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LWVMD Makes Waves at LWV Florida 37th Biennial Convention

LWV Florida members representing chapters all over the state gathered at the Ritz Carlton Golf Resort in Naples on June 7 and June 8 for the League’s 37th Biennial Convention.

LWVMD Highlights

In light of the urgent concerns about the treatment of immigrants in Florida’s Immigrant Detention Centers, LWVMD board member Krystina Francois made a formal recommendation to the state organization’s board to reinstate its Immigration Issue Committee. The recommendation, submitted in collaboration with four sister chapters, was accepted.

LWVMD board member Rachel Federgreen (far right) was inducted into the board of the statewide LWV Florida at the League’s 37th Biennial Convention.

LWVMD board member Rachel Federgreen (far right) was inducted into the board of the statewide LWV Florida at the League’s 37th Biennial Convention.

Also to address this issue, LWVMD called on the state organization to issue a public letter asking Governor DeSantis to veto HB 168, which would prohibit sanctuary cities, and to close the Homestead detention center.

We also urged LWVFL to adopt a Climate Emergency Resolution in light of the November 2018 findings of the U.S. Fourth National Climate Assessment, which detailed the massive threat that climate change poses to the American economy and underscored the need for emergency climate action at all levels of government.

And last but hardly least: LWVMD board member Rachel Federgreen, who has served as a highly effective champion and organizer of voter registration and education efforts, was inducted as a member of the board of LWV Florida.

Lively Sessions, Inspiring Workshops

Over the course of three plenary sessions, the LWV Florida State Program for 2019 – 2021 was finalized after lively debate regarding a draft document distributed to all voting attendees as well as new proposals from League members that focused on issues including sanctuary cities, gun control, environmental protection, sustainable energy, affordable child care, and humane immigration policies.

Complementing the plenary sessions, workshops, caucuses, and meetings focused on an array of topics including poverty amelioration, pre-K education, the juvenile justice system, and voter services. Among them:

Award-winning filmmaker Sarah Mondale, producer/director at Stone Lantern Films, screened a portion of Backpack Full of Cash, a documentary about the damage to public education across the U.S. due to the school choice movement. A DVD of the documentary can be rented for community screenings.

A look at recent festivities and a historical volume, Warriors for Democracy, marking the 80th birthday of the League of Women Voters of Florida of Orange County—the nation’s largest single-county League chapter—and ideas to celebrate the upcoming centennial of the national League of Women Voters, were presented by the Orange County League.

Broward League member Barbara Markley shared disturbing statistics about gun violence in the United States and in Florida and described how she launched the successful “Lock It Up” program to help minimize violence, suicides, and accidental child shootings. The campaign has distributed gun locks to pediatricians, mental health providers, preschools, churches, the state attorney, public defender, the Florida Department of Children and Families, and many others.

Convention attendees were also urged to support the Ban Assault Weapons Now initiative by visiting BAWNFL.org to download, sign, and send in a petition to place a ban on the sale of military weapons in Florida on the 2020 ballot. Please do so and pass the word.

For more information about the League of Women Voters of Florida’s focus issues, visit lwvfl.org.

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Voter's Digest, May 2019

"In the realm of ideas, everything depends on enthusiasm... in the real world, all rests on perseverance."
                - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
 

Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/perseverance
In the realm of ideas everything depends on enthusiasm... in the real world all rests on perseverance. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/perseverance
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Dear Members and Friends,

From all reports, this year’s Legislative Session was one of the most grueling in recent history. Lawmakers in Tallahassee ignored the will of approximately 65 percent of Florida voters in passing Constitutional Amendment 4 by enacting provisions that will continue to disenfranchise millions of voters in the state. They also continued the systematic attack on public education by providing vouchers to private schools with taxpayer money and arming school teachers in the state.

These may be depressing updates. However, we should see them as a call to increased engagement in the work of defending democracy. Now more than ever, your support of the League of Women Voters is of upmost importance. You can help defend democracy by joining the League, donating whatever time you can spare to one of our voter education and empowerment activities, and supporting our work with donations through our website, www.lwvmiamidade.org. It is only through your involvement that we can support education, advocacy, and protection of voting rights!

In League,

 



WOMEN WHO SHINE
LWVMD’s 2019 Women Who Shine Awards on March 23 was well attended by more than 200 guests, increasing the reach and visibility of our work. President Marisol Zenteno spoke about the importance of staying engaged in our community and supporting the League and the work that we do. The event was highlighted on WPLG Channel 10.

