Juan Peñalosa

Juan Peñalosa, executive director, Florida Democratic Party

The end of this year’s legislative session is one of the most shameful in our history.  From Jim Crow-era voting laws to placing children of color in harm’s way — undermining the rights of people of color was a constant in nearly every major piece of legislation that passed in 2019.

As the political power of communities of color grows, conservative lawmakers in the Florida Legislature are doing everything they can to strip us of our power and our vote. While Democratic champions fought against arming teachers, dismantling our public schools and Jim Crow voting bills – Florida Republicans, under the direction of Donald Trump, betrayed all of us.

A modern-day poll tax: More than 65 percent of Florida voters cast ballots to amend our constitution and restore the voting rights of more than 1.4 million convicted felons who have served their time. As Democrats and Supervisors of Elections began to register returning citizens to vote, Florida Republicans passed a bill that says before casting a vote, returning citizens have to pay fines, fees and court costs.

Florida repealed poll taxes in 1937, but Republicans in the legislature understand the growing power of our vote, and here we are again.

Guns in schools: The National Rifle Association supports arming teachers. And now, Florida Republicans support arming teachers. Giving teachers guns avoids the real problem of gun violence, and it makes us less safe.

Black Democrats in the Legislature passionately argued that turning Florida schools into armed camps make us less safe; and members of the NAACP, teachers unions, parent-teacher associations and Black journalists have indicated that students of color are at greater risk by arming teachers.

But, these arguments fell on deaf ears to most Republicans in the Florida Legislature, and they sent a bill putting more guns in schools to Gov. Ron DeSantis. Now, it’s up to us to stop arming teachers by making our voices heard at the local level.

De-funding public schools: Legislators who are in the pocket of unregulated private schools voted to take hundreds of millions of dollars from public schools and give those funds to private schools that are unregulated by local school boards.

According to Florida NAACP President Adora Nweze, vouchers are “a tool of segregation.” And she is correct. There’s no disguising the effort to allow white and affluent students to exit the public schools to attend private schools at the expense of Florida taxpayers.

The charter schools legislation is yet another unconstitutional public-dollar-funding-private-schools effort that actually takes new property tax dollars – authorized by taxpayers in certain counties – and gives a portion of it to charter schools, many of whom donate millions to the Republicans in the Legislature who passed the law.

We want you to know Democrats are fighting and we ask you to join us to fight against bills that defund our access to education and restrict our rights to vote.

Florida Democrats are demanding change to make Florida a better state for ALL Floridians. We don’t fear the future. We will fight for it.


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