Hello Keys Activist Democrats!

Your gonna love this one!

We don’t typically follow and take positions on local bills filed in the State Legislature, but a recently filed bill, HB 1645 (Clemons) City of Gainesville, Alachua County, has been brought to my attention as an attempt by DeSantis to quietly take over a local regional utility board with political appointees that will eliminate citizens’ rights to elect these members. This is just ANOTHER example of DeSantis’ goal to decimate home-rule with government overreach while he thinks nobody is watching. This time it is the Gainesville Regional Utility (GRU), but the next time it could be another municipal or county-owned utility. That is why we are asking you to help stop this. Please read the email thread below to get the full picture of the issue, but the bill will probably be heard in the House State Affairs Committee on Wednesday morning. Please stand in solidarity with Alachua County and contact the committee members below TODAY. Tell them to VOTE NO on this bill’s state intrusion into local governance.
Lawrence McClure (R), Chair                                (850) 717-5068
Michael A. “Mike” Caruso (R), Vice Chair              (850) 717-5087
Alex Rizo (R), Whip                                                (850) 717-5112
Robin Bartleman (D)                                               (850) 717-5103
Dean Adam Black (R)                                             (850) 717-5015
James Buchanan (R)                                              (850) 717-5074
Demi Busatta Cabrera (R)                                      (850) 717-5114
Joe Casello (R)                                                       (850) 717-5090
Anna Eskamani (D)                                                 (850) 717-5042
Juan Alfonso Fernandez-Barquin (R)                      (850) 717-5118
Ashley Viola Gantt (D)                                             (850) 717-5109
Philip Wayne “Griff” Griffitts, Jr (R)                          (850) 717-5006
Jeff Holcomb (R)                                                      (850) 717-5053
James Vernon Mooney, Jr. R)                                  (850) 717-5120
Jenna Persons-Mulicka (R)                                     (850) 717-5078
Juan Carlos Porras (R)                                            (850) 717-5119
Michele Rayner-Goolsby (D)                                   (850) 717-5062
Spencer Roach (R)                                                  (850) 717-5076
Felicia Simone Robinson (D)                                   (850) 717-5104
Rick Roth R)                                                             (850) 717-5094
John Paul Temple (R)                                               (850) 717-5052
[email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected]

Every child in Florida deserves to be happy, healthy and free. Free to learn, free to read and free to be themselves. Together, we are making Florida a place where every child can thrive. In the face of unyielding attacks from Gov. DeSantis and his corporate donors, parents, students, educators and community members are pushing back. 
Activism is spreading all over the state. Here are just a few examples:

  • At a recent Sarasota school board meeting, almost 200 people were in attendance to speak against Gov. DeSantis’ agenda. 
  • Brave folk in Tallahassee were arrested while engaging in peaceful protests for abortion rights.
  • Hundreds of FEA members from around the state participated in #NotFoolingUs events on April 1. 
  • 13,313 FEA members have had 163,237 contacts (either email or phone call) with legislators since session began on March 7.

 While the cards might be stacked against us this legislative session, we will never give up. When we join together across race, class, religion and gender to demand more from our elected leaders, Florida will become a place of love, joy and prosperity for all. 
Safe and Secure Retirement
Whether you are a teacher, paraprofessional, cafeteria worker, bus driver or play some other role in the education of Florida’s children, everyone who works in our public schools should be able to retire with dignity.
In 2011, then-Gov. Rick Scott used the Great Recession as an excuse to slash benefits from the Florida Retirement System (FRS). Florida’s budget was balanced on the backs of dedicated educators and other public workers. Since that time, FEA and our members have been fighting to strengthen FRS so that educators can have the retirement they deserve. Legislation passed unanimously by the House this week gets us one step closer to that goal. 
The House amended the Senate’s Retirement bill, SB 7024, to include the following:

  • Restores the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) that was eliminated in 2011.
  • Extends DROP from a maximum of five years to a maximum of eight years and increases the percentage of interest accrued while in DROP from 1.3 to 4 percent.
  • Increases the employer contribution by 1 percent for those in the investment plan.

