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The Frontline of Legislative Session/SEPT 2019

 | Published on 9/12/2019

HOT TOPICS 9/11/19

 

What on earth is up with the Florida Legislature?

Take that any way you like, but the focus Wednesday at Hot Topics, the League of Women Voters Orange County’s monthly lunch-and-learn event, was on accomplishments in this year’s session and hopes for the upcoming session.

Participating were Rep. Anna Eskamani (D, District 47), Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D, District 49), Rep. Joy Goff-Marcil (D, District 30) and Sen. David Simmons (R, District 9). Moderator was Nicolette Springer, co-chair of LWVOC’s Juvenile Justice Committee.

The House members, all Democrats, said they usually have to play defense during committee meetings and legislative sessions because Republicans control both the House and Senate and that GOPers in the House consistently squelch their bill proposals, which are sometimes not released from committee for hearings before the whole House – thus not making it on to the Senate, the more deliberative body.

Smith said there were gains in the 2019 Legislature, citing protections for first responders and tweaks to the criminal justice system, as well as increased arts funding ($21.25 million, up from $2.6 million the year before).

Goff-Marcil said some of her priorities for next year’s session, beginning in January, are bills about home rule, the environment, gun violence and protection of public schools.

Both Eskamani and Simmons stressed the maintenance of civility during discussions. “I’m trying to find common ground,” Eskamani said. In fact, Simmons said he will file an assault weapons bill that would ban those arms from those under age 25. The Democrats, who have been the most vocal on assault-weapons bans, seemed hopeful such a bill could be worked on – although Smith advocated looking at everyday gun violence, not just mass murders, and Eskamani said she’d like to see the role of misogyny in gun violence addressed.

On the subject of public schools, charters and vouchers, all four legislators were in favor of laws establishing accountability for charter schools – meaning there should be movement on such bills in the 2020 session. “We need to rein in voucher programs,” Smith said.

Other issues the legislators expected to come up in 2020: prison and sentencing reform, protection of our water resources, Medicaid expansion (Eskamani suggested a constitutional amendment drive may be in the offing) and home rule.

“Home rule is an important value to uphold,” Eskamani said.