April 27, 2017

Two activists from women's marches will compete in Broward house race

ACTIVISTS a epf

@amysherman1

President Donald Trump’s election has given wave to a new group of Democratic activists who are interested in channeling their anger into running for office.

And in Broward, two of those activists appear poised to battle each other.

Two Fort Lauderdale residents who organized women’s marches protesting Trump’s inauguration will face off in a Democratic primary in Broward in 2018.

Emma Collum, director of Women’s March Florida who organized Floridians marching in Washington D.C., said she will file next week for House District 93, a seat now held by Republican George Moraitis who is term limited. Collum is a lawyer.

Stephanie Myers, who organized the Jan. 21 rally at downtown Miami’s Bayfront Park, filed to run on April 24. Myers works in public relations supporting a medical practice.

Both Collum and Myers live in Fort Lauderdale, but outside the district and said they will move to the district. Neither has run for public office in the past.

Collum said she doesn’t think it will be awkward to have two activists from women’s marches compete for the same seat.

“I think it's really exciting that so many people are excited to get out there and be active in our community, she said. “At the end, people need to get to know the candidates and make a heartfelt decision which one is going to the candidate to make what has been a predominantly Republican district into a Democratic one.”

Emily's List, the national group that backs pro-choice women running for office, has heard from more than 12,000 women who are interested in running in 2018, spokeswoman Alexandra De Luca said. That's a major increase compared to the 2016 cycle when Emily's List heard from less than 1,000 women. De Luca said competition between female candidates is a positive sign.

"The fact that we have so many women across the country raising their hand and coming forward -- 12,000 -- is a good problem to have," she said. "It's encouraging to have a dialogue among Democrats around issues that are important to women and families."

Two other Democrats filed earlier this year: Jonathon May, Nova Southeastern University director of student affairs and an Oakland Park resident and John McDonald, a freelance journalist and precinct committee man who lives in  Pompano Beach. McDonald ran for House District 6 in 2010.

No Republicans have filed but Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca, a longtime district resident, said he is strongly considering a bid.

The district is one of the main targets for Broward Democrats in 2018. Voter registration numbers show about 36 percent are Republicans, 35 percent Democrats and 29 percent independents. Hillary Clinton narrowly lost the district.

This post has been corrected to reflect McDonald's previous race. Photo of Jody Finver, in the foreground, of Coconut Grove takes pictures during an organizing meeting of anti-Trump activists last Sunday at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. 



 

April 12, 2017

Broward Democrat: 'We’re creating a segregated system' with 'schools of hope' (VIDEO)

@ByKristenMClark

Florida Democrats aren’t easing up on their criticism of House Republicans’ “schools of hope” plan to spend $200 million on attracting new charter schools to Florida that would serve students who currently attend perpetually failing traditional schools.

Democrats say the Republican proposal short-changes struggling neighborhood schools, which have tried to improve but are hamstrung by limitations — imposed by the Legislature — that charter schools don’t face.

“We’re creating a segregated system that will not fix the issue but will create deeper issues — pitting charter schools against our traditional public school system,” said Broward County Rep. Shevrin Jones, the top Democrat on the House Education Committee.

MORE: “Are ‘schools of hope’ the solution to perpetually failing public schools?”

Charter schools are publicly funded but privately managed public schools.

A few hours before the “schools of hope” legislation would be taken up on the House floor later Wednesday, Jones — joined by Democratic gubernatorial candidate and current Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum — convened a press conference to reiterate Democrats’ concerns with HB 5105.

Full story here.

April 06, 2017

Diverging from Senate, House passes narrower plan for religious expression in school

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@ByKristenMClark

Lawmakers on either side of the Florida Capitol have different ideas on to what extent they should secure students’ and teachers’ rights to express religious beliefs in public schools — forcing the need for compromise before the Legislature can send a proposed law to the governor for his approval this spring.

A plan the Florida House approved Wednesday by a 114-3 vote fortifies basic rights to religious expression that are protected by the state and U.S. Constitutions. The Senate two weeks ago endorsed language that does that, too, but that also goes much further — by also requiring schools to give students a “limited public forum” to pray and otherwise express their beliefs at school assemblies and other school-sanctioned events.

The two proposals were originally identical, but a House committee quickly scaled back that chamber’s version to eliminate the more controversial elements that remain in the Senate-approved bill.

