When Progress Florida issued letter grades for legislators of Florida a few weeks ago, it allegedly based its ratings on the issues that were supposed to matter to the state's residents.
The organization represents that its ratings were based on the economy, public schools, the environment, civil rights, healthcare reproductive freedom, gun safety and a slew of other issues that are supposed to be "important" to the community. But what the organization failed to consider were the unique needs and priorities within the individual districts of the Florida House and Senate – the areas that each legislator was elected to fight for and champion.
These districts are comprised of your neighborhoods and are in place so that needed dollars are brought and policies are implemented to improve the quality of life for you and your family. Not only did Progress Florida fail to grade controversial bills that legislators put forth, it never even spoke with those legislators to hold them accountable for what they sponsored. Instead, the organization’s tendency is to tell the community what’s “good for Florida” and what’s not. And where there was controversy, it said nothing. If Progress Florida refuses to expose and correct bad bills, even those sponsored by legislators who they favor, it seems painfully obvious who is “bad for Florida,” and why.
Although the organization seems to overwhelmingly favor Democratic members of the Florida House and Senate, it is alarmingly biased against certain Democratic legislators because of their vote for or against a single issue with which it disagrees. What Progress Florida fails to understand is that one size doesn't fit all and that you can't blanket the entire state with the needs of one community or a single philosophy.
For example, there are several Democratic legislators who didn't vote at all on at least five items that were supposedly “good for Florida” but they didn't get a grade at all, which seems awfully biased – if you ask me. It is as if Progress Florida has a certain love affair with certain democratic legislators, so the organization shielded those lawmakers’ reputations by failing to give them a letter grade. When I was in school if you didn't answer a question on the test it was considered a wrong answer and counted against your grade. I might not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but I'm definitely not the dullest, so I would definitely get some work in the field trimming hedges, gardening or raking if I was a tool.
It is scary to think that Progress Florida gave State Sen. Jason Pizzo an “A” with his treacherous and dangerous Senate Bill 1310 that allowed for the criminalization of minors who posted pictures of a firearm or a bb-gun on social media. The bill, had it been adopted, would have been extremely harmful to families of the African diaspora communities who he serves – communities in which Sen. Pizzo doesn't live or polled before trying to enact life-changing legislation.
Then there's the grade ”F” that Progress Florida gave State Rep. James Bush III because it opposes policy and resources that favor for-profit charter schools. And although the Legislature has gone way too far in cutting public dollars to fund for-profit charter schools in Florida, Progress Florida failed to consider that Bush’s District 109 is home to non-profit charter schools that serve young, troubled African-Americans who have no other options to obtain a high school diploma. This lack of consideration and sensitivity for communities of color give me pause as to how “progressive” Progress Florida really is.
To award Sen. Pizzo an “A” after he sponsored such a controversial and divisive bill while handing Rep. Bush an “F” in the same breath, leaves more questions than answers. They’re both Democrats, right? If Black children are an afterthought to those who call themselves “friends” of the community, then it looks like the party has a decision to make.
Progress Florida gets an F for its analysis of the 2019 Florida Legislative Session. Because, for all of the progress that it claims to represent, its silence on issues that matter the most to African-American families, a core constituency, showed just how non-inclusive its thinking is, in practice. Progress Florida is a step backward - for Blacks.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Miami Times.