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Politics

Ricardo Rangel: Rising Star to Focus on Job Training, Veteran Mental Health, Internet Sales Tax

January 7, 2013 - 6:00pm

Rep. Ricardo Rangel, D-Kissimmee
Date of Birth: June 5, 1977
Birthplace: Bronx, N.Y.
Residence:Kissimmee
Education:Warner University, Master of Science in Management, 2009-2011
Occupation: Business consultant
Previous Public Office(s): None.
Family: Three children
Did you know?Once registered 10,000 Hispanic voters in Central Florida, within a two-and-a- half-month time period.Osceola County's only Democratic state representative is also one of that party's rising young stars. A self-styled "moderate," he says what Florida needs is legislators who will leave their Rs and Ds at the door, to do what's best for the Sunshine State.

Freshman Rep. Ricardo Rangel, D-Kissimmee, is an Army veteran, just like his father. He says his service in the Army, the reserves, and the National Guard is what has instilled in him a deep commitment to community activism.

Im a first-generation American, the first in my family to graduate college, and the first to enter politics, he tells Sunshine State News. What inspired me the most to participate in this process was thinking about the community. I started seeing politics get too polarized and I wanted to bring a whole new dynamic to the field, to help Florida become the state it needs to be.

Rangels commitment is no mere talk. Hes devoted the last several years of his young life to such causes as United We Paint (a charity which renovates public projects and private homes in low-income communities) and various ventures associated with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

Hes received a number of accolades for his accomplishments, including the Business Councils National Leadership Award and the NAACPs Emerging Leadership Award. In 2003 he was named Florida Young Democrat of the Year.

Appropriately enough, House Speaker Will Weatherford awarded Rangel his preferred committee assignment: the Veteran and Military Affairs Subcommittee. Rangel is also assigned to the Local and Federal Affairs Committee, State Affairs Committee and the subcommittees for Government Operations and Government Operations Appropriations.

Having served in the military federally, statewide, and locally has given me knowledge of the whole spectrum of the military and of veteran needs, he tells Sunshine State News. And being a 12-year finance manager for the Army, I got to see firsthand what goes into a military budget and what our needs are there.

He says his chief legislative priority will be a bill to address funding for veteran mental health, both the treatment of ill veterans themselves and the training of counselors to specially equip them to deal with the unique trauma militarypersonnelsuffer on the battlefield.

Hes also concerned about funding for Bright Futures and the ever-shifting criteria students need to satisfy in order to qualify for the state college scholarship program.

We also need to work with the universities on having more apprenticeships, like the trade associations have, he says. We need more funding for training. And people dont have to get [college] degrees; we can work to get people the proper certificates, or to take refresher courses that will help them to get, or to continue with, their jobs.

One suggestion he proposes to cover the costs of such endeavors isnt likely to sit well with at least some conservatives in the Republican-heavy Legislature: a state Internet sales tax.

Billions of dollars are generated through [Internet sales] and everybodys a beneficiary except the states that people are buying from; its basically like a tax loophole, in a way, he explains. In these times when we need funding, we really need to make sure everyone is doing what they need to do for their community. I dont think its too much to ask to have an Internet sales tax.

A measure more likely to receive bipartisan support is his suggestion that Tallahassee step in to streamline certain local regulations, so entrepreneurs are not paying the same fees to do business in areas covering multiple jurisdictions.

If someone wants to do something [business-oriented] in The Villages, there are three counties whose different regulations he has to comply with, he says by way of example. If you have someone who wants to start a business, we should work with local governments to make sure that were not going to take money away from [the governments] and at the same time not make business owners have to pay three different fees just to get something done in one area.

Rangel is confident he has what it takes to bring Republicans and Democrats together on these and other issues affecting the state.

One of the things that Ive mentioned to my colleagues is that we need to check our Rs and Ds at the door; we need to really become statesmen, he says. No one party has the superior ideas. No one party has all the answers.

Reach Eric Giunta at egiunta@sunshinestatenews.com or at (954) 235-9116.

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