"The measure of a man is what he does with power." Plato
A Week of Woes in Tallahassee
Where to begin?
A consolidation of GOP power through redistricting? Punishing Mickey Mouse? Politicizing math textbooks? Florida provided a lot of fodder for national news networks last week:
Seeing Red: Redistricting
A new redistricting plan - crafted by the Governor - was approved by a party-line vote in last week's special legislative session. Described as "one of the nation’s most aggressive congressional maps," the plan adds four GOP congressional districts while eliminating three held by Democrats. Among the districts eliminated are two predominately Black districts in north and central Florida. The GOP would effectively hold 70 percent of the state's congressional seats, despite the fact that the two parties each account for roughly the same number of registered voters. Black legislators, led by Jacksonville Rep. Angie Nixon, staged a sit-in on the House floor before the vote, temporarily closing down the session. Voting rights activists, including a delegation led by the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville, also testified against the redistricting bill at hearings preceding the vote.
The map will likely be challenged in court - but not in time to impact the 2022 mid-term election. GOP candidates - including term-limited State Senator Aaron Bean, and City Council members Rory Diamond and Jason Fischer among others - are already eyeing the newly configured district which now includes western Duval, Clay and Nassau counties. U.S. Rep. Al Lawson (D), who previously held the 5th Congressional District seat, also pledged to run for re-election.
Take a minute to thank Rep. Nixon and other Democrat leaders for their efforts to call out the GOP and Governor for the gerrymandered map eliminating minority and Democratic representation in Congress. Although unsuccessful, they fought to represent the interests of all voters.
A Mickey for Mickey
In a move widely characterized as punishment for opposing his favored "anti-woke" legislation, Gov. Ron DeSantis added the elimination of a special taxing district for Disney World to the agenda for the special session. The measure passed overwhelmingly as GOP legislators continued to march in lock-step with the state's chief executive. While the move impacts control and property benefits enjoyed by Florida's largest private employer, it also potentially shifts more than $2 billion of its debt to taxpayers in Osceola and Orange Counties. This could mean a $2,200 boost in individual residents' tax bills.
What's a mouse to do? So far, Disney is mute on its response. But Rick Wilson offers some inspired advice in a commentary for Florida Politics: "Disney should identify a dozen or so Florida state House and Senate races and invest $25-$30 million into breaking the GOP majority in the state. For the Florida GOP, that amount of money is a significant lift; for Disney, it’s a rounding error. Make every Florida Senator who sponsored this monstrosity rise from their normally serene easy re-elections and suffer." Just saying. . .
New math in Florida: 2 + 2 = 2024
Florida Time-Union columnist Mark Woods nailed it with his framing of last week's rejection by the state Department of Education of 54 of 132 math textbooks submitted by publishers for references to critical race theory or other "prohibited" topics. The decision was immediately applauded by Gov. DeSantis. The headline on the official new release announcing the decision: "Florida Reject Publishers' Attempts to Indoctrinate Students." Although the DOE offered few specifics about the offending content, it appears the rejected books promoted teamwork, and encouraged understanding of different approaches to problem-solving, according to analyses by Popular Information and the New York Times. Books also included information on Black mathematicians, and word problems with ethnically diverse names and foods like empanadas. The primary culprit appears to be the infusion of "social-emotional learning," which has been demonized by conservatives along with critical race theory. The widely-supported approach helps students develop beliefs and attitudes that can support academic success. Florida's decision is expected to have a national impact as the state accounts for a third of all textbook purchases in the country.
Shout Out to Jacksonville Advocates!
In addition to Rep. Angie Nixon for her efforts to oppose GOP gerrymandering, a shout out to the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville for organizing a motorcade to Tallahassee to protest actions during the special session. Joining the group was a contingent from JAX NOW, including BAM Board members Nancy Staats and Judy Sheklin. Members, along with JAX NOW President Juanita Powell-Williams, testified before committees considering the proposed redistricting map. Thank you for your advocacy!!
BAM-Indivisible Mandarin Joint Meeting April 28th
If you are frustrated by the news from Tallahassee and ready to do something about it, join the combined memberships of Beaches Activists Movement and Mandarin Indivisible on April 28th at 7 PM for a Zoom meeting as we strategize on how to turn out like-minded voters, and counteract efforts by the governor to eliminate Democratic and minority representation in 2022.
Ben Frazier, founder & president of the Northside Coalition will share his group's plans for Voter Registration, Get-Out-the-Vote, Canvassing, and more. And Representative Tracie Davis will discuss the recent Special Session, including the newly approved redistricting plan, and give us an update on her campaign for State Senator.
Please join us at 7 PM and bring concerned friends looking for ways to get active this year. All are welcome but registration is required.
Meet U.S. Senate Candidate Val Demings May 3
RSVP today for U.S. Senate Candidate and Jax native Val Demings first area fundraiser on May 3 at 5:30 PM. Several BAM members are among the organizers and co-hosts for this event. Please help make it a success by joining as a host, donating and attending! You can
also help by sharing this invitation with your network of friends and other activists. Demings, who was simply outstanding during the Trump impeachment as part of the House team, offers a strong and effective alternative to incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio whose latest vote was against the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson. Let's get her over the finish line! #rubiomustgo
Support Immigration Reform
Sign on to a petition urging the Biden Administration to act quickly to finalize responsible reforms that protect immigrant families’ access to the health and social services safety net.
As you may know, the Trump “public charge” regulations put immigration applications at risk if lawfully-present immigrants used specific safety net programs for which they qualified. Because the Trump regulations named programs that serve both citizens and non-citizens, they deterred millions in mixed-status families from getting the care and help they needed during the pandemic.
Before President Biden took office, the Protecting Immigrant Families coalition urged him to replace the Trump policy with less biased, less dangerous, more responsible public charge regulations. The Biden DHS recently responded and we need to encourage them to finalize the proposal quickly, so immigrant families can feel safe getting the care and help they need.