The Okaloosa League strives to be a voice for citizens and a force for progress on the Emerald Coast, so thank you for caring enough to take action and advocate for League priorities.
What can you do?
The 2017 Legislative Session began Tuesday, 7 March. After soliciting input from local Leagues, the League of Women Voters of Florida has compiled a list of Legislative Priorities for 2017, as well as a list of questions for our legislators. You can make an impact by staying in touch with your legislators, sharing important items on social media and providing input to government agencies. Time-sensitive items are typically featured on the home page, but you’ll also find them here, with tips on how to how to take action.
|House District 3: Representative Williamson
|House District 4: Representative Ponder
850-833-3713 (Fort Walton Beach)
|Senate District 1: Senator Broxson
|Senate District 2: Senator Gainer
850-747-5454 (Panama City)
Update on Education bills (Posted 4/25/17)
Call your Senator and ask him to support SB 1552 and to include continuing funding for at-risk schools. Ask him to oppose SB 796, the corporate charter takeover bill!
SB 1552 as amended addresses two crucial needs. The first is to attract more teachers to Florida's schools, which are beginning to feel the teacher shortage. The second is to help districts receive the resources and support to make a difference in schools that are struggling. SB 1552 not only eliminates ‘Schools of Hope’ funding, provides districts support and flexibility for struggling schools that includes: an additional hour of instruction; wrap-around community support services provided by a non-profit entity that includes health services, after school programs, drug prevention, college and career readiness and food and clothing banks; and principal autonomy (mostly in the curriculum).
SB 796 creates the High-Impact Charter Management Organization (HICMO). Qualifications include success with schools designated as in critical need areas that serve primarily economically disadvantaged students. The bill gives priority to HICMOs for charter grant program funds; takes away local district control by granting the HIMCO the same legal local education agency status as school districts (thus sending federal funds directly to charters instead of to the school districts); removes the local administrative oversight fee; and removes the current requirement for automatic closure for charters receiving two consecutive ‘F’ grades. Charters meeting these requirements typically have conduct policies that result in very high student attrition.
Threat to local school district authority (Posted 4/12/17)
The Florida House intends to take away local school districts’ authority. House bills 5101, 5103 and 5105declare that any district with a ‘D’ or ‘F’ school is in a state of emergency. After three years, students will be reassigned, and schools will be closed or contracted to private charters called ‘Schools of Hope.’ Charter chains that currently qualify have documented student attrition rates of 40%! These House bills would exempt charter school teachers and administrators from certification requirements; require school districts to share $147.9M in local facility maintenance funds with charters; create a $200M charter support fund plus a state-managed charter loan fund, rather than increase public school funding; and require districts to either give under-enrolled public schools to charters or share them.
What happens to students who must leave these charters? What happens to neighborhood schools whose students leave? Uncontrolled charter school growth creates a downward spiral for low income neighborhoods. Public, charter and tax credit-supported private schools create multiple inadequately funded, under-enrolled schools. Call your Legislator TODAY and ask him to oppose creating a separate system to serve a few at the expense of the many.
Separation of Education and Religion (Posted 3/13/17)
On Tuesday, 14 March at 2:00 pm, the House PreK–12 Quality Subcommittee and the Senate Judiciary Committee will be voting on HB 303/SB 436–Religious Expression in Schools. This bill will allow for religious activities before, during and after school hours and expose religious minorities to them. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution allows for religious expression already, and the Blaine Amendment dictates that schools and government must be neutral when it comes to religion. Florida law now separates education and religion, and this bill is a blatant attempt to do the opposite. This is the LAST committee stop for SB 436. Call your legislator today and tell them the following:
My name is ______ and I am a member of the League of Women Voters of Florida. We are opposed to HB 303 (or SB 436 if calling the Senate). We urge you to vote NO during tomorrow’s meeting.
Here is the contact information for members of the House Subcommittee.
|Rep. Jake Raburn (R), Chair
|Rep. Rene Plasencia (R), Vice Chair
|Rep. Colleen Burton (R)
|Rep. Bruce Antone (D)
|Rep. Shevrin “Shev” Jones (D)
|Rep. Bryan Avila (R)
|Rep. Kamia Brown (D)
|Rep. Bobby Payne (R)
|Rep. Don Hahnfeldt (R)
|Rep. Tracie Davis (D)
|Rep. Matt Willhite (D)
|Rep. Mike LaRosa (R)
|Rep. Erin Grall (R)
|Rep. Byron Donalds (R) (Co-Sponsor)
|Rep. Rick Roth (R)
Contact information for members of the Senate Judiciary Committee is listed in a table below.
