‘It’s a whirlwind. There’s so much to learn and so much to do.’

The newest House member, Orlando Democratic Rep. Tom Keen, was formally sworn in Thursday afternoon, two days after winning a Special Election for the House District 35 seat.

Keen took his first votes on the floor and later in the evening received his committee assignments from House Speaker Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican.

One of them aligns with a major plank of his campaign — reducing insurance premiums for homeowners — as he’s landed on the Insurance & Banking Subcommittee. The other three panels he’s on are the Infrastructure Strategies Committee, the Agriculture Conservation & Resiliency Subcommittee and the Postsecondary Education & Workforce Subcommittee.

“It’s a whirlwind. There’s so much to learn and so much to do. … The first thing is I need to learn the rules and the process and procedures,” Keen told reporters shortly before the swearing in ceremony. “Obviously I want to bring the values that I ran on, reproductive freedom and keeping the property insurance crisis in check.”

Keen, 67, defeated Republican Erika Booth by nearly 600 votes, and replaces former Rep. Fred Hawkins, who resigned to become the President at South Florida State College.

His victory was a boost for the Florida Democratic Party, which gained its 36th member of the House. But Republicans maintain a supermajority in the chamber.

Keen’s win also came after the bill filing deadline for the 60-day Regular Session, which began Jan. 9. Although Keen won’t be able to file his own bills, he’ll be able to file amendments and, as House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell noted, he can be effective in other ways as well.

“He’s got his voice, right?” Driskell said. “He represents a district of 180,000 people just like the rest of us and it is important for that community to have its voice heard in Tallahassee and we heard them loud and clear that they’re tired of the culture wars and they want to fix this property insurance crisis.”

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