2017 Florida Legislative Recap

2017 Florida Legislative Recap

 

2017 Florida Legislative Recap

Florida’s House, Senate, and Governor are all Republicans and thank God they don’t get along. This last session had some losses and a few defensive victories for working families. The overarching theme of the session was that of disunity and political bickering. House Speaker Corcoran (R, Land O’Lakes) held many bills and the budget hostage to succesfully push his own agenda while Senate President Negron (R, Palm City) and Governor Scott did their best to save face.

Immigration

In an attempt to ride Trump xenophobic wave, house Republicans attempted to push  9 anti-immigrant bills this year. The most onerous of which threatened to punish sanctuary counties (such as Alachua County) with fines while deputizing all police as ICE agents. These bills were defeated because of the hard work from human rights activists all over the state and through the leadership of the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC). (link)

Higher Education:

Santa Fe College got $5.4 million to expand the Blount Center downtown, a controversial project under fire for causing gentrification. This is on top of $2.6 million it got last year from the legislature and over $6 million in private donations. They also got $5 million to hire and retain faculty and staff. UF will receive $120 million more this year which includes funding for the long overdue renovations at Norman Hall and design work for a new music building.

Bright futures Academic Scholars Award will cover 100% of tuition for the first time since the recession. The catch is that all students will be forced into the block tuition program in which everyone is charged for 15 credit hours a semester regardless of how many classes they take. 

Guns:

A slew of pro-gun bills were filed but most failed. Some of the worst ones were open carry, allowing guns in airports, and the elimination of gun-free zones at universities and colleges. What did pass was an expansion the the state’s Stand Your Ground Law. It will now be harder to bring someone claiming self-defense to trial by shifting the burden of proof to the prosecutor.

Environment:

We received $250,000 to help filter water going into Newnans Lake and $500,000 for a rails to trails path connecting High Springs to Newberry. Meanwhile SB 10, which sought to stop the algae blooms in Southwest Florida by creating a recharge south of Lake Okeechobee, was scaled back. Instead of fully funding the project we will now spend $1.25 billion to buy polluted land from Big Sugar while simultaneously relieving them from liability to clean up their mess. (link)

This is part of a larger story related to Florida Forever,  the constitutional referendum passed in  2014 with more than 75% of the vote which forced the government to buy environmentally sensitive land. This year the legislature spent $0 to buy new land and instead voted to spend money cleaning up polluted farmland and eroded beaches. (link)

Workers’ Rights:

The Florida Legislature wasn’t able to agree on the hourly rate lawyers should be allowed to collect from workers’ compensation cases after the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the current caps on lawyer fees were unconstitutional. Their reasoning was that low fee caps disuaded lawyers from taking workers comp cases making legal representation unattainable for many workers. A special session to deal with this issue might be called or it will be brought up again next year. (link)

Senator Keith Perry was finally able to pass his anti living wage bill SB 534. This bill nullifies local ordinances that mandate local hiring, higher safety standards, and require certified apprenticeships. After a lot of push back his bill was weakened significantly and will only apply if 50% or more of the funds are coming from state allocated money.  Thankfully, this anti-worker bill will affect very few projects in Alachua County and throughout the state due to these added provisions. 

State workers will now default into a 401k style plan as opposed to the state’s pension. This is part of a strategy to weaken the pension system so that the Legislature has an excuse to do away with it in the future. Currently nearly 60% of state workers default into the pension plan and only 18% choose the 401k style plan. The bill passed in part because it was lumped together with a $1,400 raise for most state workers. (link)

Education:

The Alachua County School Board will see a decrease of $27 per student in funding. This will put us at $492 less funding per student than the highwater mark in 2007-2008. But some students are getting more funding. Charter Schools will have more money diverted into their coffers for buildings. Additionally, students who get vouchers to go to private school will see a 14% increase in their funding. Finally, the Orwellian sounding “Schools of Hope” program received $140 million to promote the charter schools take over of low performing public schools.

The good news is that there will now be 20 minutes of required daily recess and the elimination of a few standardized tests. Also, HB 989 passed allowing parents to question materials used to educate their children. This will most likely be abused by conservative parents who regularly attend School Board meetings to decry the teaching of Islam in history classes.

Healthcare:

The legalization of medical marijuana was passed by voters in 2016 requiring that Florida establishes protocols for a medical marijuana program but the state legislature couldn’t agree on how to do it. The House wanted to ban smokable marijuana and the Senate wouldn’t agree. The Florida Department of Health has now been tasked with creating these policies, however, the Legislature might call a special session to deal with this issue if they’re dissatisfied with the Department’s measures. (link)

The good news is that all seven anti-choice bills filed this year failed!

Odds and Ends:

  • Rep. Clemons (R, Newberry) helped pass Sen Perry’s GRU governance bill. The bill forces GRU residents to vote this November on a referendum which would wrestle control of our utility away from the elected commissioners to an appointment board. (link)
  • A proposed Constitutional Amendment would increase non-school homestead exemption by $25,000. If passed by 60% of voters in November it would punch a $9 million hole in the County coffers which would mean decreased services. It is expected to pass and cities/counties are already implementing hiring freezes in anticipation. (link)
  • The liquor wall is down. HB 423/SB 1040 passed and will allow liquor to be bought in grocery stores.
  • The Competitive Workforce Act (HB 623/SB 666) which would have added sexual orientation and gender identity to the protected class prohibiting discrimination in housing, banking, and employment failed to pass despite increased corporate backing.  In Alachua County we have the Human Rights Ordinance which accomplishes this goal.
  • HB305 passed allowing cops to review body cam footage before writing a report.
  • To conform with US Supreme Court ruling, SB280 was passed which requires a unanimous jury vote to sentence someone to death.
  • Sen. Baxley stopped a slavery memorial from being created in the Florida Capitol (HB 27/SB 1722). The proud descendant of confederate soldiers, he has complained in the past about “cultural cleansing” of confederate symbols and said “it just seems in this age of multiculturalism we can celebrate everyone’s culture but mine”. (link)
  • Some $75 million in tax cuts, mostly to businesses passed. Also, feminine hygiene products will now be tax free.
  • HB 221 preempts local ordinances that have to do with Uber/Lyft.

