating with other state medical systems, and he feels the systems are proprietary and it’s unlikely that they will work together.
“What about fracking?” Passidomo said that the Fracking Bill was passed in the House and not in the state Senate. She said that right now fracking is not illegal in the state, and we’ve been drilling for oil in Florida since 1920, with few problems. She said we could go ahead and put a moratorium in place, and then ask a non-political entity like the University of Florida to study it and come up with ideas on how to approach fracking. Hudson replied that, to him, it’s a matter of private property rights. He also said for 70 years we’ve been drilling for oil in Florida without problems, and we need to have a solution that is good for Florida.
“What about water issues?” Passidomo said that we need to have people try to work together, environmental groups and landowners, we need to create a relationship where we can move forward and solve these issues. Hudson said that in 1910 a big lake (Okeechobee) was built to help drain the Everglades, but a 1920 hurricane pushed all the water out and drowned a large number of people. Then they built a big dike and it’s now a reality that the dike will be breached — it’s just a matter of when. He said that we need to recreate the natural flow of the Kissimmee River. “The Feds are not doing their jobs, they are not fixing the dike, but they are requiring flood insurance and they sell it.”
“What’s being done about getting a hospital in the Bonita Springs area?” Hudson said there used to be a certificate of need process, but now a hospital in the adjacent area can object and stop the process, and that is something that we need to repeal. Passidomo said that during the next 10 years, this is a priority.
“What is being done about the 800,000 uninsured in the state of Florida?” Passidomo asked those present if they knew why the 800,000 working poor are not able to join the exchange. She said that it’s because the Feds made a mistake in setting up the Health Care Act, and these 800,000 working poor people are caught between Medicaid (a low level) and the Health Care Act (with a minimum level); they make too much to qualify for Medicaid and not enough for the HCA. But, she said, we need to get people out of emergency rooms — however, many of them have anywhere else to go. Hudson said there’s no simple answer. He said that the HCA is a three-legged stool: Access (the number of medical practitioners in the state), the Certificate of Need process and the cost — when your doctor sends you for an MRI, for example, it’s difficult to know the cost. Patients need to be informed about the cost to help them make decisions.