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Charlie Crist Endorses School Board Candidates Across Florida

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ST. PETERSBURG — Today, Charlie Crist’s campaign announced that Charlie has endorsed a first round of school board candidates across the state. These candidates are dedicated to keeping politics out of the classroom, protecting our students’s freedom to learn, and truly defending parental rights.
Among those being endorsed is Debbie Jordan, Chair of the Lee County School Board, Rev. Eric Cummings, current Marion County School Board Member, Karen Perez, sole Latina currently serving on the Hillsborough County School Board, and Damaris Allen, an award winning Parent–Teacher Association leader and candidate for Hillsborough County School Board.

The first round of school board candidate endorsements includes:

  • School Board Member and Chair Debbie Jordan, candidate for Lee County School Board, District 4

  • School Board Member Rev. Eric Cummings, candidate for Marion County School Board, District 3

  • School Board Member Karen Perez, candidate for Hillsborough County School Board, District 6

  • Sara Jones, candidate for Polk County School Board, District 6

  • Cindy Gibbs, candidate for Indian River County School Board, District 2

  • Brian Martin, candidate for Pinellas County School Board, District 6

  • Damaris Allen, candidate for Hillsborough County School Board, District 2

“Governor DeSantis is politicizing our classrooms, taking away parental rights, and limiting Florida students’ freedom to learn,” said Charlie Crist. “Florida deserves dedicated public servants on our school boards that won’t inject politics into the classroom, but rather work everyday to fight for the best interests of our students and educators. I’m proud to endorse this incredible slate of candidates to serve on school boards across the Sunshine State.”

Crist recently unveiled his “Freedom to Learn” policy plan aimed directly at strengthening Florida’s public education system so students can have the best opportunity to learn and succeed.

Crist’s endorsements follow Charlie earning the full support of the Democratic Public Education Caucus of Florida, Florida Education Association, the United Teachers of Dade, and teachers unions across the state. Crist is the only Democratic gubernatorial candidate to earn the support of teachers this cycle.

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Daisy Morales Named FNN News 2022 State Legislator of the Year

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Florida State Representative Daisy Morales in her district office in Orlando. (Photo credit: Rep. Daisy Morales)
Florida State Representative Daisy Morales in her district office in Orlando. (Photo credit: Rep. Daisy Morales)

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – Florida National News (FNN) has named State Representative Daisy Morales (D-Orlando) Florida National News State Legislator of the Year for her unwavering commitment to the disability community in Florida and nationwide.

There are 120 members of the Florida House of Representatives, and 40 members of the Florida Senate which make up the Florida State Legislature. In November 2022, Republicans increased majority from 78-42 to 85-35 with control over the Florida House. As the minority party, Democratic legislators have an uphill battle in getting legislation passed through committees, on the House floor and signed into law by a Republican governor.

This year, the Florida National News highlights a House Democratic freshman state legislator with a proven track record of getting sponsored legislation passed and signed into law who has advanced the rights, dignity, equal opportunities, and choices for Floridians with intellectual and developmental disabilities during the 2022 Legislative Session.

2022 State Legislator of the Year

There are many ways to measure a lawmaker’s success. FNN News kept it simple: the Legislator of the Year is one who accomplishes both parts of their job: pass laws (in other words, draft bills that pass both Chambers of the Legislature and get signed into law by the governor) and balance the state budget. Given how difficult it is for a Democrat lawmaker to get bills passed and signed into law, the more sponsored bill signed into law that are under their belt, the better.

During the 2022 Legislative Session, Representative Morales sponsored bipartisan legislation that was signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis that had significant impact for disabled homeowners (HB 13), disabled veterans (HB 45), and the Down Syndrome community (HB 213).

In 2020, Representative Morales was elected to the Florida House of Representatives and served on the Education & Employment Committee, Post-Secondary Education & Lifelong Learning Subcommittee, Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee, Congressional Redistricting Subcommittee, and the Finance & Facilities Subcommittee. She also served on the Select Subcommittee for the Seminole Gaming Compact during her two-year term. During that time, the freshman state lawmaker made history in the Florida House by sponsoring and co-sponsoring over 100 bipartisan bills that were signed into law–more than any other freshman state representative during the 2020-2022 term.