2017 Gainesville Election Breakdown

2017 Gainesville Election Breakdown

Gainesville’s progressives swept the last month’s March elections beating out the only two Republican held seats.  Republican incumbent Craig Carter lost to 26  year old David Arreola 66% to 34% and Republican Perry Clawson lost to Harvey Ward in a three way race 27% to 51%.

On the surface it looks like the cause of these upsets  was an all around decrease in turnout, but that’s a very incomplete picture. The reason the City of Gainesville has the most progressive commission in recent memory is because nearly a thousand more Democrats and over a thousand less Republicans voted in 2017 compared to 2014.

But why did this happen? Three reasons stand out according to my analysis: Slight changes in districts, uniquely problematic Republican candidates, and most importantly, a Trump effect pushing new city voters to the polls and depressing Republican turnout.

The Electorate and Turnout:

Turnout was down 3.2% compared to 2014 but this was mostly due a large increase in people registered to vote in the City in 2017. The raw numbers amount to around the same number of people going out to the polls. The largest drop in turnout came in D3 with a near 6% decrease from 2014.

Turnout  2014  vs 2017 by district

District 2017 2014 Difference
D2 19.3% 22.3% -3.0%
D3 13.9% 19.6% -5.7%
D1 and D4 6.6% 8.2% -1.6%
Total 11.8% 15.0% -3.2%

There were about 16,000 more people registered to vote in the city in 2017 than in 2014 and nearly 9,000 of them were Democrats. Republicans still gained some 2,700 eligible voters giving Democrats a small, 1.7% registration advantage over 2014. Overall the largest change was a less than 3% net change in favor of Democrats in D3. But this small change can’t account for the major shift in D3 from 2014 when Carter beat Democratic incumbent Susan Bottcher 53% to 47%.

Registered Voters 2014 vs 2017 by Party

At Large 2014 2014 % 2017 2017 % dif # dif %
Dem 37,322 51.99% 46,241 52.57% 8919 0.58%
Rep 16,156 22.51% 18,854 21.43% 2,698 -1.07%
Total 71,788 87,969 16,181
D2 2014 2014 % 2017 2017 % dif dif %
Dem 10,040 49.61% 11,683 50.49% 1,643 0.89%
Rep 5,656 27.95% 6,143 26.55% 487 -1.40%
Total 20,239 23,137 2,898
D3 2014 2014 % 2017 2017 % dif dif %
Dem 8,869 48.81% 11,086 49.62% 2,217 0.82%
Rep 4,594 25.28% 5,178 23.18% 584 -2.10%
Total 18,172 22,341 4,169
D1 and D4 2014 2014 % 2017 2017 % dif dif %
Dem 18,413 55.17% 23,472 55.24% 5,059 0.07%
Rep 5,906 17.69% 7,533 17.73% 1,627 0.03%
Total 33,377 42,491 9,114

The issue for Carter, Clawson, and possibly many Republicans in 2018 is about Democratic vs Republican turnout.  Overall Democrats had 970 extra voters from 2014 to 2017, keeping their turnout flat at 17% but Republican turnout dropped to 9%. The largest difference was in D3 where Republican turnout dropped 12% from 2014 levels. Another way to say this is that even with close to 9,000 more Democrats registered to vote in the city they still managed to turnout at 2014 levels. The 3% drop in turnout was almost entirely due to Republicans staying home.

Cast Votes 2014 vs 2017 by Party

At Large 2014 Voters 2014 Turnout 2017 Voters 2017 Turnout dif dif %
Dem 6,690 17% 7,660 17% 970 0%
Rep 2,925 18% 1,773 9% -1,152 -9%
D2 2014 2014 Turnout 2017 2017 Turnout dif dif %
Dem 2,485 25% 3,030 26% 545 1%
Rep 1,519 27% 995 16% -524 -11%
D3 2014 2014 Turnout 2017 2017 Turnout dif dif %
Dem 2,121 24% 2,260 20% 139 -4%
Rep 1,058 23% 588 11% -470 -12%
D1 and D4 2014 2014 Turnout 2017 2017 Turnout dif dif %
Dem 2,084 23% 2,370 10% 286 -13%
Rep 348 8% 190 3% -158 -5%

Clearly low Republican turnout was a major factor in these upsets but a more illuminating way to look at this is by vote share, the percentage of the votes cast up by a party. In D2 Democrats netted a 30% gain in vote share on a 2.2% gain in registration advantage. In D3 Carter peeled off some Democrats in 2014 and 2017 but he couldn’t manage to make up for a 12% drop in the Republican vote share. Close to 75% of the votes cast in the city election were from Democrats in 2017. These numbers are staggering.

Vote Share 2014 vs 2017 by Party

At Large 2014 Vote Share 2017 Vote Share dif %
Dem 62% 74% 12%
Rep 27% 17% -10%
D2 2014 Vote Share 2017 Vote Share dif %
Dem 50% 68% 18%
Rep 34% 22% -12%
D3 2014 Vote Share 2017 Vote Share dif %
Dem 59% 73% 14%
Rep 23% 11% -12%
D1 and D4 2014 Vote Share 2017 Vote Share dif %
Dem 77% 84% 7%
Rep 13% 7% -6%

Clearly there’s something important happening but who are those that chose to vote and what’s causing the uptick in Democratic turnout?

Categories of Voters:

It’s helpful to break the 2017 voters into three main classes:

  1. Regular city voters who voted in 2014 and 2017.
  2. Found voters who didn’t vote in 2014 but voted in 2017. These people were registered to vote in city elections in 2014 but chose not to vote.
  3. New city voters who weren’t registered in 2014 but were in 2017.