Update–ERIC (Posted 4/25/17)
On Tuesday, 25 April, the Senate Appropriations Committee will hear SB 1070, which would enter Florida into ERIC, a voter database that already includes many other states. League fully supports this Senate bill and the related House bills listed below. Passing this bill would ensure that voters are not registered in multiple states. This important bill our state Supervisor of Elections' top priority. Please thank the Senate Appropriations Committee for supporting this bill, especially our own Senator George Gainer.
Also on Tuesday, 25 April, the Florida House will hear HB 707 and HB 709, which would enter Florida into ERIC. Be sure to call your representative and thank him for supporting this vital piece of legislation.
Electronic Registration Information Center–ERIC (Posted 4/1/17)
On Monday, 3 April, the House Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee will consider HB 707, which would enter Florida into the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a voter database that half of the states in the country belong to. League strongly supports this bill, which would ensure that voters are not registered in multiple states and mandate outreach to eligible voters who are not yet registered. Tell the Subcommittee members to vote YES on HB 707!
|Rep. Neil Combee, Chair
|Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, Vice Chair
|Rep. Katie Edwards
|Rep. Daisy Baez
|Rep. Kimberly Daniels
|Rep. Tracie Davis
|Rep. Brad Drake
|Rep. Eric Eisnaugle
|Rep. Patrick Henry
|Rep. Bobby Payne
|Rep. Cary Pigman
|Rep. Daniel Raulerson
|Rep. Bob Rommel
|Rep. Rick Roth
|Rep. Clay Yarborough
Challenge to Fair Districts (Posted 3/20/17)
On Tuesday, 21 March at 11:00 am, Senate Bill 352 will have its third reading. This time last year we were celebrating the end of the battle over Fair Districts — after 4 years, 4 trials, 3 special sessions, 8 court rulings and $11 million taxpayer dollars. The legislature lost every single court decision, and finally threw in the towel, but only temporarily. SB 352 seeks to preempt challenges to fair districts by placing undue burden on the courts and is one of several bills proposed in both the state House and Senate that threatens judicial independence and embarks upon a slippery slope of Legislative overreach. Please contact your legislator today and tell him you do NOT support this bill, because it would violate judicial independence and interfere with the courts’ ability to handle reapportionment challenges equitably and effectively.
Four bad bills on the docket (Posted 4/3/17)
On Tuesday, 4 April, three bad bills will be debated in the Florida House. HB 849 will be heard on the floor. It would allow concealed carry permit holders to carry their weapons on private school property. HB 245 and SB 128 will also be hear on the House floor. These bills would require prosecutors to try Stand Your Ground cases twice: once in a pretrial hearing and once in front of a jury. Call your representative, identify yourself as a constituent, and strongly urge him to vote NO on HB 245, SB 128 and HB 849!
The Florida Senate will hear SB 1052 on Tuesday, 4 April. This additional Stand Your Ground proposal would remove a requirement that a person first must be attacked in his or her dwelling, residence, or vehicle before using or threatening to use force. This would allow a person who perceives a threat to use force without first being attacked. Call your Senator and urge him to vote NO on SB 1052.
Update to Stand Your Ground legislation (Posted 3/14/17)
On Wednesday, 15 March, the full Senate will vote on SB 128. Call your Senator today and urge him to VOTE NO! Let’s keep Florida safe from more reckless gun laws. See details on SB 128.
Modifications to Stand Your Ground law (Posted 1/23/17)
On Tuesday, 24 Jan at 2:00 pm, the Senate Judiciary Committee will take up SB 128. This bill would require prosecutors to try Stand Your Ground cases twice—once in a pre-trial hearing and once in front of a jury. Stand Your Ground laws give undue advantage to those using deadly force in cases of a perceived threat. There is no “duty to retreat,” before resorting to such force. A recent study in the the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine shows that since the passage of the 2005 SYG law, homicides in Florida increased by 21%. Making it easier for defendants to use the SYG claim will only create a more dangerous Florida. Contact members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and tell them to vote NO on SB 128! (See Table below for contact information.)