Here’s a breakdown of Morales’ three sponsored bills in detail and the bills’ beneficiaries.

1. Disabled Veterans

Educational Opportunities for Disabled Veterans (HB 45)

Representative Morales sponsored House Bill 45, Educational Opportunities for Disabled Veterans, legislation which provides disabled veterans receiving certain federal educational assistance more benefits. They are eligible to receive a waiver for tuition and fees at certain institutions; the legislation provides calculation for the waiver amount; requires the amount awarded by the state to be contingent on application of specified federal benefits; requires institutions to submit an annual report to the Board of Governors and State Board of Education; and requires boards to adopt regulations and rules.

Florida lawmakers passed HB 45 earlier this year. The law provides an educational benefit to disabled veterans, allowing those who qualify as residents to attend state universities or career centers, and if they’re not qualified for the 100% eligibility tier federally, remaining tuition fees can be waived.

This law was so pivotal, it’s on a path to becoming a national model.

Florida and Louisiana Lawmakers Seek to Make Disabled Veterans Education Law a National Model – Florida National News

Democratic State Rep. Daisy Morales met virtually with Louisiana Republican State Rep. Beau Beaullieu (above right) about introducing legislation on educational opportunities for disabled veterans in the Pelican State.

Daisy Morales is lending a hand across the aisle, and across the Gulf. Image via Colin Hackley.

Morales hopes Florida could become a national model on veteran education.

“It’s great to work as partners to help disabled veterans who have sacrificed so much for our country with educational opportunities to eliminate challenges they face when they have given so much for our country and allow them to support their families,” Morales said when the bill was signed into law. “My office will work closely with other State Legislators looking to pass legislation for educational tuition assistance.”

2. Disabled Homeowners

In July of 2021, Rep. Morales and State Representative Michael Gottlieb (D-Broward) filed HB 13 – Property Tax Exemptions For Widows, Widowers, Blind Persons, or Persons Totally and Permanently Disabled, a 2022 bill increasing the homestead exemption for the widowed and disabled.

HB 13 proposes a 10x property tax exemption increase for residents who are widows, widowers, blind persons, or persons totally and permanently disabled from $500 to $5,000. The exemption would apply to tax years beginning on or after January 2023.

HB 13 was eventually amended into HB 7071, the largest tax relief bill in Florida’s history, offering $1.2 billion in tax relief to Floridians in the form of several tax holidays in addition to the 10x tax exemption increase for disabled homeowners.

3. Down Syndrome Community

Florida Representative Daisy Morales' Down Syndrome Specialty License Plate Signed into Law

In December of 2021, Rep. Morales drafted HB 213 – Specialty License Plates, proposing the sale of Down Syndrome specialty license plates, and breaking down where the proceeds would go:

  • Fifty percent would be used to build and maintain HOLLAND, an affordable housing project for independent living for persons with Down Syndrome and other intellectual disabilities.
  • Fifteen percent would be dedicated to World Changer scholarships provided by Our City Beautiful, a non-profit organization, for Florida residents 18 years of age or older with Down Syndrome who wish to further their education at Florida postsecondary educational institutions.
  • Thirty-five percent would be used for grants to other nonprofit organizations within this state to support housing, educational scholarships, and employment assistance programs for persons with Down Syndrome and other intellectual disabilities.

The Senate companion bill, CS/CS/SB 364, which included Rep. Morales’ bill as well as bills for several other specialty license plates, was signed into law.

Leadership and Commitment to Advocacy

As a former vice chair of the Orange County Disability Advisory Board and longtime caretaker for her adult sister with Down Syndrome, Rep. Morales used her real life experiences to author and support legislation benefitting Floridians with disabilities once she got to Tallahassee. In addition to the three key disability-related bills she sponsored, she also co-sponsored HB 15 – Children with Developmental Delays, HB 173 – Care of Student with Epilepsy or Seizure Disorders, HB 235 – Restraint of Students with Disabilities in Public Schools, and HB 475 – Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Forms of Dementia Education and Public Awareness.

