Sen. Jason Pizzo on how young Floridians can get involved in politics

Sen. Pizzo spoke to young Floridians during a college tour across the state.

Image via screengrab

By Giselle Balido

January 16, 2024

The next Senate Minority Leader took the time to hear from students across the state. This is what he learned during his 2023 Campus Conversations College Tour.

Democratic Sen. Jason Pizzo, who is slated to become the next state Minority Senate Leader after the November elections, spoke to Floricua about the issues affecting people across the Sunshine State, the 2024 Legislative Session, and how young Floridians can better engage in the political process.

What do you see as the top issues impacting Floridians right now?

I think at the top of the list is affordability. I can tell you that when people are trying to make ends meet – when they’re trying to make property insurance payments, mortgage payments or rent payments – what books we have in libraries and wokeness are not at the top of the list for people at the kitchen table at night.

What are the top bills being pushed in this year’s Florida legislative session that Floridians need to be looking out for?

It’s those bills which I call very loud, and sometimes hurtful culture war bills, that really make the headlines because they’re clickbait and they can get both sides sort of riled up. My biggest gripe and problem with the other side of the aisle is that while they’re supposed to be the party of small government, such is not the case in Florida, where the Republican legislature has allowed the governor to bloat government to increase spending on a number of things, to propose new agencies and new regulation. The core of their party from years past has really been upended by how expensive it is to go ahead and cater and sustain the whims and wishes of somebody with a huge ego.

You have been talking to university students and you have said that most of them don’t know who their state senator is. How do you think Democrats are doing here in Florida as far as registering young voters and getting them involved in the political process?

For me, it’s not about voter registration, it’s about voter motivation. And the apathy that we’ve seen, especially in that age group, is incredible. And I’ve learned a couple things. Democrats need to stop talking about fighting back and propose solutions as opposed to criticisms for too long. It’s very easy to identify what a problem is, but it takes a little bit more work, a little more research, and a little bit more effort to provide a solution and we haven’t done that.

Do you see Democrats doing that now?

Actually, yes. We’ve become a sort of a cleaner, leaner kind of group; we’re going again on the merit of arguments and the strength of those arguments. But I think we had to hit rock bottom where we are to be able to build back up.

What are your hopes for the Democratic Party in Florida?

You had asked me about visiting all these colleges and universities and I did it in all four quarters of the state. And you know, it started out just sort of jokingly, asking ‘Do you know who your state representative is?’ Very few know those who take part in controlling their destiny, whether it’s their education, whether it’s their relationships, whether it’s the safety and viability of their neighborhoods. And there was no shortage of passionate emotions of ideas, of criticism, of support. And yet so very few of those students that I met actively participated while these bills were being drafted, while these things were pending, while decisions which would have great significant material impacts on their life were being discussed up in Tallahassee. So much of this happens at the state and local level! But you have to participate. 

If you were to send a message to young Floridians, what would it be?

Don’t join in an email that 12,000 or 120,000 other people are going to send on the same issue; handwrite a letter. If you’re so quick to criticize on social media, or so quick to support on social media, do so in person. I have met hundreds and hundreds of students who have really good ideas, who are really passionate about things, who really want to engage, but yet can’t make eye contact, can’t shake hands, can’t introduce themselves to their neighbors. Kids are chronically online and able to be really informed but aren’t able to do so in person. Technology is wonderful. It should be used to make life more efficient, but it certainly cannot substitute or replace human contact and engagement. We live in a democracy. You have to actively participate. 

Author

  • Giselle Balido

    Giselle is Floricua's political correspondent. She writes about the economy, environmental and social justice, and all things Latino. A published author, Giselle was born in Havana and grew up in New Jersey and Miami. She is passionate about equality, books, and cats.

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