The 2023 Florida legislative session was among the most extremist on record.
A number of the laws passed are already tied up in the courts with lawsuits challenging their constitutionality, including the 6-week abortion ban, the ban on gender-affirming care for minors, new restrictions on drag performances, and parts of the HB 7050 suppression bill.
But many widely unpopular and repressive new laws went into effect on July 1.
Any Floridian legally entitled to carry a firearm may now do so without a permit, training, or background check. Research conducted by the Global Strategy Group and released by Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence found that 68 percent of Miami-Dade voters oppose permitless carry. Yet, almost all of the Miami-Dade Republican legislators voted overwhelmingly in favor of this legislation, HB 543.
New Legal Peril for the Undocumented
Although Florida’s economy is fueled by our hospitality, construction, and agricultural industries, which depend on the labor of undocumented immigrants, and more than half of Miami-Dade’s residents were born abroad according to the US Census, new laws make it more difficult for undocumented immigrants to safely live and work in Florida.
Employers now risk heavy fines for not using the E-verify database and workers face felony charges for using false documents to get work. But the rights undocumented immigrants are important well beyond the value of their labor. According to these new dehumanizing laws, it is now a felony to transport undocumented immigrants across state lines, even if they are members of your own family. This legislation also requires healthcare providers to inquire about a patient’s status before providing care, creating a climate of fear that will cost lives.
These laws are unpopular and counterproductive, and supporters like Miami-Dade Rep. Alina Garcia have been filmed at community meetings begging immigrant workers to stay on the job despite the hostile conditions that she helped create. How many families do you know who have been targeted by this harmful policy? This legislation, SB 1718, also received overwhelming support from majority of Miami-Dade Republicans including Sens. Avila, Calatayud, Garcia, and Rodriguez, and almost all the local Representatives in the house (including Basabe, Borrero, Busatta Cabrera, Fabricio, and Porras) voted in favor of this harmful policy.
No More Protection for Renters
Florida is a national inflation hotspot and among the states with the highest rental costs in the country, and Miami is the most expensive city in Florida. A new law signed by the Governor makes local efforts to protect renters like Miami-Dade County’s “Tenant Bill of Rights” illegal. After Miamians rallied together to get policies that responded to our needs, the Miami-Dade Republicans not only supported but co-sponsored this bill, HB 1417, including Sen. Alexis Calatalyud and Reps. Fabian Basabe, Alina Garcia, and Jim Mooney. Despite its clear negative impact on their residents, and in opposition to the voices of struggling Miamians, every other Miami-Dade Republican also voted in favor.
Attacks on (Some) Unions
Unions representing public employees (except police, fire and corrections) face new restrictions to certification. Employees no longer have the option to have dues deducted from their paychecks. The intention of the bill was to weaken teachers unions, which is bad enough considering our state’s teacher shortage, but it affects everyone from airport and hospital workers to trash collectors to professors and librarians. What do Sen. Calatayud and Rep. Basabe have against government workers negotiating for fair pay? There was some Republican opposition to the bill in both the house and the senate, so why did so many from Miami-Dade, including Senators and Reps. Borrero, Busatta Cabrera, Garcia, Porras, Rizo and more make the personal, not partisan, choice to vote against the interests of their residents?
Attacks Racial Diversity in Higher Education
With the Higher Education portions of 2022’s so-called “Stop W.O.K.E.” Act (HB 7) tied up in the courts as a likely violation of the First Amendment, the legislature took another shot at both diversity programs within Florida colleges and universities and students’ access to the truth about race and racism in the United States with SB 266. In a classic example of what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “white backlash,” the legislature defunded all Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs, and legally banned FL colleges and universities from officially “advocat[ing] diversity, equity and inclusion.” Notably, the State University System’s Board of Governors passed a strategic plan promoting DEI only in 2020, in response to the police murder of George Floyd. Back then, these same DeSantis-appointed officials asserted that “[t]he tragic violence of Spring and Fall 2020 [...] caused us to pause and recognize the prevalence and the impacts of racism and social injustice in our country [...] and think seriously about how to repair the racial divide and restore equal justice for all.” But that was before DeSantis decided that the racial divide would propel him to the White House and every single Miami-Dade Republican decided that institutional racism was good for them too.
Cruel Limits on Gender Expression
Some of Florida’s new anti-LBGT laws have been temporarily or permanently stopped by the courts, but two especially egregious laws are now in effect: 1) Schools cannot use a student’s requested gender pronoun because “it is false to ascribe to a person a pronoun that does not correspond to such person’s sex.” 2) It is now illegal to use a public restroom “designated for the opposite sex.” These are exceptionally petty and cruel laws meant only to humiliate a vulnerable minority for political gain. Why did Reps. Basabe and Lopez and Sen. Garcia betray their LGBTQ residents by supporting them?
What can we do now?
Send more Democrats to the Florida Legislature to get out of the super minority! We need to pass new laws to undo the damage Republican leadership has caused Floridians, and allow us all to live the American dream in the pursuit of happiness.
I remain committed to being a voice for everyone in my community, but we need more voices in the legislature standing up for everyday people in Miami-Dade.
How did your elected representatives in the Senate and house vote on these dangerous policies and other harmful legislation? You can see how your representative voted at www.myfloridahouse.gov and https://m.flsenate.gov/.
State Representative Ashley Gantt just finished her first term as State Representative for District 109. She is an attorney, former public school teacher, and former public defender. You can reach her [email protected] as well as on Instagram, Facebook, and X (FKA Twitter).
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