Morales also brought that commitment to District 48.

FILE - (l-r) Orlando District 2 Commissioner Tony Ortiz and State Representative Daisy Morales at the Engelwood Neighborhood Center. File photo: Willie David/Florida National News.

FILE – (l-r) Orlando District 2 Commissioner Tony Ortiz and State Representative Daisy Morales at the Engelwood Neighborhood Center. File photo: Willie David/Florida National News.

With April being Autism Awareness Month, Morales teamed up with District 2 Orlando City Commissioner Tony Ortiz to host an Autism Awareness Day event at the Engelwood Neighborhood Center, located on South Semoran Blvd. The event featured vendors who serve the Autism community: attorneys, health care companies, small business owners, and even the arts community, all coming together to raise awareness of the services available in Central Florida for residents with autistic family members.

Rep. Morales proved herself a common sense champion over the past two years with a passion for helping one of Florida’s most vulnerable communities. The disabled community is the biggest winner of Rep. Morales’ legislative agenda during her time in the Florida House of Representatives.

That’s why Florida National News is proud to name Daisy Morales State Legislator of the Year for 2022.

“I’m honored to be recognized by Florida National News for this,” Morales said. “I also appreciate this media outlet for consistently reporting on the work my office was doing throughout my term. I fight to ensure the disability community is heard, because they need a voice in Tallahassee. As the sibling and caretaker of someone with Down Syndrome, I understand what the disability community needs and wanted to use the authority entrusted to me by the voters to give them what they need.”

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OPINION: Reps. Brown, Morales Top Orange County Democratic House Lawmakers in Passing State Laws

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State Representative Kamia Brown (left) and State Representative Daisy Morales (right). Photos by the Florida House of Representatives.
State Representative Kamia Brown (left) and State Representative Daisy Morales (right). Photos by the Florida House of Representatives.

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – As the 2022 November midterm election draws closer, political ads have gotten increasingly nastier–especially in the state house elections in Orange County–from Republican candidates claiming their Democrat opponents got no bills passed or signed into law (namely Senator Jason Brodeur in his attack on State Rep. Joy Goff-Marcil in the Senate District 10 race). As such, we’re looking at the Democratic state lawmakers who represent Orange County and how many bills they sponsored (in their own name) out of the 14 bills issued to them that were signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis during the 2021 and 2022 legislative sessions.

 

Orange County’s Top Two Democratic State Lawmakers

Reps. Kamia Brown and Daisy Morales introduced the most bills (which include companion and appropriations bills) that got signed into law out of the seven Democratic state lawmakers representing Orange County.

Florida State Representative Kamia Brown: 7 Bills
Democratic Minority Leader pro tempore (2020-2022)

State Rep. Kamia Brown speaks on the Florida House floor. Photo: Florida House of Representatives.

State Rep. Kamia Brown speaks on the Florida House floor. Photo: Florida House of Representatives.

 

Florida State Representative Daisy Morales: 5 Bills
Democratic Freshman Lawmaker (2020-2022)

 

State Rep. Daisy Morales holds up the signed House Resolution 8069, recognizing April 2, 2022 as Puerto Rican Heritage Day across the state of Florida, on the Florida House floor. Photo: State Rep. Daisy Morales (via Facebook).

State Rep. Daisy Morales holds up the signed House Resolution 8069, recognizing April 2, 2022 as Puerto Rican Heritage Day across the state of Florida, on the Florida House floor. Photo: State Rep. Daisy Morales (via Facebook).

A Lawmaker’s Job

For anyone who may not know, in addition to balancing the state budget, getting bills signed into law is the literal job of a state representative and state senator, which is why they’re typically called “lawmakers.” The same is true at the federal level–U.S. representatives (or Congressmen and Congresswomen) and U.S. senators are responsible for balancing the federal budget and getting bills signed into law.

That said, it’s a pretty tough sell to ask voters to re-elect you if you’re an incumbent representative or senator with no bills sponsored in your name getting signed into law.

