NEW TAMPA Mark Danish is no longer a state legislator in training.
The New Tampa Democrat completed his first legislative session last week with a wealth of knowledge and new relationships to help him work with Democrats and Republicans to get things done for his constituents.
“I think I had a good session,” said Danish, a seventh-grade teacher at Benito Middle School. “There were surprises, but I was prepared for the session and as it went on I gained more knowledge of how everything works. I got more involved.”
Danish was elected in November to represent newly drawn House District 63, which encompasses Lutz, New Tampa and parts of Carrollwood, Northdale, North Tampa, Thonotosassa and the University Area
Danish was pleased with some legislation that passed but disappointed other bills failed, especially one designed to provide federal funds available under the Affordable Care Act to expand Medicaid.
If approved, the bill would have provided health coverage to many of the state’s neediest residents, he said.
“I saw it coming four weeks ago,” Danish said. “Everyone could see the writing on the wall that nothing was going to get accomplished on that.”
Danish, an Arbor Greene resident, counted the teacher pay raises and increased funding for education and the Everglades as successes. He fought for and got increased funding for the University of South Florida.
“I was determined to make sure the Florida Retirement System plan would remain the same, and it ended up holding,” Danish said.
He supported efforts to defeat the trigger bill, which would have allowed charter schools to take ownership of some failing public schools. “I stood strong,” Danish said.
Danish backed a bill to create a vocational education degree at community colleges, which passed, he said.
“We are redoing how education will function over the next few years,” he said. “It’s a major shift to help kids, who are not going to college, get good jobs.”
Danish, who took a leave of absence from teaching to focus on his legislative duties, was back in his classroom Monday morning.
“I spent a couple of minutes talking about my experiences,” said Danish, who was one of three Hillsborough County freshmen among 160 House and Senate members. “The seventh-graders have to take civics, so I told them about (the legislative session) then I went back to my lesson on genetics.”
Danish also was disappointed most of his bills, which he said were aimed at improving the lives of Hillsborough County residents, did not passed. He now is determined to see them win approval next year.
He sponsored a bill that mimicked a Hillsborough County ordinance, which allows a disabled motorist to ask for assistance pumping gas at a gas station that has two or more employees on duty.
He pushed a bill to create a homeowner's bill of rights and another that would have required companies to list potentially harmful chemicals to protect children and pregnant women.
Danish sponsored a fireworks bill, championing an idea created by an area boy to clean up language about using fireworks for agricultural purposes.
He was assigned to serve on the House education and economic affairs committees and two appropriation subcommittees -- government operations and the agriculture and natural resources subcommittees.
At the end of the session, Danish was selected to participate on the budget conference committee to negotiate the final budget. He was assigned to resolve the judiciary budget.
But the session wasn’t all about work. Danish met his idol, former governor and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham.
Just as the session was winding down, former Tampa City Council and state House member Shawn Harrison filed for a rematch against Danish for the seat representing House District 63.
“I’m not fazed by that,” Danish said this week. “I have got things to do, and I am going to keep doing what I’m doing, taking care of my district and USF.
“I wanted to see no tuition increase for USF. It ended up with a 3 percent increase, but I fought against it tooth and nail.”