If you have a phone or a computer, now is the time to let your legislators hear from you if you are troubled by any of these proposals being considered IN THE FLORIDA LEGISLATURE.
Did you vote for Amendment 4 in the last election – to return to ex-felons (with certain exceptions) the right to vote after completing their prison terms? The Republican-controlled legislature is now sabotaging that popular amendment by adding requirements to “completion” such as any fees, court costs, restitution (Money-lender lobbyists support these add-ons and Rs would like less D voters).
Florida has four scholarship programs that provide for more than 140,000 students to attend private and religious schools, funded by tax credits at a cost to the state. Now the proposed Family Empowerment Scholarship would use general revenue funds directly to add 15,000 students in the first year, eligibility based on income for a family of four ($68k Senate bill, $69k DeSantis, $98k House bill) – no longer based on poverty. In addition to the question of using public funds for private and faith-based education, other objections include that not all private schools meet the same school building codes, that private and religious schools do not have the same teacher certification, student assessment or curriculum requirements.
The sex and science censors ride again. The Florida Citizens Alliance is again trying to tell the schools what novels and text books they can use. The latest effort is House Bill 855 / Senate Bill 1454. Last year the Florida legislature passed a bill that allowed any resident, not just parents, to object to teaching materials. Now, according to The Tampa Bay Times the groups wants to ban nearly 100 books including “Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange and Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes to textbooks, including Harcourt Publishing’s Modern World History 9th Grade and Pearson’s Essentials of Oceanography” and further interfere with professional educators' decisions.
Again bills arming classroom teachers are moving toward a vote.
Save the Wall! Not Trump's wall on the southern border. That wall separating Religion and Government has seen a creeping theocracy blurring it. Religious freedom has only recently been translated as freedom to discriminate – against Moslems, LGBTQ folks, women, anyone who does not accept some particular belief. Pencean patriarchy prevails in the revised mission of the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services; a Conscience and Religious Freedom Division has been formed and a rule proposed that those in the health care field may refuse services on the basis of personal religious beliefs. A “gag rule” now prohibits any Title X provider from offering or discussing abortion, leaving millions of women who use Planned Parenthood without needed health services from cancer screening to contraception.
The Justice Department announced a religious liberty update to the U.S. Attorneys' Manual, raising the profile of “religious liberty” cases. A White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative is “to reduce the burdens on the exercise of free religion”. No information has been given on members or agenda of that Initiative. Discussion of women’s reproductive rights and discrimination has been cut from the annual State Department report on global human rights after an unnamed senior official demanded the changes, stripping passages that describe societal views on family planning. The State Department announced that it will no longer issue visas to the same-sex partners of United Nations employees and other foreign diplomats unless they’re married – despite the fact that many of their home countries do not allow same-sex marriage and some even criminalize same-sex relationships.
Project Blitz is a national effort that provides state legislators with model bills and strategies on passing state laws such as displaying “In God We Trust” in schools (as passed in 2018 Florida Legislature) and establishing Bible classes in public schools (as proposed in the current Florida Legislature) and moving toward requiring religious exemptions from every or any civil or reproductive right. Some states are ready with their own forms of politicizing religious belief. South Carolina tax-funded foster care agencies, for example, are allowed to reject prospective parents or volunteers because of the “wrong” religion. Bills on criminalizing abortion and personhood for fetuses (as among current Florida bills), abortion bans at six weeks (when a women may not even know if she's pregnant) are proliferating – many with the intention of challenging Roe v Wade in the Supreme Court.
The Interfaith Alliance recently referred to the “narrative being pushed by many religious conservatives that their rights are under threat, especially when the government places limits on their ability to impose their beliefs on others.” The Interfaith Alliance and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights are among the groups that stand against “politics as religion”, against religion as policy.
An eagerly awaited petition to expand health coverage to over 700,000 low-income Floridian adults is ready to circulate! You can download it at the end of this post.
The petition calls for expanding Medicaid coverage to adults whose incomes are too low to purchase "Obamacare" coverage. Past Florida governors and legislatures have failed to act, and so far all signs point to the newly elected Florida officials taking the same position. (The 8 Democrats in Florida's Congressional delegation have called on Governor Ron DeSantis to expand Medicaid.)
Expanding Medicaid to cover low-income adults can be expected to save taxpayer funds and increase state revenue, according to a Florida Policy Institute study.
This ballot initiative will give the people of Florida a say. In Maine, Idaho, Utah, and Nebraska, all as red or redder than Florida, voters have passed measures to expand Medicaid.
The downloadable petition is a 2-page PDF file, which must be printed out as a 2-sided document. (If your printer can't print or copy 2-sided, then email EnglewoodIndivisible@gmail.com to request printed petitions.)
Here are some pointers for circulating the petition:
Please mail completed petitions to:
Paige ArmstrongPlanned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida2300 North Florida Mango RoadWest Palm Beach, Florida 33409
If you are near Englewood, you can also bring the petitions you've collected to Englewood Indivisible at its weekly social events, at the Englewood Farmers Market on Thursdays or at the February 16th monthly meeting.
Thank you for doing this important work!
Hitler Ascent 1889-1931 Volker, Ulrich, 2016
Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Hand Mark Bray, 2017
The Despot’s Apprentice Brian Klaas, 2017
Fascism Today: What It is and How to End It Shane Burley, 2017
On Tyranny Timothy Snyder, 2017
Demogoguery and Democracy Patricia Roberts-Miller, 2017
The Future is History Masha Gessen, 2017
Fascism-A Warning Madeline Albright, 2018