We are back in Tallahassee for Week 3 of the 2020 Legislative Session! Below you will find your update from Week 2, along with a few recent news articles I encourage you to read and share.
Keep in mind that that our Weekly Updates our thorough but will never be all encompassing to what happens during the 2020 Legislative Session. Please consider keeping up to date with us in real time through our social media accounts including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can also watch Committee Meetings and Floor Sessions live on the Florida Channel.
I also wanted to lift up the most recent earthquake in Puerto Rico. If you are able to donate towards relief efforts, please do. Here is one organization to consider donating to.
Now onto to your Weekly Legislative Session Update —
**RECENT ARTICLES TO READ**
**STANDING WITH OUR AIRPORT WORKERS**
Before leaving for Tallahassee last week we stopped by Hannibal Square in Winter Park to celebrate MLK Day. We then attended a press conference at the Orlando International Airport in support of our airport workers who are advocating for increased wages and benefits. According to the union SEIU, 78% of the contract workers are making less than $20,000 a year, with some making a little as $5.25 an hour plus tips. If there’s any airport that can improve working conditions, I know it’s ours.
**UPDATE ON ELECTIONS SECURITY**
We’ve received a few emails from constituents about elections security. Last week the FBI announced a new policy that mandates the “notification of a chief state election official and local election officials of cyber threats to local election infrastructure.” Increasing election security is a priority for local, state and federal officials in Florida and millions of tax dollars are being spent to shore up election security and to reassure voters that your votes will count.
Last week Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles hosted his own press conference, stating that: “We’ve heeded the warning from 2016, Florida was the first state to have all of the counties use the Albert server, to monitor traffic coming in and out of our system, from that standpoint, we also have done penetration studies, we’ve built firewalls and changes, things we would not want to share.” Election officials also highlight that Florida uses paper rather than digital ballots, which provides more protection from interference.
For those who do not know, Albert sensors function as a low-cost intrusion detection system and are being provided to state and local government agencies by the nonprofit Center for Internet Security (CIS).
**PUSHING FOR EQUITABLE TAX POLICY**
Our first Ways & Means meeting for the 2020 Legislative Session will take place later today, but we are always talking about taxes.
Last week the Orlando Sentinel wrote about the latest efforts by corporations to avoid paying taxes — which you can read about here. We continue to advocate for a rollback of the $500 million tax refund the state’s largest corporations are benefiting from, especially since those funds can be used for teacher pay, reducing the waitlist for disabilities, and many other public needs.
**ADVOCATING FOR LOCAL CONTROL OF SUNSCREEN CHEMICALS**
The Florida Legislature continues to preempt local governments from establishing their own ordinances, with the target this time focused on a bill that would block local governments from regulating over-the-counter drugs and cosmetics. The focus of the bill are two chemicals commonly found in sunscreen: oxybenzone and octinoxate. These chemicals have been found to damage the Florida Reef, with some concerns of its impact on human skin too. Key West banned the chemicals, leading to corporations wanting to preempt their ban.
We oppose this bill, asked the sponsor questions, sponsored an amendment to allow exemptions for local governments that border the Florida Reef, and ultimately voted the bill down. It still passed the Committee and is set to pass the Florida Senate.
One highlight from the committee was when my Republican colleague mentioned climate change — you can watch that moment and my reaction by clicking on the video below.
**SUPPORTING YOUTH SPORTS**
This past week we presented and passed a funding request crafted by local constituents to help support youth sports in Central Florida. The first draft of Florida’s state budget should be released soon — we’ll keep you posted when that budget comes out.
We also continue to advocate for affordable housing trust dollars to not be raided, and to support both arts and culture funding along with an increase of mental health funding.
**FLORIDA COALITION AGAINST DOMESTIC VIOLENCE UPDATE**
The Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV) plays a critical role in our state. Unfortunately there have been deep concerns around the organizations salary structure, as their longtime president and CEO Tiffany Carr was paid $761,000 in one year, raising eyebrows and questions on the organization’s financial decision making. The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) started a review of the coalition’s finances last summer, but have not been able to “move forward” with an audit for more than a year because FCADV will not hand over documents the department is requesting.
We sent a letter to House leadership last year asking for the legislature to investigate the misuse of funds. Shortly thereafter Tiffany Carr announced her retirement and then last week their interim CEO announced that she was stepping down. Now a bill is moving through the Florida House that would dissolve FCADV, which you can learn more about here.
We also wanted to lift up a new bill moving through the Senate focused on improving accountability with DCF, which you can learn more about here.
**MEETING WITH CONSTITUENTS & ADVOCACY GROUPS**
Last week we had over 40 meetings with constituents and advocacy groups at our Tallahassee Office! This included arts and culture organizations, Junior League, Earth Justice, space industry leaders, tourism advocates, librarians, AAUW, formerly incarcerated women, K9s for Warriors, and many more. We also welcomed both the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Babe Ruth Baseball League 12U All-Star Team to the Florida House from the House Floor!
Thank you for visiting us, and for inspiring us to be the best advocate for Florida!