The Legislative Process in a Nutshell

Granted, the process is long, difficult and a bill is at the mercy of many people. It has to pass subcommittees, committees, then make it to the House or Senate floor for a vote and must pass there before having its companion bill approved in the other chamber (House or Senate, depending on which chamber passes the bill first).

While passing both chambers is exciting because it means the bill is headed to the governor’s or president’s desk for signature, it’s not a law until it gets signed. And there are plenty of bills that never make it that far.

This is why not having any bills signed into law for a particular legislative session (or worse, for an incumbent candidate’s entire legislative career) proves detrimental. It means the candidate only accomplished half of the job.

 

The Orange County Democratic State Reps’ Record

Here’s how the state representatives in the Orange County Democratic State Legislative Delegation measure up.


Chair – Representative Joy Goff-Marcil (District 30)

Total number of bills signed into law in her name during the 2021 and 2022 Legislative Sessions: 1

 

2022 Bills:

 

2021 Bills:


Vice Chair – Representative Travaris L. McCurdy (District 46)

Total number of bills signed into law in his name during the 2021 and 2022 Legislative Sessions: 4

2022 Bills:

 

2021 Bills:

 

Secretary – Representative Anna V. Eskamani (District 47)

Total number of bills signed into law in her name during the 2021 and 2022 Legislative Sessions: 2

2022 Bills:

 

2021 Bills:

 

Representative Geraldine F. Thompson (District 44)

Total number of bills signed into law in her name during the 2021 and 2022 Legislative Sessions: 2

2022 Bills:

 

2021 Bills:

 

Representative Kamia L. Brown (District 45)

Total number of bills signed into law in her name during the 2021 and 2022 Legislative Sessions: 7

2022 Bills:

 

2021 Bills:

 

Representative Daisy Morales (District 48)

Total number of bills signed into law in her name during the 2021 and 2022 Legislative Sessions: 5

2022 Bills:

2021 Bills:

 

Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith (District 49)

Total number of bills signed into law in her name during the 2021 and 2022 Legislative Sessions: 2

2022 Bills:

 

2021 Bills:

 

As for Senator Jason Brodeur’s recent attack ad claiming that State Rep. Joy Goff-Marcil didn’t pass any laws, that’s not entirely true. For the 2022 Legislative Session, yes, she didn’t get any bills passed, but she did get one passed in 2021, which is part of her term. One is still more than zero.

 

All in all, Democrats have an uphill climb to pass bills and get them signed into law, as they have over the last two decades as the minority party in the state legislature. It takes far more effort for them to persuade their Republican colleagues to pass bills out of committee to even make it to a floor vote. Most bills are dead on arrival and never get heard in any committee. Even for the bills that pass the legislature, it takes a miracle for Governor DeSantis, who naturally prioritizes his own party’s legislation, to sign a Democrat lawmaker’s bill into law. That’s why Reps. Brown’s and Morales’ numbers above are so significant. It’s a tough feat to pass laws as a Democrat state representative, and especially as a freshman. Results like those are a testament to a lawmaker’s grit, resilience, and adaptability.

After this year’s midterm election, the Democrats will have an even tougher fight, given the GOP’s aggressive push to gain more seats after this year’s redistricting, and with the Democrats prioritizing abortion rights as their primary campaign message compared to the GOP’s focus on the economy–which is what most voters are concerned with right now–the Dems will have to claw their way through over the next two to four years to get anything done.

Watch this space.

__________________________________________________

Mellissa Thomas is Editor for Florida National News. | mellissa.thomas@floridanationalnews.com

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State & Local Politics

Daisy Morales Files for 2024; Slams Harris, Hispanic Elected Leaders

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State Representative Daisy Morales submits her campaign documents to the Florida Division of Elections in Tallahassee Thursday, September 1, 2022. Photo: Daisy Morales campaign.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (FNN) — The Daisy Morales campaign announced Friday that the State Representative has filed first for Florida House District 44 in the 2024 election, hand delivering her campaign documents to the Florida Division of Elections in Tallahassee Thursday.

