What's Ahead: 2024 Legislative Session
The 2024 Legislative Session opens tomorrow (Tuesday, January 9th). Lawmakers in the GOP-dominated body, have 60 days to pass a budget and consider other bills. Last year, the legislature approved a rash of laws promoted by Governor Ron DeSantis that effectively de-funded public schools, advanced his "anti-woke" agenda, further limited access to reproductive health care, established burdensome requirements on groups registering voters, and handed him a pile of discretionary funds to use in advancing his political priorities.
What can we expect this year? Join us for a BAM meeting on Thursday (January 11th) at 7 p.m. via ZOOM as we hear an amazing speaker and legislative advocate, Holly Bullard, chief strategy and development officer for the Florida Policy Institute. Holly will share insights on where the legislature is headed in the 2024 session, the priorities her organization is working on, and provide advice on how we can impact the issues we care about. Please make sure to RSVP for the meeting here to get the meeting link.
Governor's Budget: More of the Same
Governor DeSantis provided the legislature with his proposed $114.4 billion budget for 2024-25 in December, and, according to Florida Watch, it looks like more of the same. Some highlights from their analysis:
As he pledged to cut 1,024 state worker jobs and provide almost a quarter of a billion dollars less than what was requested by the Department of Children and Family Services, the Governor asked for another $2.2 million for his elections police force, another $5 million for his migrant flights program, and $45 million for his “civics” indoctrination trainings for teachers.
While Floridians struggle to pay the rent, access the benefits they have earned, and children continue to be kicked off their health care at staggering rates, the Governor also dedicated a million dollars to sue over Florida State University’s football team being left out of the College Football Playoff.
The Governor did offer a proposal to provide tax savings to homeowners through a one year exemption on some taxes and fees paid by policyholders, as well as $109 million to refurbish the funding for the My Florida Safe Home program. However, experts pointed to the lack of specifics provided by the proposal and questioned its effectiveness in easing rates paid by consumers.
His budget also includes funding for property tax cuts, as well as additional support for key environmental projects, including Everglades Restoration and efforts to address sea level rise. In a nod to animal lovers, the Governor is also proposing the elimination of taxes on pet meds, in addition to continuing numerous sales tax holidays.
According to Florida Watch, under the Governor's funding plan, Florida would continue to rank 48th nationally in average teacher pay and 43rd in per-pupil funding, while an additional $350 million would be diverted to private corporate schools. The state’s prison system will remain in crisis with requests for additional staffing from members of the National Guard. The advocacy group notes much more is needed to directly impact the rising costs hitting the pocketbooks of workers, seniors, and students throughout the state.
The Legislature is not obligated to adopt the Governor's budget but we expect, like last year, the final state budget adopted by lawmakers will include most of what he wants.
Bans Off Our Books Rally Tonight
Education advocacy groups will rally tonight (Monday, January 8th) at 5:30 p.m. before the Duval County School Board meeting to voice their opposition to continued book banning in 2024. Event organizers, including Public School Defenders, 904Ward, Families for Strong Public Schools, Rebel Readers, Moms Rising, Equality Florida, and Freedom to Read Project, are encouraging people to join them in demonstrating community support of the freedom to read. The rally and board meeting will be held at 1701 Prudential Drive. At 6 p.m., representatives will speak at the school board meeting. You can sign up to participate here. A reminder If you want to speak to the board, sign in to get a blue card before 6:20 pm.
MLK Events: Join Us for Unity Breakfast & Parade
The annual breakfast to honor Dr. Martin Luther King is Friday, January 12. The event, organized jointly this year by the City of Jacksonville and the NAACP, begins at 7 a.m. at the Prime Osborne Convention Center. BAM and Jax NOW are sharing a table at the breakfast and we still have open seats! Email us if you would like to attend. We'll be carpooling from the Beach!
We are also planning to participate in the annual Martin Luther King Day parade on Monday, January 15. This year's theme is "Jacksonville: United Against Hate and Gun Violence." The parade begins at 10 a.m. and proceeds from Lot J at Everbank Field to the Prime Osbourne Convention Center. We'll carpool from the Beach and join other groups assembling at Lot J around 10:45 a.m. Email us if you would like to be a part of this inspiring community event!
BAM, Indivisible Mandarin Awarded GROW Grant
BAM and Indivisible Mandarin received $2,500 in funding from national Indivisible to expand their collaboration and voter outreach activities for the 2024 election. The grant, awarded under the Grassroots Organizing Wins (GROW) initiative, will build the capacity of the two groups and support projects like joint meetings, an online voter guide, GOTV and voter outreach material, and a spring summit to create momentum going into the November Presidential election. Stay tuned for ways you can get involved!