Honorable Betty Reed
Washington, March 13, 2019
Madam Speaker, I rise today to honor beloved community leader, Florida State Representative Betty Reed. She was raised in Thomasville, Georgia, in a close-knit family of hardworking sharecroppers and with 12 other siblings. Representative Reed and her husband, James, moved to Tampa after he was discharged from the military to raise a family of their own.
Representative Reed was an active parent while her children attended school, and her involvement grew over time in the Parent Teacher Student Association, then the Hillsborough County Council of PTSA and all the way to the Florida State PTA.
As her children became older, she was prompted to complete her own high school diploma by attending night and weekend classes. Her pursuits only grew over time: She earned an associate’s degree from Hillsborough Community College, then her bachelor’s degree in behavioral science from National Louis University.
Representative Reed’s commitment to access to education grew as a financial aid assistant for Education America (which eventually became Remington College) and then as its director of financial aid. All the while, she was active in her own community, becoming president of the Lucy Dell Civic Association. But advocating for her community didn’t stop there. She was elected as a Florida State Representative for the 59th District, a seat she held until she was elected to represent the 61th District in 2012.
During her tenure as a Florida State Representative, she passed meaningful legislation, including the Black Health Practice Initiative (BIHPI, pronounced “Bippy”), which passed both chambers of the Florida Legislature without a single dissenting vote. With stark disparities between the infant mortality rates of different races – in some areas, the rate of black infant mortality was more than four times the rate for whites – the legislation funded state grants to local Healthy Start coalitions that served counties with significant disparities: Hillsborough, Gadsden, Palm Beach, Orange, Broward, Duval, Putnam and Miami-Dade. The University of South Florida and Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University were selected to provide technical assistance and scientific guidance. BIHPI produced positive outcomes and was particularly meaningful due to the relationships built in communities with the greatest needs. She also championed and helped to secure state funding to help open numerous Tampa Family Health Centers and expand the robust safety net of comprehensive health services to medically underserved communities. Representative Reed passed legislation to end shackling incarcerated pregnant women during labor, delivery as well as postpartum, and legislation to provide additional funds to combat homelessness throughout the state of Florida. In her final two years, she served as the Democratic Ranking member of the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee.
Representative Reed is a compassionate leader, who immersed herself in the challenges of her neighbors, and that allowed her to serve as a strong advocate. Madam Speaker, on behalf of a grateful Tampa Bay community, I am proud to recognize Representative Betty Reed for her drive for meaningful progress on behalf of our children, students, women, families and communities across the State of Florida.