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Awake the State plans opening-day rallies around Florida

Friday, February 28th, 2014 by John Kennedy

While Gov. Rick Scott and state lawmakers open the 2014 Legislature on Tuesday, rallies are planned for more than a dozen cities across the state, with Democratic-leaning groups blasting Republican leaders for the priorities set in Tallahassee.

Lake Worth’s John Prince Park is the site of the Palm Beach County “Awake the State” rally, planned to begin at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

“Average Floridians are fed up with Tallahassee politicians balancing the budget on the backs of hard-working families,” said Mark Ferrulo of Progress Florida, a St. Petersburg-based activist organization. “We will continue to fight Rick Scott and the tea party until we see these anti-middle class policies changed.”

A day before the session begins, similar themes are expected to be sounded at a “Moral Monday” demonstration planned at the state Capitol and led by the NAACP of Florida, unions and other groups.

The Awake the State movement has been around a few years. In 2011, organizers held two demonstrations, before and after Scott’s inaugural session that was marked by changes to the state’s public pension fund, tougher abortion laws, and a reduction in the days available for early voting, reversed last year by lawmakers.

Palm Beach County Dems get high marks from lefties

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Five Palm Beach County Democrats earned “Champions of the Florida’s Middle Class” status from progressives for their votes during the 2013 legislative session that ended in May.

The scorecard is a counterpoint to business-backed Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Chamber of Commerce ratings in which, as expected, the Democrats received mostly failing marks.

Florida Watch Action, Progress Florida and America Votes identified 18 Florida lawmakers members – all Democrats – who voted with the left 100 percent of the time, according to a press released issues by the groups today.

The 18 include Palm Beach County Democratic Sen. Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth and Reps. Lori Berman, D-Lantana; Dave Kerner, D-Lake Worth; Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach; and Irv Slosberg, D-Delray Beach.

“These eighteen lawmakers deserve Floridians’ thanks for their unwavering support and leadership on the issues that matter most to middle class families,” said Progress Florida Executive Director Mark Ferrulo.

House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, also made the progressives’ top 18 list; his Senate counterpart Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, did not.

ALEC quits gun policy, lefties want more

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012 by Dara Kam

It isn’t enough that the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, has backed down from Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law after spreading it around the country, some left-leaning groups say.

Now they want lawmakers to quit the group as well. Progress Florida has launched a statewide campaign urging its supporters to tell legislators to “disavow the group’s extremist and secretive influence on Florida law making.” Other national groups are urging state lawmakers and more businesses to do the same.

ALEC – the business-backed organization that provides prepackaged bills for lawmakers, many of which have been used by the GOP-dominated Florida legislature – yesterday announced it was discontinuing its “Public Safety” and “Elections” task forces that promoted controversial measures including “Stand Your Ground” and voter ID laws that critics say make it harder for minorities to cast their ballots.

The move came after at least 10 corporations refused to renew their memberships in ALEC, a decades-old organization relatively unknown until the Trayvon Martin shooting thrust ALEC into the national spotlight.

Neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman claimed he shot the unarmed teenager in self-defense. Florida’s first-in-the-nation, 2005 law allows people to use deadly force when they feel threatened. ALEC pushed Florida’s NRA-backed bill, and about two dozen states have adopted similar laws.

Progress Florida as well as national groups, including Common Cause, complain that the corporations behind ALEC are crafting the model bills then sponsored by state lawmakers.

For example, state Rep. Rachel Burgin, R-Riverview, earlier this year sponsored a memorial urging Congress to cut the federal corporate tax rate.

But the proposal’s first “whereas” clause mistakenly revealed the source of the bill language.

“WHEREAS, it is the mission of the American Legislative Exchange Council to advance Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty,” Burgin’s memorial reads.


Democratic-allied groups call for Scott to veto elections bill

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Add elections advocates Wednesday to a growing roster of organizations urging Republican Gov. Rick Scott to wield his veto pen.

Environmentalists have already weighed-in, asking the first-year governor to turn back four bills affecting water management districts, conservation rules, wetland regulation and growth management.

Now, several voter groups are demanding that Scott veto the legislation (CS/HB 1355) pushed by ruling Republicans over Democratic objections. Republican lawmakers said the tougher standards the measure would set on those seeking to cast ballots in precincts where they are not registered,  and organizations that register voters, is designed to stamp out fraud.

Democrats and their allies said the measure is aimed at diminishing Democratic turnout.

Those calling for a Scott veto include groups not normally among the first the governor turns to for counsel: the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSMCE), the American Civil Liberties Union, Progress Florida, and the Florida AFL-CIO.

“These provisions needlessly infringe the voting rights of Floridians, particularly those among historically disenfranchised communities, including elderly, low-income voters, students and voters of color,” the group’s letter said.   “Instead of fixing real problems—such as expanding access to early voting —they would disenfranchise eligible Floridians, for no legitimate reason.”

Scott: Throws right, thinks right

Friday, April 1st, 2011 by John Kennedy

Tampa Bay teachers’ groups and other Democratic allies plan to rally against Republican Gov. Rick Scott when he throws out the first pitch at tonight’s season-opening, Rays-Baltimore Orioles game.

But there’s apparently little doubt about what kind of pitch the crafty righthander — and political right-leaner — plans to throw tonight.

“It’ll be either down the middle, or probably more like high — and to the right,”  Brian Burgess, the governor’s communications director, said Friday.

Along with the Scott boo birds in the sell-out crowd at St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field, area Republicans are trying to rally supporters to balance out the numbers at tonight’s game.

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