Chart 5: Voter Category

Number Percentage
Voted 2014; Voted 2017 5,884 54.9%
Registered but didn’t vote in 2014; Voted 2017 2,812 26.2%
Not registered 2014; Registered & voted 2017 2,023 18.9%
Total 10,719

The Regulars:

Turnout was depressed massively for Republican regular voters. In D2 Clawson was a problematic candidate to say the least and it showed in Republican turnout. A full 50% of Republicans who voted in D2 in 2014 chose not to in 2017. It might look like Republicans weren’t feeling it for Clawson but they also weren’t feeling it for Carter in D3. Carter had taken non-Republican positions such as supporting the wild places public spaces tax initiative and making the motion to raise the minimum wage for City workers which could have eroded his Republican base. But that story alone can’t account for a meager 49% retention of Republican voters from 2014 to 2017. Meanwhile Democrats netted a 70% turnout of people who voted in 2014.

Voted in 2014 and 2017 Gainesville Elections

At-Large Dem Dem % Dem Share Rep Rep % Rep Share Total
Voted 4331 70% 74% 1204 48% 20% 5884
Total Registered 6220 2531 9554
D2 Dem Dem % Dem Share Rep Rep % Rep Share Total
Voted 1,689 73% 67% 672 50% 27% 2,529
Total Registered 2,326 1,346 4,040
D3 Dem Dem % Dem Share Rep Rep % Rep Share Total
Voted 1,434 72% 72% 438 49% 22% 1,987
Total Registered 1,988 899 3,141
D1 and D4 Dem Dem % Dem Share Rep Rep % Rep Share Total
Voted 1,195 63% 51% 95 33% 4% 2,354
Total Registered 1,888 287 3,155

The Found Voters:

There were 41,450 people who were registered to vote but didn’t cast ballots in 2014. A full 88% didn’t vote again in 2017 but of those that did 73% were Democrats. The Number of Republicans who didn’t vote in 2014 but chose to vote in 2017 was a pathetic 4% or 335 individuals. These are mostly long term residents of Gainesville and many of them have never voted in a city election before. The most likely causation here is the Trump effect. Indivisible, the Women’s March, and various resistance organizations have helped to fire up over two thousand new, long term city residents to vote.

Registered in 2014 and 2017 but did not vote in 2014

At-Large Dem Dem % Dem Share Rep Rep % Rep Share Total
Voted 2,153 9% 77% 335 4% 12% 2,812
Total Registered 22,873 55% 8317 20% 41,504
D2 Dem Dem % Dem Share Rep Rep % Rep Share Total
Voted 925 14% 72% 203 6% 16% 1,284
Total Registered 64,07 51% 3,149 25% 12,446
D3 Dem Dem % Dem Share Rep Rep % Rep Share Total
Voted 497 11% 76% 81 4% 12% 653
Total Registered 4,662 50% 2,132 23% 9,364
D1/D4 Dem Dem % Dem Share Rep Rep % Rep Share Total
Voted 729 6% 83% 51 2% 6% 874
Total Registered 11,803 60% 3,036 15% 19,691

The New Voters:

There were ~37,000 people registered to vote in the City of Gainesville in 2017 who were not registered to vote in the city in 2014. Most of these people are voters who moved into the City from elsewhere in the state or even Alachua County but this also includes people who registered to vote for the first time. The vast majority of these people didn’t vote but about 1,400 who did were again disproportionately Democrats. The largest vote capture is in D2 where 16% of these new voters turned out. Overall 68% of the newly registered voters were Democrats and 68% of those that voted were Democrats. Again, Republicans had a pathetic 4% or 293 people turnout from this category in 2017.

2017 New Gainesville City Voters

2017 GNV New Voters Dem Dem % Dem Share Rep Rep % Rep Share Total
Voted 1,367 5% 68% 293 4% 14% 2,023
Total Registered 25,144 68% 8,006 22% 36,892
D2 2017 GNV New Voters Dem Dem % Dem Share Rep Rep % Rep Share Total
Voted 464 16% 62% 141 9% 19% 747
Total Registered 2,948 44% 1,648 25% 6,649
D3 2017 GNV New Voters Dem Dem % Dem Share Rep Rep % Rep Share Total
Voted 371 8% 62% 93 4% 16% 594
Total Registered 4,422 45% 2,148 22% 9,818
D1 and D4 2017 GNV New Voters Dem Dem % Dem Share Rep Rep % Rep Share Total
Voted 529 5% 74% 59 1% 8% 713
Total Registered 9,772 48% 4,209 21% 20,433

Conclusions:

This progressive wave election in Gainesville happened because Republican candidates were uniquely problematic and because there was a strong Trump effect pushing new city voters to the polls and keeping Republicans from turning out. Republicans and right wing operatives will blame the Democrats registration advantage but a 1.7% gain from 2014 can’t be the sole cause.

The truth is that progressives fired up their base to turnout like never before. They not only made sure that over 70% of those who cast ballots in 2014 did so in 2017, they also made sure that over 3,500 newly registered and longtime residents voted. This could be a precursor to the so called “Indivisible wave” pundits are predicting in 2018 in which Democrats turnout is large numbers and take the US House and Senate.

But this is only half the story. The other important piece for Gainesville in 2017 and the nation in 2018 is that Republicans are highly discouraged. There were large drop offs in all categories of voters and it all can’t be blamed on problematic candidates. Many Republicans are facing a massive disillusionment from Trump’s actions and are becoming discouraged by politics. This could very well have resulted in a record number of Republicans giving up on the electoral process and deciding not to vote in this past election.

This combination of an energized left and a depressed right will make 2018 a very interesting year for politics.

Week in Review 4-2-17

This week the Florida legislature steals from the working poor, votes to bust public sector unions, and a congressman forgets that he serves his constituents and not Trump. Here’s a review of some of the more important things that happened last week with bolded lines as calls to action.


