A Q&A with…
Rep. Bill Hager, District 89, R-Delray Beach
Education: Bachelor’s degree, mathematics, University of Northern Iowa; master’s degree, educational psychology, University of Hawaii; law degree, University of Illinois.
Family: Divorced, two children.
Work: Mostly I do reinsurance arbitration, settling disputes between insurance companies. I also do some expert witness testimony and practice some law.
When and where did you first arrive in Florida? I moved to Florida with my family in 1990 to Boca Raton from Iowa.
First job and what you learned from it: My very first job of consequence was working in the farm fields of Iowa starting at age 10. The town I grew up in, Ashton, had 400 people and sits right in the middle of the cornfield…What I learned was hard, hard work and to be happy with hard work. I learned to save money. I learned to endure. We would be in those farm fields when it was 105 degrees. As we got older, we would be bailing hay. To this day I can remember the big round thermometers. With these eyes, I have seen temperatures of 117 degrees. I learned to revel in hard work and never fear hard work or long hours. Those are lessons that served me well my whole life.
First political job and what you learned from it: My first job out of law school, I was hired as a lawyer for the Republican caucus in the Iowa Legislature. The most astounding thing I learned was how to count. I learned how to count votes. I learned very early that what mattered…is do you have the votes. It seems like a simple proposition but I remember, with all of my formal education and legal background, coming into my first committee meeting. There was a bill up. I read the bill. I knew it was very good public policy and I knew therefore it would pass. Except the vote came and it was 4-3 (against). And people just got up and left. There was no hue and cry. That was my first formal lesson in politics and probably the most enduring lesson, just keep counting votes.
You’re a former insurance regulator. That’s an important issue for you here. The state of Florida owns and operates two insurance mechanisms. One is Citizen’s, which is a front-end, retail insurance company. On the back end, the state of Florida owns and operates a reinsurance company called the CAT fund. The CAT fund is a creature of statute and it sells reinsurance to every homeowners’ insurance company in Florida including Citizen’s. The problem we run into with the CAT fund is it has issued reinsurance policies that in a storm it could not pay claims on. It’s a total disaster for the state of Florida to own and operate a company that we know cannot pay its claims. If the reinsurance companies can’t pay it, the insurance companies themselves collapse. I believe, as somebody who’s spent my life having responsibility for financial solvency, that the state of Florida ought not operate any entity which it knows cannot perform in the manner in which it promised. My bill is very simple. It shrinks the size of this reinsurance company to a point that it can in fact pay its claims.
But won’t that make insurance more expensive? The data shows it would not. Reinsurance rates are coming down in a significant way. The fact is in removing that upper layer, the cost impact would be zero…Based on my experience and knowledge, the impact is going to be zero on homeowners’ rates.
Best political advice you ever received: To listen. The most important lesson or observation is to steadfastly, constantly understand and know and continue to say to yourself that as an elected official you are an employee of the district that voted you into office. It’s important to say that every day. When constituents come in, it’s important to understand they are the boss.…Each of us are simply humble public servants obligated to figure out the public will and do the best we can to carry that out.
What’s the most frustrating thing about Tallahassee? As the former CEO of a large company, I am accustomed to making rapid decisions and having a full panoply of resources imminently available upon execution and moving things with dispatch and without any hesitation or reservation. The process of democracy is not that. I respect that. I’m not hostile about it…There’s a reason why democracy…is much more deliberate. It affects a lot more people. The founding fathers knew that, as opposed to overrunning society with a bunch of rules, they made it difficult for laws to be passed…There is significant value in the careful deliberation.
Best book on politics you ever read: “The Prince,” by Machiavelli. It’s not as cutthroat as a lot of people think. I just identify with the principles.
What do you tell young people about government? I tell them to participate if you can. If you can serve and you want to serve and you’re willing to serve and willing to put up with all the goofiness of public service, you should serve. I also tell them to pay attention to government because it has a significant impact on their lives…If the citizenry doesn’t pay attention to government, you’re going to probably get some government that you don’t like…Much of government is mundane but it is very, very necessary…I say government is important. I believe it’s also important to keep government in check.
What do you see ahead for Florida? If Florida continues to manage itself carefully, the sky’s the limit. This state has the potential to boom, to see economic growth across the next 50 years that right now to many might be unimaginable. What’s important is for the state to continue to keep government in check, continue to keep the budget balanced, continue to keep expenditures low, continue to create opportunity for job creators through low taxes… What will preclude that is if those who ultimately gain control of the state government apparatus turn the state into a welfare state. There are lots of folks around who want to do that…The secret for Florida is whether it can continue to manage itself in a prudent and careful way.
Do you text while you drive? I’ve been known to do so, yes.
Do you own a gun? Yes. I own two guns, a .22 automatic rifle and a 12-gauge pump shotgun. I’m a lifelong hunter. I started out at probably age 10 hunting rabbits and squirrels with my cocker spaniel.
Favorite smart-phone app: LegisApp. That’s awesome. It’s wonderful because you walk into a committee and you say who’s on here. When the session first starts and there are 30 new legislators, you can pull it out and figure out who they are.
What kind of car do you drive? A 2007 Lincoln SUV with 100,000 miles on it. And being a prudent Midwesterner from the prairie, that vehicle when I’m finished with it will have 500,000 miles.
What’s on your iPod? Sweet Home Alabama is probably my favorite. I’m kind of a country/western, Nashville guy.