THE FLORIDA SENATE
The Florida Senate is the upper house of the legislature of the state of Florida. Along with the House of Representatives it comprises the Florida Legislature. After census, draw congressional and legislative districts. The Florida Constitution establishes the legislature’s powers and duties that include passing laws, developing annual state budget and making investigations.
4-year term; term limits 8 years. 40 Senate seats.
All candidates were asked the following questions:
- BACKGROUND: Why are you running for this office and what qualities, training, experience and skills do you bring to this position?
- GUN VIOLENCE: Do you believe the Second Amendment leaves room for limits on gun rights? What protections do you favor? Your view on background checks and loopholes?
- EDUCATION: Do you favor current student performance and school and teacher measurement and evaluation? How can Florida best improve outcomes?
- ENVIRONMENT: How do you propose to protect our water supply, Biscayne Bay, the Everglades National Park? Please specify.
SENATE DISTRICT 38 – Anis Blemur (DEM)
SENATE DISTRICT 38 – Kevin A. Burns (DEM)
I am Kevin A Burns, 57 and a lifelong resident of this State Senate district 38. I was born on Miami Beach and raised in the North Miami area. I attended the local public schools. I am a Real Estate Broker with Turnberry International Realty. I have been married for 31 years and I have a daughter named Autumn.
I have been involved in public service for more than 40 years, both as a community activist and an elected official. I was twice elected Mayor of North Miami. During that time I was able to build 5 new schools within a three-year period. This had never been done before in any city in Miami Dade. I am fully committed to fully funding our public school systems. I don’t favor the current testing standards or how they are applied.
I am the only candidate to put in writing that I oppose the open carry gun bill; this bill would allow anyone with a permit to carry guns fully exposed and on public property, colleges, hospitals and other venues. We must never allow this to happen. As Mayor I was a member of the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, we fought for stronger background checks and enforcement of federal guns laws already on the books.
I believe the state should purchase the sugar land that was agreed to eight years ago and to hold the large companies accountable for their pollution. I was a leading force when I was on the MPO to build the elevated bridge on Tamiami trail. I can say that my effort along with others, we were able to get several miles elevated. This was seen as a major improvement to the water flow south of the trail.
I am the best candidate to represent this district 38 because of my proven experience, ability to work with others to solve our problems and my knowledge of the issues in this district. Also I have voted in every election I could for my entire life and have always been a democrat. A candidate in this race hasn’t voted in 17 election the past 8 years according to the Miami Herald.
SENATE DISTRICT 38 – Daphne Campbell (DEM)
SENATE DISTRICT 38 – Don Festige (DEM)
Having gone to Tallahassee and Washington DC for the past four years lobbying on behalf of the United Teachers of Dade, Miami-Dade County PTA/PTSA and Miami Dade County Public Schools CTE Office on behalf of our student, parents and community, I realized that many of the current people representing our district and state felt entitled to their office and did not care about the people of our communities but rather, seemed more interested in serving the wants and needs of special interest groups. It is time that the “People” of our community have a representative in office who truly cares about them.
Yes, there needs to be limits. There should be a state gun buyback program funded by the state. It should not just be the responsibility of our churches and private groups. There also need to be a ban on semi-automatic weapons. Additionally, we need stronger background checks and the gun show loophole needs to be closed.
Our current testing system is not set up to be a assessment on students gains and needs but is rather a system that has been established to control education funding by a select few. The current system disenfranchises both students and teachers and has forced the creativity out of our classrooms. Testing should be used to determine a students growth but not be a be all end all. Those currently in office making decisions on testing and educational funding know little about what goes on in a classroom and what is truly needed.
First we to buy the rest of the U.S. Sugar land, more than 150,000 acres south of Lake Okeechobee. It is so important to restoring the ecosystem, a place to start is a storm water treatment area owned by the South Florida Water Management District. It's an expanse of marshland and shallow lakes with one main purpose: to scrub phosphorus from the water flowing south from the sugar cane fields.
Purchasing the land will also help to cut the use of Nitrogen Fertilizer which is 300 times stronger than carbon dioxide and lasts in our atmosphere for almost 100 years.
I also believe we need to create greater solar energy use incentives.
Our recent problem with the toxic algae bloom is nothing new. The same problem occurred back in 2013 after continued heavy rains caused the release of water from lake Okeechobee.
SENATE DISTRICT 38 – Michael Gongora (DEM)
As a dedicated public servant, I know I will do the best job of all the candidates. My experience in city and state government coupled with my legal training and skills will benefit the residents of District 38 as, in me, they will have a leader who can hit the ground running from day one to effectuate positive change in our quality of life. Since I was very young, I learned about the importance of public service from my grandfathers - one was a Southern minister; the other a former commissioner in Cuba and businessman. They taught me the lessons of good governance which I look forward to putting to work as State Senator. The residents of District 38 deserve a Democrat representing us who will ably champion our key issues such as equal rights for all, preserving the environment, enhanced public education and more stringent gun screening laws. In light of the recent gun shootings and killings all over the world, including at Pulse in Orlando, I realized it was time for me to step up to defend and protect our community. The key issues include quality education for all; preserving and protecting our environment; securing needed funds for traffic and transit solutions; increasing our minimum wage; passing tougher gun screening laws; implementing clearer condominium association regulations; and ensuring that all are protected against discrimination in employment, housing and lodging. As a former City Commissioner and a community association attorney I have the ability and experience to implement positive changes in all of these areas for the residents of State Senate District 38
Yes, the Second Amendment provides the legal right to bear “arms” not to bear weapons of war and also there needs to be some limitations on access and screening. As commissioner, I co-sponsored resolutions for better gun screening laws because it was the right thing to do before it was politically popular. I am in favor of adding gun screening laws and background checks to ensure that people with mental health issues, people being investigated by law enforcement and people on the “no fly” list do not have access to these dangerous weapons. It is unconscionable that certain legislator that claim to be “democrats” did not return their votes this year to call for a special legislative session to work on this very important issue. I am painfully aware that the NRA finances candidates and legislators to vote against better gun screening protections and my vote is not for sale. According to a CNN poll, 95% of Americans, including Democrats and Republicans, want better gun screening laws in place. It’s time to get this much needed legislation passed. We must also retreat from other NRA sponsored legislation which over-regulates local government from being able to have better gun screening laws. I was upset as a Miami Beach Commissioner, that the certain legislation was passed at the State level to not only preclude local government from passing better gun screening legislation, but that there is also a personal fine imposed on local elected officials trying to pass legislation to help their community. We cannot continue waiting for Washington to provide solutions. It is most important that for this to succeed, our different communities and organizations work together at the state level, with grassroots support from their stakeholders. Our leaders need to work together to ensure safe gun legislation is enacted in Tallahassee and I would be honored to lead this charge.