TALLAHASSEE LOBBY DAYS   
LWVMD was well represented during LWV Florida's Lobby Days in Tallahassee this year. Board members Krystina Francois, Rachel Federgreen, Cindy Lamel, Lourdes Diaz, Geena Batista, and president Marisol Zenteno attended the session in Tallahassee in April.  They met with Representatives Vance Aloupis, Nick Duran, Dotie Joseph, Javier Fernandez, Ana Maria Rodriguez, and Holy Raschiem.  Our chapter was recognized by the Dade Delegation in the chamber.

ELECTION REFORM UPDATE
In the recent Florida Legislative Session, the League initially supported SB 7066, which included provisions requiring the Secretary of State to provide signature-matching training to certain persons; revising the voter threshold necessary to require the reporting of certain precinct-level results by ballot; authorizing certain individuals to serve as witnesses during the ballot duplication process; and revising requirements for vote-by-mail ballot instructions. The bill allows vote-by-mail ballots to be dropped off at Early Voting sites rather than sent by mail.
 
In the 11th hour, language was added to SB 7066 related to Amendment 4. The League did not support this change, which requires returning citizens affected by Amendment 4 to pay all court fees, fines, and restitution before voting. However, SB 7066 passed. In partnership with several organizations, LWV Florida denounced the state Legislature’s demonstrated disregard for the voices of the people of Florida and called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to exercise his veto authority on several bills, including SB 7066.

GET CERTIFIED TO HELP REGISTER VOTERS!
LWVMD organizes or appears at a variety of events at which new voters can be registered. It's a great way to volunteer! Please note that all individuals wishing to do voter registration with the League must be re-certified, even if you have been certified in the past. You can review an educational presentation here and take the quiz here. If you need a password, please email Rachel.Federgreen@gmail.com. Please send results to volunteerslwvmd@gmail.com.

MOBILIZING FOR MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS
LWVMD has been busy promoting municipal elections throughout Miami-Dade County. April and May saw elections in Coral Gables, Miami Springs, North Miami, Pinecrest, and other municipalities. Our activities include candidate forums, voter registration efforts, Vote 411, and Pledge to Vote reminders. Visit our website for a municipal election calendar and more information on LWVMD voter services.

SPEAKING OUT, TURNING UP
Rotary Club
President Marisol Zenteno was invited to speak at the Rotary Club of Coconut Grove on May 8. The lunch meeting was well attended by club members, who learned about the League of Women Voters and the need for civic engagement in the community.


United Teachers of Dade
The League partnered with the United Teachers of Dade (UTD) for a panel discussion about The Trickle-Down Effects of Defunding Public Education in Miami Gardens. Panelists were District 8 Commissioner Daniela Levine Cava, Miami-Dade Branch of NAACP President Ruban Roberts, Past President of the Florida PTA Eileen Seigel, Miami-Dade Parents of Murdered Kids President Tangela Sears, and LWVMD President Marisol Zenteno. The League also participated in the UTD’s rally at Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High School.

10 Days of Connection
Advocacy Chair Krystina Francois and President Marisol Zenteno cohosted You Can Sit With Us: 10 Days of Connection with Las Comadres at the Soul Tavern in Miami Beach. The lively event was attended by over forty people from different sectors of the community. The event was a breath of fresh air and camaraderie among people from differing political viewpoints.

ACLU 100
The League of Women Voters Miami-Dade was invited to participate in the ACLU 100 National Tour celebration at Collins Park in Miami Beach on Saturday, May 11. We had a voter registration table and President Marisol Zenteno spoke regarding the protection of voting rights. We thank our volunteers for their great efforts at this high-energy event! 











Protecting Our Water and Waterways

Board member Barbara Pierce represented the League at the May 1, public meeting held by the Nuclear Resource Commission, speaking out about the environmental threats posed by Florida Power & Light’s petition to have its permit to operate Turkey Point with outdated cooling canal technology, which is demonstrably harming the Biscayne Bay ecosystem, renewed for 30 more years.

LWVMD Environmental Chair Diane Lockwood attended the Florida Department of Environmental Protection / FP&L information session on May 7. FP&L is seeking an exemption from the Clean Water Act from DEP. LWVMD is tracking the issues surrounding FP&L’s requests and we are hopeful that Governor DeSantis, who has said he favors protecting Florida’s natural environment, will veto laws that allow continued environmental degradation.

