We are back in Tallahassee for Week 4 of the 2020 Legislative Session! Below you will find your update from Week 3, along with a few upcoming events we invite you to join us for!
Keep in mind that that our Weekly Updates our thorough but will never be all encompassing to what happens during the 2020 Legislative Session. Please consider keeping up to date with us in real time through our social media accounts including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can also watch Committee Meetings and Floor Sessions live on the Florida Channel.
We wanted to take a moment to honor Terry DeCarlo who passed away last week after a courageous fight with cancer. Terry was on the frontlines following the Pulse nightclub shooting, and will be forever remembered for his love, compassion, and commitment to equality.
Team Anna will be volunteering at three upcoming community events. We encourage you to learn more by clicking on their respective graphics below.
Now onto to your Weekly Legislative Session Update —
FIGHTING AGAINST DISCRIMINATION IN FLORIDA’S VOUCHER SCHOOL PROGRAM
We continue to advocate for LGBTQ inclusivity in Florida’s private voucher school program.
Two weeks ago the Orlando Sentinel reported that at least 14 percent of Florida’s nearly 147,000 scholarship students attended private schools last year where homosexuality was condemned or, at a minimum, unwelcome. As stated in the Orlando Sentinel, “The Sentinel found 83 schools that refuse to admit LGBTQ students or could expel them if their sexual orientation or gender identity were discovered. Some also refuse to educate students whose parents are gay or to hire staff who are gay. Another 73 schools call being gay or transgender a biblical sin but do not explain how those views play out in admissions or student discipline decisions.”
We filed legislation back in August 2019 to help address this problem and eliminate LGBTQ discrimination as a predetermination of admission into a tax-credit funded private school. The bill has yet to be given a hearing, and since then more companies have decided to end their contributions into this program, signaling frustration with the voucher system’s inaction on addressing LGBTQ inclusivity for children and their families.
The decision by companies to end their contributions into the tax-credit program has forced leaders in the Department of Education (DOE) to address discrimination concerns. We are continuing dialogue with DOE and Republican colleagues to find a solution that ensures the safety of all students. This week already, we have seen Step Up For Students release a statement that mentions LGBTQ students and are hearing from parents that schools are being contacted to change their policies. Unfortunately it’s been reported that Step Up For Students has removed their annual report from their website, hiding their donor list. As you may already know, the voucher system lacks transparency and this past week my colleagues passed a bill that would lead to even less oversight.
Our efforts to find common ground have not stopped some from attempting to polarize the situation, leading to politicians like Senator Marco Rubio sending a tweet designed to distract everyone from the main goal: protecting all of our kids.
STATE BUDGET BEGINS TO BE RELEASED
The only constitutional duty of the legislature is to pass a budget, and that process has officially begun. The Florida Senate and House released budget proposals last Thursday that are about $1.4 billion apart, leaving our two chambers with less than six weeks to work out the differences. Click here to learn more about the proposed budgets.
In regard to teacher pay: The Senate’s bill that lays out the framework for statewide teacher raises, Senate Bill 62, is up for a hearing on Wednesday in the Appropriations committee. There are some key differences between the House and Senate on how teacher raises should work. The Florida Senate on Thursday also released a proposed $92.8 billion spending plan for 2020–21 that includes a 3% pay raise for state employees and additional money for public school teachers and corrections officers.
SECOND CHANCES FOR CLEMENTE AGUIRRE
Clemente Aguirre was found guilty of murder in the 2004 stabbing deaths of former neighbors Cheryl Williams and Carole Bareis. Aguirre has always professed his innocence, and originally told police he knew nothing about the murders because he was an immigrant from Honduras and feared being deported. But then later in the day he confessed to discovering the bodies and was soon thereafter convicted and sentenced to death in 2006. In 2016 — thanks to a legal team, the Innocence Project, and new evidence — the Florida Supreme Court unanimously overturned the conviction based on new evidence, including DNA testing of several pieces of evidence that implicated another suspect. This session we have filed a claims bill for Aguirre so that he can have a second chance at life.
Keep in mind that several important and bipartisan criminal justice reform related bills will be heard this week. This includes The Tammy Jackson Act (HB 1259) and Urban Core Gun Violence Task Force (HB 201) both by Rep. Jones, as well as Detention of Children (HB 421) by Rep. Alexander, which would prohibit children behind held in adult jails while waiting for their day in court.
Drivers license suspension reform will also be addressed with Fines & Fees (HB 903) by Rep. Donalds. Meanwhile, the Florida Sheriffs Association is actively working to undermine these bipartisan efforts.
WELCOMING EQUALITY FLORIDA TO TALLAHASSEE
We joined LGBTQ advocates last Monday to rally for equality legislation and against a proposed ban on medical treatments for transgender children, calling the push misguided and harmful. You can read more here.
This has been a tough session for LGBTQ equality. Last Tuesday a Florida House committee passed a bill that would partially repeal 20 years of local LGBTQ rights laws. Today another committee heard a bill to jail doctors for providing life-saving care to vulnerable transgender teens (which by the way, is seen to be linked to suicide rates among trans-youth) but after compelling Q&A by lawmakers and powerful personal testimony the bill is dead. Deep gratitude to House District 47 constituents Sally and Asher who came to Tallahassee to testify today, too.
