Women shut out of FL House committee leadership; a few will lead subcommittees

They fared better in the Senate, where some women will hold power

By: - December 5, 2022 5:32 pm

The Florida House, Feb. 2, 2022. Credit: Michael Moline

As the Florida Legislature gears up for a special session next week and prepares for the 2023 regular session, the House of Representatives has announced its committee leadership assignments. Let’s call them male-centric.

Unsurprisingly, all full committee leadership roles were filled by Republicans, who enjoy supermajorities in both chambers.

Women make up 40.8 percent of the House but fill just 18 of the 83 committee, subcommittee, joint committee, and party leadership assignments announced last week. That’s 21.7 percent of the positions. In addition, not one woman chairs a full committee in the House.

Two women serve as vice chairs of major committees. One will be Melony Bell, representing part of Polk County. She is slated to be vice chair of the Education & Employment Committee.

The other is Linda Chaney of the powerful Rules committee. She represents parts of Hillsborough and Pinellas County.

Michelle Salzman, who represents part of Escambia County, is set to be the only female whip for a major committee — the Health and Human Services Committee. The job is to enforce party discipline.

That said, several Republican women will help lead subcommittees. Josie Tomkow will serve as chair of the PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee. She represents part of Polk County in Central Florida.

Kaylee Tuck, who represents several counties in the lower Central Florida area, will chair the Choice & Innovation Subcommittee that falls under Education and Employment Committee umbrella. Her vice chair will be Traci Koster of Hillsborough County.

Dana Trabulsy of St. Lucie County will chair the Education Quality Subcommittee. Lauren Melo, representing Hendry and part of Collier counties, will chair the Postsecondary Education & Workforce Subcommittee.

The Local, Federal Affairs, and Special Districts Subcommittee will be led by two women — chairwoman Jenna Persons-Mulicka, representing part of Lee County, and vice chair Tuck.

Fiona McFarland, who represents part of Sarasota County, will chair the Transportation and Modals Subcommittee, and Cindi Stevenson (part of St. Johns County) will chair the Water Quality, Supply & Treatment Subcommittee.

Demi Busatta Cabrera, who represents part of Miami-Dade County, will chair the State Administration & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee.

The Judiciary Committee and its subcommittees on criminal and civil justice have no women in their leadership.

The Senate 

Senate leadership assignments were released on Monday, along with the complete roster of senators serving on each committee, and the situation there is better for women. (Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, who represents counties in Southwest Florida, is only the third women to fill the upper chamber’s highest position.)

Of the 57 leadership positions, 20 will be filled by women from both the Democratic and Republican parties. In other words, women will hold 35 percent of committee leadership roles. Among both major parties, women make up 40 percent of the Florida Senate.

The Senate does not have subcommittees, although there are several Appropriations committees and two new education committees, one for higher education and one for PreK-12.

Eight women will take chairmanships. They include Ileana Garcia, who will lead the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee. Democrat Geraldine Thomson, who represents part of Orange County, will be vice chair.

Republican Alexis Calatayud will chair the Community Affairs Committee with Democrat Rosalind Osgood of Broward County as vice chair. Both women represent areas in South Florida.

Erin Grall, a Republican representing parts of South Central Florida, will chair the Education Postsecondary committee, while Democrat Linda Stewart of Orange County will be vice chair.

For the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, Ana Maria Rodriguez of Miami-Dade County will chair while fellow Republican Gayle Harrell serves as vice chair. Harrell represents Martin County and parts of Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties.

Sen. Debbie Mayfield, a Republican who represents part of Brevard County, will chair the Senate Rules committee.

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Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown

Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University, majoring in English with a focus in editing, writing, and media. While at FSU, she served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine, Nomadic Noles. Last fall, she fulfilled another editorial internship with Rowland Publishing, where she wrote for the Tallahassee Magazine, Emerald Coast Magazine, and 850 Business Magazine. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat. She spends her downtime traveling to all corners of Florida and beyond to practice lindy hop.

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