  • For the 16th year in a row the Florida Governor and legislature will roll some of the $292 million ear marked for affordable housing into the general fund. The Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund, established in ’93 takes 20 cents of every real estate transaction and puts it in a trust fund to be spent on affordable housing. But since the start of the great recession in 2008 the state has raided over $1.3 billion from it, stealing money from from low income families and the working poor. The boldness of this year’s theft varies from chamber and branch with the Governor proposing to steal $248 million while the senate steals $130 million. Call Sen. Perry (R, Gainesville) at 352-264-4040 and  Rep Chuck Clemons (R, Gainesville) at 352-313-6542 and tell them that it’s called it trust fund for a reason. Tell them to spend the full $292 million from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund on affordable housing.  (link)
  • HB11, a bill that would bust public sector unions if their membership drops below 50% has passed the Florida House. The bill is an indefensible attack on unions whose only goal is to hurt workers and their institutions. Three Republicans voted against the bill. Rep. Clemons wasn’t among them even though he told a group of Gainesville workers lobbying in Tallahassee last week that he’d vote against the bill. This commitment came after he was accused of supporting policies he doesn’t really like for other people, his party, and for powerful lobbyist. After hearing him talk about his brother, who started the Gainesville firefighters union, he assured this group of workers that he would be voting against this anti-union bill. He’s so afraid that he’ll face a primary in 2018 that he’s forgotten that he has his own politics. Feel free to call Rep Chuck Clemons (R, Gainesville) at 352-313-6542 and tell him to grow a spine. Also tell him that there’s no difference between a far-right politician and a moderate Republican who votes like a far-right politician. (link)
    The Senate version of this bill will likely not be heard this year which makes the likelihood of HB 11 becoming a law very, very unlikely.
  • Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who is likely running for Florida Governor, wants to put a living wage on the state ballot in 2018. He led Miami Beach in their vote to increase the city’s minimum wage last year. This effort was predictably shut down by the courts because it’s not legal, which is why other cites and counties haven’t followed suit. I’ve never been impressed with Levine but if he helps put living wage on the ballot in 2018 then I’m all ears. (link)
  • The Florida House released their healthcare budget this week. It includes over $620 million in cuts to hospitals, mostly for poor people. The budget does include “$132.7 million more for health care and nutrition programs for children and women; $49 million more for nursing home and elder care; $37.9 million for mental health and disability programs; and another $13.1 million for state and local health departments.” This good is outweighed by the deep cuts to hospitals that service the poor. Call Rep Chuck Clemons (R, Gainesville) at 352-313-6542 and tell him that low income Floridan’s need MORE healthcare, not less. (link)
      Meanwhile the Florida Senate passed a budget with over $1 billion increases to healthcare. This includes $11.7 million more in medicaid payments and a $21 million increase to the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. (

link

    )
  • Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC) held a rally at the Capitol this week. They did so to call out the racist, anti-immigrant bills that are working their way through the house right now. The most onus of which is HB 687 , a bill that would essentially deputize local county and city workers to become ICE agents and punish cities that refuse to comply with ICE orders. Call Rep Chuck Clemons (R, Gainesville) at 352-313-6542 and tell him to vote against this anti-immigrant bill. (link)

 

  • West Palm Beach became a “Welcoming City” this week. They stopped short of calling themselves a “Sanctuary City” but have all the criteria needed in place. They’re not holding people for ICE without a warrant or judges orders and are not asking about immigration status. (link)

 

  • Manatee’s were reclassified from endangered to threatened due to rebounding numbers. In the 70’s there were only a few hundred left and now there’s over 6,500. (list)
  • HB 15, a bill that would greatly increase state funding for private schools, passed the PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee this week. If the bill becomes law it’ll greatly increase the amount of money tax payers give to private, mostly religious schools. The Senate version is SB 1314 and it’s our best shot to stop it.  Call Sen Hukill (R, Port Orange) chair of the Senate Education Committee at (386) 304-7630 and tell her to un-agenda this bill which gives tax payer money to private, mostly religious schools. (link)
  • Congressman Yoho suffering from foot in mouth disease, defended Sen. Nunes’ contact with the White House over leaks by saying that Sen Nunes works for the president. It’d be useful to call Yoho at 352-505-0838 and remind him that he works for us, not Trump. (link)
  • Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared war on sanctuary cities. Alachua County falls under this category according to this administration. Contact his office at 202-353-1555 and tell him to that undocumented people have rights and that we’ll protect them in Alachua County. (link)
  • Who pays for the border wall? Trump promised that Mexico would pay for it but his recent budget requests that Americans pay for it. His proposal includes $18 billion in cuts to medical research, community grants which would go towards building a useless wall. (link)
  • VP Mike Pence broke a tie vote in the Senate to reverse an Obama era rule that prevented states from stripping funds to Planned Parenthood. (link)

Week in review 3-25-17

Here’s a week in review of some of the more important things that happened this week with bolded lines as calls to action.


  • Trump released his “Declined Detainer Outcome Report” this week. It’s similar to what the Nazis did with publishing crimes from Jews but this time it’s crimes from undocumented peoples. The report places Alachua County in the top 10 least compliant offices in the USA. Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell has been non complaint with ICE since 2015 due to activism from the Interfaith Alliance for Immigrant Justice. Darnell says she doesn’t hold people for ICE without a warrant because it’s a violation of their 4th amendment rights but that’s just legal cover for her desire not to terrorize this community. (link) There’s been a debate  spinning within the activist circles: Do we aim for sanctuary status and risk bringing the wrath of the Trump regime down upon us or do we seek the so called freedom cities initiative pushed by the ACLU which is sanctuary status in all but name? Well, if Trump and ICE are labeling us a sanctuary county then our goal is to defend that title and strengthen our resolve.
  • HB 373 would further limit the already limited protections for teachers in Florida. In 2011 Gov Scott ended “professional services contracts” (aka tenure) which put all teachers on a yearly contract.  Teachers didn’t know if they’d be working from one year to the next so many the unions negotiated an automatic renewal if they received good evaluations from their principles. The teachers unions in Alachua, Marion, and almost all school districts have passed this common sense contract language. The bill passed it’s final committee in the House but still has a floor vote. Call Rep Chuck Clemons (R, Gainesville) at 352-313-6542 and tell him to VOTE NO on this anti-teacher bill. The Senate version SB 856 has not been heard in a single committee which likely means that this won’t be taken up this year. (link)
  • HB 697, the anti-sanctuary bill passed an important house committee this week. The bill would require law enforcement officers to hold undocumented people for 48 hours at local tax payer expense. The Senate version isn’t moving but it’s a dangerous anti-immigrant bill that should be opposed. Call Rep Chuck Clemons (R, Gainesville) at 352-313-6542 and tell him that
    • local law enforcement are not ICE agents and forcing them to behave as such will only serve to further marginalize this already at risk community.
    • that forcing local agencies to hold people without a warrant is a violation of their 4th amendment rights
    • that this is an unfunded mandate from Tallahassee which will cost millions of dollars to local tax payers. 

