Florida Session Watch
By SEIU Florida Political Director Marcus Dixon
Pay attention this Legislative Session. The fight begins today.
On March 7th, State Senators and State Representatives will officially begin the 60-day Legislative Session, where laws affecting all Floridians will be considered and the new budget will be crafted. That means regulations that could preempt and constrain local city and county governments could be passed, and that money for important programs to support our working families could vanish with the stroke of a pen. Find out what’s at stake during this Session, with our breakdown of what SEIU Florida is fighting for and what we’re fighting against. We’ll need your help in this battle, so stay informed on what’s ahead.
This session, the Legislature promises to spend a great deal of time trying to agree on a State Budget. Based on current estimates, Florida is facing up to a $1.9 billion shortfall for two of the next three years. Many state lawmakers are using the shortfall as an excuse to propose drastic cuts to many programs that support Florida families. However, it’s important to understand that Florida actually has more money coming in than ever before. There is not a spending problem in this state — there is a priorities problem. The staggering deficits are the result of years of tax cuts for big business that have taken priority over properly funding schools and other critical social service programs. And this year, even with the projected shortfall, Governor Rick Scott is proposing an additional $600 million in tax cuts for those same special interests, while taking even more from the programs Florida families care about.
But there’s more than just the budget fight ahead. We are tracking thousands of bills that have been filed for consideration this year. Two laws have already been filed that threaten to destroy unions in this state. Other bills have been filed to weaken the Florida retirement system, allow guns at airports and on school campuses and force local governments to serve as part of the federal immigration force. That’s just to name a few. There are many other bills that threaten equality, opportunity and the needs of working families.
We won’t sit quietly by and let Florida families suffer. SEIU Florida and our local SEIU unions will be in Tallahassee to keep track of what’s happening and fight for your rights. We will update you along the way, letting you know how to fight back and encouraging you to participate in actions, make calls, send emails and even come to Tallahassee to meet with Legislators. We’re all in this fight together.
Our priorities for the 2017 Florida Legislative Session:
- Raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour
- Working to restore balance to our criminal justice system by strengthening the bonds of trust between the police and the communities they serve, pushing back against mass incarceration over criminalization including the school-to-prison pipeline and ensuring successful reentry into society and the restoration of civil rights
- Protecting aspiring citizens in our immigrant communities, who are victims of a broken immigration system and facing unprecedented attacks nationwide
- Fighting to preserve our rights for collective bargaining and a secure retirement for all workers
- Advocating for quality and affordable health care, including safe staffing levels, preserving access to insurance gained under the Affordable Care Act and increasing funding for hospitals that are a safety net for vulnerable patients
- Protecting the ability for local governments to make local decisions about living wage policies, paid sick leave, immigration and more without fear of the state overriding their decisions and taking them to court