Commentary & Community

Florida Governor Wants to Allow More Force Against Rioters

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has not been shy about expressing his dislike of rioting, looting, and demonstrations that block roads. Now he wants legislators to change state law to allow state residents to use more force against people in these situations.


Under DeSantis's proposal, the state would expand the number of situations in which people could use lethal force in self-defense. These would include looting and the "interruption or impairment" of a business. The law would also impose harsher penalties for blocking roads and give drivers immunity if they struck protestors unintentionally. In addition, the governor has proposed cutting state funding for local governments that defund police departments.


These proposed changes to state law come in the wake of nationwide protests over police brutality and racial discrimination. in some cities, these protests have turned violent, leading to looting. Many times protestors will also block traffic in an attempt to bring attention to their cause. Many elected officials have deplored the protests and rioting, saying that law enforcement should do more to stop them.


Critics of Gov. DeSantis's proposals say that this would empower vigilantes to kill protestors and run over demonstrators. They argue that the punishment for these actions should not be death. DeSantis says these changes are necessary in order to stop protestors from destroying businesses and blocking traffic. 


The Florida legislature may consider this legislation when it convenes in January.


Do you think there should be tougher laws for looters and demonstrators who block traffic?

Politicians Working to Make Daylight Savings Time Permanent

It’s time to change the clocks back this weekend as Daylight Saving Time ends on Sunday morning. However, there is a growing movement to pass legislation that would end the twice-a-year clock switching that upsets so many people.


In 2018, California and Florida voters approved initiatives that would make permanent Daylight Saving Time if federal law is changed to permit it. Since then, 13 states have approved legislation to do the same. Currently, the federal government allows states to adopt Daylight Saving Time between March and November or stay on Standard Time year-round. Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, both Republicans from Florida, have introduced federal legislation that would keep Daylight Savings Time in place through November 2021. Sen. Rubio has also introduced legislation to make Daylight Savings Time permanent.


The idea to change clocks between Standard Time and Daylight Saving Time dates back to World War I. Initially the idea was that it would save energy by aligning the clocks with natural sunlight. It was imposed by the federal government during both world wars, but then was up to state and local preference until 1966. That year, President Lyndon Johnson signed the law giving states either the option of choosing Standard Time or Daylight Saving Time during a uniform period of time.


Those who favor instituting permanent Daylight Saving Time point to evidence that the twice-a-year ritual of changing clocks has adverse effects on health and the economy. They say that in order to stop the changing of clocks, it is necessary to pass this initiative empowering the legislature to debate the issue. Those opposed to a change note that it would mean darker mornings in the winter, with children going to school before the sun comes up.



During 2020 legislative sessions, 32 states considered bills to make Daylight Savings Time permanent.


Do you favor permanent Daylight Saving Time?


Florida Voters Will Decide on $15 Minimum Wage

The fight for a $15 minimum wage has come to Florida ballots.


Sunshine State voters will decide the fate of Amendment 2, which would increase Florida's minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2026. Currently the state's minimum wage is $8.46 per hour. If voters approve the amendment, the minimum wage would automatically increase every year until it reached $15 in September 2026.


Backers of this measure argue that Florida workers deserve a living wage. They say that the a higher minimum wage is necessary to ensure that all Florida workers can afford to support a family. Controversially, one of the backers of this ballot measure has compared the current minimum wage to a "slave wage."


Opponents, however, point out that many minimum wage workers are not supporting a family. Instead, they say, these workers are teenagers or others who are entering the job force. Business owners and economists warn that a higher minimum wage will hurt workers looking to obtain entry-level jobs, and will lead to higher unemployment, especially for young people and minorities.


Florida voters last approved a minimum wage increase in 2004, which also tied the state's minimum wage to inflation.


Do you support mandating the minimum wage of $15 per hour?

Florida Governor Removes Many Coronavirus Restrictions

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is moving to re-open the state's economy, a move he says is necessary to help workers and business owners. Public health experts fear that this will lead to a surge in coronavirus cases.


In an announcement this week, the governor said that all restaurants could return to serving at full capacity and that bars and nightclubs could re-open. Counties still have the ability to restrict their operation due if there are health or safety concerns. In addition, he suspended the collection of any coronavirus-related fees and fines imposed on individuals and businesses. Separately, Gov. DeSantis also proposed restrictions on colleges to prevent them from expelling students who break certain coronavirus-related rules.