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority
At the Second Annual Blue Forum with Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, we spoke about "Black Girls: Pushed Out, Over-Policed and Under-Protected" and what can we do in our community to prevent the school to prison pipeline.
 
Univision Showcases LWVMD Voting Efforts
LWVMD President Marisol Zenteno appeared on Univision Ch. 23 with Sandra Peebles speaking about how to register to vote and the importance of voting.  The program was televised nationwide.


UPCOMING EVENTS

Saturday, May 18, 10:30 a.m.
2019 Legislative Debrief: What Happened in Tallahassee?
Location: CIC,1951 N.W. 7th Avenue, Miami
Our elected representatives will provide updates and insights on bills that passed and those that did not. RSVP to the free event here. Hope to see you there!

Friday, June 7 - Saturday, June 8
LWV Florida 37th Biennial Convention 
Location: Ritz-Carlton Resort, 280 Vanderbilt Beach Road Naples, FL, 34108
Two days of action, inspiration, AND relaxation! Click here for more information.

Saturday, June 29, 10:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.
LWVMD 2019 Annual Meeting
Location: Colonnade Hotel, Coral Gables, FL
Join us for our gala annual luncheon, at which we update members on achievements and future plans and induct the new LWVMD board members. Save the date -- Registration info coming soon!

What Happened in Tallahassee?

Senator Jason Pizzo, Representative Cindy Polo, Representative Dotie Joseph, and Senator Annette Taddeo spoke at LWVMD’s 2019 Legislative Debrief.

Senator Jason Pizzo, Representative Cindy Polo, Representative Dotie Joseph, and Senator Annette Taddeo spoke at LWVMD’s 2019 Legislative Debrief.

About 30 attendees joined LWVMD at the Miami CIC for a 2019 Legislative Debrief on May 18. Guest speakers included several members of the Miami-Dade delegation: Senator Jason Pizzo, Senator Annette Taddeo, Representative Dotie Joseph, and Representative Cindy Polo. Candidates for several local offices also attended.

The elected officials expressed frustration at the lack of bipartisan cooperation in Tallahassee.

Senator Taddeo noted that, when bills that are positive for the people of Florida could not be enacted, the potential dangers of harmful bills could sometimes be minimized. “Our purpose,” agreed Polo, “is sometimes a matter of giving a voice to those who were not represented on the Senate floor.”

The anti-immigration initiatives advanced in the legislature are out of step with Miami-Dade, by many measures the most diverse county in the nation. “In such a diverse community,” said Polo, herself the daughter of immigrants, “we need to hold our delegations accountable.”

A former assistant state attorney, Pizzo explained why the bill passed to require returning citizens to pay court costs, restitution, fines, court costs, and monitoring fees amounted to a poll tax. He and colleagues plan to set up a “rocket docket” to help expedite the return of voting rights to felons who have paid their debt to society.

The gathering concluded with a talk by Valencia Gunder, criminal justice coordinator of New Florida Majority and herself a returning citizen. She helped to spearhead the Dignity for Incarcerated Women bill, which was cosponsored by Pizzo and passed in both floors with unanimous bipartisan support. “When you become a felon, you feel devalued,” Gunder said. Noting that the personal stories shared with lawmakers by both returning female citizens and currently incarcerated women helped to highlight the importance of the bill, she said, “We need more legislation based off people’s stories.”

The key to helping ensure a responsive state government, said Polo, “is for more people to run for office—every type of office. All positions matter; all politics is local. All decisions are being made right in front of us, and they affect our lives and our children’s lives.”

Highlights of the session as summarized by the League of Women Voters of Florida include the following.

Bills Passed by the Legislature

SB 1306 Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commemoration Committee (Sen. Lauren Book, District 32, Co-Sponsored by Sen. Jason Pizzo, District 38 and Sen. Kevin Rader, District 29): Creates a Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commemoration Committee, of which the League of Women Voters of Florida will be a member, for the purpose of ensuring a suitable statewide observance of the centennial of women’s suffrage in 2020.

SB 7030 Implementation of Legislative Recommendations of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission (General Bill by Senate Education Committee): This bill is commonly known as the “Guardian” bill and intends to arm teachers.

SB 7070 School Choice (General Bill by Senate Education Committee):This bill pertains to various existing voucher programs, including creating a new one entitled the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program. The League opposes the funneling of general revenue dollars to private and religious schools as clearly unconstitutional.