      Or better yet. You can tell him in person. Sign up with the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC) for the mobilization to Tallahassee. (link)

  • Disney was forced to pay $3.8 in stolen wages to it’s workers. This was due to violations of minimum wage and overtime rules. Wage theft is very, very common and it’s very, very rare that it’s reported. If you work in Alachua County you can use our Wage Recovery Program to help recover your stolen wages.
  • Gov Scott removed State Attorney Ayala, the first African American states attorney in Florida from a high profile case in Orlando because she refused to seek the death penalty. The Florida Legislative Black Caucus is rightfully upset and the NAACP is leading a protest this Thursday at the Capital. (link)
  • The Florida Senate passed SB 436 which will allow students to pray and express their religion more openly. The bill is unnecessary as religious freedom is already protected but the bill goes further by forcing schools to allow students to pray at events. This will likely bring prayer back to games, concerts, and other events. The House version HB 303 is much better and still has to pass a floor vote. Call Rep Chuck Clemons (R, Gainesville) at 352-313-6542 and tell him that this is an unnecessary bill that only seeks to bring religion back into k-12 education(link)
  • The House and Senate will officially be submitting their budgets this week (the Governor did 2 weeks ago) and they’re going to be drastically different. (link)
    • The Senate wants an extra $1 billion for higher education. The House wants $800 million less.
    • Governor Scott wants $618 million in tax cuts while the Senate wants to modestly raise taxes.
    • Governor Scott wants a 3% raise in k-12 spending with the majority coming from an increase taxes paid by homeowners. The House isn’t interested in increasing taxes so they’ll have to find the needed $558 million in their budget.
  • SB10, the bill that would build a reservoir for Lake Okeechobee and stop these terrible algae blooms and fish dies offs is being held hostage by Gov Scott for support in keeping Enterprise Florida alive. This is complicated as House Speaker Corcoran just got the support from House democrats to kill Enterprise Florida giving them a veto proof majority. This is important because Rick Scott is running for Senate in 2018 on the failed corporate welfare policy that is Enterprise Florida and has threatened to shut down the government if he doesn’t get his way. And just this last week Sen Rubio, cashing in his sugar lobby campaign checks, came out against SB 10. Despite the confusion and infighting Sen President Negron is still confident that the bill will more forward. But that isn’t to say that there isn’t local opposition. A local group called “Glades Lives Matter” is organizing protests against the lose of farm jobs that would result from this bill passing.
  • A bill that sought to outlaw shark fin harvesting has been gutted due to pressure from the fishing industry. (link)
  • Sen. Nelson leads Gov Scott in a third consecutive poll. This one from the Florida Chamber of Commerce has Nelson at 48% to Scott’s 42%. Interestingly 80% of Florida Republicans also have a positive view of Trump while 81% of Democrats have a negative view. (link)
  • The Secret Service is asking for an extra $60 million to cover expenses from the lavish lifestyle of Trump. (link)
  • The US Senate voted along party lines to repeal Obama era rules that protected consumer online data from their internet providers. Due to people like Sen Marco Rubio your internet provider will now sell your information to ad agencies, political outfits, government agencies… pretty much anyone willing to buy it. It might be a good time to switch to Tor Browser.  Call Sen Marco Rubio at (904) 398-8586 and ask to look at his and his families full browser history because that’s what he just voted to allow your internet provider to do.(link)
  • Trumpcare died in the US House this week and Trump blamed the Democrats not the ~30 Republicans who refused to vote for it. Congressman Yoho was one of these Republicans and cited the ~3,000 calls against the vote to ~200 calls for the vote as a reason for his stance. Thanks for the encouragement! Call Congressman Yoho at 352-505-0838 and tell him to support HR 676, the Medicare for all act.
  • Trump gave the final go ahead to the Keystone XL pipeline. This was one of his campaign promises along with promises to only approve it if it was made with US steel. It’s not being made with US steel. (link)
  • Check out the Florida AFL-CIO weekly update video they put out each each week on priority legislation. If your not following them on facebook then your missing out.

Week in review 3-18-17

Here’s a week in review of some of the more important things that happened this week. I’ve added calls to action in bold to a lot of these items.

Immigration:

  • FSCU is looking to become a sanctuary campus. This follows FSU’s move last month, but besides that I’ve seen very little movement at the other state universities and colleges.  Email UF President Fauchs at kent.fuchs@ufl.edu and tell him it’s about time to declare UF a sanctuary campus. (link)
  • Miami-Dade school board voted to become a sanctuary school district. Specifically they ordered the superintendent to review protocols so that the school district can better defend immigrant students. Email the Alachua County School Board at boardmembers@gm.sbac.edu and tell them to follow suit. (link)
  • HB 83 a bill which would impose harsher sentences for crimes committed by undocumented people passed an important committee last week. But interestingly the House GOP is starting to fall apart on the question of constitutionality. While the bill is undoubtedly unconstitutional many of Republicans want to move ahead and force the Florida Supreme Court to rule on it. It’s a strange situation to be in but it is a contradiction we can exploit. Call Rep. Bill Hager (R, Boca Raton)  chair of the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee at at (561) 470-6607  and tell him not to agenda this unconstitutional bill. (link)
  • Broward County might drop their sanctuary county status because of fear of the Trump regime. They want to keep the policies in place without holding on to the name. A rose by any other name smells the same, right? But caving to Trump is a terrible strategy for progressives. (link)
  • Miami-Dade county was attempting to release the names of people detained by ICE but has stopped doing so since ICE argued their requests are not classified as public information. (link)