 

State Rep. Daisy Morales signs the candidate oath form to file for Florida House District 44 in the 2024 election. Photo: Daisy Morales campaign.

State Rep. Daisy Morales signs the candidate oath form to file for Florida House District 44 in the 2024 election. Photo: Daisy Morales campaign.

 

The Democrat freshman lawmaker joins fifteen others who have also filed early to run in 2024, including fellow Democrat State Reps. Allison Tant, Christine Hunschofsky, and Felicia Robinson, according to the Florida Division of Elections website.

 

Morales Makes the Case for HD 44

Simply put, Rep. Morales laid out a long case in the campaign press release for why she’s choosing to run for HD 44 again.

According to the release, she’s running at the urging of supporters, donors and voters from left, right and center (ideologically) who “expressed their outrage to her at the seat being given to someone with no legislative experience.”

Morales doubled down on the need for Hispanic and Puerto Rican voices in the Florida House while firing a shot at Jennifer “Rita” Harris, who won the August 23rd primary. District 44 and the Florida House deserve a Hispanic voice that represents the people. Experience and diversity matter,” she said in the press release. “House District 44 will need more than just an activist and noisemaker like Rita Harris in Tallahassee.

“This district is an economic engine that requires an effective lawmaker that has a history of getting results in the form of bills being signed into law benefiting Floridians and funding coming back to the district. Rita Harris has none.”

Morales also reiterated her shots against Harris from the primary campaign.

“District 44 needs a representative that is not bogged down in massive IRS debt, is open about their employment history, and can speak to both the English and Hispanic communities.”

 

Reiterating the Track Record

In the campaign press release, Morales decided to say her track record again a little louder for the people in the back, highlighting a few laws:

  • Property Tax Exemptions For Widows, Widowers, Blind Persons, or Persons Totally and Permanently Disabled (CS/HB 13) (sponsor, 2022) was included in this year’s history-making Taxation Bill (HB 7071, co-sponsored) and provides a tenfold tax exemption increase from $500 to $5,000 for widows, widowers, the blind and the permanently disabled. That’s $5,000 in tax savings in their pockets.

  • Educational Opportunities for Disabled Veterans (CS/HB 45) (sponsor, 2022) – this bill, now signed into law, releases funding to cover any remaining out of pocket costs disabled veterans may have in their pursuit of education after all other funding options have been applied.

    This law is on track to become a national model. Louisiana State Representative Lou Beaullieu wants to model the law in his state, which creates an opportunity for every single state government across the country to adopt it for the veterans in their states as well.

  • Specialty License Plates (CS/HB 213) (sponsor, 2022) – this bill was included in the now signed Specialty License Plates law (CS/CS/SB 364), which allows the State of Florida to sell Down Syndrome awareness license plates (a first for the state) and uses the proceeds to help fund housing and education opportunities as well as employment assistance for Floridians in the Down Syndrome community.
  • Autonomous Vehicles (CS/CS/HB 1289) (co-sponsor, 2021) – This law made it possible for BEEP’s fleet of autonomous shuttle buses to serve the Lake Nona community.

  • $50 million in funding for Visit Florida (HB 489, SB 434) (co-sponsor, 2022) – this law allocates $50 million in funding to keep Visit Florida, the marketing arm for Florida’s tourism industry, running until 2028.

  • $3 million in funding for Farm Share (HB 2189) (co-sponsor, 2022) – In partnership with Farm Share, Rep. Morales helped feed thousands of families during the COVID-19 pandemic, and co-sponsored this bill, which was signed into to law, to continue the organization’s invaluable service to Florida families.

  • $4 million in funding for UCF’s Nursing School building in Lake Nona (HB 3841) (co-sponsor, 2022) – this funding will help UCF build its Nursing School building in Lake Nona’s Medical City.

 

Central Florida Hispanic Leaders Abandon Hispanic Political Voices?

Rep. Morales alleges that Central Florida’s Hispanic leaders sold out or abandoned the Hispanic and Puerto Rican community in the rush to support Rita Harris for the seat.

