By Gabriella Hoffman for Townhall
Congressman Byron Donalds (R-FL) is determined to make a lasting impact in the House of Representatives.
The freshman lawmaker, who represents Florida’s 19th Congressional District, recently made waves delivering his first House floor speech.
Unsurprisingly, the newcomer is also doing his part to shape the GOP’s future—leading by example in Washington.
During the 2020 election, Donalds won a crowded primary to succeed outgoing Congressman Francis Rooney (R-FL). In November, he handily defeated his Democrat challenger 61.3% to 38.7%.
With private sector experience and two terms in the Florida House of Representatives under his belt, Rep. Donalds’ perspective will be welcomed. His conservative principles will similarly guide his votes—especially on the House Budget, Small Business, and Oversight Committees.
I recently chatted with the new congressman about navigating the inner workings of Congress, his top legislative priorities, and why creative disruption is inevitable in politics.
A Conservative Prioritizing Florida’s Water Quality Issues
Rep. Donalds may be a Florida transplant but love for his adopted home state is visibly palpable.
His Southwestern Florida district—comprising Fort Myers, Naples, and Marco Island—is home. After all, FL-19 is “very conservative.” And he intends to keep it that way.
His guiding principles are “always putting the Constitution first” and to “limit government, its size and its scope.”
Water quality issues plaguing his district, particularly from Lake Okeechobee discharges, also occupy his mind.
“Obviously, poor water quality is going to affect us in so many ways,” Donalds said.
“The issue we’re having— and which has really happened—is that, you know, we still have cattle farming—a lot of farming— around the lake and around the rivers going into the lake, feeding into the lake,” he explained.
However, he cautioned against pinning the blame exclusively on ranchers and farmers.
“The other issue is that nobody ever conceived that 15 million people would live south of I-4,” he added. “What’s required is actually following the CERP [Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan] plan.”
CERP was authorized by Congress in 2000 to “restore, preserve, and protect the south Florida ecosystem while providing for other water-related needs of the region, including water supply and flood protection” across a 35-year timeline.
The congressman thinks Congress and the Florida government bear some responsibility for past implementation failure but applauded Rick Scott, now a U.S. Senator, for recognizing the problem and current Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) for actively committing to Everglades restoration.
Rep. Donalds also praised former President Donald Trump’s inclusion of “$250 million for South Florida Ecosystem Restoration (SFER)” in his Fiscal Year 2021 budget.
“President Trump was the first president who actually took the Everglades system seriously and actually funded it,” he noted.
“Now the issue is just continuing the funding. There’s not a lot of magic bullets when it comes to water quality. It’s making sure that we have the right projects in place. That we do the work. That we do it timely so that we can have clean water in all parts of Florida—whether it’s clean saltwater here on the coastline or clean freshwater in the Okeechobee Flow-Way system and down into the Everglades.”
Creative Disruption in Politics
I was curious to hear the congressman’s thoughts on how creative disruption is shaping American politics.
He elaborated why it’s a welcome change in government.
“I think politics, in general, has been hit with disruptors. And I think it’s for the better. I don’t think it’s for the worse,” Donalds explained.
“The first real disrupter in politics actually was Barack Obama. He was a disrupter. Going back to 2007, it was not his time to run for president. It was Hillary Clinton’s time, and everybody was just supposed to stand aside and coronate her. So he was a disrupter. [President] Donald Trump was a disrupter.”
Florida: A Blueprint for the Future
I asked about his adopted home state, Florida, being a beacon of freedom today.
“Florida, right now, we’re what California used to be,” Donalds said of his state’s rising profile.
“They used to say that, you know, California was the future, [that] the country will go the way of California. Actually, I think the country is going to go the way of Florida now.”
“We’ve had sustained leadership that wants to do one very important thing, and that just leaves people alone and let them organize themselves.”
Beyond his district and key priorities, Rep. Byron Donalds plans to back legislation supporting term limits, simplifying the tax code, boosting financial technology, reforming immigration, and other conservative agenda items.
Without a doubt, his star is rising. And both Republicans and Democrats ought to pay attention.
Town Hall readers interested in following Rep. Donalds can bookmark his Congressional website and follow him on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Watch my full conversation with him on YouTube and hear him on my podcast.