The Strong Files — Mar. 10, 2017 Edition

This week, Florida lawmakers returned to Tallahassee to kick off the 2017 Legislative Session. Here are some of the little-reported stories you may have missed:

Schools, Roads & Health Care on Chopping Block: As budget writers hammer out the state’s 2017-18 budget, critical projects including public education, health care and infrastructure face big potential cuts. The budget they put forward is a statement of their priorities. Florida’s economic potential and competitiveness will be further weakened if the Legislature moves forward with these proposed cuts as is. We must call our local lawmakers and insist they make smarter decisions when it comes to spending our tax dollars. Call 1-844-899-9394 to reach your state representative and tell them to back a fiscally responsible budget that:
  • Invests in schools at the levels needed to keep up with our growing population and ensures our kids are prepared as the next generation of workers and entrepreneurs. Florida cannot afford to rank near the bottom of the country in per-pupil spending.
  • Maintains safe roads, bridges and highways, all essential infrastructure projects that each of us depend upon in our daily lives. It is unacceptable that Florida scores a C-grade for infrastructure.
  • Ensures Floridians access to quality, affordable health care, a pre-requisite to a stable, productive workforce. Florida ranks 48th in the nation in health insurance coverage.
FPL Wants To Charge Customers For Fracking… And Lawmakers Are Helping Them Do It: Utility monopoly Florida Power & Light is attempting to change state law to charge its customers for, and profit off of, exploratory fracking. State Representative Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford) and State Senator Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach) are doing FPL’s bidding with their bill (HB 1043/SB 1248) that would “essentially overturn a Florida Supreme Court ruling last year that said that Florida regulators exceeded their authority when they allowed FPL to become the first utility in the nation to be allowed to charge its customers, not its shareholders, for its speculative investment in fracking operations.” The Senate version will be considered by the Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities committee on Tuesday, March 14. Please call and email committee members to tell them to VOTE NO on this anti-consumer measure.
Anti-Public Records Bill Advances: In Florida, each of us have a constitutional right to public records, and SB 80, which advanced in committee earlier this week, aims to weaken that right. This controversial bill would change current law so that if a citizen successfully sues a government agency or official for unlawfully being denied a public records request, they would not be guaranteed reasonable attorneys fees. This action would deter attorneys from advising in these cases leaving citizens without legal representation and essentially killing our constitutional right to public records. On Tuesday, March 14, this bill will be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Please call and email committee members and urge them to VOTE NO on SB 80.
Legislators Try To Rip Control Away From Local Communities: Lawmakers in Tallahassee are considering HB 17, a clear attempt to micro-manage municipalities across the state. As noted by the Orlando Sentinel editorial board, the “top-down, one-size-fits-all approach is especially ill-suited for Florida, one of the nation’s most geographically and culturally diverse states. Why operate under the assumption that a policy that’s a good fit for rural North Florida should apply in downtown Miami? Legislators hate it when they get big-footed on issues by Washington, D.C. Why would they think it’s OK to turn around and do the same thing to local governments?” We will continue to keep an eye on this bill from Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay).
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