Dear Legislative Team Members, and all interested citizens
 
Thanks to the Democratic Public Education Caucus of Florida (DPECF), we have been sent the following link at Private School Directory (floridaschoolchoice.org) that contains all private schools in the state as compiled by the Florida DOE. For those of you who listened to the first House committee hearing yesterday on HB 1 School Choice, you heard Scott Hottenstein, President of DPECF, provide a powerful analysis of statewide data from this directory:
 
1. Out of the 3097 private schools, 2291 are unaccredited (74%)
2. 1086 of 3097 private schools are for profit (35%)
3. 1672 of 3097 are religious (54%)
4. 2311 of 3097 take vouchers of some sort
5. 1598 of 2311 voucher schools are unaccredited (69%)
6. 712 of 2311 voucher schools are for profit (31%)
7. 1332 of 2311 voucher schools are religious (58%)
8. There are only 63 voucher schools that are non profit, non religious, accredited schools (3% of voucher schools)
9. 590 voucher schools are nonprofit accredited (26%)
 

We are also beginning to see more information come out regarding the explosive financial costs of this bill–a fact that has been short-shrifted by the Republican leadership. Here is a background paper (Sept 2022) from the Florida Policy Institute (FPI) regarding the voucher program: 6329b87a0e04e4c9a1bf1492_2022_ELC_FloridaVoucherOverview_final.pdf (webflow.com)
Norín Dollard, a senior research analyst at FPI, was also recently quoted in the Tampa Bay Times about HB 1 and said, “Conservative back-of-the-napkin math suggests that if just 25% of the newly eligible students participate, and those currently in the program remain, the added cost would reach $600 million. As participation grows, the total could approach $4 billion or more within five years.” (https://www.tampabay.com/news/education/2023/01/25/florida-republicans-push-vouchers-all-dont-say-how-pay-them/). 
 
We have been promised more forthcoming information from the FPI and updated information from DPECF that will be passed along to all of you when it comes. In the meantime, this information can be used to educate others at your club meetings, in letters-to-the-editor, town halls, house parties, etc. GET ON IT! This anti-democratic bill is fast-tracked to move fast. We have no time to waste.


Jean Siebenaler
LEGISLATIVE CHAIR, DEMOCRATIC WOMEN’S CLUB OF FLORIDA

The Permitless Carry gun bill — HB 543 Concealed Carry of Weapons and Firearms Without a License — is being fast-tracked with only two committees in the House, and is already scheduled for its first hearing in the Constitutional Rights, Rule of Law & Government Operations Subcommittee on Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 2 pm ET. If you are able, we urge you to watch the committee hearing on the Florida Channel at Home – The Florida Channel. We will certainly be discussing this bill in our meeting on Tuesday night. 
 
In the meantime, we need you to contact the House committee legislators below AND your own local House Representatives, even if they are not on this committee. Tell them you want them to VOTE NO on this bill when it comes before them. Don’t give them a pass. Hold them accountable.
 
Here are some talking points you can use when voicing your opposition about this dangerous bill in your letters, phone calls, social media posts, and other discussions. You can find these and more at excellent websites including: Everytown Home | Everytown, Giffords Home | Giffords, Prevent Gun Violence Florida Prevent Gun Violence in Florida (preventgunviolenceflorida.org) and others:

  • This bill would allow people who have never passed a background check or fired a gun in their lives to carry hidden, loaded guns in public crowds.
  • The gun lobby calls this “Constitutional Carry” which is a myth. There is no constitutional right to carry an unregistered firearm wherever a person goes.
  • Between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022 FL Dept of Agriculture denied 28,994 applications for concealed weapon licenses and revoked 8,129 licenses. Passing permitless carry would get rid of these guardrails.
  • Studies show that weakening public carry laws is associated with a 13–15% increase in violent crime rates, as well as an 11% increase in rates of homicides committed with handguns.
  • States where Permitless Carry is legal experienced a 22% increase in gun homicides for the three years after the law’s passage, more than doubling the 10% increase for the country overall.
  • Florida already ranks as the 24th worst state in terms of  Gun Death Rate Rank in the US, with one gun death every 3 hours. Allowing permitless carry will only take us farther to the bottom of the list.
  • Law enforcement officers have no way of differentiating between people who are lawfully carrying guns and people who are illegally carrying guns. Could result in cops relying on their own inherent bias to police these criteria. 
  • Police departments across the country have reported a drastic uptick in guns stolen from cars, coinciding with the passage of weak public carry laws that allow gun owners to carry and store guns in their vehicles.
  • Most Floridians want stronger, not weaker gun laws.
  • Even people living in permitless carry states do not support permitless carry. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of adults in the 25 states with permitless carry oppose these policies.


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Thank you,
Jean Siebenaler
LEGISLATIVE CHAIR, DEMOCRATIC WOMEN’S CLUB OF FLORIDA 

Top Line Talking Points
This is a BAD bill. Universal vouchers and Educational Savings Accounts will defund the public schools that are the overwhelming choice of parents, will do nothing to improve educational outcomes for most students who attend these schools, and will enrich private schools without saving families money as This is a BAD bill.

