Representative Jose Felix Diaz recently shared his story with the RNLA. Read about why he became a lawyer, and how his profession influences his role as a FL Representative.
Tell us something about yourself that isn't readily apparent from your FL House profile.
I am a gigantic sports fan. My dad actually played baseball at the University of Miami and I grew up playing youth baseball (and basketball) at Tamiami Park. In high school, I played five different sports and was equally bad at all of them. The only reason I made the teams was because I was so tall that I could do the portions of the sport that were meant for the big guys. When I went to the University of Miami, I was there for two national football championship games, and one baseball championship. Needless to say, I am big Hurricane fan and try to travel to away games as much as possible.
Why did you decide to become an attorney?
My grandfather and uncle were medical doctors, so I always thought that I would be a pediatrician growing up. In fact, I started off at the University of Miami as a pre-med student, studying biology and chemistry. One of my dad's cousins worked at the Parkinson's Institute on the Jackson Medical Campus and I got an internship there during college. As part of my internship, we would do experiments on rodents; and it didn't always end well for the rats. I remember being so upset by the death of the animals, that I asked myself routinely how I would react if something happened to an actual human patient of mine. After some introspection, and several constitutional law courses as an undergrad, I decided to switch my major(s) to Political Science / English and become a pre-law student (my Junior year).
If you could have dinner with 3 people, alive or deceased, who would the 3 be and why?
Rather than go too deep on this – I will stick to the theme of question number one. Growing up, my childhood sports idols were (and continue to be):
a. Michael Jordan
b. Dan Marino; and
c. Cal Ripken, Jr.
What are your legislative priorities right now? What are you working on?
My legislative priorities are usually pretty consistent. As a sitting board member of the Children's Trust, I take kids issues very seriously, including child welfare. For the past three years, I have been working hard on extending Kidcare coverage to minors in our State. I also chair the Regulatory Affairs Committee, so I spend a significant amount of time trying to come up with ways for our state's energy sources to be diverse, well-priced and reliable. I have sponsored my chamber's energy package for the past few years, and it is always interesting to see how proactive we are as a state in comparison to some of our Southern neighbors.
How has being a lawyer helped you in your work as a legislator?
Being a lawyer has absolutely given me an advantage as a legislator. Many of my colleagues rely exclusively on our bill drafting department to help them come up with legislation (or at least write it). I, on the other hand, have always drafted my own bills, because I find it interesting and I think that I can write more efficiently than others. Additionally, my subject matter experience/expertise is varied because of my varied legal practice. So, I am able to debate on a whole series of subjects that others have never really dealt with – like the true impact of zoning regulations, the difficulties of operating a business in an over-regulated environment, and the importance of truly protecting someone's real property rights. There is a perception out there that most of the legislature is made up of attorneys and that could not be further from the truth. There are actually very few practicing attorneys in the Florida House and I believe that those of us that are licensed attorneys carry an increased burden of making sure that every single piece of legislation that we draft, and vote on, is constitutional and protects the rights of our fellow Floridians.