State Rep. Daniel Perez, a Miami-Dade Republican, was officially designated as the next Speaker of the Florida House in a ceremony in the Florida Capitol on Monday. He'll serve November 2024-November 2026 after current Speaker Paul Renner.
His remarks, as prepared for delivery, have been reprinted below. You can also watch a replay of his Q&A session with reporters.
I came to this House in a special election in September 2017. Standing here, I look back at my service so far with some pride and some regret, but mostly with astonishment.
I am not the same man who walked through those chamber doors for the first time. I know more about more things, and more importantly, I know more about what I don’t know.
I have met a lot of interesting people along the way – some have taught me, some have inspired me, some have disappointed me – and some have managed to do all three.
I’ve had my share of victories and made my share of mistakes, but along the way I’ve tried to learn how to be a better colleague, a better leader, and a better public servant.
But for all the experiences, the lessons, and the growth, I want to talk today about the things that haven’t changed. About the things that really matter.
I am a product of my country, my community and my family.
As an American of Cuban descent, I stand at the convergence of two traditions both deeply concerned with freedom.
I grew up in Miami-Dade listening to the stories of the Cuban exiles. Listening to the stories of my own grandparents.
I heard the fear and anger in their voices as they described the fall of their country.
I sat mesmerized at the tales of the Assault Brigade 2506, and their courage in the face of desperate odds.
I came to understand how much Fidel Castro had taken from the people of Cuba, and THAT took root in my mind as a different kind of fear – a fear about how power can be abused and eventually turned into the poor ideology of socialism.
Socialism destroys hope. It ruins lives. My grandparents knew this, the people of Cuba know that, and all of us in this Chamber know you cannot raise people up by tearing them down.
I’d like to think that fear of power is a distinctly American quality. After all, what makes the American Revolution such an interesting story is not how we won the war, but how we built our peace.
Our Founding Fathers understood that man created government to keep ourselves safe, but that the authority of that government also poses the greatest risk to our freedom. They knew that power without restraint leads to tyranny just as freedom without responsibility results in anarchy.
My belief in limited government doesn’t come from a classroom.
I believe in limited government because history has taught us what happens when people with power begin to think they know more than the people who gave them their power.
I have noticed a mindset of entitlement that has crept into our process here in Tallahassee. Too often we hear - “why isn’t this bill passing?”
That’s the wrong question. The right question – the one we as Members should be asking – is: “why should we pass this bill?” Legislation isn’t an entitlement. Every dispute between private parties doesn’t require a new law. Every action shouldn’t necessarily require a government reaction.
Members, we are in danger of becoming a conveyor belt – passing along every bill, funding every project without ever stopping - thinking- and questioning - is this the appropriate use of our power. Government cannot be all things to all people.
It also can’t be everything for just some of the people. After the election someone mentioned our supermajority to me and said, “we can make people do anything we want.” That might be true. But just because we have the power to do a thing, doesn’t necessarily mean that we should, and just because we think we are right doesn’t mean that we are justified.
If the only people allowed to be free are the people who are doing what we want them to do, then we have forgotten what freedom really means.
The problem with wielding the power of government like a hammer is that the people start looking like nails.
I grew up surrounded by people who believed passionately in the American Dream. I loved everything about growing up in Miami-Dade. I love the people and the pace. We move fast. We talk fast. We love hard. I love how a big city feels like a small town.
At the same time, one of the blessings of my service in this House is that I’ve gotten to know so many of your homes. An afternoon spent in Plant City feels completely different than an afternoon spent in Sarasota, St. Augustine, Pensacola, or Ft. Myers – Florida contains multitudes. We are both rural and urban. Our economy depends on agriculture and industry. We rely on people coming to visit, but also on people choosing to stay.
One of our key jobs as a State Legislature is to balance how to best serve all these different communities and different people. The problems facing Miami-Dade County are not the problems facing Gadsden County. Brevard, Clay and Pinellas wrestle with different challenges.
Even issues that feel important for the entire state – like property insurance costs or affordable housing – can look very different from community to community.
We now have two paths we can follow. One option, we can force everyone everywhere to do the same thing every time, but we risk losing what makes Florida such a vibrant state.
Or, we can work to balance all the competing needs of our state, but that requires all of us to give voice to the needs of our homes, and to work together to help local communities to find the solutions that work best for them.
