House Democrats' 'Unfinished Business' Unlikely To Be Finished

Apr 22, 2014

House Minority Leader Perry Thurston (D-Fort Lauderdale)
Credit Nick Evans

With Florida lawmakers returning from recess, House Democrats are highlighting what they see as missed opportunities.  They’re pushing a slate of what they call “Unfinished Business” - ignored legislation they hope can gain traction before the session ends.

“There are great things that need to be done that are not being done,” House Minority Leader Perry Thurston (D-Fort Lauderdale) says.  “There are a lot things that we need to get accomplished, and we’re spending the time squabbling back and forth and wasting good time that we could be helping Florida families.”

Thurston and fellow Democrats frustrated by their inability to pass legislation in the Republican-controlled House gathered Tuesday to highlight their proposals.  Thurston went on to chastise the majority party for refusing to expand Medicaid. 

Rep. Karen Castor Dentel (D-Maitland) says the majority’s plan for school vouchers will pull funding away from public schools already stretched thin.

“Throughout the state, you’ll find that many of our public schools have leaky roofs and [need] major repairs,” Castor Dentel says, “yet the Republicans are bleeding our public schools by giving $100 million of scarce public school construction funds to build and renovate privately owned charter schools.”

Rep. Ricardo Rangel (D-Kissimmee) also points to his bill easing requirements for the Bright Futures scholarship program.  Rangel says one of his constituents was highly qualified but missed the program based on SAT scores.  

“They received a 4.2 GPA, and they missed the cut-off score by attaining an 1140 on their SATs,” Rangel says.  “In order to qualify for Bright Futures you need an 1170.”

Rep. Cynthia Stafford (D-Miami) says her bill to raise the minimum wage could help the Floridians who need it most.

“It’s not fair for someone to work full time and still have to struggle to meet their needs and rely on government assistance for food,” Stafford says.

Rep. Lori Berman (D-Lantana) wants the Helen Gordon Davis Fair Pay Protection Act to be heard.

“That bill says that women should get paid equally for the amount of work they do,” Berman says.  “Right now in the state of Florida women make about 84 cents to the dollar for the same work as a man.”

But so far, Berman says, that hasn’t gone too well.

“That bill did not get one hearing in either chamber,” Berman says.

It’s a similar story for Rep. Joe Saunders (D-Orlando), whose bill would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  Saunders’ bill wasn’t heard either, but he says it has support in the private sector.

“What’s important to note this year is that for the first time major companies like Disney, Darden, Florida Blue have stepped up to say that not only is it the right thing to do to protect people from discrimination, but it’s good for business,” Saunders says.

But with the session waning, it seems unlikely any of these bills will be heard.