Budget Woes:

  • The Florida House is looking to cut some $249 million from hospitals and nursing homes. This is shameful. Call Rep Chuck Clemons (R, Gainesville) at (352) 313-6542 and tell him that pushing cuts to nursing homes and hospitals is unacceptable. (link)
  • The Florida House wants to cut as much as $80 million in state aid to Florida’s public universities. This is in stark contrast to the Senate budget that calls for MORE spending. Call Rep Chuck Clemons (R, Gainesville) at (352) 313-6542 and tell him that the University of Florida needs MORE, not less support from the state. (link)
  • Whoa. “Go home and be with your babies”. Sen Benacquisto (R, Fort Myers) told Sen. Brook (D, Broward) to go home after she showed up unexpectedly for a committee to vote against a bill Benacquisto was pushing. She likely did so at the behest of Sen. Latvala who was in a bitter leadership battle for Senate President last year. There are major cracks opening up in the Senate which is likely to cause problems, especially considering the Senate and House are going to war over the budget and higher education spending. (link)
  • Gov Scott is openly talking about vetoing the budget which could lead to a shutdown of the government on July 1st. (link)

State news

  • Hb581, a bill that would throw 229,000 people (mostly children) off food stamps passed the House Appropriations Committee this week. This is part of a broader welfare reform movement in which racism is used by rich people to cut benefits for the working poor. Call Rep Chuck Clemons (R, Gainesville) at (352) 313-6542 and tell him to vote NO on throwing children, veterans, and seniors off food stamps. (link)
  • Florida is trying to drug test welfare recipients, again. This was passed in 2011 but judges threw it out. The bill (HB 1117) would also require poor people who are applying for food stamps to pay $40 upfront for the drug test. The bills next stop is the Healthcare Appropriations Subcommittee.  Call Rep. Jason Brodeur (R, Sanford) at (407) 302-4800 and tell him that this is a terrible bill that punishes poor people. (link)
  • The revamped Stand Your Ground bill passed the Florida Senate this week. This bill would shift the burden of proof from the defendant to the prosecutor to prove that Stand Your Ground shouldn’t be invoked. This will likely lead to an increase in the use of Stand Your Ground as a defense in cases involving gun violence. (link)
  • SB 1130 which codifies state funding for the Pregnancy Support Services program passed an important senate committee last week. These are the so called crisis pregnancy centers who use dubious information to talk women out of abortions. They’re almost all religious and all are adamantly  anti-choice.  While funding has passed in years past this would make it more permanent. Call Sen. Perry (R, Gainesville) at (352) 264-4040 and tell him to vote no on this anti-choice bill. (link)
  • HB 725, a bill that expands driverless cars, passed the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Tuesday. The bill would remove the requirement that the operator of the car is licensed but instead would license the car. (link)
  • Looks like  SB 80, a bill that would gut our sunshine laws, is all but dead. At least the terrible version of it. A compromise version has been struck and most of the information access advocates have drooped their opposition. (link)
  • A group is suing Florida Governor Rick Scott for his slow rate of granting clemency. Under Scott 2,488 people have had their civil rights restored compared to 155,315 approvals during the four-year term of former Gov. Charlie Crist and 73,508 during the eight years Jeb Bush was governor. (link)
  • Gov. Scott signed a bill that requires juries be unanimous when sentencing people to death. This was mandated by the US Supreme Court. (link)
  • Bright Futures is a wealth transfer of taxpayer money and poor people’s lottery spending to pay for the college education of rich people’s kids. One of the ways poor students are kept out of qualifying for Bright Futures are standardized test score (ACT, SAT) requirements. Call Sen. Perry  (R, Gainesville) at (352) 264-4040 and tell him to review Bright Futures requirements to make young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds eligible . (link)
  • Alachua County is the leader in solar power in the state. The next top contender is DeSoto County with 20,000 fewer kilowatts. (link)
  • A bill working its way through the Florida House right now would allow parents to petition to have material removed from the curriculum. Bill HB 989 is a response to conservative parents protesting over textbooks being “too pro-Islam and not pro-Christian enough”. The bill was written by the conservative Florida Citizens’ Alliance who has long opposed teaching evolution in the classroom. Note: The bill sponsor Rep Donalds has three children that all attend charter schools. Call Rep Chuck Clemons (R, Gainesville) at (352) 313-6542 and tell him to vote NO on this anti-science bill that erodes the separation of church and state.  (link)
  • Florida Colleges are pissed at the Senate budget due to obscene budget cuts which include:
    • $55 million cit in remedial education.
    • $30 million in performance funding.
    • $10 million in cuts to incentive funds for technical industry certifications.
  • Florida spent $237 million on private attorneys without any oversight. This was to do things like defend the welfare drug testing ban and fight Florida Sunshine law requests. There was another $16 million the sate was forced to pay to reimburse lawyers who brought suits against the state. Keep this in mind when Republicans nickle and dime the working poor. (link)
  • Congressman DeSantis (R, Daytona) thinks cancer patients should go to the ER for healthcare. Call him at (386) 756-9798 and let him know he’s wrong. (link)