These moves prompted pushbacks from Democratic legislators and public health officials. They note that while Florida coronavirus cases are declining, there are still thousands of new cases announced each day. They contend that lifting restrictions would lead to new infections. If that happens, they argue, it will result in more deaths and more economic disruption.


Gov. DeSantis imposed statewide restrictions on restaurants and bars in March. However, he has long been uncomfortable with the economic impact of these orders. He says that it is time to begin re-opening the state's economy and letting people get back to work.


Do you support lifting coronavirus-related restrictions on bars and restaurants?

Trump Announces Offshore Drilling Moratorium

This week, President Trump announced that the federal government was imposing a 10-year moratorium on offshore oil and natural gas exploration off of the Southeastern U.S. coast.


The areas covered by the president’s order include the eastern part of the Gulf of Mexico around Florida, as well as the Atlantic coastal areas of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. The Gulf of Mexico already had an oil and gas drilling moratorium in place, but that was set to expire in 2022. This order extends that moratorium for 10 years and expands it to cover the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf.


This move is a reversal from previous Trump Administration policy. The president had supported opening more offshore areas to oil and gas production. Such production is currently allowed in the western part of the Gulf of Mexico as well as parts of Alaska. In 2017, the administration announced it wanted expanded drilling, including around Florida. 


Supporters of this moratorium argue that it is necessary to protect the tourist industries of these areas as well as the environment. They also contend that the U.S. should be transitioning to the use of renewable energy, not fossil fuels. Opponents of placing these areas off-limits to oil and gas production contend that such energy exploration is already being done safely elsewhere, so it can be done safely here. They also note that this type of energy production would create jobs for coastal communities as well as generate significant government revenue.


Do you support a moratorium on oil and gas production off of the Atlantic Coast?

Florida to Require Parental Consent for Abortions

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is poised to sign a bill into law that will require minors who want an abortion to obtain parental consent. Abortion proponents are vowing to sue, saying it violates the state constitution.


Under the bill that legislators approved on Thursday, girls who are under 18 must obtain the consent of a parent prior to an abortion. Girls could seek a waiver from this requirement in cases of rape, incest, abuse, or when a parent may cause harm to the girl. Doctors who perform abortions without this consent would be guilty of a felony.


Supporters say that other medical procedures require parental consent, and abortion should be no different. They argue that an abortion is not a decision that a child should make alone. Opponents say that girls in this position should be free to make the best choice for them, and not to face repercussions from parents who may disapprove.


Those fighting this law also say that it violates the state constitution’s right to privacy. The point to a 1989 decision by the Florida Supreme Court holding that invalidated a parental consent statute.


Twenty-six other states have similar laws.


Do you support requiring that girls under 18 seek parental approval prior to an abortion?


Florida Governor Keeps Alive Local Straw Bans

Florida legislators do not like local officials banning straws. So they passed a law prohibiting local straw bans. But Florida’s governor sided with local governments over state legislators, vetoing the bill and preserving local straw bans.


Ten municipal governments in Florida have passed plastic straw bans or laws prohibiting business owners from providing straws if patrons do not request them. This legislative session, state lawmakers passed a bill that would have pre-empted such bans, enacting a uniform rule in the state that municipal governments cannot enact these types of laws.


A Republican majority in the legislature passed this pre-emption law, and many expected the Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, to support it. However, he vetoed it, saying that there was no state interest in stopping such local bans. He said that local voters could elect officials who would overturn straw bans if that was what local residents wanted.


Those pushing for straw bans argue that they will help prevent plastic from going into the ocean, harming wildlife. Opponents of the ban counter that straws make up a miniscule proportion of ocean waste, and point out that many people, such as those with disabilities, need straws.


Do you support banning the use of plastic straws?

Armed Teachers Now Allowed in Florida

Yesterday Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation allowing school districts to arm teachers. In a state where the Parkland school shooting took place last year, this legislation has both strong supporters and detractors.


I the wake of the Parkland shooting, Florida enacted a law that allowed some school personnel to be armed. These personnel would undergo a background check and training. School boards would have to authorize this program in their district. Classroom teachers were excluded from this law.


Under this bill, school teachers would also be authorized to carry guns in the classroom. They must pass a psychological evaluation and a background check, then take training with the police.


