Bills spark debates over racism and gender identity

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TALLAHASSEE, Florida. – Florida’s legislative divide continued in Tallahassee as Democratic lawmakers challenged Republicans – who have the right to vote to pass laws Governor Ron DeSantis wants to sign.

Sen. Shevrin D. “Shev” Jones, D-Miami Gardens, and Florida Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, said Wednesday the splits were all part of Republicans’ efforts to use the legislative process to help DeSantis make advance his political career.

“I’ve noticed a pattern in this legislature where they’re going to create a bogeyman and that pisses off a base, pisses people off in a political sense, but it doesn’t do anything to help people in their day-to-day lives,” Driskell said.

60-day session ends Friday after heated debate over 15-week abortion ban; a Parental Rights in Education Bill which is now known as the Don’t Say Gay Bill; the package of electoral laws which includes the introduction of the so-called electoral police; and the federal government’s placement of unaccompanied migrant children in Florida.

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Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, said Democrats are to blame for the heated debates and ongoing controversy and not Republicans.

“One of the themes of this session is that the Democrats will literally make up fictitious bills that none of us would support and then pretend they’re against them,” Fine said, adding, “We’re not doing any of these things to give the governor a voice. Points. We do these things because we share his perspective on the seriousness of the issues.”

Accusations of racism in education were also on the court on Wednesday. During a debate, Senator Randolph Bracy III asked Senator Manny Diaz, Jr., “Are you trying to whitewash black history?

Florida’s legislative divide continued in Tallahassee on Wednesday, as Democratic lawmakers challenged Republicans who are eligible to vote to pass controversial laws Governor Ron DeSantis is likely to sign as he campaigns for his re-election.

Bracy, D-Orlando, introduced a bill that would require high school students enrolled in a U.S. history class to receive specific instructions about the significance of Emancipation Day and June 19.

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Diaz, R-Hialeah Gardens, introduced another proposed bill that would make it difficult to teach history that causes students “discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress due of their race, colour, sex or national origin.”

Senator Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, expressed outrage over opposition to racial sensitivity training in the workplace during the debate: “Someone who is uncomfortable during a training session can continue. It’s crazy !”

Last year, the Florida Board of Education banned critical race theory from public school classrooms. Civil rights scholars across the country have been discussing the theory of the intersection of race and law for about four decades. Amid the activism of the Black Lives Matter movement, the topic topped the Republican agenda last year.

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In December, DeSantis announced a legislative proposal to end “WOKE activism” and critical race theory in schools and businesses. He said that WOKE stands for “Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees”. DeSantis has also made it clear that he opposes lockdowns as a public health measure during the pandemic.

On Wednesday, the Republican majority in the House passed a bill that will allow certain companies to sue local governments for orders that result in a loss of profit of 15% or more.

The House also passed a bill prohibiting state government agencies from doing business with transportation companies that the federal government contracts to transport undocumented immigrants to Florida.

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Amid a lack of bipartisan cooperation, House and Senate budget officials were unable to reach agreement on the state’s more than $100 million budget. The legislative process will likely require a special session.

Related report

Republican state senator Ileana Garcia is being criticized for remarks she made on the floor regarding the LGBT community, gender and sexual identity.

Torres contributed to this report from Miami.

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