In the below video from Johanna Lopez‘s campaign, Lopez, who has a November election, was helping Rita Harris campaign on primary election day on August 23, along with Samuel Vilchez Santiago, Morales’s former opponent from the 2020 Democratic primary for Florida House District 48 (for which Lopez was the campaign manager), and others.

 

 

Rep. Morales is currently the highest elected Puerto Rican woman in the Florida House, and if Johanna Lopez is elected in November, that mantle would go to her, but the number is still just one. State Senator Victor Torres is the only Puerto Rican represented in the Florida Senate, so the total is two at the state level. By comparison, there is greater representation among African Americans in the Florida House and in Congress, yet the African American community is still fighting for more and greater representation–which spurred State Reps. Travaris McCurdy and Angie Nixon’s sit-in on the Florida House floor in protest to Governor Ron DeSantis’s Congressional maps, which phased out two black Congressional districts altogether.

While Puerto Ricans make up a large part of Florida’s Hispanic population, which is the second highest in the state compared to the African Americans’ third place, African Americans appear to be more protective of their representation by comparison.

Rep. Morales wants to see more of this among Puerto Ricans at the state level.

The primary election is over,” said Rep. Morales in the release, “But our work is far from over. I was the target of Hispanic leaders who chose to turn their back on their own community in an effort to forfeit this seat to pretty much anyone else—because that’s the message they sent on August 23rd. What has long been a Puerto Rican seat is pretty much anyone’s seat now.

I won’t stand for that. Our community deserves to be represented in District 44, and one thing about us as Hispanics, especially Puerto Ricans, is that we will be heard, no matter what, and we know the power of our vote, especially in Central Florida.”

 

Name Dropping

The Morales campaign even dropped in a word from Republican former State Rep. Rene Plascencia, the only other Puerto Rican representation in the Florida House (he’s half-Puerto Rican) prior to resigning his seat for a private sector job.

“Other lawmakers had the opportunity to notice the dirty tricks used against Rep. Morales’s campaign,” reads the press release. “Some did nothing, some chose to join in on the foolishness, and others spoke out. Former State Representative Rene Plascencia, who is also half-Puerto Rican, had this to say on his personal Facebook page:

In my two years of serving with Daisy Morales I have nothing but positive things to say about her. She worked hard for her constituents, always trying to find common ground to build relationships off of while never compromising her principles. It’s unfortunate that the Orlando Sentinel tries to influence elections by twisting the truth and facts. They are attempting to do it for the second time against Rep Morales. If you find her on your ballot, please consider voting for her.’”

Former State Representative Rene Plascencia took to his personal Facebook account on on August 12, 2022 to defend State Rep. Daisy Morales and speak out against the Orlando Sentinel's article attacking her back in August. Image: Rene Plascencia (Facebook).

Former State Representative Rene Plascencia took to his personal Facebook account on August 12, 2022 to defend State Rep. Daisy Morales and speak out against the Orlando Sentinel’s article attacking her. Image: Rene Plascencia (Facebook).

 

Morales Reiterates Voting Record

Rep. Morales beat the drum on her voting record as well. “Also, for some reason, there’s this narrative that I didn’t vote with my party, yet Progress Florida and Florida Watch, two independent progressive organizations, gave me an A+ (97%) on my voting record for their Florida’s People First Report Card. That’s higher than many of our other Democratic Orange County State Legislative Delegation colleagues, including State Senators Victor Torres (94%), Randolph Bracy (83%), and Linda Stewart (81%); and State Representative Kamia Brown (88%). Out of 160 lawmakers, I’m in the top ten. I tied for second place with State Reps. Geraldine Thompson, Travaris McCurdy and Joy Goff-Marcil.”

 

Morales’s Reason for Repetition

There was a massive misinformation campaign against me in the last election, and it’s not going to happen this time,” Morales said in the press release. “Voters deserve to know the truth. Our new campaign team is ready to take on the establishment’s deceptive attacks in order to keep the voters informed heading into the 2024 election.”

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