The bill was controversial, with Republicans in the legislature pushing for it and Democrats opposing it. Those in favor of the bill noted that it was voluntary, so no teacher would be forced to carry a gun. They also pointed out that in many rural areas, it could take the police a long time to get to a school. Opponents of the bill said that it would make schools less safe with the potential for accidents.


Of the state’s 67 school districts, 25 have authorized some of their personnel to be armed. It is unclear how many will now permit teachers to do so, too.


Do you think that school teachers should be armed?

Felon Voting Rights May Be Restored in Florida

Voters in Florida may restore voting rights to over a million of their fellow state residents this Election Day. A constitutional amendment is on the ballot that would automatically allow most felons who have served their sentences to vote.


Amendment 4 will be decided on Election Day. This measure would amend the state constitution to end the current prohibition on felons voting. If passed, this amendment would require the state to automatically restore voting rights for people with a felony conviction once they complete their sentences. The only exceptions would be for felons who have been convicted of murder or felony sexual offenses.


Currently, Gov. Rick Scott has put in place a system that requires those with felony convictions to wait between 5 and 7 years before they can apply to a state board for the restoration of their ability to vote. The previous governor, Charlie Crist, had a system whereby a state board would automatically restore the voting rights of those in this situation if they had paid restitution and had no pending criminal charges.


Supporters of this constitutional amendment contend that it unfairly disenfranchises state residents who have paid their debt to society. They contend that voting rights can help ex-felons integrate into society. They also argue that these individuals should have the right to participate in the political process. They point out that over a million people are covered by the current voting restriction, a situation that disproportionately affects minorities.


Those opposed to the measure argue that those who have been convicted of serious crimes should not have their right to vote restored automatically. They say that society is sending a signal about how serious these crimes are by punishing them in various ways, including taking away the ability to vote. They note there is a current process to restore the right to vote if an ex-felon wants it back and can prove that he or she has reformed.


There are three other states besides Florida that do not give residents who have been convicted of felonies the right to vote.


Do you think that ex-felons should have their right to vote restored automatically upon completion of their sentences?

Court Rejects Miami Cab Request to Block Uber, Lyft


With the advent of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, taxicab companies are facing stiff competition. In Miami-Dade County, taxicab owners sued the county after it legalized these ride-sharing services, contending that this competition devalued their business. A federal judge recently rejected these claims, saying that the government has no duty to protect taxicabs from competition.


Prior to the arrival of Uber and Lyft, owning a taxicab medallion in Miami-Dade County was a lucrative investment. The county handed out a limited number of these medallions, limiting taxicab numbers. The government cap on cabs limited competition, ensuring a high price for medallions. With the county’s legalization of ride-sharing services, however, the price of a taxicab medallion in Miami-Dade County has fallen by 90%.


In response, Checker Cab, B&S Taxi, and Miadeco sued the county. They argued that they had a property interest in the value of a taxicab medallion. Legalizing competing services, they claimed, was an illegal government “taking” of their property.


In early August, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected that argument. These judges held that these companies are not entitled to a competition-free marketplace. The court ruled that these taxicab companies could not force the government to protect them from competition. The taxicab medallions are licenses to operate taxi services, not licenses to have no competitors.


There have been other suits of this type brought by taxicab companies. A similar suit in Chicago led to the same holding, with a federal circuit court finding that taxicab companies had no legal right to be free from competition.


Do you think that Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing services are unfair competition for taxi companies? Should courts protect taxicab owners from competition?


Voters to Decide on Florida Indoor Vaping Ban


Thirty-six states have some type of ban on smoking in enclosed workplaces, such as bars and restaurants. Only nine states have a similar ban on vaping devices. Florida voters will decide in November if they will join these states in saying “no” to people who want to vape indoors.


There are increasing numbers of Americans who choose to vape instead of smoke. Vaping is the use of electronic devices which mimic cigarettes but do not use tobacco. While many states have strict rules on how tobacco products can be sold and used, states are still formulating their laws on vaping devices. Some states have gone in the direction of treating vaping devices similar to cigarettes, while other states have little regulation at all on their use.


Proponents of the state’s constitutional amendment to ban vaping in indoor workplaces contend that the vapor from these devices can have toxins in them and that they are annoying to non-vapers. Those opposed to it say that vaping devices may produce vapor that looks like smoke, but it does not contain the harmful products that exist in tobacco smoke.


