Five Questions with Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo

The Naples Republican says she's turning from workforce housing to health care as her signature issue next session.

Senate President Kathleen Passidomo presides on opening day of the 2023 legislative session at the Capitol in Tallahassee.

Senate President Kathleen Passidomo presides on opening day of the 2023 legislative session at the Capitol in Tallahassee. Florida Senate

Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo hit a policy home run early this past session: Her signature bill, the "Live Local" Act, passed and was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. 

The measure dedicates over $700 million to affordable housing initiatives, but also bars municipalities from enacting local rent control measures. Yet it gained bipartisan support in the face of Florida’s growing affordable housing crisis.

So what's her follow-up act for the 2024 session? 

The News Service of Florida’s Dara Kam recently spoke with Passidomo, R-Naples, on City & State Florida’s “Deeper Dive with Dara” podcast, released last week. What follows are five of the questions asked. Questions and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity: 

I'm wondering … if you're happy with the product that Florida now has, knowing what, as a woman, as a mother, a six week (abortion) ban functionally means. Many women will not realize they are pregnant until after that time has already elapsed.

Well for me, the concern I had expressed about the 15 week ban was more about the fact that it did not include an exception for rape and incest. And I've been very clear about that, that I believe that that should be an exception. And so when we passed the 15 week ban, of course I voted for it … I am absolutely pro-life. And I'm not apologetic about it.

But I do believe that if someone is raped or (the victim of) incest, they should not be tortured further by having to carry that child. It's a terrible situation for anyone to be in. … I would have been on the record that I was supportive of a 12 week (ban) in order to get the exception for the rape and incest, and then later on the victims of human trafficking.

Related coverage – Florida Supreme Court to hear abortion case in September

… I don't tell my colleagues what to file and how to pursue it. Sen. (Erin) Grall … wanted to carry that bill. The other members knew that no one else filed a bill. I discussed with her I needed to have the exception for rape and incest. And that was really important to me. And she filed a six week ban. And so, you know, I was willing to accept that, to get the exception for rape and incest. And then the human trafficking, the House may have even gone even further.

Frankly, I believe Sen. Grall would've preferred no exceptions. That's her policy. And I'm never going to criticize any member for … their firm beliefs. I wish we had ended up with 12 weeks. We didn't. But I'm very comfortable that we were able to get (those) exceptions.

Related coverage –

Gov. DeSantis is having very strong support from both chambers. Do you think that the Senate has given up its traditional independence?

I don't believe that at all. What a lot of people are not reporting is that the policies that the governor pursued are policies that my Senate colleagues support and I support. So this is not giving up power. It's working collaboratively. And you know, not as much spoken about when I was first elected president, I sat down with the speaker-designate at the time, Paul Renner, and we discussed how we were going to … handle our respective chambers. And we agreed that we were not going to play any games. We were not going to hold up either's priority to get something we wanted.

And in fact, we shared what our priorities were, even back then, and committed to help get each other's priorities across the finish line without any of the back fighting that may have happened in the past. And it worked, because … my Live Local bill passed in the first week of session. His education bill passed the first week of session. 

… And the governor and I developed a great relationship. I spoke to him frequently. If I had any issues with some of the bills that were his priorities, I went and talked to him about it. And I'd say probably 90% of the time, he said, yeah, I agree. So it was a very collaborative session, I think. We didn't give up anything.

I think we gained a lot because we gained respect. And here's the other thing. You know, you talk about the super majority. I worked really well with our Democratic colleagues. I never, and I told them this, and I told my Republican colleagues, I will not walk over my Democratic colleagues in the Senate because … we all represent over 600,000 people.

What's next on your agenda?

From Live Local, I'm going to move into Live Healthy. Here's the premise. We have, and I love to say this in the free state of Florida, more and more people moving here. We have a great economic climate. We don't have a state income tax. We have great weather. People love moving to the state of Florida.

Here's the problem. Many of them, probably most of them, are older and they're going to need healthcare. We do not have enough providers, whether it be physicians, nurses, technicians, facilities, to handle our current population comfortably and easily. You know, I hear oftentimes from constituents that if they want to have some kind of elective surgery, they have to wait eight months to a year to get in. My primary care physician, I make an appointment a year in advance to get in. It’s only going to get worse. So we have to find creative solutions.

… We're meeting with representatives of the various hospitals, nursing homes, everybody who has something to offer. I met with someone from the Department of Veterans Affairs and we were talking about the specific medical needs of veterans, which are different than others.

… I think the telehealth movement has been a huge benefit, particularly with mental health. We have to start looking at that on a statewide level, as a diversion from the emergency room, and not because it's a lack of insurance. What do you do at midnight when you get sick? There's only one place to go and it's the emergency room. But that may not be the appropriate place

… We have to start looking at all the ways to make the delivery of health care more efficient and more cost effective. So that's what we're going to spend the summer doing and hopefully come up with a plan, a Live Healthy plan that kind of mirrors the concept with Live Local.

Would that include … expanding Medicaid?

I don't believe we need to expand Medicaid. I didn't support it when I was in the House … whether you have insurance or you don't, if we don't have any doctors to treat you in the middle of the state, that's what we need to focus on. The whole Medicaid (expansion) thing is just a distraction to what we should be looking at. We've got to look at birth to death. I kind of have in my mind a sort of plan, a comprehensive plan where you start with prevention. We've got to start doing more with prevention, health fairs and the like. We have to detect pathology sooner rather than in the E.R.

And then we have to have early intervention, getting people to live healthier. … And then as you get older, we're looking at skilled care or long-term care, all those things need to come into play. And then you end up with palliative care. So I think we just need to come up with a plan that is different and creative. I've got the best staff in the world and they are working all summer. 

This might seem like a silly question, but our listeners might be interested: You're known for your Italian feasts that you make for the Legislature. Will you return to cooking?

It's a huge production. I mean, I have this little tiny apartment in Tallahassee that if you stand in the kitchen, you just stand there because there's no place to move and you just kind of turn sideways and whatever. And I really enjoy it, I enjoy cooking for my colleagues. I wasn't able to do it last session because I was busy (but) I'm hoping I'll be able to do it this (upcoming) session. Breaking bread with my colleagues is really important. 

I use lean ground beef and ground veal … for the meatballs, right? And then I put in pork sausages and then sometimes pork tenderloin or pork spare ribs. A lot of people use sugar (in their) tomato sauce, but I think that's a big mistake. I use carrots.

Jim Rosica edited the conversation, which was transcribed by an AI-enabled service. For the full episode and to listen to previous episodes, go to City & State Florida's podcast page at

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