Outnumbered Republicans and bracing for clashes over what they call “culture war” issues, Florida House Democrats laid out some of their top priorities Monday on the eve of the Florida legislative session. 2022.
“What we can expect from Republicans in this session is going to be culture wars that distract us from the real issues at hand,” Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, said at a press conference.
Driskell, who serves as political chair of the House Democratic Caucus, said Democrats will aim to focus on “the pocket issues that people care about most.”
“Property insurance rates, they’re too high,” Driskell said, by way of example. “I hear that everywhere I go in my neighborhood. People are concerned about property insurance rates. The Republicans put this in the ground, and they have to own up to this failure”
Lawmakers are expected to consider making changes to the property insurance system during the 60-day session, after trying in recent years to address issues such as limiting litigation over insurance claims.
The session will officially begin Tuesday with Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ annual state of the state address. DeSantis has been scouring the state for the past several weeks posting a series of proposals that will play a significant role in setting the agenda for the session.
One of the issues that Driskell called a distraction is a priority for DeSantis to cement into law a ban on teaching critical race theory in public schools. Critical race theory, which many Democrats say is not taught in Florida classrooms, is based on the premise that racism is entrenched in American institutions.
“I’m very concerned, I think our caucus is very concerned, about the governor’s recent pivot to make teachers kind of a boogeyman in his crusade to become the presidential nominee,” Driskell said, referring to widespread speculation. that DeSantis might run for president. in 2024.
Rep. Ramon Alexander, a Tallahassee Democrat who will become the party’s House leader after the November election, said proposing such a critical race theory law strengthens the case for teaching racism. institutional.
“The mere fact that an institution can use laws to prevent the truth from being told is justification that we still have structural and institutional racism in America. So we will focus on ensuring that our teachers and our school system public have the resources they need,” Alexander said.
Democrats are also taking aim at another DeSantis proposal to create a state office that would investigate election-related crimes.
Echoing widespread criticism from Democrats after Republican lawmakers passed a controversial election bill last year, Rep. Tracie Davis, D-Jacksonville, said the governor seeking further change was “political theater” — especially because the 2020 elections went smoothly in the state.
“These so-called pollsters are useless and will cost Floridians dearly. And (this is) a big change in the way these surveys have already been conducted in the past. We already have prosecutors investigating crimes like this, but Governor DeSantis wants to take the authority away from the locals and give it to Tallahassee,” Davis said.
Affordable housing, access to abortion and immigration policy are other issues that Democrats say will take priority as they seek to cast themselves as the party of everyday Floridians, while trying to avoid losing key House and Senate seats in the 2022 election. The session will include the reshuffling of all House, Senate and Congressional districts.
“All Floridians, regardless of background, ethnicity or creed, all have a place at the table,” Alexander said. “We shouldn’t alienate people and find so-called boogeymen to distract us from reality. We want to focus on issues that help all Floridians.