This proposal came from the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, which refers constitutional amendments to be considered by voters. It is combined with another constitutional amendment that would ban offshore oil and natural gas drilling. Voters must vote “yes” or “no” on one measure that contains both of these amendments; they cannot vote on each amendment separately.


Do you think that vaping should be banned in bars, restaurants, and other indoor businesses?


Gambling Issues Face Florida Voters


The future of Florida gambling will be shaped by what the state’s voters decide in November.


There will be 13 ballot measures facing Florida voters in the general election. One will deal with who has the power to determine whether to legalize gambling. Another could end dog racing in the state.


The first initiative is Amendment 3. Its text would give voters the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling in the State of Florida.” That means that legislators could not pass a law to legalize casino gambling nor could they refer a constitutional amendment to legalize gambling to the ballot for voters to decide. Only through a citizen initiative could the state constitution be changed to allow casino gambling. Currently, slot machines are currently permitted at racing facilities in two Florida counties, and the Seminole tribe also offers blackjack gambling in five facilities. 



Supporters of the amendment say that voters, not legislators, should be the ones who decide the future of casino gambling in Florida. According to them, this amendment would ensure that legislators are too influenced by lobbyists and backroom deals. Opponents of Amendment 3 point out that its passage would greatly benefit the Seminole Tribe by protecting its gambling operations from competition. The Seminole Tribe has provided significant funding to place this initiative before voters.


The second gambling-related measure on November’s ballot is Amendment 13. This state constitutional amendment would prohibit wagering on dog races. Currently, Florida joins 10 other states in allowing gambling on dog racing. This amendment would outlaw that practice and empower the legislature to enact civil or criminal penalties for those who engage in it. Amendment 13 came about not by citizens initiating it, but by the state’s Constitution Revision Commission. That commission meets every 20 years and refers constitutional changes to the voters.


Do you think that only voters, not legislators, should decide on the future of casino gambling in Florida? Should Florida ban betting on dog races?


Florida Supreme Court Considering Quality Education Standard


What does it take to provide a “high quality” education? Florida voters, judges, and lawmakers have been wrestling with this issue for years. Soon the state Supreme Court will decide if courts should play a role in deciding how the state constitution’s quality education mandate should be interpreted.


In 1998, Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment that mandated the state provided a “high quality education system.” Advocacy groups and the state have waged a long legal battle to determine what these words mean. Groups suing the state say that the judicial branch should have a role in determining what constitutes a “high quality education system.” The state says that this is an inherently political question, so the courts should stay out of it.


In states like Connecticut and New York, judges have become involved in setting education spending levels in order to meet similar constitutional provisions in other states. Florida advocates want something similar in that state. They say that if there is no authority for the judiciary to mandate ways to comply with that constitutional provision, the education amendment is toothless.


The state pushes back against that argument, noting that there is no agreed-upon standard that will produce the mandated “high quality education system.” The state says that this is an inherently political decision, and that judges should not be setting education policy or determining education spending levels.


Lower courts have agreed with Florida’s arguments in this matter. The state Supreme Court, however, can overturn these lower court decisions and give the judicial branch authority to involve itself in the fight over Florida’s education policy.


Do you think that judges should be able to set education spending levels or determine what constitutes a “high quality” education?


Job Licensing Reform Dies in Florida



If you want to work as a hair braider or a boxing announcer in Florida, the state mandates that you get a license. Some legislators think that workers pursuing these jobs should not be forced to get permission from the state. They passed a bill in this year’s legislative session that would have de-licensed these and a few other occupations. But this push for occupational license reform did not survive the legislative process, meaning that anyone wishing to work in these jobs must still get a state license.


In early January, the Florida House of Representatives passed a bill that would end the requirement that people looking to work in the occupations of hair braiding, hair wrapping, body wrapping, boxing timekeeping, and boxing announcing must obtain a state license. The bill also reduced the number of hours of mandatory training that someone seeking to work as a barber, nail specialist, face specialist, or a full beauty specialist must complete. The legislation was the same as a bill passed the previous year in the same body.


Those supporting this reform contend that occupational licenses are a barrier to Floridians seeking work. These licenses keep people from being able to get jobs and act to protect those already in the occupation from competition. They also say that the licenses may be defended as a way to protect the public, but the evidence indicates that these licenses don’t offer a public benefit.