This Tuesday, 10 Jan, the Senate Judiciary Committee will take up SB 140, Senator Greg Steube’s proposal that would allow permit holders to OPENLY CARRY their handguns in public schools, college and university campuses, municipal buildings, legislative chambers and airport terminals. If you oppose the idea of OPEN CARRY of guns EVERYWHERE in our family-friendly, tourism-driven state, please call and email the following members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and tell them to vote NO on Senate Bill 140:
|Sen. Greg Steube, Chair
|Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, Vice Chair
|Sen. Randolph Bracy
|Sen. Anitere Flores
|Sen. Rene Garcia
|Sen. Audrey Gibson
|Sen. Debbie Mayfield
|Sen. Bobby Powell
|Sen. Perry E. Thurston, Jr.
Repeal and replace Obamacare (Posted 2/10/17)
Congress has taken the first steps to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in both the House and Senate—without any plan to replace it. They are rushing to make major changes that will harm millions of Americans while throwing the U.S. health care system into disarray. Repealing the ACA without an effective plan to replace it is unacceptable. An analysis done by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that 24 million Americans will lose health insurance by 2026, while premiums and out-of-pocket costs increase substantially. Access to adequate, affordable coverage for people with pre-existing conditions like cancer, diabetes and heart disease could be endangered. Young adults would no longer be covered under their parent’s plans, and women could face discriminatory rates. Tell Congress that now is not the time to take away health care protections and coverage without an effective plan that will assure we have affordable, quality health insurance. Send a message.
Solar energy update (Posted 4/25/17)
Last August 73% of Florida voters said YES to Amendment 4, which will spur the growth of solar by reducing taxes on solar systems. Two bills to implement the amendment are poised to be heard today in both the House and Senate.
League supports SB 90 by Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) in its current form, because it follows the tenets and intent of Amendment 4.
League opposes HB 1351, which would impose senseless new regulations. Florida already has the toughest laws governing solar in the country, and the intent of Amendment 4 is to reduce, not create barriers.
CONTACT your Representative and ask him to pass a bill identical to SB 90. Tell him to honor the will of Florida voters and the intent of Amendment 4. Then contact your Senator and thank him for his continued efforts to pass a ‘clean’ Amendment 4 bill.
Solar Energy (Posted 4/6/17)
Have you seen the news? Florida Power & Light’s fingerprints are all over a bill to thwart the will of Florida voters in the implementation of Amendment 4. Please call your State Representative and State Senator today and urge them to support a clean implementation bill for Amendment 4. Stand up for a CLEAN implementation of Amendment 4 with two quick phone calls. Do it today.
Threat to Development Permit challenges (Posted 4/3/17)
On Tuesday, 4 April, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear SB 996. League opposes this bill, which would enable real estate developers to recover up to $50,000 in legal fees and court costs from any individual who challenges the issuance of a development permit in administrative hearings. Needless to say, this is a gift to developers at the expense of citizens impacted by the permit. Your calls to the Senate Judiciary Committee are needed to stop this bulldozer of a bill, dead in its tracks.
The 2017 Legislative Priorities are used to guide League’s advocacy during the legislative session. While our lobbyist and the Capital Lobby Corps follow all the issues and pertinent bills, emphasis is placed on influencing the priorities identified by members. For 2017 League’s top priorities include: Education, Election Law, Gun Safety, Health Care and Natural Resources. Use the quick links below to learn about each of these important issues. During session this page will be expanded to include action items pertaining to each issue.
During the financial crisis in 2008, Florida lawmakers struggled to balance the budget in the face of sharply declining revenues, and education funding was heavily cut. Additionally the legislature forbade local school districts from raising millage levels to compensate for decreased funding. Our local school district infrastructure and instructional programs have suffered greatly as a result. Therefore, League seeks to restore operational funding to pre-2008 levels and re-institute local district authorization to levy 2.0 mills for capital outlay funding for school facilities construction and renovation. This does not mean millage rates will automatically increase; rather it restores local control, enabling school districts and county residents to make their own decisions on school funding without interference from Tallahassee.
Another area of concern is that state educational accountability focuses solely on test scores. League supports accountability measures that more accurately reflect districts’ progress in raising student achievement, to better meet the needs of diverse students and improve access to high quality academic and career programs for all students.