The House vote sends SB 436 back to the Senate — where senators can either make further changes or agree to the House language, which would then send the bill to Gov. Rick Scott’s desk to be signed into law. Senators could potentially take it up as early as Thursday, but it’s more likely to happen next week.

Full story here.

Photo credit: The Florida House. Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times

March 29, 2017

'Best & Brightest' expansion ready for full House vote

@ByKristenMClark

A bill to expand the controversial "Best & Brightest" teacher bonus program is ready for a full House vote, after clearing the 30-member Appropriations Committee this afternoon on a party-line vote.

HB 7069 was fast-tracked to the floor in the past three weeks, with only two committee hearings. It's unclear how fast the House will take up the bill; it could be as early as next week.

The expansion proposal allows more "highly effective" teachers and — for the first time — principals to qualify for an annual bonus. Instead of only using on the teachers' SAT or ACT scores from high school, teachers could qualify next year by also using graduate school entrance exam scores, like the GRE or the LSAT.

MORE: "Another budget showdown looms over ‘Best & Brightest’ teacher bonuses"

The number of educators who would be eligible for the money would increase greatly. Pre-K-12 Education budget chairman Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, said he doesn’t yet have an estimate for how many might be eligible, but he told the Appropriations Committee funding it at $214 million -- as the House proposes to do -- is intended to keep the awards at around $10,000 per person.

With those figures, that would be enough to cover bonuses for potentially more than 21,000 teachers and principals statewide.

In 2015-16, about 5,300 teachers qualified and received $8,248 each. This school year, nearly 7,200 teachers qualified and each got $6,816. (There are about 188,300 certified teachers statewide.)

Democrats on the Appropriations Committee said they still don’t like the premise of rewarding teachers based on assessment scores and they want the Legislature to use the additional funding to instead find a way to raise the salaries of all teachers.

“We just need to give our teachers raises and stop beating around the bush in how we do it,” said Broward County Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park.

Diaz blasted the Democrats’ opposition. “Here’s a bill that puts $200 million into teacher’s pockets and we’re saying ‘no,’” he said. 

November 23, 2016

Broward lawmaker healing after spinal cord injury left him unable to walk

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@ByKristenMClark

In early October, Shevrin Jones abruptly lost the ability to walk.

The affable 33-year-old state representative from Broward County ruptured part of his lower spinal cord during an accident at the gym, causing a nerve injury that his doctors told him should have left him paralyzed.

After emergency surgery, a follow-up procedure and rigorous physical therapy, Jones not only walked again far sooner than expected — seven weeks later, he walks now with assistance only from a cane.

“I thought there was a point I’d never walk again,” Jones said. “Through my faith, my determination and by the grace of God, I’m much better.”

Jones is still recuperating, not yet cleared by his surgeon to travel. Reluctantly, he had to miss the Legislature’s organizational session on Tuesday for the 2016-18 term. It will be his third in the Florida House representing West Park and surrounding areas that stretch from parts of Miramar and Pembroke Pines to Hollywood and Hallandale Beach.

But Jones — known for his passionate and infectiously friendly personality — is determined to return to his legislative duties as soon as possible, so much so his friends in the Legislature have to remind him to focus on recovery first.

“I’m like, ‘Shev, just rest,’ ” laughed state Rep. Bobby DuBose, D-Fort Lauderdale, who said Jones is still “constantly thinking” about his work waiting for him in Tallahassee.

Read more here.

Photo credit: Gregory Reed Photography

November 21, 2016

Oscar Braynon, Lauren Book named Florida Senate Democrats' top leaders

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@ByKristenMClark

A longtime legislator from Miami Gardens will lead the Democrats of the Florida Senate for the next two years.

Sen. Oscar Braynon’s ascension to Senate minority leader was made official Monday evening in advance of Tuesday’s organizational session for the 2016-18 Legislature. He’s now in charge of a 15-member Democratic caucus, of which 11 are newly elected senators.

“I’m happy to be taking on that role,” Braynon said. “We’re going to have a bunch of blank slates when it comes to what happens in the Senate. There’s a lot of potential there.”

One of those newcomers is freshman Broward County Sen. Lauren Book, whom the Democratic caucus also unanimously elected as Braynon’s No. 2 in the role of Senate Democratic leader pro tempore.