These changes would go a long way toward the goal of making sure all educators are able to have a safe, secure retirement. The House and Senate must now work out their differences, as the above provisions were not included in the bill the Senate passed. Please take a moment and let your senator know that you want them to support the changes made by the House to help provide a safe, secure retirement. 
Keeping our Students and Educators Safe
Like any building, it is important for schools to have regular maintenance and upgrades to ensure they are structurally sound. We know far too many children and educators learn and work in buildings that are moldy, lack adequate air conditioning and are in a general state of disrepair. In part, this is because for years now the Legislature has diverted capital outlay funding (the money school districts can use for maintenance and repair) from neighborhood public schools to charter schools. 
SB 1328 would make this issue significantly worse by ripping even more funding from neighborhood public schools to give to charter schools. While the bill’s fiscal analysis states the cost to public schools would have a “significant negative” but “indeterminate” impact, testimony given to the committee pointed out that in Miami-Dade County alone, this bill would drain $812 million over the next five years from public schools. Despite that loss of funding (or because of it?), SB 1328 passed on a party-line vote.  
SB 1328 and its House companion, HB 1259, each have two committee stops left. We will be monitoring them closely in these final few weeks of session.
Looking Ahead to Next Week
Things will pick back up next week as legislators will once again be in town for all five days. As of the writing of this Frontline, committee meeting agendas have not yet been published. You can visit our website for the latest information on which bills have been calendared. Below is a list of bills that could be heard in committee along with the possible date:

  • HB 1445, which attacks your right to be a part of your union, could next be heard in the House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday, April 11. The agenda will be released by 4:30 p.m. April 7.
  • HB 999, which attacks Florida’s colleges and universities and doubles down on last year’s STOP Woke Act, could next be heard in the House Education and Employment Committee on Tuesday, April 11. The agenda will be released by 4:30 p.m. April 7.
  • SB 266, the Senate companion to HB 999, could next be heard in the Senate Education Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, April 12. The agenda will be released by 2:30 p.m. April 7.
  • SB 1320, which makes it even easier for anyone to challenge and ban books as well as expands the provisions on last year’s Don’t Say Gay bill, could next be heard in the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee on Thursday, April 13. The committee’s agenda will be released by 2:30 p.m. April 10.


Even though it was a short week, we still had advocates show up, meet with their legislators and sit in on committee meetings. Thank you to the following locals who sent members to Tallahassee this week: Broward Teachers Union, Clay County CEA, Hillsborough CTA, Orange County CTA, United Faculty of Florida and the United School Employees of Pasco.

How You Can Take Action Today
Visit the FEA website to learn more about session and sign up for FEA Action Alert texts by texting “edactivist” to 22394.

Holly Hummell-Gorman
United Teachers of Monroe, President
(305) 294-7483 (office)
(305) 294-3876 (fax)
[email protected]
Proud member of AFT/NEA/AFL-CIO

And another assignment!
Anti-democratic legislation can take away the freedoms of individuals OR communities. The FL House may vote this next week on several bills that, if passed, will take away those freedoms and send them to the Governor’s desk for signature into law. Please contact your individual State House Representatives before Thursday and ask them to VOTE NO on the following bills: 

  • HB 7 / SB 300 The “Near Total Abortion Ban” — Essentially eliminates reproductive freedom by prohibiting abortions after 6 weeks gestation before many girls/women even know they are pregnant; provides exceptions for rape and incest only up to 15 weeks and only if victims can prove the violent act with official documentation, which only increases the burden; funds an additional $25 million per year to fund anti-abortion fake clinics, where untrained volunteers or staff regularly give medically inaccurate and potentially dangerous pregnancy information and where they are not bound by state and federal privacy laws that prevent sharing that information with others.
  • HB 1421 / SB 254 The “Trans ban bill” bans gender-affirming health care treatments for children even with parental consent, and places more barriers for adults to receive gender-affirming medical care; gives Florida courts jurisdiction over custody determination for a child present in Florida to the extent necessary to protect the child from being subjected to gender-affirming treatments in another state, and criminalizes healthcare providers who defy the new laws to provide gender-affirming care.
  • HB 555 / SB 450 Jury Recommendations in Death Penalty Cases — States that a jury can recommend a death sentence if only eight jurors agree out of twelve. Florida already has more innocent people on death row than any other state. This will only make it worse.
  • HB 1515 / SB 170 Local Ordinances — A major state preemption bill that would empower business owners to sue cities and counties for passing local ordinances that cause them to lose money. While the legal process grinds through its hearing process, the local government would have to suspend enforcement of the ordinance in question. The types of local policies that could be eradicated because of this legislation include noise ordinances, parking regulations, and food safety permits. The freedom of local home rule would become a myth.
  • DO NOT GIVE YOUR HOUSE REPRESENTATIVES A PASS! Let them know you are watching and hold them accountable for their continued efforts to limit freedoms in Florida. And please thank those Representatives who are standing up for Democracy.
  • Thank you,
  • Jean Siebenaler

