Constitution Revision Commission

Editorial note: This post is by Jennifer Boddicker of the Naples Branch. She and Barbara Kanter attended one of the Constitution Revision Committee’s Public Hearings. I attended one in Jacksonville and perhaps many of you attended one as well. The Commission is now done with its first week of meetings. They will consider proposals in this order (scroll way down). You can still email comments to admin@flcrc.gov but they may not be read, but you can find a list of commissioners here and call them.

Below Boddicker’s account you will find a longer piece on all the proposed amendments by Linda Geller Schwarz.

Pat DeWitt

Every twenty years Florida considers amendments to the state constitution. 2018 is such a year. The Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) narrows down proposed amendments to only a few that will appear on the ballot in November, to be voted on by the people of Florida. The CRC hosts listening tours to hear public input.

On March 5, we attended a public CRC session in Cape Coral. Six students from Parkland came to the event. They, like us, asked the CRC to add an amendment banning the sale of military style assault rifles and high capacity magazines. This will allow the people of Florida to decide, taking the decision out of NRA-complicit lawmaker’s hands.

As you’ve seen on television, these kids are eloquent and pointed. One called out the commissioners for looking at their phones during testimony. He insisted they “look him in the eye” while he spoke. One by one, the young people told their stories. Then they said if change didn’t happen, they’d be using the power of the vote to fire lawmakers.

So far, the Florida legislature has refused to ban the sale of the AR-15. However, the kids from Marjory Stoneman Douglas have transformed the gun debate. Before, change seemed impossible. Now, change is inevitable. We regret what they have gone through. We are that they are turning their trauma into a crusade to never let it happen again. Where grown-ups have failed to speak up, young people have the courage to challenge the status quo.

From Linda Geller Schwarz:

When Florida’s Constitution was rewritten in 1968, it contained a provision unique among the states: the creation of a commission that would meet every 20 years and provide recommended changes to the state constitution for Florida voters to decide on.  This year, all amendments proposed by the Commission need to be finalized by May 10, 2018 to be included on the November ballot.

The CRC is made up of 37 members, including the attorney general and individuals appointed by the governor, house speaker, senate president, and chief justice.  With Florida state government under single party control, the appointments to the 2017-2018 CRC were ideologically one-sided, resulting in many regressive proposals.

The CRC has now completed its final round of public hearings.  With the exception of a heated debate among supporters and opponents of grey-hound racing (proposal 67), most of the public comment focused on what the coalition organized by the League of Women Voters have called the “Terrible Ten”. They include:
Proposal 4 – Delete the No Aid provision from the Florida Constitution’s “Religious Freedom” protections and open the door to Floridians’ tax dollars potentially funding religious indoctrination, proselytizing, and discrimination

Proposal 22 – Eliminate all existing privacy protections, including reproductive rights, from Florida’s Constitution except for those specifically relating to informational privacy. It does this by narrowing the privacy clause so that it only applies “with respect to privacy of information and the disclosure thereof.”

Proposal 29 – Require mandatory use of the error-prone E-Verify program, potentially denying thousands of authorized immigrants and even citizen workers the ability to work without any meaningful avenue to seek redress.

Proposal 43 – Mandate term limits for local school board members rather than letting voters in the school districts decide how long a member can serve their community.

Proposal 45 – Give tax dollars to private schools through school vouchers including religious schools – creating a system of publicly funded education separate from our free public schools

Proposal 71 – Take sole control of charter schools away from local school boards and allow decisions about local education needs to be made at the state level.

Proposal 95 –Allow the state to preempt any local ordinances that big business can claim interferes with commerce between counties and other jurisdictions – such as living wage ordinances, protections from wage theft, local hiring preferences or local protections for the environment and natural resources.

Proposal 96 – Needlessly claiming to protect victims of crime while not providing any meaningful benefit to victims, interfering with the rights of the accused, and making it more difficult for the state to convict criminals.

Proposal 97 – Make it close to impossible for the constitution to be changed by initiative, by the Legislature or by any commission in the future.

(For details on these proposals go to the CRC website:  https://www.flcrc.gov/Proposals/Commissioner )

If you are counting, that makes nine proposals.  The tenth, Proposal 72, would tie the hands of future elected leaders and severely limit Florida’s ability to invest in public education, mental health care, affordable housing, roads and bridges, parks, beaches and workforce training programs by requiring a supermajority vote of the Legislature to raise taxes or fees.  The CRC does not need to put this on the November ballot, because the Florida legislature has already passed a bill to do so (HB 7001/SB1742).  If the Courts allow this on the ballot as written and it passes, this will be very damaging for the future of the state.

While all of the above would be bad changes that pubic testimony and surveys show Floridians do not want,  there is one amendment on the table that is a great idea.