**PROTECTING OUR PUBLIC WORKERS**
The Florida Legislature is fast-tracking House Bill 1, a bill that targets public workers and their ability to unionize by requiring employees to submit signed membership authorizations to employers to verify their intent to join a union before any membership dues can be collected. Employees would also be required to reauthorize union membership annually and unions must terminate membership upon written request from employees without asking any questions.
This bill would impact police, fire fighters, teachers, and other public employees. As a daughter of working class immigrants I know how important unions have been to our nation’s history and to Florida’s economy. We questioned the bill, filed an amendment, and debated it too. The bill ultimately passed along a mostly party line vote, with one Republican voting against it. You can watch my debate against the bill by clicking on the video below.
**ARTS & CULTURE DAY IN THE FLORIDA CAPITOL**
It was mentioned earlier that we welcomed more than 40 organizations to the Florida Capitol last week, and one of those groups was the Florida Cultural Alliance and our local arts and culture leaders! It was absolutely fantastic to speak to our state’s arts leaders and to continue the push for arts and culture funding in Florida with advocates by our side.
**MARKING THE ANNIVERSARY OF ROE V. WADE**
The fight to protect access to a safe and legal abortion in Florida continues. Not only did we mark the 47th anniversary of Roe v. Wade with a major rally last week, but we also saw Senate Bill 404 — forced parental consent legislation — move through its final committee in the Florida Senate. The bill is set to be heard in the Florida Senate this week.
On Friday I did a live interview with NPR’s Florida Roundup about this bill and the hidden agenda by those who oppose abortion to use SB404 as a vehicle towards banning abortion in the state. You can listen to that interview here.
**DEFENDING HOME RULE**
Last week outside the House chamber doors myself, Rep. Ben Diamond, Rep. Joy Goff-Marcell, Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, Rep. Gerladine Thompson, Rep. Richard Stark, and Rep. Javier Fernandez joined forces to roll out a package of repealer bills designed to restore home rule in Florida. Coining the package as a “Repeal-A-Thon,” we were joined by local officials, advocates, and directly impacted members of the community, addressing the legislature’s aggressive preemption agenda and the corporate special interests behind the proposal. You can watch the launch at this link.
**FIGHTING FOR LGBTQ EQUALITY**
We continue to advocate for LGBTQ equality in Florida, and want to lift up the latest investigative piece by the Orlando Sentinel focused on Florida funding anti-LGBTQ voucher schools with public dollars. You can learn more here and here. Our legislation — House Bill 45 — would ban this type of discriminatory behavior from happening, but the bill hasn’t been placed on the agenda of its first committee of reference yet. Here are two easy steps you can take to help this bill get a hearing:
- If you do not live in HD47, call your State House Representative and ask that they co-sponsor HB45. Click here to identify your State House Representative.
- Contact the Chairman of the bill’s first committee stop and ask that that HB45 be given a hearing. Click here for contact information.
**MOMS DEMAND ACTION IN TALLAHASSEE**
It was fantastic to welcome Moms Demand Action to Tallahassee and to meet with hundreds of gun safety advocates from across the state. Thank you for your incredible work and advocacy.
**DEATH PENALTY DECISION AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM**
The Florida Supreme Court said Thursday it erred in 2016 when it ruled a jury must be unanimous in deciding a convicted murderer should be sentenced to death, announcing a dramatic legal reversal that could affect dozens of death row cases. It remains unclear if lawmakers will again change the death penalty law but the opinion caused an immediate outcry among criminal justice reform advocates. They called the decision a retreat on a critical element for ensuring justice in cases in which the death penalty is being sought. You can read more here.
**SPEAKING AT FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY**
Before heading back home last week, I served on a Democratic Women’s Panel with the College Democrats at FSU. We had a fantastic conversation, and it is always such a treat to spend time with our local college students.
**HOUSE DISTRICT 47 PAGE & DOCTOR OF THE DAY**
We were thrilled this past week to welcome a House District 47 family to the Florida Capitol!
Many thanks to Sabrin who served in the Legislature’s Page & Messenger program and to her dad Dr. Mo Azam who served as our Doctor of the Day! Grateful to have such incredibly engaged constituents, and we hope the whole family had a fantastic time in the Florida Capitol!
**EVENTS IN HOUSE DISTRICT 47**
This weekend was a busy one back in House District 47. We attended three events on Saturday including kicking off Rollins College’s Day of Service, saying hello to the League of Women Voters of Orange County, and attending the 12th Annual Human Trafficking Awareness Day event. Remember: Floridians and visitors should visit YouCanStopHT.com for additional resources on how to spot traffickers and trafficking victims.
**UPCOMING EVENTS IN HOUSE DISTRICT 47**
We have quite a few events coming up and encourage you to consider joining us at Orlando’s Dragon Parade! You can learn more by clicking on the graphic below and can see all of our upcoming events at this link.
Representative Anna V. Eskamani
PS: 16 years ago on Friday we lost our Mom after a long fight with cancer. I think about her every second — her resilience, her joy, her deep generosity and sacrifice. Everything I am or hope to be I owe to her. Her death is a constant reminder to honor those who are no longer with us through action, today and everyday. You can read more about her story here. Love you Mom.