Supporting Facts & Data

    • 61% of students who go to voucher schools return to public school within 2 years. The average student loses 1 year of learning after 2 years at a voucher school.

    • Over 85% of families choose to send their students to public schools. Almost 80% of students go to their neighborhood public schools.


    • Neighborhood public schools are underfunded. Florida ranks 48th in public education funding, and funding for Florida’s public schools is down 17.5% in inflation adjusted dollars since 2007. In states where similar programs have been implemented, 80%+ of taxpayer money goes to families already paying for private school tuition.

    • Voucher amounts will not pay the full tuition cost of the prestigious private schools that families imagine their student can attend. Prestigious private schools do not need to admit students who receive vouchers.

    • 1598 of 2311 voucher schools in Florida are unaccredited (69%). Most voucher schools that low income families can afford are strip mall schools with unqualified teachers, workbooks instead of rigorous curriculum, and no wraparound programs or services.

     • 712 voucher schools (31%) are FOR profit & 1332 voucher schools (58%) are religious. Only 63 voucher schools (3%) in FL are nonprofit, non-religious, & accredited


Call to Action
 Email members of PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee and urge them to vote no on this bill. https://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Committees/committeesdetail.aspx?SessionId=99&CommitteeId=3209

Notes from the Legislative Committee!
 
Somehow, over the years, the Land Use and Building codes for Monroe County have eroded and become “big development” friendly.  Citizens never win!!  Developers and corporate greed win because our Code enables them.  
 

7-11 IN Key Largo – proposed next door to the Tom Thumb Gas and just down the road from the Marathon Gas station, which are both small businesses with the cheapest gas in the county.  
 
John Howe reported the proposed 7-11 site is at MM 98, and there already are 15-17 gas stations between the southern end of Plantation Key (MM 85) and the beginning of “the stretch” to Florida City (MM 105).

For secret meeting info – Check this out: https://www.monroecounty-fl.gov/Calendar.aspx?EID=9630&month=1&year=2023&day=13&calType=0
 
 Folks should check back here https://www.monroecounty-fl.gov/Calendar.aspx?EID=9618&month=1&year=2023&day=13&calType=0 next week for the Dev. Review Committee zoom meeting agenda (with attached background files?). 
 
Please attend in person or by Zoom.  
Please Plan to say a few words about your concerns for the Keys and the massive overbuilding taking place on US 1 and our oceanfront and bay front.

 
Staff needs to become aware that we are very interested in what they do.  
Planning Commission Members need to hear the words that there are enough people, gas stations, and grocery stores. 
 
 
This is where we start.  Will we win the battle?  That depends upon how outspoken we are, so please prepare your talking points.
 
The meeting starts at 9:00 am and is in the Government Center in Marathon, 2798 Overseas Hwy, 2nd floor.
 
Thanks again to John Howe!!

Trish
Legislative Committee


If you would like to work with the legislative Committee, reach out to Trish:
[email protected] or 813-365-0272

Monday, January 2

Despite previous announcements, there are currently NO scheduled bills to be heard in committee meetings for this first Interim Committee week of 2023 in Tallahassee. Typical Republican confusion tactic.

Next week (Jan. 9-12) is an open week without scheduled meetings. However, just so you are aware, there is chatter that the Republican majority is planning to hold one or two Special Sessions to pass more restrictive abortion and permitless carry gun bills during the open weeks in January, including next week and the week of Jan. 30.

I will be in touch with the Keys 2022 Legislative Team Members over the next week or so to see if they wish to remain active. Bill Burris will remain with us and be as active as possible and will continue to schedule our Zoom Meetings. I have asked Lois Grayden to be a Co-Chair. Thanks to both Bill and Lois. If you wish to become a member of the committee, please get in touch with Lois or me.

This year is an extremely important one as we watch Ron show off his far-right agenda nationally while seeking his 2024 presidential bid.

We will need as many eyes as possible on the Florida House and Senate televised meetings, as well as the Bill Tracker. We hope to assemble an active text, phone call, letter writing, and email campaign to let those elected to represent the Florida Keys and others know we are here, we have opinions, and we are loud.

Patricia McGrath, JD
Chair/Keys Dems Legislative Committee
[email protected]

Last week in Tallahassee, Patricia McGrath and Laurie Swanson (Middle Keys) met Jean Siebenaler (from the panhandle) and Dee Melvin (from the Villages) to observe the Special session of the Florida legislature. The subject of the Special Session, called by Ron DeSantis, was to take up Florida property insurance. Ostensibly the session was to address the rising costs of property insurance with the goal of taming the runaway rate increases levied by insurance companies. Exorbitant rates that are often devastating to homeowners.

We settled first in the Senate Appropriations Committee to see the bill (2D) being legislated; then moved to the House Appropriations Committee to see the bill legislated there. I expected a give and take of ideas during this part of the legislative process. Instead, I saw a bill fully constructed in some secret place and plopped onto the legislative floors. These bills came fully formed from the governor’s office it seems. The bills were not changed from the original no matter how many suggestions were made for improving the bill or improving outcomes for the homeowner.