PROGRESS ON THE U-VISA SYSTEM
The Miami Police Department has enacted changes to how it treats immigrant victims of crime in response to an investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. The story found that dozens of law enforcement agencies across the country routinely undermine visa protections for immigrants. Last session we brought up these concerns while debating SB168, and are pleased to see Miami Police Department making changes. We encourage all law enforcement agencies to do the same.
MEETING WITH ADVOCACY GROUPS
Last week we had over 40 meetings with different advocacy organizations and constituents. This included AARP, constructions groups, engineers, youth organizations, FFA, Central Florida Association of Women Lawyers, YMCA Youth in Government, foster care advocacy groups, AMI, and so much more! We also met with anti-abortion activists, and though we might not agree on everything we were able to find common ground on the importance of supporting pre-natal and post-natal care. I even had the chance to connect with my alma mater, University High School! Go Cougars!
SUPPORTING FLORIDA’S NATIONAL GUARD
Last week we met with Maj. Gen. James O. Eifert and his team to talk about funding needs for the Florida National Guard. We are lucky to have an armory for the National Guard in HD47, and are committed to making sure our soldiers are well supported by the state when they are home.
DEFENDING HOME RULE
We continue to stand as proud advocates for local control and home rule, this time questioning and debating HB305 — legislation that would preempt local governments from providing their own protections for employment. You can watch my full debate against this bill here.
EARNED INCOME TAX CREDIT FOR WORKING FAMILIES
Last week stood in solidarity with our Democratic colleagues and advocates in support of two bills: one focused on Earned Income Tax Credit and the second on Paid Family Leave. It’s critically important that Florida focus on legislation that will make life easier for working families, and we will always do our part to lift up these bills.
INTERFAITH COALITION FOR REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH & JUSTICE BREAKFAST
Last week a legislative prayer breakfast was hosted by the Interfaith Coalition for Reproductive Health and Justice focused on lifting up faith voices who support reproductive rights and abortion access. The breakfast featured a handful of lawmakers and a room full of advocates.
Unfortunately abortion rights in Florida are at risk and tomorrow the Florida Senate will vote on SB 404, the forced parental consent bill. Click here to listen to my live interview with NPR’s Florida Roundup to learn more about this bill and the hilden agenda by those who oppose abortion to use SB404 as a vehicle towards banning abortion in the state.
SUPPORTING & CONNECTING WITH OUR BREWERIES
It was wonderful to meet with breweries from House District 47 in Tallahassee and to connect with our Mainstreet Orlando leaders too! We love our small businesses, and are committed to building an economy that supports you and your growth!
CHILDREN’S DAY AT THE CAPITOL
This week was Children’s Day at the Capitol and many youth-focused groups traveled to the Capitol. That included foster-youth advocacy organizations, early-ed experts, and Pace Center for Girls!
AFFORDABLE HOUSING RALLY
We continue to maintain our fierce advocacy for affordable housing and are focused on protecting the affordable housing trust funds, lifting up the needs of renters, and supporting are local governments in their efforts to diversify the supply of affordable housing options. We also joined advocates for a press conference lifting up all of these issues and more.
Unfortunately the Florida House’s first draft budget raids $240 million from the affordable housing trust funds, though the Senate’s draft budget does keep the trust fund fully in tact.
PROTECTING OUR WATER
Florida’s Chief Economist Amy Baker warned state leaders that water shortages are coming unless action is taken to excel the state’s water quality restoration goals. Meanwhile, the South Florida Water Management District has approved a plan to buy about 20,000 acres in the Everglades, a deal that would block exploratory oil drilling on part of the property. We continue to monitor Nestle requesting to increase their water pumping permit in Ginnie Springs, knowing that a bill to set a pumping fee for water was temporarily postponed in the Senate.
UPDATE ON THE FLORIDA COALITION AGAINST DOMESTIC VIOLENCE (FCADV)
Last week we were pleased to see GOP leadership of the Florida House take our concerns of funding at FCADV seriously, leading to an investigative hearing at the Public, Integrity, & Ethics Committee. Bipartisanship is possible, and we’re proud to be a facilitator of it.
NATIONAL GUN VIOLENCE SURVIVORS WEEK
This week we honor the second National Gun Violence Survivors Week, a week focused on sharing and amplifying the stories of gun violence survivors who live with the impact of gun violence every day of the year. Early February marks the approximate time that gun deaths in the United States surpass the number of gun deaths experienced by our peer countries in an entire calendar year. Tragically, America’s gun death rate is 11 times greater than that of our peer countries. We continue to support common sense gun safety legislation and wanted to make sure you saw that the Ban Assault Weapons Now (BAWN) citizen-led ballot amendment campaign will be now focused on collecting enough petitions by 2022 versus 2020.
Meanwhile, the legislator continues to make citizen-led ballot amendments much more difficult. They did the same last legislative session too, and you can read more here.
EVENTS BACK IN HOUSE DISTRICT 47
We had a busy weekend back in HD47! While I was in Tallahassee Lauren from our team attended Rollins College’s inaugural State of the College address. Once I was back home, I met with a local foster youth advocate in our district, stopped by the Central Florida Muslim Business Expo, and spent time with volunteers in Downtown Orlando feeding and clothing the homeless. I also attended and spoke at Eatonville’s annual Zora! festival, and spent time with Limbitless at UCF!
That’s your weekly update for now! Thank you for trusting me to serve you in the Florida House!
Representative Anna V. Eskamani