SB 1400/1159 Private Property Rights (Sen. Ben Albritton, District 26/Rep. Mike La Rosa, District 42): Regulates various aspects of local governments. The League opposes these bills because of the preemption of home rule.

SB 366 Infectious Disease Elimination Programs (Sen. Oscar Braynon, District 35/Rep. Shevrin Jones, District 101): Authorizes certain eligible entities to establish sterile needle and syringe exchange programs. The League supported this bill, which had very strong bipartisan support.

HB 281 Public Records/Voters and Voter Registration (Rep. Cyndi Stevenson, District 17): Protects the privacy of minors who choose to pre-register to vote. It also protects the privacy of returning citizens to assure that voting records do not reflect their prior voting status.

SB 7068 - Transportation (Infrastructure and Security Committee): Creating the Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance Program within the Department of Transportation; specifying that projects undertaken in the corridors are tolled facilities and certain approved turnpike projects, and are considered as Strategic Intermodal System facilities. The League opposes this bill and asks voters to urge Governor DeSantis to veto it.

SB 7066 - Election Administration (Ethics and Elections): Requires the Secretary of State to provide signature matching training to certain persons; revising the voter threshold necessary to require the reporting of certain precinct-level results by ballot; authorizing certain individuals to serve as witnesses during the ballot duplication process; revising requirements for vote-by-mail ballot instructions. The League supported this bill.

However, Sen. Jeff Brandes proposed an amendment adding language that requires returning citizens affected by Amendment 4 to pay all court fees, fines, and restitution before voting. The amendment does allow a judge to waive costs or convert them into community service hours, but does not allow a returning citizen to vote if a judge has converted any outstanding financial obligations into a civil judgment. The League does not believe the bills’ language is in line with the 5 million voters who voted for Amendment 4.

SB 1470/HB 7095 School Choice (Sen. Manny Diaz, District 36/Rep. Vance Aloupis, District 115): The bills allow community service organizations and Houses of Worship to house charter schools without rezoning. It would expand the areas in which School of Hope funds can be used and allow them to be built in Florida Opportunity Zones. Passage of these bills would shift control over charter schools away from the locally elected school board and would allow charter schools and Schools of Hope to be housed within religious institutions.

HB 403 Safety of Religious Institutions (Sen. Debbie Mayfield, District 17/Rep. Erin Grall, District 54): Authorizes religious institutions to allow concealed weapons or concealed firearms licensee to carry a firearm on property of an institution and gives private schools authority to designate someone to carry a weapon on the school property in accordance with the schools adopted policies and procedures. The League opposes this bill, as we do not support guns being on any school campus. The bill would infringe on home rule and does not address the common practice of religious institutions renting space from public institutions such as schools.

HB 1197 Charter School (Rep. Jason Fischer, District 16): Authorizes state universities and Florida College System institutions to sponsor charter schools; revises reporting and accountability requirements; provides for funding; authorizes career and professional academy to be offered by charter schools. The League opposes this bill.

HB 1335 - Abortion (Rep. Erin Grall, District 54): Would require young people to obtain parental consent prior to receiving an abortion. Most young people already seek the counsel of their parent or guardian when making this health care decision, but when they don’t there is usually a good reason. This legislation puts those already vulnerable young people in harm’s way or forces them to go to court. The League opposes this bill.

Valencia Gunder, who spearheaded the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act, spoke at the Legislative Debrief.

Valencia Gunder, who spearheaded the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act, spoke at the Legislative Debrief.

HB 587 Medicaid School-Based Services (Sen. Bill Montford, District 3/Rep. Alex Andrade, District 2): Revises provisions relating to reimbursement of school-based services by AHCA to certain school districts and private and charter schools; specifies that U.S. Department of Health & Human Services is authorized to waive certain school-based provider qualifications. This bill aligns state law with federal requirements concerning Medicaid sharing the cost of providing school health services to students who are Medicaid recipients. The League supports the bills.

HB 49 and SB 332 - Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act: Requires correctional facilities to provide incarcerated women with necessary feminine hygiene products, including tampons, sanitary napkins, toothpaste, and no-lye soap at no additional cost. The proposal would also restrict male correctional facility employees who work in women's facilities from conducting pat-down searches or body cavity searches on incarcerated women or entering spaces where incarcerated women are in a state of undress. It passed with unanimous bipartisan support.

Attempts to make it more difficult for citizens to amend the state constitution by referendum, which the League opposed, and to require charter school officials to meet certification requirements, which the League supported, did not pass.