Trump-mess

  • Trump revoked a rule from the Federal Family Education Loan Program which barred lenders from collecting more than 16% in fees for those who defaulted on their loans. Shameful. (link)
  • Trump’s proposed budget is most likely worse than you think. Here’s a good video that walks you through where the cuts are going to be (link)
  • Here’s a must read piece from Forbes, Unspeakable Realities Block Universal Health Coverage In America: “Like most of my neighbors I have a good job in the private sector. Ask my neighbors about the cost of the welfare programs they enjoy and you will be greeted by baffled stares. All that we have is “earned” and we perceive no need for government support. Nevertheless, taxpayers fund our retirement saving, health insurance, primary, secondary, and advanced education, daycare, commuter costs, and even our mortgages at a staggering public cost. Socialism for white people is all-enveloping, benevolent, invisible, and insulated by the nasty, deceptive notion that we have earned our benefits by our own hand.” (link)
  • Iowa Republican Rep King is a racist and is tweeting about it. His tweet was praised by white nationalist and condemned by… not enough people. Call him at (202) 225-4426 and tell him his politics are unwelcome. (link)
  • A new poll has 46% of Floridians approving of the Affordable Care Act while 39% disapprove. 39% would like to expand ACA, 14% to keep it as it is, 18% to repeal it, and 29% to replace it. And 73% are concerned they’ll loose their healthcare if the ACA is repealed. Call Congressman Yoho at 352-505-0838 and tell him to vote NO on Trumpcare. (link)
  • Trump is now allowing the CIA to call drone strikes. Call Congressman Yoho at 352-505-0838 and tell him to treat Trump like he treated Obama! Tell him to reign in this executive overreach.  (link)
  • Trump signed a new executive order that would give him the authority to gut the federal branch. He is seeking the elimination of departments and possibly whole agencies (link)
  • Trump is delaying the implementation of an Obama era OSHA regulation around how much Beryillium a worker can be exposed to. The rule would have saved some 100 lives a year. (link)
  • Trump is set to roll back Obama era fuel standards for cars. (link)

Gainesville City Election Preview

If you haven’t voted yet… GO VOTE! I have a handy voter guide here and you can find your voter location here. But that’s not what this post is about. It’s about trying to understand what’s happening with voter trends and why.

It’s notoriously hard to predict city elections. They take place in March and usually have dismal turnout. In 2014 we had 15% turnout and in 2015 it was 12.6%. The 2016 city election coincided with the presidential primary so its data is skewed.

To start with we have a lot more voters in 2017. In 2014 there were ~72,000 voters and in 2015 there were ~73,000. Right now there’s 88,194 people qualified to vote in this city election. That breaks down to ~123% increase or a full 16,400 more voters. This is mostly due to the 2016 election voter registration drive, but nevertheless, if turnout and vote share stay the same as 2014 then we can expect some 6,800 votes on election day.

123 percent more.jpg

The Early Vote (EV) count lines up nicely but there’s far fewer Vote By Mail (VBM) ballots than expected. And to compound this oddity the trend has been for a higher vote share from VBM and a lower vote share from EV.

Vote History.jpg

What gives? The key is to see who is voting. In 2014 Republicans made up 28% of the voters at the polls, 22% EV, and 26% VBM.

2014 Vote Share.jpg

The Democrats, unions, and other left leaning groups have made major pushes to close the VBM partisan gap which was achieved in 2016. Over 90% of Democrats and over 95% of Republicans who cast their ballots by mail in 2017 also did so in November of 2016.

This could account for some of what we’re seeing this year but not all of it. The Republican vote share for EV is down to 15% and VBM is at 20%.

Vote Share 2017.jpg

Are the Republicans waiting for election day to vote? There were only some 60 more Republican VBM and some 30 more Republican EV votes cast in 2014. The demographic trends are favoring Democrats but not by these margins.

The prevailing theories are that Republicans are staying home because:

  • Carter in D3 is trying to appeal to Democrats
  • Clawson in D2 is a flawed candidate that Republicans aren’t excited about
  • Warren in At-Large can’t turn the chamber support into Republican turnout

But I don’t think these reasons tell the whole story.

Of the people who have voted so far 42% didn’t vote in 2015, 40% didn’t vote in 2014, and 31% didn’t vote in 2014 or 2015. Most of these are regular November voters who don’t vote in city elections. And these voters are overwhelmingly Democrats.

New Voters 2017

So what does this mean? It could mean that Clawson, Carter, and Warren are in big trouble. Carter is dropping A LOT of money in his race at the last minute. With the Chamber’s PAC mailers he’s spending well over $60,000 and some of that was for polling. Maybe they’re reading the same tea leaves.

It’s also very telling that the chamber has all but dropped Clawson from their outreach effort.

I did see the chamber putting out Facebook adverts for Warren in At-Large but no mail. And even those Facebook ads were short lived. Maybe they’re understanding the risk that their strong support could actually drive this electorate away from Warren.

But most excitingly this could also mean that the electoral push back to the Trump agenda is starting early. Could this be a sign of the so called “Indivisible Wave” expected in 2018?

Either way it’s terrible time to be a Republican in the Democratic stronghold of Gainesville.

Note: The numbers used here vary because of when they were pulled and how they were compiled but the general trends stand. 

Week in review 3-11-17

Here’s a week in review of some of the more important things that happened. Think of it as a sort of abridged digest of things you might have missed.


State Budget

  • House Speaker Corcoran is seeking help from House Democrats in help overcoming a Governor Scott veto on bills gutting Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. I think it’s great that we might kill these corporate welfare programs but I have to ask. Qhat are the Dems getting in return? (link)
    • The House, in one of it’s first floor votes of the year, voted to kill Enterprise Florida and guy funding for Visit Florida. (link)
  • As one of their first acts, the Florida Senate passed a bill that would expend higher education spending by some $1 billion. The bill would also expand 1st generation scholarships, implement block tuition, start the “Florida Farmworker Student Scholarship Program” streamline the 2 year college to 4 year University path, and a bunch of other things. (link)Meanwhile the House wants to cut millions from Universities and has requested documents showing the excess spending like a $61,000 trip to Paris from the University of Florida. Their goal is to shame Universities and cut them to the bone.  (link)
  • The Florida House budget is terrible. Of the proposed $1.4 billion in cuts (they’re looking for another $0.6 billion) it includes
    • $574 million in cuts to healthcare.
    • $485 million in education cuts.
    • $321.2 million in transportation cuts
      This is just shameful. These cuts disproportionately affect the working people. (link)
  • Who is Florida House speaker Corcoran ? He’s an ideologue who’s in a seat of power and is fighting Governor Scott on his budget… and is likely going to win. What does winning mean to him? It means Scott takes apart his budget and has less to campaign on for US Senate in 2018. And I’m pretty sure Scott won’t do that until the state Government shuts down on July 1st.  (link)