The bill met stiff opposition from barbers and those in the beauty field. The professional associations and licensed workers testified that the longer training hours were necessary to ensure that the public is not harmed by barbers or beauty workers who did not know their craft. They said that the state should mandate more hours to protect the public, not cut the mandatory hours.


While this legislation passed the House of Representatives, it died in the Senate. Given the history of this proposal, a similar bill is likely to be debated in the 2019 Florida legislative session.


Do you think that the state should impose a mandatory license on hair braiders and boxing announcers? Should the state require barbers complete 1,200 hours of training before they cut hair professionally?



More Gun Restrictions Come to Florida


After the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, there has been an intense debate in the state – and the nation -- over gun laws. From national figures to the students from the high school, attention has been focused on what Tallahassee will do on gun control.


As a result, in early March legislators approved measures that would stiffen Florida’s gun laws and provide more armed security at schools. Gov. Rick Scott signed the legislation into law soon afterwards.


Here are the provisions of this new gun control legislation:

  • Mandate a 3-day waiting period for purchasing most rifles and shotguns
  • Prohibit anyone under 21 years of age from purchasing rifles or shotguns (individuals under 21 are already banned from purchasing handguns)
  • Ban bump stocks, which allow semi-automatic rifles to mimic the firing pattern of fully-automatic rifles
  • Allow law enforcement to confiscate guns from people accused of being a threat and set up a judicial process to challenge these confiscations
  • Provide funding to arm some school employees and train them


Florida legislators also considered a bill that would ban so-called “assault weapons,” but that bill failed to gain support from a majority.


The passage of gun control legislation in Florida, a Republican-controlled legislature, is a departure from recent trends. States that have enacted significant gun control bills recently have been where Democrats have the majority in legislatures, such as in Maryland or Connecticut. Most of the Democrats in the Florida legislature voted against this legislation because they did not think it was strong enough.


The National Rifle Association quickly filed suit to block enforcement of the provision that restricts gun purchases to those over 21 years of age.


Do you support raising the age for purchasing rifles and shotguns? Should law enforcement be able to seize guns from people before courts determine them to be a threat?


Florida Senate Bill 1124


Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Florida, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


Florida Senate Bill 1124, Revise Testing for Newborn Screening: Passed 117 to 0 in the state Senate on April 28, 2017.


To require the Florida Department of Health (DOH) to adopt rules stating that every newborn in Florida be tested for any condition included in the federal Recommended Uniform Screening Panel. These recommended conditions will be added to the Florida Newborn Screening Program’s existing panel of disorders. DOH must adopt rules to include any recommended condition within 18 months, as long as an FDA or state approved test is available.


Comment below to share what you think of Florida Senate Bill 1124!



Florida House Bill 1385


Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Florida, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


House Bill 1385, Increase Domestic Violence Penalties: Passed 37 to 0 in the state Senate on May 5, 2017.


To increase mandatory jail time for guilty domestic violence offenders if they intentionally caused bodily harm or if the violence was committed in the presence of a child 16 years old or younger. This bill requires offenders to attend and complete a 29-week batterer’s intervention program.


Comment below to share what you think of Florida House Bill 1385!



Florida House Bill 277


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House Bill 277, Allow Electronic Wills: Passed 73 to 44 in the state House on may 4, 2017. 


To allow for the creation of electronic wills. This bill allows for electronic wills to be signed, modified, notarized, and witnessed remotely on a computer instead of in person and on paper, which is currently required.


Comment below to share what you think of Florida House Bill 277!



Florida House Bill 1027


Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Florida, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


House Bill 1027, Regulate Drones and Robots: Passed 115 to 0 in the state House on May 5, 2017.


To create size and speed requirements for personal delivery devices, such as robots. This bill allows these devices to operate on sidewalks when delivering property. This bill also gives the state the authority to regulate unmanned aircraft systems, commonly known as drones, and prohibits local governments from regulating the use of drones unless it is regarding an illegal act. Additionally, this bill allows drones to be used for commercial delivery.


Comment below to share what you think of Florida House Bill 1027!



Florida House Bill 141


Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Florida, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


House Bill 141, Expand the number of bottles craft distilleries can sell: Passed 114 to 2 in the state House on April 26, 2017 and passed 37 to 0 in the state Senate May 5, 2017


To allow craft distilleries to sell six individual containers of each product to customers per year from their gift shop. Currently, craft distilleries can sell two individual containers of each product per customer.


Comment below to share what you think of Florida House Bill 141!


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