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Newbie Rep. Oliva gets initiated by House colleagues

Rep. Jose Oliva, one of the House’s greenest members, got the new-kid treatment from several of his colleagues during a routine committee meeting on Tuesday.

Don’t call it hazing, several said.

Oliva, a Miami Lakes Republican, was pitching HB 1281, which urges Congress to cap federal spending at 20 percent of the national gross domestic product. But members of the Federal Affairs Subcommittee bombarded him with unexpected questions about his preparation.

Rep. Trudi Williams asked if Oliva met with every member of the committee prior to the meeting. Only one person, he said.

"It’s not a very good thing," replied Williams, a Fort Myers Republican. "I suggest you meet with all members of all committees on your bills."

Then Jim Frishe, R-St. Petersburg, took over.

Do you know how much debt the state carries? Frishe asked. Oliva responded that the state’s balanced budget requirements resulted in no deficit spending.

"You mean all those bonds we issue don’t constitute debt?" Frishe retorted.

Oliva then changed his answer, admitting he didn’t know the state’s debt figures.

The committee ultimately voted to temporarily postpone debate on Oliva’s bill, saying several members were absent and they wanted to give the issue a fair debate.

The experience was enough to make the next person on the agenda think twice about airing out his bill before the panel. Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, asked to have his resolution urging Congress to repeal the health care reform act temporarily postponed, too.

After the meeting, committee Chairman Clay Ford said the line of questioning Oliva faced is a rite of passage for freshmen.

"It’s pretty normal; they almost do everybody that way," Ford said.