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Former Senator John Ostalkiewicz Dead at Age 57

Former state Sen. John Ostalkiewicz, a millionaire diamond importer known for his bitter legislative battles with the state’s social services agency, has died at age 57.

Ostalkiewicz, who represented the Orlando area from 1994-1998, suffered from kidney cancer, according to Cheryl Moore, his former aide. Funeral arrangements are pending.

“He was a wonderful human being and a faithful Christian, so I know he’s at peace and surrounded by love,” said Moore, who also served under former House Speaker Tom Feeney.

Ostalkiewicz left the Senate to run unsuccessfully for Orange County mayor, losing to Mel Martinez, despite pouring more than $1 million of his own money into the campaign. He was succeeded in the Senate by former Sen. Daniel Webster, R-Winter Garden, who ran for the open seat after completing his term as House Speaker.

While in the Senate, Ostalkiewicz was a fierce critic of the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, the predecessor of the current Department of Children and Families.

Ostalkiewicz pushed “family bill of rights” legislation that would have barred child-abuse investigators from removing children from a home without a court order confirming “imminent danger.”

The measure, derided by many child advocates and the administration of then-Gov. Lawton Chiles, also would have made investigators liable for felony charges if they inappropriately took children into custody.

Ostalkiewicz said he got involved in his battles with HRS when an employee had a child removed from home by the agency over allegations of abuse.

“He was a wonderful person,” Bill Stephens, executive director of the Christian Coalition of Florida, told the News Service on Wednesday. “He did some instrumental things in the Senate, especially on social conservative issues. He will be missed in Florida.”

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