While I recognize the need for a standardized objective means of evaluating education, I am also concerned that education is becoming too standardized. Not all children learn in the same pace or manner. Different styles of teaching and learning are often beneficial to reach students. I also believe that students must be taught to be independent thinkers and taught how to think for themselves. I appreciate the changes which have already been made to Florida’s Common Core standards, but I would like to see more revisions to allow for better models of achievement assessment. We need to find a way to alter the Common Core curriculum to also allow for alternative methods of teaching recognizing that not all children have the same interests, strengths and weaknesses. Student performance and teacher measurement evaluation must be modified and enhanced to nurture different students’ individual talents and teachers should be rewarded in a more subjective manner than how students perform on standardized tests.
Florida can improve outcomes by investing more money into education and by ensuring that public funds are properly spent on public schooling. Much of our State’s school funding is being used on charter schools which do not have sufficient accountability to the taxpayers. Also, it is unfortunate that education seems to get overlooked far too often at budget time. We need pre-K, afterschool programs and better tools available for children to learn. Also, teachers pay needs to be increased to widen the pool of applicants and ensure that we are recruiting and retaining the best and brightest teachers available to teach our children. We must also be guarded against things that weaken the funding for public schools such as “vouchers” and other ways of draining our public schools of needed monies.
One of the first acts I took after being elected to the Miami Beach Commission was to create the Sustainability Committee where I also served as its first Chair. One of our primary goals was to ensure that our waters were clean and not polluted. I have always supported clean water and recognize the necessity of the storage reservoir which should have been done years ago. We need State legislation which would promote freshwater conservation.
If elected to the State Senate, I will draw on my environmental experience, network of residents and activists, and support from groups like Everglades Trust to ensure that we are more responsible citizens moving forward. Florida should be a model for the environment. Unfortunately, right now we are not doing the right thing and it is leading to disastrous consequences. I support the movement to buy the land and protect it from further environmental damage, which has turned our waters into algae-filled guacamole-like sludge. Recent algae blooms have diminished tourism and quality of life north of us.
The environment is not something that can be overlooked. As such, I support the movement to buy the land and get to work on remediation plans that have been advocated by local residents there for years. I support enactment of further legislation to promote renewable energy and ensuring more affordable prices for solar energy. As an Association attorney, I am very familiar with - and have promoted - owners’ rights to install solar and other renewable energy devices on the roofs of their homes. More education is needed so homeowners living in these Associations throughout our State understand their rights.
I favor tighter legislation, ideally a ban, on fracking. Such practices exploit our environment and impede sustainability. Additionally, we must restrict the Governor’s ability to appoint the people to the Environmental Regulation Commission. These people have voted to pollute our waters with toxins. We must keep our water supply clean and free from all pollutants and toxins. In addition to restricting the current Governor we must look for ways to have more legislative control over these important issues.
SENATE DISTRICT 38 – Jason Pizzo (DEM)
SENATE DISTRICT 40 – Dwight Bullard (DEM)
I have had the honor of serving in the Florida Senate now for the last four years. Prior to that I served in the Florida House from 2008-2012. In my time of elected service I've noticed that the process has been void of elected leaders willing to call out injustices when they're present. Being bold as a voice for the marginalized has been a position I've relished during my time in office and it is my hope that others will show the courage to step up in a real way and join me moving forward.
I definitely believe the 2nd Amendment leaves room for limitations. I support a repeal of the state limitations on local government as it pertains to the 2nd Amendment. I support and have proposed a repeal of "Stand Your Ground". I support stricter background checks on everyone and restrictions on those that have histories of severe mental illness or records of violent outbursts. I also support the closing of the gun show loopholes as well as the banning of guns in schools, on campuses and in public buildings. I also support a return of the national ban on assault weapons.
It does a disservice to the great work that teachers do, to connect their livelihood to a test that does not capture the scope of their work. It is also equally problematic that students should have their pathway to graduation hindered by any high stakes test let alone several over their matriculation. Lastly we have set our schools back by arbitrarily grading them based on a farce of an accountability system and the unabated expansion of charter schools and voucher programs. I would allow teachers to teach and provide a supportive learning environment for students that includes art, music and support services like nursing and counseling onsite.
I would propose electing a Governor in 2018 that cares more about our environment than filling the pockets of his corporate cronies. I support proper use of the Amendment 1 dollars for purchase of the lands south of Lake Okeechobee and immediate clean-up of the blue-green algae blooms as well as the red blooms. I fully support and look to sponsor a statewide ban on fracking as well continuing to support a ban on offshore drilling in Florida.
SENATE DISTRICT 40 – Andrew Korge (DEM)
SENATE DISTRICT 40 – Ana Rivas Logan (DEM)
SENATE DISTRICT 40 – Missalys Perez (DEM)