Rep. Mooney’s Phone Number -(850) 717-5120 

Monday April 10, 2023

Activist assignment for today!

The new voter suppression bill —SB 7050 Elections — has been assigned to only one more Senate Committee (Fiscal Policy) before it will be heard on the Senate floor. So far, there have been no amendments made to the bill. For those of you who need a recap of this bill’s intended changes, please see the following major points from the April 4th newsletter of Democracy Docket:
First Time Voter Suppression Requires all first-time voters without a Florida ID or social security number to vote in-person. Previously, these voters could vote by mail as long as they included a copy of an identifying document with their mail-in ballot. This is expected to have a huge toll on college voters. More Vote by Mail Barriers Shorten the deadline to request a mail-in ballot by one day, Allow voters to personally pick up a mail-in ballot only if they are unable to go to an early voting location or their assigned Election Day polling place, Direct mail-in ballot requests to be canceled if any first class mail to the voter is returned as undeliverable,  Block ballots from being counted if two or more mail-in ballots are returned in the same envelope, Require election supervisors to add personal identifying numbers to voter records that could pave the way to requiring ID numbers on completed mail-in ballots, Increased Burdens on Third Party Voter Registration Organizations 
(Like the Democratic party) Would mandate that organizations re-register every single election cycle, Prohibit organizations from prefilling information on registration applications,  Direct organizations to deliver applications within 10 days of completion, rather than 14,  Increase the fines associated with failing to comply with above requirements. Increased Election Criminalization Require county election supervisors to report fraudulent registrations and illegal voting to the new Office of Election Crimes and Security (OECS), Empower the OECS to refer investigations to the Department of Law Enforcement, Office of Statewide Prosecution or the state attorney with jurisdiction,  Would require that information cards given to voters indicate that they are not “legal verification of the eligibility to vote,” despite these voters receiving registration cards and believing they were eligible to vote as a result. Voter List Maintenance Would strengthen requirements for list maintenance, a process that could lead to purging of otherwise eligible voters.  Please contact the following Senators on the Fiscal Policy Committee and tell them to VOTE NO on SB 7050.
Senator Travis Hutson (R), Chair                         (850) 487-5007
Senator Linda Stewart (D), Vice Chair                 (850) 487-5017
Senator Ben Albritton (R)                                     (850) 487-5027
Senator Lori Berman (D)                                      (850) 487-5026
Senator Jim Boyd (R)                                           (850) 487-5020
Senator Colleen Burton (R)                                  (850) 487-5012
Senator Alexis Calatayud (R)                               (850) 487-5038
Senator Jay Collins (R)                                        (850) 487-5014
Senator Nick DiCeglie (R)                                    (850) 487-5018
Senator Ileana Garcia (R)                                    (850) 487-5036
Senator Shevrin D. “Shev” Jones (D)                  (850) 487-5034
Senator Debbie Mayfield (R)                                (850) 487-5019
Senator Rosalind Osgood (D)                              (850) 487-5032
Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez (R)                        (850) 487-5040
Senator Corey Simon (R)                                     (850) 487-5003
Senator Geraldine F. “Geri” Thompson (D)          (850) 487-5015
Senator Victor M. Torres, Jr. (D)                           (850) 487-5025
Senator Jay Trumbull (R)                                      (850) 487-5002
Senator Tom A. Wright (R)                                    (850) 487-5008
Senator Clay Yarborough (R)                                (850) 487-5004
[email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected]
Thank you,
Jean Siebenaler

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