Book, of Plantation, is a prominent advocate for victims of childhood sexual abuse and the founder and CEO of Aventura-based Lauren’s Kids. She is also the daughter of powerful Tallahassee lobbyist Ron Book, whom she called “her best friend, rock and mentor.”

Although the Republican majority in the Senate will drive the agenda, Braynon said his goal as minority leader is to continue pushing for Democratic priorities, such as equal pay for women and raising the minimum wage, protecting the environment, improving access to health care and strengthening public education.

Read more.

Photo credit: Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times

DuBose, Farmer named leaders of Broward County legislative delegation

@ByKristenMClark

A state representative entering his second term and a freshman senator in his first elected office have been named the leaders for Broward County's legislative delegation for the 2017 session.

State Rep. Bobby DuBose and state Sen. Gary Farmer, both Democrats from Fort Lauderdale, were elected as chairman and vice-chairman, respectively, by the 19-member delegation on Thursday.

The delegation's chairmen and vice-chairmen serve one-year terms.

DuBose was first elected to the Legislature in 2014 and was reelected this year without opposition.

Farmer is a consumer advocate attorney and former president of the Florida Justice Association. He won Broward County's District 34 Senate seat with 63 percent of the vote.

DuBose and Farmer, respectively, replace former Democratic state Rep. Gwyndolen Clarke-Reed and Sen. Chris Smith.

September 25, 2016

Hillary Clinton to campaign in Broward Friday

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Hillary Clinton returns to South Florida this week when she campaigns in Broward and St. Lucie counties Friday.

The locations of the events have not been announced but the public can RSVP for the Broward event here and the St. Lucie event here. Clinton will fundraise in Miami Beach Friday night. Former President Bill Clinton will hold a bus tour in Jacksonville, Tallahassee and Panama City Friday and Saturday.

Broward has about 581,000 Democrats -- the largest contingent in Florida. Clinton's last public event in Broward was at Broward College in October. Her running mate, Tim Kaine, will speak at Miami Dade College tonight.

July 16, 2016

PolitiFact: Florida Senate candidate never got an A from NRA

In a duel for state Senate, two Democrats are battling over bad grades.

Jim Waldman, a former four-term House member from Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, sees a bad grade from the National Rifle Association as a selling point. But Parkland lawyer Gary Farmer, his well-funded primary challenger for the newly redrawn District 34 seat, calls it a false advertisement. (Rep. Gwyndolen Clarke-Reed is also in the race.)

Farmer’s campaign sent out emails and fliers claiming Waldman received an A grade from the NRA. You can see how this might be a problem for a Democrat in a heavily Democratic district like Fort Lauderdale.

Waldman says it's not just a problem — it's wrong. He accused Farmer of being the liar, holding up his D from the NRA in 2010 and his voting record on gun legislation in the Florida House.

"Unfortunately, a political committee led by Gary Farmer is spreading lies about my record on guns," Waldman wrote in an email to his campaign subscribers. "They’re spending tens of thousands of dollars mailing a FALSE claim to voters that I received an ‘A’ from the NRA."

He continued: "Check the report card. Their claim is an absolute lie."

With both camps taking aim, Allison Graves of PolitiFact Florida stepped into the ring.

December 03, 2015

Just don't call it climate change in Tallahassee

Miami beach flood

@jenstaletovich

KEY WEST -- Climate change is still a dirty word in Tallahassee.

On the last day of a three-day Key West summit on climate change in South Florida, local lawmakers said they are chipping away at problems tied to rising sea levels and a host of ills linked to a warming planet, as long as they call it something else.

"You’re not allowed to talk about climate change. I don’t think that’s literally the policy, but because of the environment, you're not allowed to openly engage," said State Rep. José Javier Rodríguez, a Miami Democrat.

Rodriguez, along with State Rep. Kristin Jacobs, D-Coconut Creek, said in addressing woes projected for the state - from declining coral reefs to a six to 12-inch rise in South Florida seas in the next 15 years - they struggle to delicately describe it as something else. Finding money for projects, they say, is easier than changing policy. Just don't mention the dreaded C words.

"Everyday we’re seeing people accept things that I didn’t think they would," Jacobs said. "Who would have thought Republicans would be for passing marijuana?"

Continue reading "Just don't call it climate change in Tallahassee" »