When the party in power punches down instead of solving real problems it leaves our state, our cities and our residents weaker. And, when it spends more time on scoring political points with primary voters instead of governing, the most marginalized and vulnerable in our communities suffer.
Both happened this past session in Florida.
While Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri were busy ensuring that their residents had health insurance during these final stages of the pandemic and Mississippi and West Virginia were updating their outdated unemployment system, our Florida legislature was busy telling municipalities what they should be doing on issues as minuscule as building and design aesthetics. While Louisiana passed bills to draw down new federal funding to fix the failing infrastructure of its schools, the Florida legislature rejected the money and made it harder for kids to get science-based sex education.
And we wonder why we have one of the highest rates of teen STDs in the country?
Thank goodness Representative Chaney’s initial language was weakened through the process so our kids will be better informed and protected.
While Ohio was beefing up its behavioral health system coming out of a pandemic, which has seen soaring rates of depression and unprecedented heights in drug overdoses, Florida spent state resources passing a law that will directly impact only a handful of trans youth engaged in sports, yet make life harder for all LGBTQ kids. Nothing like a bunch of adults bullying kids who are more likely to commit suicide than graduate from high school.
And, while Tennessee was rushing forward to fix a prison system as outdated as Florida’s, our own Senator Brandes was sidelined for speaking out against a failure of action on the part of his leadership to step up.
Each legislative session our political leaders have an amazing opportunity to do good – to do the people’s work and actually put forth the effort to leave a lasting legacy that fixes real problems and that creates a Florida that works better for all of our families and residents. This potential is bestowed upon our legislators by allocating a $101.5 billion budget and through the ability to pass policies that will impact nearly 22 million Floridians and sway the national landscape. Yet, what the political majority continues to do is squander the opportunity by punching down and pandering to the extreme right – deflecting its own incompetence by screwing up the systems that are boldly created by our cities, carefully cultivated by problem-solving schools and parents, and invested in by our small business owners and workers.
Thank God session is only 60 days.
Jennifer Webb is a former member of the Florida State House, District 69, a founding partner of Omni Public, and an applied anthropologist. She lives in Gulfport with her wife, Cynthia, and their adopted pup, Bailey.