Starting today, Orlando-Rising launches a weekly feature called “OR Conversations,” featuring chats with newsmakers.

This spring, Republican Rep. Bob Cortes of Altamonte Springs shunned a congressional run and stayed busy through the 2017 Legislative Session that also saw him become a leading voice criticizing Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala

Here’s what he says:

Orlando-Rising: Not including things that still haven’t passed, such as the state budget, what do you think the Florida Legislature ought to be most proud of having accomplished so far this session?

Bob Cortes: Closure to the Dozier School and the Groveland Four, with apologies for what transpired in the past. These things needed to be resolved, and thankfully they have.

OR: You’ve become a leading critical voice of State Attorney Aramis Ayala’s denunciation of death penalty prosecutions in your Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit, and called for her ouster. Polls show public opinion split on this issue. Why does it matter so much to you?

Cortes: It matters to me because her actions undermine the rule of law. Prosecutorial discretion should be used in the interest of justice for the people who elected her, not to advance the national agenda of groups looking to circumvent the legislature and change policy. If the Supreme Court rules in her favor, she and others can change other policies related to criminal justice reform, like mandatory minimum sentencing. How can citizens trust her with enforcement of our laws and prosecution of those who choose to not follow them?

OR: If a constituent was in Tallahassee and wanted to catch up with you at dinner, where would you most likely be found, and what would you be eating?

Cortes: It might be hard for someone to catch me because I’d probably be eating a quiet dinner at home with my wife. I prefer home-cooked meals.

OR: You sponsored the nonviable birth certificate and the grave desecration bills, and co-sponsored the Groveland Four recognition, Dozier School amends, and memory clinics resolutions, all of which produce powerful emotions among affected people. Which one moved you the most, and why?

Cortes: The Grieving Families Act, HB 101. This bill was an idea that came from my wife delivering gowns for stillborn children to hospitals. We discovered that parents who lose a child before 20 weeks could not obtain a certificate to memorialize their child. As a parent who has suffered the loss of a child, I know firsthand how much it hurts and how important it is for parents to have a tangible acknowledgment of their child’s existence. If parents wish to, we can issue a certificate that includes their child’s name.

OR: What looks like it will be unfinished business this session that you hope to find a stronger case for next year?

Cortes: Unfinished business is always an interesting term to me because the legislature’s work is never done. I’d like to continue to keep pushing the envelope on education reform, tax reform, and regulatory reform. Next year, I’d like to see us pass much fewer new laws and start looking at repealing more of the ones that are either unenforceable or have lived out their term of service. It is hard to provide specifics on this until we get through the rest of session and into the summer, but at least you can understand my perspective on what we should be striving for next year.

About The Author

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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