Finally, League is very concerned about the lack of accountability and transparency regarding public funds that are transferred to charter and/or private schools. League supports improving fiscal and operational oversight of charter schools by increasing transparency in student admission and retention data, ensuring the independence of charter boards from charter management companies and providing guidelines to reduce self-dealing opportunities in real estate transactions and other charter services. Additionally, League supports eliminating the growth of corporate-tax credit scholarships to private schools and believes that private schools currently receiving these scholarships should be subject to the state accountability system.
League has always believed that our democratic system is strongest and works best when all eligible voters are informed and hold their elected official accountable by participating in the electoral process. To that end, we don’t just support voter education, we also encourage all eligible citizens to register to vote, and we oppose measures that impede access to the ballot. That’s why League supports:
- Automatic restoration of voting rights for former felons (after they have completed their sentences—including probation);
- Reducing the amount of time voter registration books must be closed before each election;
- Re-defining what constitutes an “eligible candidate” and/or imposing restrictions on filing as a write-in candidate, to prevent “ghost candidates” from closing primaries and disenfranchising other voters (in 2016, 40% of Okaloosa County’s registered voters were denied a voice in the selection of their next State Representative by a write in “candidate” who publicly stated he was filing specifically to close the primary);
- Adoption of the National Voter Registration Act (“Motor-Voter” law) requirement that every citizen be automatically provided voter registration update services when she/he applies for, renews or changes her/his address on a driver’s license or state-issued identification card;
- On-time implementation of on-line voter registration in 2017 and adoption of legislation for Florida to join the 20+ states that are already members of the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC); and
- Adoption of legislation necessary for Florida to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC), which would ultimately ensure that the candidate who wins the most popular votes is elected president (the compact will come into effect only when a sufficient number of states adopt it to guarantee that outcome).
The League strongly supports the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights that protects our citizens. However, League also believes that individual rights must be balanced against the welfare and safety of all citizens, so we support prudent measures to increase gun safety and the accountability of individual gun owners. These include expansion of background checks in Florida and the closing of the gun show and Internet loopholes, as well as a statewide ban on large capacity magazines. Further, League opposes measures that would unnecessarily increase exposure to the potential for gun violence. This includes opposition to both open and campus carry; concealed carry without a permit; expansion of the current “Stand Your Ground” law; and any proposals that would permit Florida School Boards or School Superintendents to designate employees or others to carry concealed firearms on K–12 school grounds.
Florida is on the edge of a state-wide health care crisis, as the impending termination of the Affordable Care Act will strip many Floridians of their current health insurance. In the meantime, many working Floridians do not qualify for Medicaid because they make too much money, yet they do not have enough income to qualify for insurance under the Affordable Care Act. So they go without medical coverage—only a single accident or illness away from financial disaster. Therefore, League supports legislation to accept 2017 Medicaid expansion dollars for Florida and/or development of a comprehensive plan to provide health insurance for working Floridians who do not have enough income to qualify for Obamacare. Additionally, Florida KidCare coverage should be amended to provide insurance for children ages 0 to 1-year old who are not eligible for Medicaid.
It goes almost without saying that Florida’s future success depends heavily on its natural resources. Our lovely weather and beautiful beaches are a huge draw. With 105 million visitors in 2015 (a record number), Florida is the top travel destination in the world, and the tourism industry had an economic impact of over $89 billion on our state’s economy. But that’s only part of the story. Florida is also one of the largest and fastest growing states, population-wise. Those of us who live here depend on our natural resources not just for vacation, but to sustain our livelihoods and our quality of life. More people = more strain on existing resources, so we must ensure those resources are carefully managed and protected.
To that end, League supports sustainable energy solutions for Florida, including adoption of renewable energy standards and legislation promoting the expansion of solar energy. League also supports efforts to improve water quality of both surface water and aquifers through legislation to reduce pollution and excessive withdrawals, including prohibiting “fracking” statewide. Finally, League supports full funding of the Florida Forever land acquisition program and proper implementation of the Water and Land Legacy Conservation Amendment (Amendment 1) adopted in 2014.
- Contact your representatives about specific issues. Even if you don’t participate in legislative interviews or the Legislative Summit, you can still take action by contacting your legislator about important issues, like the ones listed on this page. Be sure to
- Review these tips and our Make Your Voice Heard briefing when you’re preparing to make a phone call or write a letter or email.
- Observe government meetings to hold elected representatives accountable. Be a part of your League’s Observation Corps by attending meetings and reporting on what went on there. Let your officials know you care about how they’re conducting the public’s business.