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Amendment 4 leader, Tampa lobbyist receive “Floridian of the Year” awards from UF Center

Desmond
Desmond Meade is the president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.
 
The leader of the group that got Amendment 4 on the ballot and a Tampa lobbyist were named “Floridian of the Year” and “Young Floridian of the Year,” respectively, by the University of Florida’s Bob Graham Center for Public Service. The recognition is an annual award.
 
Desmond Meade is the president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, a group that was one of the creators of the amendment to the Florida constitution that ended permanent disenfranchisement of people convicted of felonies.
 
That amendment, which passed in November, is mired in controversy as the Florida Legislature has proposed bills that would require ex-felons to pay all their restitution before being eligible to
vote.
 
“What we’ve seen in Amendment 4 was people being willing to put aside partisan differences and racial differences and to come together to move something that was major,” Meade said, adding
that he was “honored” by the award.
 
The recognition itself is “in the spirit of how Amendment 4 was passed and that’s the spirit I’m trying to relay to our Florida Legislature ... it’s about people over politics,” he said.
 
Prior to his political activism, Meade overcame homelessness to graduate from Florida International University’s college of law, according to the Center.
 
The “Young Floridian of the Year” is James Chan, the Florida director and a lobbyist for the the State Innovation Exchange, a group that helps advance progressive issues in state legislatures.
 
Chan has devoted much of his career to increasing the civic engagement of communities of color and he also leads the Tampa Bay chapter of the New Leaders Council, a national organization
geared toward training young progressive leaders, according to the Center.
 
“As a University of Florida alum and a Graham Center alum it means a lot that Sen. Graham and the awards committee thought I was good enough to be picked,” he said.

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