State News

  • Alachua County has the worse achievement gap between white and black students in Florida. On average Alachua County white students over perform state averages and black students under perform state averages. Black students are also nearly 5 times more likely to be suspended. (link )
  • Coaral Gables is the first city in Florida to ban plastic bags. this is on the heels of the cities legal victory defending their ban on Styrofoam containers. (link)
  • A sweeping anti-testing bill is working it’s way through the state legislator. SB 964/HB 1249 would eliminate the majority of high school end of course tests, allow schools to continue to use the paper-and-pencil tests (important as it was an unfunded mandate for school boards to purchase technology), would allow ACT/SAT to be used as in place of many state standardized tests, and pushes all testing to the last few weeks of school. Over all it’s a great step in the right direction and also shows that Republicans and bucking the Jeb Bush pro-testing politic. (link)
  • Congressman Yoho is being targeted with these pro Trumpcare adverts. (link)
  • Florida will vote on a bill that will expand Stand Your Ground laws. The bill, SB 128/H B245 would shift the burden of proof to the prosecutor to prove that Stand Your Ground shouldn’t be invoked, flipping the entire process on it’s head. (link)
  • National Woman Liberation in Gainesville held a solid women’s strike event on Wednesday. (link)
  • Republican Sen Flores will try to stop Sen. Steube’s pro gun bills the most controversial of which would allow guns on college campuses and in airport terminals. If she hold it’s very likely his sweeping 10 bill pro-gun legislation is dead. (link)
  • “Anti local control” Senator Perry is at it again. This time he wants to privatize the Gainesville Regional Utility. (link)
  • Yet another anti-local control bill passed an important Florida Senate committee this week. This one would make it a lot harder for Cities/Counties to pass taxes. Among the provisions would be requiring a 60% vote for referendums and introducing a complicated taxing scheme about when and what taxes can be imposed and under what circumstances. This bill is meant as a way of shielding rich peoples money away from cities and counties. (link)
  • The Senate has three different medical  Marijuana bills out already and the House just released theirs. HB 1397. It’s not as good as the Senate versions. This could be a point of conflict as both have to be identical before being sent to Governor Scott. (link)
  • A bill set to help k-12 Christian students being discriminated against is on the fast track in the Florida Senate. (link)
  • A circuit court ruled that Trump can’t force a county to hold immigrants for ICE. Too bad Miami-Dade folded like a deck chair anyway. (link)
  • White supremacist groups are organizing in college and university campuses throughout the nation and especially in Florida. (link)
  • Broward County k-12 became the first sanctuary school district in Florida. (link)
  • Immigrant Rights activists rallied at the capitol on Wednesday to protest HB 697/SB 786 which would punish sanctuary cities and counties. (link)
  • Trumpcare will hurt Floridan’s who are old, poor, and live in rural areas. (link). It will also bring Medicaid caps which will limit the care hospitals and doctors can give to the poor. (link)

Trump Mess

  • Rep Curbelo (R, Miami) re-filed the “Recognizing America’s Children Act” which would protect the Dreamers from Trump and give a pathway to citizenship. Call Congressman Yoho at (352) 505-0838 and tell him to co-sponsor (link)
  • Swamp swamp swamp. ProPublica has a list of 400 lobbyist, insiders, and BS political hires that the Trump administration installed. (link)
  • Trump is delaying an Obama era rule which would require for profit schools to warn students the schools might close soon because they’re under investigation for being predatory. Trump must have sympathy for these scam schools through his experiences with his own scam school Trump U. (link)
  • Republicans introduced their replacement of the ACA and it’s terrible. Up to 30 million will lose their coverage, 1.2 million people will lose their jobs, preexisting conditions are going to be taxed, and it cuts the supplements for the working poor to buy their own healthcare on the market. (link)
  • The US Supreme Court refused to take up a case involving a trans student. There was hope that this would be the first case to enshrine trans rights on a national level but the Supreme Court wants to wait until they have a full bench to decide on the case. (link)
  • Trump says that Planed Parenthood can keep federal funding is they stop providing abortions. While this is silly because federal funding can’t pay for abortions it’s also telling that Trump is worried he’ll lose this fight. (link)
  • Reince Priebus is likely on his way out as chief of Staff to Trump. (link)
  • Roger Stone admitted to having a back channel to Wikileaks during the 2016 presidential election. Stone worked closely to get Trump elected. (link)
  • Turns out Trump won’t require the Keystone XL pipeline to be made with US steel.   (link)
  • Trump’s budget seeks to cut NOAA, the main researcher into climate change, by 17%. But the brunt of the cuts will for a 26% cut in research and a 22% cut to the satellite data division. He also wants to cut $73 million in Sea Grants which university’s use to conduct coastal research. (link). This includes the widely popular Florida Sea Grant at the University of Florida which sees a $800 return on each $1 invested in it. (link)
  • VP Mike Pence used a private AOL email account while governor. He received secret and sensitive information on it. And it was hacked. Lock him up? (link)
  • Trump plans to separate women from their children who illegally enter the US and are caught. That’s some cold hearted GOP BS. (link)
  • The US Senate reversed an Obama era rule that forced government contractors to release information about their violations of federal labor laws. The vote was 49 to 48 and does nothing but help bad businesses hide abuses to their workers. (link)
  • Trump wants a 14% cut to the Coast Guard, 11% to the STA and 11% to FEMA to pay for hiring 15,00 new ICE agents. (link) This is something that Rubio and Nelson have said they’ll fight. (link)