WASHINGTON, D.C. -- State lawmakers -- including two from Tampa -- joined President Barack Obama to talk Wednesday about and push for parts of the Democratic agenda that face long odds in Congress but could get some traction in statehouses.
State Sen. Arthenia Joyner, a Democrat from Tampa who represents parts of Hillsborough, Manatee and Pinellas counties, was among the group of about 50 Democratic state lawmakers who met with the president. She joined a group of about a dozen of the participants outside the White House to talk about the event, which doubled as a pep talk and strategy session to push for issues on the president's economic agenda.
Also from Florida at the event was state Rep. Janet Cruz of Tampa.
The thrust of the event was to recognize the "need to en
hance the middle class -- and to make sure that there's a decent quality of life for all of our people," said Joyner, who is the state Senate minority leader.
She noted efforts in Florida such as ones to boost the minimum wage.
The key issues being pushed by the lawmakers and the president: Raising the minimum wage; ensuring paid sick leave for workers, as well as paid family medical leave; enhancing college affordability; and reforming the criminal justice system.
"We are not going to sit on the sidelines and let inaction be our answer," said Assemblyman Michael Blake of New York. "That's the reason why we are here today."
In his pep talk to the lawmakers, Obama acknowledged things will be tough in Washington -- making their jobs that much more important.
"Given that, at least for the next year, year and a half, there's not going to be the kind of action on a wide range of issues that we'd like to see coming out of Capitol Hill, that puts more of a burden -- but also a greater opportunity -- on state legislatures all across the country," the president said. "Because you can act when Washington won't."
He noted the Republican-led Congress hasn't raised America's minimum wage "but 17 states did it on their own -- and that boosted wages for 7 million workers."
"So you are to be congratulated for that," he said. "That's your work. So over the last few years, states like yours have gotten a lot done. And I hope you're going to head back home ready to get even more done."