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The Florida Senate

Minority Office — Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 2, 2021

CONTACT: Michelle DeMarco, 850.487.5833


Senate Democratic Leader Gary Farmer Responds to State of the State

Tallahassee —
  • Good afternoon. I’m Gary Farmer, the leader of the Senate Democratic Caucus.
  • The State of the State is an annual ritual, an event in which the governor gets to present to the people of Florida his own self-graded report card.
  • And he’s obviously going to point out just the things he wants you to hear.
  • Well, I’m here to talk about some things the governor may have left out of his speech, and tell you about some of the things you need to hear.

 

  • Getting a governor’s agenda into law takes a willing partner in the state Legislature
  • In an unprecedented time, with over 30,000 dead from the coronavirus, roughly two million infected, and a damaged economy in survival mode, our Republican governor has made the dissolution of your first amendment rights his top priority, and protecting violence-inciting hate speech on the internet as his second.
  • Despite the wide path of destruction Covid cut in Florida, and the heavy toll it took in and on Floridians’ lives, the governor and Republican lawmakers have crafted legislation to muzzle our people and restrict our speech, instead of giving our health and economy the attention that they so desperately need.
  • Can anything be more insensitive or tone deaf?
  • As it turns out, yes, yes there can be.
  • Over the past two months, Senate and House committees have been meeting to hear legislation which will have a profound impact on Floridians’ daily lives and our state as a whole.
  • Republicans could have spent that time combatting the virus that destroyed scores of small businesses, and crafting bills to help those still trying to hang on.
  • They could have laid out consumer-friendly legislation to help stem the rising power of the insurance industry over Florida’s home owners with never-ending rate hikes and dwindling coverage. Or revamping a broken unemployment system that still owes benefits to some who have been out of work for nearly a year.
  • And they could have expanded Medicaid, drawing in the billions of dollars Floridians sent to Washington to pay for affordable healthcare – for the working poor of Florida and the thousands who lost their insurance coverage along with their jobs.
  • But none of that happened.
  • Instead, here’s some of the legislation they’re teeing up for passage and the governor’s desk for signature:
  • Anti-minimum wage.
  • Anti-health insurance coverage.
  • Anti-state pensions hitting police, firefighters, nurses, and other public workers.
  • Anti-vote-by-mail
  • Bills aimed at privatizing public schools, and draining more public tax dollars for private schools that answer to no one.
  • And bills to cut insurance coverage on home roofs just ten years old, and protecting bad actors in the nursing home industry that failed to protect the elderly in their care from coronavirus entering their facilities.
  • The governor and his legislative allies are actually trying to convince Floridians that they’re the party of the people.
  • But their actions tell another, very different story. Their legislation does nothing for the average working person. They don’t help Floridians weather the pandemic until the economy rebounds, or spur good paying jobs. They don’t put food on the table or affordable healthcare within reach. They don’t better educate our kids or bring more accountability into the education system. And they certainly don’t help build a promising future.
  • But our legislation does.
  • The legislation we filed fixes Florida’s broken unemployment system, so that Floridians never again have to face evictions or foreclosures or the endless food lines such as we witnessed this past year.
  • Our bills expand Medicaid for working Floridians, protect our school kids from lead in their drinking water, and save taxpayer money by tapping solar energy in our public schools.
  • Our bills help vets learn new trade skills, assist Florida’s unemployed in finding new jobs, and give small, local businesses a tax break.
  • Our legislation tracks sexual assault kits, and purges criminal records for minor marijuana possession.
  • Every single one of these good bills is aimed at improving the lives of working Floridians and their families by making the playing field a little more balanced, opportunities a little more abundant, and the future a little bit brighter.
  • Yet not one of these bills is getting Republican support to push them across the finish line.
  • The agenda that’s been set by the Florida Legislature differs little from this governor who consistently puts the interests of friends and family above the interests of the people he was elected to serve. It’s a one-sided, big-money game of winners and losers in which the people are not invited to play.

 

  • So we urge you to engage. Pay attention to the legislation as this session begins. Listen as the debates unfold, and ask yourselves how these actions will impact you and those you love.
  • Over the next few months, there are two choices that will be made by those elected to serve you as they vote for or against a bill: One in deference to well-heeled special interests. The other to the people.
  • You decide which choice is the right one.
  • Thank you.