Pay attention to oppressive Florida legislative proposals, advocates say

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Advocacy groups recently met in Miami-Dade County to denounce what they say are several oppressive Florida legislative proposals that are in the works.

Some of the bills deal with protests, public education, and the election process. There is also an idea that advocates said violates the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community.

CRIMINAL LAW: PROTEST

A Florida legislative proposal would make it easier to criminalize protesters and prevent civil litigation if a protester is a victim of police brutality. This photo shows Black Lives Matter protesters on Interstate 95 last year in Miami. (Copyright 2020 by WPLG Local10.com - All rights reserved.)

Melba Pearson, an attorney with Florida International University’s Center for the Administration of Justice, said people need to pay attention to what the Florida Legislature is doing.

“What they are doing to us is not what Democracy looks like,” Pearson said. “Dissent my friends; dissent is patriotic!”

Florida Senate Bill 484 and Florida House Bill 1 are framed to “combat” public disorder, but some attorneys fear that the proposed law is designed to criminalize minorities who meet to protest against injustice.

The proposed bills increase penalties for offenses committed during a riot, prohibits “cyber intimidation” by publication, and “mob intimidation.” It also limits civil litigation if a victim of police brutality “participated in a riot or unlawful assembly.”

If the proposed bill passes, an accused could be denied bond until their first appearance in court, even on the newly created misdemeanors.

LGBTQ CIVIL RIGHTS

FILE PHOTO: A Florida legislative proposal could make life difficult for transgender girls who want to play sports in school. (Getty Images)

Orlando Gonzalez, the executive director of SAVE LGBT, is most worried about Florida House Bill 1475 and Florida Senate Bill 2012, which both discriminate against transgender girls.

“These are fear-mongering bills in the Florida legislature that are seeking to ban transgender youth from participating in sports that match their gender identity,” Gonzalez said.

PUBLIC EDUCATION

FILE PHOTO: Broward superintendent Robert Runcie said he is concerned about a Florida legislative proposal that would cut funding for public education.

Karla Hernandez-Mats, the president of United Teachers of Dade, said she is worried about the infringement on teacher’s rights and how legislators can make it difficult to have representation.

“We have lawmakers in Tallahassee right now that are trying to pass Jim Crow laws,” Hernandez-Mats said.

Florida Senate Bill 48 creates publicly funded educational savings accounts to help families pay for tuition at private schools. Critics say it could end up sending public funds to religious schools. It’s a bill that has school superintendents worried. If it passes, Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie said the district stands to lose about two-thirds of state funding over the next five years.

Florida Senate Bill 86 would limit students’ access to the Florida Bright Futures scholarship, a merit-based program, to a specific list of degrees.

Florida Senate Bill 84 voids the state’s pension plan for a privatized 401(k) retirement plan.

LIMITING VOTERS

Florida Republicans are pushing a bill to make it harder to vote by mail in Florida.

Florida Senate Bill 90 limits vote-by-mail applications to one election cycle and eliminates drop-off boxes. Christina White, Miami-Dade County’s elections supervisor, has said the measures in this bill are costly and unnecessary.

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