Tallahassee—The Florida Black Caucus revealed a 2020 legislative agenda that could provide quite a challenge to Governor Ron DeSantis. The Caucus, is the largest in the state legislature, is hoping to meet with him to discuss it, but after 10 months they have yet to meet him, giving the appearance that he is avoiding the group.
Senator Perry Thurston, (D) Pompano Beach, was asked how DeSantis compared to former Governor Rick Scott who had an 8-year tumultuous and adversarial relationship with Black lawmakers. He said the comparison “was setting a low bar.” Thurston’s experience with DeSantis however, has gotten off to a rocky start. He is leading an effort that has repeatedly urged the governor to appoint African Americans to the Florida Supreme Court. That call for diversity has been ignored. And, Thurston cautioned that if DeSantis does appoint an African American, it should not be “a judge that thinks like Clarence Thomas,” the conservative African American US Supreme Court justice. DeSantis, is a loyalist of President Donald Trump who has loaded the courts with conservative judges. The constitutional amendment that restores the voting rights of non-violent felons was amended by a law that would require returning citizens to pay the fines associated with the sentence. The Republican-controlled legislature passed the bill, and it was signed by Governor DeSantis. Civil rights advocates said the law was a “poll tax” and part of a voter suppression scheme to make it near impossible for 1.4 million people to register to vote. A federal court challenge that followed gave “poll tax” opponents a partial victory because the judge ordered the legislature to expedite the creation of the administrative process to determine the ability of returning citizens to pay the fine. Thurston says he is working with Republicans to that end.
Rep. Geraldine Thompson, (D) Orlando, said she continues to request a meeting with the new governor to no avail. DeSantis was lauded for joining Florida cabinet members in pardoning the Groveland Four, African American teenagers brutalized and accused and of raping a White girl 70 years ago. The Governor did not go far enough in righting the miscarriage of justice, according to Thompson, “They should be exonerated.”
Rep. Diane Hart, (D) Tampa, discussed several criminal justice concerns including a prison system overflowing with first offenders. She also says that the state has abandoned programs that provide a proper exit strategy for returning citizens. “We are not educating or providing rehabilitation to the incarcerated.”
Senate Democratic Leader Audrey Gibson had discussions with Surgeon General Scott A. Rivkees about increased funding for killer diseases that disproportionately impact African Americans. Blacks top the list of ethnic groups adversely affected by cancer, hypertension, heart disease and diabetes.
Other issues include gun violence prevention, raising all teacher salaries to $47,000, $27 million for Florida’s private HBCU’s and job creation.
Thurston, Thompson, Hart, Gibson