‘The human spirit is strong and resilient,’ said Senator Darryl Rouson.
ST. PETERSBURG — State Senator Darryl Rouson is unique.
Out of the seven senators representing the six counties that comprise the Tampa Bay area, he is the only official representing both sides of the bay. While his home and home office are in St. Petersburg, he also has satellite offices in Tampa and Brandon.
Rouson’s District 19 covers Ybor City, East Tampa, Sulphur Springs, Seminole Heights, and portions of Brandon and Riverview. He also represents all of downtown St. Pete.
“I’ve been called the arts senator,” said Rouson, “because no senator in the state of Florida has more museums, theaters, and art in their district than me…The year before last, the arts got cut by 90 percent. We were able to restore those cuts.”
“So goes the arts, so goes the health of many of our communities,” he believes.
Rouson, a Democrat, has many legislative priorities. He lists promoting minority health and health equity, criminal justice reform, and addressing food insecurity – an issue he is in a good position to take up as Chairman of the Agriculture Committee – as being at the top of his list.
He feels that urban farming will go a long way to mitigating food insecurity, which is why he championed St. Pete City Councilmember Brandi Gabbard’s urban agriculture bill that did not pass last year. This would allow cities like St. Pete to adapt vacant land into urban farms, as well as give local government some control over the projects.
Not only was Rouson able to get the bill through this time around, but the Florida Farm Bureau recently notified him that he was voted Agricultural Champion of the Year for his efforts.
Last Thursday, Gov. DeSantis invited Rouson to witness the signing of his agriculture bill and another bill he has been working on, Senate Bill 404 – Office of Minority Health and Health Equity.
Rouson said that this bill “gives statutory footing and a foundation” to the Office of Minority Health, as well as giving it more responsibilities. It also doubles its budget – for the first time in 10 years.
“The importance of this bill is critical,” said Rouson. “Particularly through this pandemic that has exposed communities of color having inadequate health care…”
The Senator notes that as a Democrat, it has been difficult representing the minority party in Tallahassee for the last 12 years, but he does not let that stand in his way when it comes to getting things done for his constituents.
Rouson said that even though he disagrees with the governor on many policy issues, DeSantis has been responsive to working with him on common ground areas such as the opioid crisis, mental health, and substance abuse.
“I have made it my purpose to find common ground with each governor, as I have with eight Senate presidents,” said Rouson. “As I did under four different speakers when I was in the House. People want safe neighborhoods, good schools, quality healthcare. And those issues are neither Republican nor Democrat. They’re human issues.”
Other issues important to Rouson are the way the judicial system treats drug addiction and petty offenders and affordable housing. “Petty crimes committed to feed a habit are not solved by locking someone in a jail cell,” he said. “Getting them to treatment, diversion programs, and workforce training are all part of the solution.”
When it comes to affordable housing, Rouson said that he wants to build off his work with the Sadowkski Housing Trust Fund and continue to fight for a living wage commensurate with housing costs.
“We’ve seen housing prices increase; we’ve seen rental prices increase,” he stated. “And we haven’t seen wages keep up with that.”
In addition to representing such a large swath of the Tampa Bay area and his many committee assignments, Rouson practices law as a personal injury attorney with Rubenstein Law when not in session. A proud father of nine, he said that they support his public service and “fighting for people from the courthouse to the Capitol House.”
Rouson is running for reelection in 2022, as is every state senator due to redistricting. He said that it could affect every district, but that remains to be seen.
“I just hope that whoever serves on redistricting remembers the constitutional amendment passed by the voters for fair districts,” averred Rouson. “Lines drawn not according to party or person.”
Whatever may happen, Rouson will face it head-on. He said the one thing he would like people to know that has helped him through 12 years of being the minority party in state government: “The human spirit is strong and resilient.”
You can reach Senator Rouson by calling 727-822-6828 or by email at email@example.com.
To reach Mark Parker, email firstname.lastname@example.org