Big state issues fuel lively “Political Salsa” Forum


This evening at Barry University in East Orlando, a party like atmosphere, that promoted a friendly but competitive partisanship rivalry, fueled the Puerto Rican Bar Association’s “Political Salsa” forum, that featured a bi-partisan panel discussing the big issues that face the state legislature heading into special session. 

“We will have different views, but what makes us great is that we can do this together, and in a civil way” said Anthony Suarez, President of the Puerto Rican Bar Association. 

The bi-partisan panel featured State Senator Darren Soto (D-Orlando), and State Representatives Bob Cortes (R-Longwood), Victor Torres (D-Orlando),David Santiago (R-Deltona), John Cortes (D-Kissimmee), and Rene Plasencia(R-Orlando).

Lawmakers were introduced to loud music, and raucous applause by their respective parties as they made their way to the riser.

None of the lawmakers strayed to far from their party’s respective stance on the issues. Medicaid, Transportation, and Education were all discussed.

Santiago provided one of the more emotional answers that drew bi-partisan applause when talking about Tallahassee politics. “I want people to be able to buy a car so they don’t have to take Sunrail. The easiest thing to do with this job is to say ‘yes’. You can say yes to everything. They’ll do it and raise your taxes. It takes a leader to say ‘no’”

The big difference within the panel was the same difference the entire state legislature faces heading into the June 1st special session. Medicaid expansion.

“Take billion dollars from our budget, or put 5 billion dollars back in. Stop the insanity. Support expansion” said Soto.

Santiago disagreed “I believe in being a strong American. That money coming our way, it’s borrowed. We proposed a plan to help the most neediest. The system they’re promoting is failing or still under examination in other states”

Questions were submitted from the audience, and asked by ambassadors from each party that challenged opposing lawmakers.

There were some emotional moments

There was a moment of frustration from John Cortes when asked about how many bills he had passed during session “I proposed 6 bills this session and passed none of it. I.. can’t. I don’t even want to go into it.”

Bob Cortes was asked about a bill that required a 24 hour waiting period for abortions he supported. He brought up the memory a son that he had loss at a young age, and the importance of the life of the child. “The woman will still have a choice. We’re just asking everyone to think of the child and wait 24 hours”.

Overall, audience response was positive, and each of the legislator was given an award for participation following the panel.