NEW PORT RICHEY — All eyes could soon fall upon rookie state Rep. Amanda Murphy during her first legislative session after winning a contentious special election Oct. 15.
Murphy, D-New Port Richey, is heading to Tallahassee next week as the Legislature’s committee meetings kick into high gear.
She granted an hour-long interview last Thursday to share what she hopes to accomplish when the Florida Legislature opens March 4.
She and Brian Goff, her legislative assistant, are crafting proposals that might be filed Jan. 7, one of the deadline for bills to be filed. The final deadline comes Jan. 22.
And as the sole state lawmaker still based in West Pasco after redistricting, Murphy wants to meet as often as possible with her District 36 constituents. She has scheduled three town hall meetings this month:
• Saturday, Jan. 25, from 11 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., Hudson Regional Library, 8012 Library Road.
• Tuesday, Jan. 28, 6:30 -8 P.M., Centennial Park Library, 5740 Moog Road, Holiday.
• Thursday, Jan. 30, 6:30 -8 p.m., New Port Richey Public Library, 5939 Main St.
In phone calls and emails from residents, Murphy is concerned by a potential double whammy for homeowners facing from Citizens Property Insurance. coverage problems and large spikes in National Flood Insurance Program premiums. The fallout could hurt the real estate market here, shesays.
Private insurers having been taking over some policies from Citizens, the insurer of last resort. “I don’t want to see startups” among private insurers, Murphy said. She wants to encourage established insurance firms to help shrink Citizens.
While Citizens will expand the number of homeowners eligible for sinkhole coverage, that still might not satisfy mortgage holders.
“It’s all older homes” in her district, Murphy explained. She hopes to check into possible sources of funds to pay for underpinning older homes.
Murphy also has received complaints about safety at automated teller machines at banks and problems with workers’ compensation claims. Parents told her their son was shot on his job, but denied workers’ compensation.
Residents often bring problems to the attention of lawmakers, Murphy figures. It was a suggestion from a mother that led to Murphy’s first bill. If passed, House Bill 393 would provide for a medical alert logo on face of an identification card or driver license issued to a person with a medical condition. That could help guide police officers and emergency workers.
She is advocating a local bill to rehydrate Crews Lake with reclaimed water.
Murphy has signed on as a cosponsor to several bills.
• HB 4001 would repeal the monthly fee that utilities can charge for advance expenses in building nuclear power plants. The bill would not address refunds of the fee alrea dy collected for canceled nuclear projects.
• CS/HB 89 would clarify laws on the threatened use of force. Murphy explained that a woman had fired a warning shot to scare off her attacker beating her. But the women still wound up in prison.
• HB 239 would “prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.” Murphy was somewhat surprised to learn existing laws are silent on this topic.
She also supports HB 35 concerning tuition for veterans.
Plus she backs a House resolution to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, which has been stalled since 1976. Women still earn about 77 cents for every $1 in pay for men, Murphy said.
Murphy drew House assignments on the Health and Human Services Committee, health care appropriations subcommittee, healthy families subcommittee and the veteran and military affairs subcommittee.
Murphy acknowledges her plate is full. She will juggle legislative duties with her 14-year career as a financial adviser and vice president with Raymond James.
For some continuity, Murphy took over the office space of her predecessor, state Rep. Mike Fasano, after he was appointed Pasco tax collector. Murphy’s district office is at 8217 Massachusetts Ave., New Port Richey. The phone number is (727) 848-5885. Goff and district secretary Karen Ford are based there.
Her office walls remain mostly bare, she joked, because time is at a premium. She prizes the clock on her desk, the first President’s Award presented to her by Trinity Rotary President Shawn Foster.
The whirlwind of activity during and after the special election left her exhausted, Murphy commented. She and husband Matt recently vacationed for three days in Key West so she could catch her breath before the Legislature gets up a full head of steam.
“We knew the campaign was not going to be pretty,” Murphy recalled about the pitched battle in the special election. She won a narrow victory over Republican Bill Gunter.
After her victory, Murphy was pleased by cordial relations with all her fellow lawmakers from Pasco County, all of them Republican.
Murphy only regrets she had to scale back some of her volunteer efforts for local nonprofit groups. She remains on the board of PACE Center for Girls, which schools troubled teen girls. She also serves Pasco Aging Network and Leadership Pasco.