From the Left-The Daily Commercial: Elections have consequences
Nancy Hurlbert Guest Columnist
Now that the 2022 legislative session is over (thank goodness!), it is time to reflect on the harm the Republican-led legislature continues to do in their 30-year reign in Tallahassee.
Just when you think it can get no worse, it does. Realizing that the Republicans have a supermajority in both chambers (78:41 Senate and 24:15 House), it is quite a challenge for our elected Democrats to ward off the bad bills or to even get committee hearings for good bills.
Some of the worst bills passed (and likely to be signed into law by the governor) include regressive prison reform. We hear everyday how overcrowded our prisons are and how juveniles are being warehoused. Yet, the legislature saw fit to increase current sentencing guidelines by 10 to 15 years for simply crossing county lines to evade law enforcement (HB6037).
Our sunshine state should be the national leader in solar energy use, yet Florida Power & Light wrote a bill (HB741) for Republican legislators to push through that takes away the financial incentives to purchase solar panels. Thousands of solar jobs will be lost in our “sunshine state” and fewer people will be inclined to purchase solar panels and reduce our dependence on oil.
In past sessions we always had “an elephant (no pun intended) in the room;” this year there were three. First, the Stop WOKE (Wrongs On Our Kids & Employees – HB7) bill that essentially prohibits teachers and employers from teaching anything that may make a student or employee feel “uncomfortable.” I remember feeling “uncomfortable” seeing photos of the Nazi death camps, but I learned something. I felt “uncomfortable” reading about slave ships and slave auctions, but that is our history and I learned something. Not teaching our past puts us at risk of repeating history.
Secondly, in a state where the governor bragged about a perfect election in 2020, the Republican legislators, for the second year in a row, believed it necessary to further make it difficult for you and me to vote (SB524). Did you know we no longer have “drop boxes” at our early voting sites? We now have “secure intake stations.”
Before we leave the subject of elections, HB921 Limitations on Political Contributions prohibits contributions from out of state of more than $3,000 for constitutional amendments proposed by the voters (i.e., citizen initiatives). Consider the restoration of voting rights for former felons, classroom size and the $15 minimum wage. All needed considerable “outside” support to get these initiatives on the ballot. No more. However, the governor, cabinet and legislators can receive — and have received — thousands of dollars from out of state. Talk about hypocrites!
Thirdly, not to be outdone by Mississippi, Republicans chose to ignore the U.S. Constitution (which allows abortions up to 24 weeks) and banned abortions after 15 weeks with no exception for rape, incest or human trafficking (HB5). We are now at the mercy of the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on Mississippi’s 15-week ban. Women continue to be treated as children by this Republican-led legislature, unable to make their own body decisions.
And speaking of body decisions, I cannot add more than both local and national news has said about the “Don’t Say Gay” bill (HB1557). Republicans sure can twist terminology, Parental Rights in Education, to mislabel a very mean and dangerous bill.
And then there is the mother of all preemption bills, Local Business Protection Act (SB620). Where were our county and municipal elected officials when this bill was being heard? This bill would empower business owners to sue cities and counties for passing ordinances that cause them financial losses (think banning plastic straws, puppy mills, conversion therapy, land development). Our tax dollars will be used to fight off capricious lawsuits. Once again, the Republicans in the legislature put business interests (and their campaign funders) ahead of the people and local government rule.
Locally, we saw the dissolution of our independent, elected Lake County Water Authority (HB1105) for an appointed-member district by the county commission. This bill was filed by our own Rep. Truenow, who just happens to be a sod farmer (needing lots of water). Additionally, Truenow was the sponsor of a bill that eliminated all counties’ soil and water conservation districts; fortunately, the senate bill that passed retained the districts but changed who could be district board members to only agricultural landowners in the state and their employees. This is not the progression of a government “by the people and for the people.”
The session was not all bad. Democrats filed hundreds of bills, most of which never had a hearing. Good bills that passed addressed human trafficking, veterans’ health and tenant safety. Miya’s Law (Lodging Standards SB898) passed unanimously in the house on the day before session ending, having passed the senate the week before. This bill will make tenants a little bit safer from predatory apartment building employees by requiring background checks and a 24-hour entry notice.
Voters — there is only one way to bring sanity back to Tallahassee. In November, vote for candidates who have your interests at heart — candidates who are not puppets for big business or the governor. Elections have consequences!
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