by Teresa Jenkins, Charlotte County Democrats Vice Chair and Legislative Committe Chair
The 2019 legislative session thankfully has ended. Rep Jose Oliva, the current speaker of the Florida House, got a lot of what he wanted.
For years he said he would support the state’s right to preempt towns from making their own laws as a way to stop local governments from, in his own mind anyway, improperly interfering with business or the economy. And Wow was he successful.
With the help of Mike Grant, he pitched a bunch of preemption laws to hamper local towns’ rights to regulate everything from plastic straws (which the governor vetoed) all the way to job responsibilities, work hours, and employee benefits.
Basically, Florida is falling in line with much of the country to try and stop left-leaning towns and cities from governing themselves. The bills exposed the legislature’s small government platform as a big fat lie.
How so? First by preventing cities and towns from enacting their own gun-control legislation and setting their own minimum wage. City or county commissioners can be put in jail for even attempting to pass firearm ordinances that the NRA finds offensive.
Most notably, Florida passed a law forcing each town to cooperate with ICE fulfilling Gov. DeSantis’ central campaign promise – to deport more immigrants. The bill’s sponsor, Joe Gruters, had ties to right-wing extremists. Expect an increase in racial profiling, and diverting local law enforcement resources from safeguarding our communities. The bill will likely cost taxpayers millions of dollars, not to mention the trauma it will cause immigrant families.
Another egregious piece of legislation that passed and was signed into law put guns in schools by allowing teachers to be armed in the classroom giving a nod to the gun lobby and the NRA.
Other egregious bills passed this legislative session:
- Took money away from our public schools and gave it to charter schools and their owners. It requires school districts, such as Charlotte County, to share local referendum money with charter schools. Also the $158 million passed for school maintenance only applies to charter schools, not public schools.
- Gut Amendment 4, despite 65% of Floridians voting in favor of restoring the right to vote to 1.4 million returning citizens–Created a Poll Tax that would require fees, fines, and restitution paid for before restoring the right to vote
- Blocked local solutions to the housing crisis by limiting our counties and cities from incentivizing the development of affordable housing
- Made it harder for citizen lead initiatives to make it on the ballot by placing unnecessary restrictions on petition gathers and the printing of petitions
- Made it even harder for students of color to apply to the Bright Futures Scholarship
- Expanded highways, instead of investing in public transportation, causing irreversible damage to our environment.
Fortunately these bills did not pass:
Parental consent for minors to get an abortion; and raising the threshold to pass a constitutional amendment from 60 percent to two-thirds.