I am not talking about local governments – I am talking about our neighborhoods, our churches and our civic organizations.
I don’t believe our state government should be at the center of people’s lives. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have a role to play. Government must protect its people from dangers to life and property whether they come from threats to public safety or natural disasters. Government must ensure that we have a society of equally applied laws where any person who is willing to work hard has a chance to succeed based on their individual merit. And we also must be willing to help those who truly cannot help themselves.
The problem with government isn’t just that it does too much, but that we aren’t very good at doing the things that really matter. I saw that firsthand growing up.
Most of you haven’t met my younger brother, Brian. He can’t be here with us today because he has a severe developmental disability. My brother has not been able to experience the things I have been privileged to experience.
My brother’s condition – and my parents’ struggle to help him - have also taught me what really matters in life. The patience I learned from being with my brother has made me impatient in so many other areas.
Vanity feels like a form of ingratitude, interpersonal drama is a waste of time, the simple things in life are special to me – and I CANNOT TOLERATE incompetence in government.
I’d like to give you an example. Growing up, my brother had access to some state and local services that were helpful to him and my family.
But I had to watch my mother struggle to access those programs. I watched how the different programs failed to coordinate with one another, and how changes in eligibility criteria could completely disrupt Brian’s life and my family’s ability to manage his condition.
I first ran for office because I thought – we have to be able to do a better job than this.
What is the point of throwing someone a lifeline, if we don’t pull them in, if we leave them drowning in the water?
In our fixation on quantity – on churning through bills – we have lost sight of quality. I would argue that “how” matters more than “how much.” Passing a bill doesn’t make anyone’s life better if the bill won’t work in the real world.
If we delegate authority to an agency or local government that’s already doing a bad job, then what have we accomplished? If we come to Tallahassee year after year and constantly change the same laws over and over, have we really changed anything that matters?
Because doing something real – something meaningful – is what really matters.
When I am your Speaker, what I want for you most – is for your time away from your homes and your families to really matter. I want you to feel like you have - in ways big and small - made Florida a better place.
This House Republican Conference works best when we work as a team. But a really great team is one that makes use of the skills and talents of all its members.
When I am your Speaker, I would like to see a House where every decision hasn’t been worked out in advance; where committees have a dialogue about bills and make decisions together. If we spend less time with agendas filled with bills that don’t really matter, we can spend more time talking about the things that do. Let’s ask whether government really needs to act, and if we decide to act, then are we doing it in the smartest way possible?
I want each of you to be a part of the larger conversation about the major issues that will come before OUR House, and I want you to share your perspectives and advocate for your communities. I’m not going to promise that we will always agree, but I can promise you that I will always, always listen.
But greater freedom comes with greater responsibility. It means less time in the social scene in Tallahassee and more time doing your homework.
It means being the person who asks hard questions, really listening to the answers, and being willing to challenge your own assumptions. If you want to have a voice, you must have something unique to say.
If your primary interest as a Member is being called Representative or chairman or obsessing about how important you are in the process, then honestly, I am going to disappoint you as your Speaker. If you believe public service is only about carrying water for special interests or playing to the fringe crowd on social media, then you are going to disappoint me.
But I don’t anticipate being disappointed because I believe in all of you. I have had deep and personal conversations with each and every one of you. I know what you are capable of when you set your mind to a task.
We are blessed to be able to serve together in this House of Representatives. It’s an honor we can never take for granted. We have been entrusted by our constituents to stand up for them and to fight for this beautiful state.
I spoke earlier about the wisdom of the Founding Fathers.
In designing this American system, they believed that the legislative power should be the first branch of government
They believed that the great issues of the day should be debated in a deliberative body directly connected to the people. The United States Congress has obviously failed to live up to that ideal, but I don’t think we need to follow their example.
When you look back on your service in this House, I don’t want you to remember endlessly pressing the green button on bills with vague titles that ended up doing little more than cluttering up statute books. Instead, I want you to think about the laws that you personally helped to shape. I want you to know that we didn’t always take the easy way, and that we stood for limited but effective government.
I want you to feel deep in your bones that your homes and our state are better because of your service.
When it’s all said and done, what I hope for more than anything else is that you believe that what we do together will be something that really matters for generations to come.
Thank you. God bless you and God bless this state of Florida.