Two state representatives came to the Cape Coral Yacht Club ballroom Tuesday to answer tough questions from concerned citizens and to educate people of the goings on in Tallahassee.
Dane Eagle (R-77) and Heather Fitzenhagen (R-78) faced a rather sparse number of Cape Coral Civic Association members, but one with a lot of questions during a nearly 90-minute session that included a review by both representatives of highlights during the recently finished legislative session, followed by a Q&A session.
Civic Association President Ed Prince said he was disappointed by the turnout, especially since there were local state representatives speaking.
"It seems that when you get two state reps at the same time to educate people on what's happening, you get a bigger turnout," Prince said. "We had a good group, they had a lot of questions and we shared information both ways, but you always want to do more."
Among the people in attendance was City Councilmember Kevin McGrail, who asked both reps about the bill that would have sent a pipeline of wastewater between Cape Coral and Fort Myers, but was line-item vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott.
Also there was mayoral candidate Marni Sawicki, and District 4 council candidate Richard Leon, who took a lot from the meeting.
"It's a good thing that our state reps are coming out and supporting our community. I learned exactly what they're doing for our area," Leon said. "The water pipe the governor vetoed that the area was so much in support of. $900,000 in the budget. That raised my eyebrow a little."
Fitzenhagen started the session, as Eagle was double-booked and didn't arrive until later. Among the items Fitzenhagen addressed from the audience were the lack of funding Cape Coral charter schools are getting, child abuse, the equal rights amendment, the pension and Medicaid, among other things.
Eagle arrived just as Fitzenhagen finished and addressed how the state passed bills that promoted more ethical behavior by candidates and better opportunities for Florida voters to vote.
While Eagle faced many of the same questions Fitzenhagen did, he was also grilled on "The Train," the process in which state legislators tack on amendments to a bill in the same way the U.S. Senate and Reps do for national bills.
Eagle said the amendments by law have to do with the bill, and added that sometimes you have to amend something into or out of a bill.
He was also asked about his involvement in the Lee Building Industry Association and whether it would be a conflict of interest.
"I get paid part-time money for a full-time job. I have to put food on the table," Eagle said. "I don't believe it's a conflict because that's what I do for a living."
Eagle, who said he was attending his 12th meeting since returning home, said he loved the challenge of answering the tough questions.
"They have every right to, and it's tough to follow every minute of every day so that's why I'm here and they can ask the questions," Eagle said. "That's what they send us to Tallahassee to do. I don't shy away from that."
Prince said what he learned most was that, with both reps being freshmen, it was important for them to toe the line with party leaders.
"You have to go with the grain. Voting a certain way wouldn't have made a difference, but would have made it tougher for him to get what he wanted accomplished," Prince said. "Sometimes working with leadership and not always representing the will of the people will help you do what you need."