ACLU of Florida calls 2019 Legislature the 'most harmful and devastating session in a decade'

click to enlarge ACLU of Florida calls 2019 Legislature the 'most harmful and devastating session in a decade'
Photo via Florida House of Representatives
The 2019 Florida legislative session amounted to a big bowl of suck – the most suck in a decade for civil rights and liberties in the Sunshine State – according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.

It sucked when state lawmakers adopted and passed anti-civil liberties bills that are almost surely geared toward tearing families apart, like the bill that bans so-called sanctuary cities, a term that applies to jurisdictions with set policies designed to limit cooperation with, or involvement in, federal immigration enforcement.

And it'll suck even worse when federal immigration authorities use the legislation as an excuse to crack down on immigrant families, disregarding the fact that every city in the Sunshine State already honors "detainer requests" and holds immigrant detainees in local jails.

"Local government should decide how local resources are spent and local law enforcement should spend their time serving local communities – not enforcing federal immigration law," says ACLU of Florida political director Kirk Bailey. "This bill will create a statewide environment of fear and encourage racial profiling of immigrants and people of color and is guaranteed to separate immigrant families."

State lawmakers also passed legislation that will potentially bar hundreds of thousands of Floridians from voting. The Legislature approved a controversial measure that some say resembles a modern day "poll tax" because it requires repayment of fees before restoring the voting rights of former felons. 

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis plans to sign the bill into law, despite the approval of a constitutional amendment in November that restored voting rights to felons "who have completed all terms of their sentence, including parole and probation."

"By passing legislation that undermines Amendment 4, legislators have blatantly ignored the will of 5.1 million Florida voters by restricting the eligibility to vote for thousands of Floridians who have earned their second chance," says ACLU of Florida executive director Micah Kubic. "Instead of allowing Amendment 4 to take effect, they chose to thwart access to the ballot box and a historic citizens' initiative that re-enfranchised 1.4 million people."

Florida lawmakers also voted for a measure that allows classroom teachers to carry guns in schools – expanding a careless policy that the 2018 legislative session managed to hoist through the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, which heightened school security in light of the Parkland high school mass shooting in February 2018 that claimed the lives of 17 students and teachers. 

The implications of a policy that puts more guns in schools, rather than take them out, was exemplified last month when a Pasco County Sheriff's deputy working as a resource officer at middle school in Wesley Chapel accidentally discharged his gun from his holster when he learned against a cafeteria wall. (Luckily, no one was hurt.)

"In spite of evidence that guns in schools that will result in more violence, not less, and will disparately impact Black and brown youth, students with disabilities and LGTBQ and gender nonconforming youth, the Florida Legislature passed a bill that will arm teachers in our schools," says ACLU of Florida legislative director Kara Gross, noting how the bill also expands Florida's zero-tolerance discipline law policies, which "will result in more students being pushed out of schools and into the unforgiving criminal justice system, which will harm students more than it helps."

And that's just the tip of suck iceberg because lawmakers also diverted $130 million in taxpayer dollars from public school education to a voucher program that allows students to attend private or religious schools.

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