Time to demand more from Fla. lawmakers
Published: Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 8, 2012 14:02
On Jan. 10, as many of us prepared for our first days of the spring semester, our lawmakers began their first day of the 2012 Florida legislative session. You might remember the horrors of last year's session: major budget cuts to public schools, voter suppression via HB 1355, environmental deregulation and eight new constitutional amendments that only add more confusion to our ballots and to the world of politics.
Near the end of last year's session, Speaker of the House Dean Cannon declared that 2012 would be different. Instead of focusing on social issues that are typically voted along party lines, the top three issues for Florida would be job creation, a new budget with no tax increases and redistricting.
These are certainly important issues for our legislature to focus on, and now that it's been about one month into the session, it is time to check in with our legislators and see how they're doing. Let's see if Cannon has maintained his focus with a sample of some of our latest bills that received approval from their respective committees.
First we have HB 1327, titled the "Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination and Equal Opportunity for Life Act" — a mouthful, I know. This bill is designed to ban abortions that are based upon racial and gender selection. Sponsors of the bill, Republican Scott Plakon in the House and Democrat Gary Siplin in the Senate, argue that it is about discrimination, not abortion, according to the Associated Press. Despite their intended purposes, it's obvious that this is just another measure by our legislature to distract the public and themselves from issues that are actually pertinent.
Another bill to hit the legislature revolves around praying in public schools. Sponsored once again by Siplin, SB 98 passed the Senate last week by a 31-8 margin, and according to a legislative summary from the Senate Judiciary Committee, it would allow "student volunteers to deliver inspiration messages, including but not limited to, prayers of invocation or benediction." In essence, it's a bill that allows praying at mandatory public school events as long as adults aren't the ones doing it. Despite the fact that there are about five Supreme Court cases that would question the constitutionality of this bill, according to the New Times Broward-Palm Beach, lawmakers in the state Senate still passed it.
I'm not here to agree or disagree with these bills. I'm here to bring attention to the fact that our legislature lacks focus. We did not vote for these lawmakers to take a two-month vacation in Tallahassee. They are our representatives and should be providing us with real solutions to the problems that we face every day. These include issues like staggering unemployment rates, foreclosed homes and the increasing cost of tuition.
Jan. 10 was the first day of session, but in retrospect, it seems like the last day of sanity for Floridians. On that brisk Tuesday in January, I spent my afternoon at an Awake the State rally. A non-partisan, grassroots movement in Florida, Awake the State intends to inspire everyday Floridians to demand more from their lawmakers. From this point forward, I intend to awake this state and make our lawmakers realize that Florida deserves better. We need sound legislation centered on those top three issues that Cannon stressed last year. I want jobs, a working budget and fair districts. I certainly hope you do, too.