Op-Ed by Ralph Massullo, MD | Citrus County Chronicle

When our founders framed the Constitution they could not have imagined issues like self-driving cars, privatized space programs, net neutrality, clean air and water initiatives, high school graduation requirements, utility right-a-ways, or even Medicaid managed care funding.  However, one thing they did realize is if a population of responsible people, who desire to govern themselves in a free society, elect competent individuals who will represent them in a democratic republic, then those elected individuals should be able to debate and craft laws that serve the best interest of those they serve and the greater good no matter what future issues they might address.  That form of government is somewhat unique in all the world and the “experiment” of the United States of America has enabled us to become the envy of the world.

What makes our government so unique and in many ways so effective is the “process” by which we the people have determined it will operate.  While heated debate, long deliberations, and often stalemates in making definitive decisions have often been described as “sausage making” I have seen firsthand how that process works and how Floridians and all Americans benefit from those efforts.

In 2016 I was honored to be elected to the Florida State House of Representatives for District 34 representing Citrus and a small portion of Hernando Counties.  I was elected to represent you, your best interests, your community, your rights, and your families.  I take my responsibilities to you as seriously as anything else I do in my life.  I believe public servants, like myself, need to dedicate themselves to diligence required to understand the issues and integrity in all their responses in dealing with those issues and the people they serve. I have dedicated myself to those principles and while I may not always be successful in every effort, I will work as hard as I am able in being your representative in our state government and I will always be willing to honestly discuss with you all the legislation I craft, all the initiatives I propose and all the votes I take.

On February 20, 2018 a motion was made that HB 219, a bill banning assault weapons and other items, be brought to the floor without going through the process of being vetted through committee.  While this was an unusual request that I have never seen in my short tenure, it is not without some precedence. At the time, that bill was proposed there was already a known effort of the legislature and the executive under Governor Scott working on a comprehensive package addressing the issue of school safety in light of the tragedy the Parkland Florida School.  I voted “no” on bringing the bill to the floor because I knew of the collaborate efforts for a more comprehensive bill as did the individual who brought the motion.  I believed the motion was politically motivated to take advantage of the emotions of the public in light of the tragedy, and most importantly because I believe that the public would not be served by voting “yes”.

Our “process” works when our bills are thoroughly vetted through committees where the public can provide comment and where the proposed legislation might be revised in light of those comments and evidence substantiating them.  Often expert testimony is obtained where members are better educated on the issues and how they influence the citizens we are sworn to serve.   When any bill is brought to the floor after going through and passing the committee process of either the house or the senate, the public comment period is closed and no further testimony is allowed.  An issue as important as gun control should not be decided without the input of the citizens whom we as elected officials represent.  I stand behind my vote for the same reason I stand behind all my votes.  I believe they best serve those who entrusted me with this office.

It is the duty of all of us as citizens to involve ourselves in important issues and be as informed as possible.  It is our right to express our opinions and voice our concerns.  And it is the duty of those whom we elect to always protect those rights. We do have representative government in our state and country.  I pray we can keep it.   It is indeed a wonderful thing.

Ralph Massullo, MD is a State Representative in the Florida Legislature representing District 34. He has degrees in Industrial Engineering and Medicine.  He interned in Psychiatry and Medicine and completed a residency and fellowships in Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery.