Representative Evan Jenne is not the smoke-filled room, gladhanding, deep conversation type of politician. He leaves that to his House Minority Leader Co-Chair Bobby DuBose. Jenne describes himself more as the “bookworm” policy guy reading every single caucus bill before the Florida legislature.
He prides himself on the reputation of being tireless when it comes to his work in the Florida House. He said, “I have a baseline knowledge, at least, of everything that’s going on in this building. I don’t think that I am even close to being the smartest member of the Legislature, but I’ll take bets on who works hardest, and I’ll put myself right near the top of that every single time.”
Jenne, 43, has served as a member of the Florida House of Representatives, representing the 99th District, which includes most of Hollywood in southern Broward County, since 2014. From 2006 to 2012 Jenne represented the 100th District, which stretched from Dania Beach to Pembroke Pines in southern Broward County. He and DuBose share the duties of House minority leaders for the 2020–2022 Legislature.
To Jenne, the Democrats and Republicans are a lot more alike than other people realize, with 85 to 90 percent of all bills passing unanimously. He said the notion that there is constant fighting just isn’t the reality.
“It isn’t like some bad knockoff of House of Cards,” he said. “It’s not that. It’s men and women working really hard and trying to bring change and represent their communities as best as they possibly can.”
However, he does believe the greatest danger to this country is what he called, “tribalization politics.”
“What I think is the second most dangerous thing, next to COVID, is the rancor right now that you see in politics,” Jenne said, “and I would like to see us get away from divisive issues and then try to find things that we can really work on together.”
He described several areas in which the parties can come together. First is the battle against COVID.
He said, “COVID has colored everything moving forward, whether it’s education, the environment or taxation. All of these things are going to be touched in some way shape or form by COVID-19.”
Jenne decried recent calls from President Joe Biden’s Administration for Florida to shut down various businesses again, saying it would never fly. See story here.
In fact, Jenne insisted there is bipartisan support for aiding Florida’s small businesses in staying open and recovering. But that support does not extend to a current COVID frivolous litigation legislation bill, House Bill (HB) 7, as it currently stands. He said the bill’s supporters push the idea there is a rash of lawsuits against small businesses related to COVID. In reality, Jenne said he could only find six lawsuits filed across the state.
“This bill is looking for a problem when there really isn’t one and I don’t think that bill is generally geared towards helping small business owners, but rather the large ones who, if found negligent, have much deeper pockets.”
“HB 7 is just a bridge too far,” he said. “We believe it is a detrimental to the average, everyday Floridian.”
According to Jenne, the Democrats are interested in working with Republicans to find ways to decrease the tax burden on small businesses.
“Anything that’s going to help their bottom line, I think needs to be examined and I’m willing to have a discussion with anybody on how to do it,” he said.
“We need to bring (small businesses) relief in any way we can while at the same time trying to balance the rights of people that they have been infected with COVID due to outright negligence,” Jenne said.
The other area for bipartisanship is the environment. “I think the governor’s already showed he has a predisposition to do the right thing by the environment. I think that’s something that both parties can really get behind.”
He also acknowledged House Speaker Chris Sprowls’ commitment to environmental issues.
“That’s a big change in Tallahassee. That has not always been the norm. I found the Speaker and the Governor’s remarks and stances on the environment to be refreshing and it makes me hopeful we can work together.”
Jenne said, “I have found that if you have a good idea that it can find a home here (in the Legislature), even if you’re a member of the minority party. I’ve been blessed to have passed dozens of bills through the years.”
He absolutely wishes he were surrounded by more Democrats, of course, but said he doesn’t wring his hands over it.
“I know the people in my caucus. We’re not scared of a lot of hard work,” he said. “That’s never, never dampened my spirit or put out my fire.”