Oh yes, the Democrats tried to change the bill by presenting amendments, amendments that were summarily voted down mostly with “no” voice votes. When 5 hands went up there was a compulsory recorded individual vote. At that time, the congressperson was to flick a switch on their desk to register a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ vote. During these amendment presentations and votes many of the congress people were out of the room and so a neighboring congress person voted for the absent congress person. In other words, a quorum was not present on the floor for most of the votes on amendments and the votes were not posted by the congress persons themselves. I saw Rep. Melo (80) vote for Keys’ Rep. Mooney (120) on numerous occasions. Mooney repaid the favor by voting for Melo by activating the switch on her desk when she was absent.

Rep. Mooney casts vote for Rep. Melo while she was absent. Melo voted for Mooney on numerous occasions while Mooney was not at his desk during the vote.

I learned that DFS (Department of Financial Services) and OIR (Office of Insurance Regulators) are the two offices whose job it is to hold insurance companies to the statute. They are to collect data and watch where the money goes. The members of OIR are appointed by the governor.

Through discussion (labeled debate) on the insurance bill, that is soon to become Florida law, it became apparent that OIR had collected little or no data on the state of the current insurance companies. Data needed to craft the current legislation. Legislators asked for that data numerous times and were told that it did not exist. When asked how they could know how to craft a bill to improve insurance rates without data, they were either stonewalled or told there was no data. Yet the proponents of the bill would not call into question actuarial tables used by the insurance company—data that no one had bothered to access or perhaps it was hidden in the back room where this bill came from.

When legislators asked why OIR did not do its job, various excuses were proffered. It was confirmed that OIR, who has the power to deny rate increases proposed by individual insurance companies, has persistently rubber-stamped double digit rate increases. The main reason proffered by the Republican sponsors of the bill for OIR’s failure was that OIR had ~ 13 regulators to cover the whole state of Florida and a 22% vacancy. Proponents of the bill said it was not possible to fill those positions because private industry pays more. Why does Florida only have 13 people in OIR when comparable states have many multiples of 13 to regulate their insurance companies?

The bill’s highlights as discussed were as follows:

  • Insurance will be granted for roofs over 15 years if the roof, after an official inspection funded by the owner, indicates that the roof has 5 more good years. If the roof is found wanting the owner will be denied insurance on the roof.
  • There will be 2 types of roof insurance offered to the homeowner. The no-deductible roof insurance will be at the ballooning rates that are in force today with no cap. Insurance companies are required sign up for RAP (Reinsurance to Assist Policyholders) this year or next. That program allows the insurance companies to offer homeowners roof insurance policies with up to 50% deductible. There is no provision in the law that forces the insurance company to lower rates on these policies.  Also, the State is putting up $2 billion for the insurance companies to fund this program. Representative Geller pointed out that if the homeowner cannot pay the deductible which could be thousands of dollars, they could lose their house. Shoulder shrug by the Republican proponent of the bill.
  • The insurance company can drop the homeowner mid-claim if the homeowner challenges the insurance company for non-payment of claims. Many of the Democrat led amendments tried to rectify this. It was classed by Rep. Trumbull (the proponent of the bill) as an unfriendly amendment. “Unfriendly to who?” Shrug. Note that this leaves the homeowner without a fixed roof and unable to get other insurance because they have an open claim.
  • In egregious cases when the insurance company is the bad actor, judges will not be able to penalize the insurance company by multiplying the award to the homeowner for his mistreatment.
  • This bill allows the insurance companies to draw out the claim payout for years with no penalty on the insurance company. The insurance company is within their rights to put off an appraisal for years if they so wish.
  • This bill does not consider that climate continues to aid and abet the destruction of property in Sunshine State. There is no provision for climate change in the bill. Hurricane and sea level rise are not addressed.
  • Trumbull (R) and company admitted that it would make no difference in ballooning rates this year and possibly not for 18 months. He also said there is no guarantee that rates will come down at all even with 50% deductible.

It came to light during the debate session that was not a debate, but a statement of position, that this bill fulfils the insurance companies wish list. SB-HB 2 disables the consumer and rewards the insurance companies by allowing them to continue the shell game that they have been playing for years. Democrats charged (not refuted) that when an insurance company is in trouble or wants to exit the Florida market, they can offload assets to a sister company and declare bankruptcy. This leaves their customers with no insurance and/or unable to get their claims filled. This bill was created without any verifiable statistics. Statistics were not verifiable because OIR did not collect any statistics. This bill was created to fix problems that were no more than rumors and hearsay proffered by the insurance companies. The session was called and executed on such short notice that there was little time to write a bill that considered possibilities that would be sounder. The bill was passed as it came in from the governor’s office probably right out of the insurance lobby.

At 1:25PM on Wednesday, May 25th, Mooney got up and gave a speech praising the bill. He said that the insurance problems will not be fixed this week, but “this bill is better than doing nothing.”

Rep. Mooney sending and reading emails while amendments were presented. Mooney voted “no” on all amendments.

FYI Monroe County and Miami/Dade are not covered by this insurance. We are covered by the insurance company of the last resort—Citizens.

Watching the sham that masquerades for Florida government was incredibly disappointing to me and my fellow travelers.