Norma’s Corner

By Norma Schatz

5/15/2019

May, 2019

The Florida Legislature's session ended with little good and lots of not so good done. A bill allowing importing prescription drugs from Canada needs the Governor's signature, approval by Feds and no blocking by Big Pharma lobby. The ban on assault weapons died early (thoughts and prayers will have to do!) and so did the bills banning fracking and off-shore drilling, and on toughening rules for citizen-sponsored amendments. Implementation of Amendment 4 (that added roadblocks to allowing ex-felons to vote), the bill to ban so-called “Sanctuary Cities”, the bill to allow arming teachers, and the bill to build tollroads through rural Florida (opposed by Environmentalists) await the Governor's signature. As does Florida's 5th school voucher program, this one using public dollars for middle-class as well as poor children to attend religious and private schools. If you have thoughts on any of these, the Governor's phone number is 850/717-9337 and his email is <www.firstgov.gov>.                          A grass roots effort is working to put a Ban Assault Weapons Now constitutional amendment on the Florida ballot in 2020, to ban these weapons of war in Florida. To support the effort, if you haven't already signed a petition, go to <https://bawnfl.org/amendment.html> and download, print (double-sided if possible) sign and send the petition to the address listed.                                                                                                                                      Meanwhile in Washington...The (Democrat controlled) House of Representatives took decisiveaction, passing a universal background check bill that would help keep guns out of the wrong hands. The GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has blocked the bill in the Senate, despite the fact that 97% of Americans – Ds and Rs – support universal background checks. The House also passed reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act with some improvements and stable funding for the next five years. The proposed reauthorization includes a provision to close a loophole in the original act that allowed convicted domestic abusers of dating partners to have access to firearms. Once again, opposition from the NRA is reflected in opposition by Senate Republican leadership to oppose or stall action on this bill. Let Sen. Marco Rubio (202/224-3041) and Sen. Rick Scott (202/224-5274) know what you think.      

  From the League of Women Voters: "[I]f we want to ensure the 2020 elections are free, fair and accessible, one in which every vote counts and counts equally, we cannot afford to let the Senate dismiss the For the People Act (H.R.1)without even a hearing. This historic legislation will roll back discriminatory voting laws; reform and modernize the voter registration process; close campaign finance loopholes that have allowed special interests to flood elections with millions in “dark money”; and end extreme partisan gerrymandering."   The American Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6) provides multiple pathways to citizenship in keeping with America's values and history as a nation of immigrants. As many as 2.5 million people-including 40,000 educators-could obtain legal status and ultimately citizenship via higher education, military service, or employment. A vote is expected in the House this week on the Climate Action Now Act (H.R. 9). It would force the Trump administration to develop a plan for the U.S. to meet its emissions standards, as set under the Paris Agreement.                                                          Trump”s 2020 Budget calls for cuts in Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid. Already Social Security offices have been closed, staff cut, and a new fee charged for lost cards. BUT here's an important message: “Despite unfounded ‘doom and gloom’ forecasts, Social Security is not in crisis. It will continue to be a robust cornerstone of a secure retirement for millions of current and future retirees,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance (of Retired Americans). “If we remove the cap on earnings subject to Social Security contributions for the wealthiest Americans (now at $132,900), we can expand Social Security benefits, provide a more accurate formula for cost-of-living adjustments, and increase the system’s long-term solvency.”                                                                                                                                      From Forbes...Student loan debt is now the second highest consumer debt category – behind only mortgage debt – and higher then both credit cards and auto loans...more than 44 million borrowers who collectively owe $1.5 Trillion in student loan debt.