Cannon was drawn to politics early in life

first_img July 1, 2006 Regular News Cannon was drawn to politics early in life Cannon was drawn to politics early in life Jan Pudlow Senior Editor When Dean Cannon was just a kid growing up in Lakeland, the YMCA’s youth legislator program gave him his first taste of politics. Who knew then that when he grew up he’d be invited to the full banquet of power and influence, in line to serve as Florida’s speaker of the House in 2010?It’s as though he’s been preparing for that honor since he was a teenager.Once in college at the University of Florida, Cannon was a student lobbyist, making his opinions known on higher education issues like tuition rates. Next, he became a student senator. While in law school, he became the UF student government president.“It was exciting to begin to appreciate how government affects our daily lives,” Cannon said. “At the same time I was getting my legal training, I was beginning to understand the different roles of the three branches of government. I studied Florida constitutional law and learned more about the structure of government, and it continued to fuel my interest in government.”Now, he’s a 37-year-old lawyer-legislator from Winter Park, looking forward to becoming speaker of the House in four years — if the GOP maintains its majority — after Rep. Marco Rubio, R-Miami, serves 2006-07, and Rep. Ray Sansom, R-Fort Walton Beach, takes the helm of the House in 2008-09.This trio of up-and-coming Republican leaders is engaging in what they call “bold public policy” of listening to innovative ideas from the people of Florida and holding government accountable for results.The night before he talked to the News, Cannon was in Ocala at an “idea raiser,” where he listened to people’s ideas for a better Florida.“It’s exhilarating as a constitutional law student,” Cannon said. “It’s a dynamic and vigorous exercise in democracy.”He invites lawyers to go to the Web site — www.100ideas.org — and share innovative ideas for Florida’s future.“My colleagues in the Bar, if you have ideas and innovative thoughts to improve the criminal justice system or adoptions or family law or civil litigation, we want to hear from you,” Cannon said. “You can post your own idea on the Web and receive reviews and comments. It stimulates a town hall meeting in an electronic discourse.”So far, they have received more than 700 ideas, “ranging from the profound to the somewhat odd: everything from ways to increase local controls of public education dollars to ways to deliver primary health care at the local level. There are wild ideas out there, too. People who want to increase nude beaches.“Part of the goal of the movement,” Cannon said, “is to get people to offer input in areas they have special expertise.”He’s glad he built his legal expertise before becoming a legislator. Since 1995, he’s been a lawyer at GrayRobinson in Orlando, where he practices land use, property rights, and local government law, and he is a member of the Bar’s Environmental and Law Use Law Section. He has lectured on such topics as resolving land use disputes, environmental permitting, and the “environmental and socio-political aspects of landfill siting and regulation.”Practicing as a lawyer for 11 years before he became an elected official in 2004, Cannon said, helped him appreciate the same things his constituents are concerned about: the cost of health insurance, earning a living, and supporting a family.Being a lawyer helps him in his job at the legislature, where he serves on the Civil Justice Committee, Health Care Appropriations Committee, Insurance Committee, Select Committee to Protect Private Property Rights, Transportation Committee, and the Water & Natural Resources Committee.“It’s extra invigorating when you realize the interplay between the statutes enacted by the legislature that are interpreted by the judiciary, and then carried out by the executive branch. It makes you appreciate the finer points. It’s like flying an airplane instead of just reading a book about how a plane works,” said Cannon, who, by the way, is a licensed private pilot.“I believe it makes me more thoughtful, because I have done everything from land use cases, to appearing in court, to adoption cases. I see the relationship between statutory law enacted by representatives and then how it works on the ground in the real lives of Floridians.”Another benefit of his training as a lawyer, Cannon said, is he has learned “how to disagree respectfully, treating people with dignity and respect, even as adversaries.”That attribute came in handy during the debate on HB 145, as co-sponsor of the controversial bill that deleted exceptions to a requirement for liability percentage of fault instead of joint and several liability in damages in civil actions.“I believe that the most fair and equitable way for us to allocate fault as apportioned by the finder of facts. That allocation by juries of people’s peers ought to stand. If someone is 2 percent negligent, they ought to be responsible for 2 percent,” Cannon said. “People had strong feelings on both sides, and that is part of a healthy democracy.. . . I certainly respect people who disagreed with that decision.. . . I have been proud of those in The Florida Bar who lobby different perspectives, to advise and advocate. As long as the advocacy is done in an admirable and zealous fashion, I respect that, regardless of the position.”Cannon, a Baptist, sponsored legislation creating the Florida Faith-based and Community-based Advisory Council within the Executive Office of the Governor (HB 599). His training in constitutional law, he said, made sure to protect the separation of church and state in drafting the legislation.“Essentially, it is to function as a source of information protected by the First Amendment,” Cannon said. “But it is prohibited from establishing religion. No one could identify anything that violated the anti-establishment clause of the state and federal constitutions.”As he looks to critical issues of the future, Cannon lists the “economic impact of the class size amendment, continuing increases in the costs of Medicaid, and the state’s infrastructure of roads, airports, and seaports.”He is married to Ellen Friedley, and they have two children, Dean III and Katherine.“The law is a profession that can do so much good, professionally and privately,” Cannon said. “Whether volunteering time through the Guardian ad Litem Program or running for political office, we can have a great and positive impact on the state. I encourage lawyers to do that.”last_img

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