CRC Commissioners Coxe, Plymale, Joyner, and Kruppenbacher have proposed  an amendment that would ban assault weapons., require a 10 day waiting period to purchase a firearm and incorporate some of the other provisions that were approved in the recent school safety bill.   If at least 22 of the 37 Commissioners approve this amendment, it could be placed directly on the ballot in November!
The CRC has indicated they will be taking up the proposals in the following order (scroll down):  http://flcrc.gov/Meetings/Calendar/2017/Daily_Calendars_2018-03-14_182335.PDF
 

Pat’s Viewpoint on the AAUW Membership Question

A branch public policy director asked my opinion on the question of admitting people without college degrees to AAUW membership. I am posting it here, as it has a lot to do with public policy. I cannot and will not attempt to oversimplify or give you a pat answer (pun inevitable).

Historically, AAUW had as part of its mission to promote women’s education. Equal access to education was an important issue in a time when medical doctors promulgated the opinion that education was harmful to a woman’s health and all-important biological fertility. We no longer hear this opinion from respected sources. Women are no longer behind men in college graduation rates: The Atlantic reported that in 2017 women comprised 56% of college graduates (bachelor’s).  This doesn’t surprise me, since I worked for and with the National Center for Education Statistics. At conventions we heard several times from a researcher who was concerned with the diminishing rates of college attendance and college graduation among men. As I’ve said many times, this is a battle we have won. We need to move on. I do not believe that the promise of AAUW membership motivates young women to complete their degrees today. When AAUW was more prominent socially, that might have been the case, but when degree attainment is as common as it is today, that hardly seems plausible.

Let us consider the credibility and effectiveness of our advocacy. That is important in public policy. One of our Public Policy committee members a couple of years ago was also a member of the national lobby corps, and she firmly believed that their status as “educated women” gave them more credibility. I’m not sure how she knew, but I do believe that it gave her more confidence. That is valuable in lobbying. I think both humanities and sciences backgrounds can be useful—you need to have some command of statistics, but personal stories have a lot of impact. We need more of those! However, we have to recognize that in the last 40 years or so, the public’s respect for expertise has declined drastically. Many decisions by government officials are strongly influenced by emotion (or what they think will be the emotions of voters). When our members are trying to persuade officials to take or not take some action, will careful analysis or passionate pleading be most successful? Every time I write a Florida Action Alert, the national office rewrites it to put in more emotional content.

Now let us consider membership. We know that our membership has been on the decline for some time. We have been told that the paradigms and customs of the past will not suffice to grow our membership. One of the main arguments for doing away with the degree requirement—now only a two-year degree—is that it will allow us to recruit women who share our values but don’t have a degree. Is having a degree one of our values? Does one have to possess a degree in order to promote “high-quality public education…academic freedom, civic education, protection from censorship, bias-free education, and responsible funding for all levels of education” (from AAUW Public Policy Principles for Action 2017-19). No. See above on advocacy in general. I scarcely believe that any of my four college degrees would cut any ice at a school board meeting compared with the word of a parent of whatever educational level, but I haven’t really tried this experiment.

Finally, let us be pragmatic about this vote to drop the degree requirement. Since far more women are earning college degrees today, there should be plenty of potential members to recruit. We just have to find them. I can see the advantages of having the viewpoint of certain stakeholders who don’t have college degrees, but the idea of associate memberships or friend memberships has been floated in the past and people didn’t like the idea of second-class memberships. From the standpoint of public policy, I believe we need to have more community education events and advocacy events open to the public, where participants don’t have to be members. Moreover, we can and should work on projects, particularly advocacy projects, in coalition with other groups in the community that share our values and goals. There are a lot of opportunities for women who want to advocate for equity for women and girls, including older organizations like NOW and newer ones like the Women’s March. Neither of these has a degree requirement. We can work with them and learn from their viewpoints.

Personally, I like the idea of our being known as educated women, as long as we continue to use and build on our education and exercise our ability to come to reasoned conclusions. And as long as we are bold enough to stand up for them!

 

 

 

New Abortion Ban Bills in Florida Legislature

We have received word from Kate Neilson that HB 1429 and SB 1890, the “Dismemberment Abortion” bills, are in opposition to our public policy priorities. The reason is that they limit a woman’s control of her reproductive life. They seek to ban the most common second-trimester procedure, properly called a dilation and evacuation or D&E, by making it a felony for a physician to “knowingly” perform one. I have read the bill and the staff analysis, and I find it very confusing (it’s OK if the fetus is killed first or if suction is involved) and very threatening to the provider. Doctors would have to choose a method based on the law and not on the best interests of the woman. I encourage you to read the staff analysis and the bill here. D&E abortion staff analysis

The fight to roll back reproductive choice is now in the phase of attempts to ban certain procedures, using emotional language and painful imagery. If enough procedures are banned and the legal risk of being an abortion provider is increased, their goals of taking the control of women’s own bodies away from them are achieved.

It is likely that if passed, this law would also be found unconstitutional. As noted in the article referenced below, eight states have had similar laws introduced; two are in force, one is permanently blocked by the courts, and the rest are in judicial review.

For those who wish to learn more, here’s a good article:

https://www.guttmacher.org/gpr/2017/02/de-abortion-bans-implications-banning-most-common-second-trimester-procedure

The House bill has been favorably reported out of two committees so far, with one to go. The Senate bill 1890 has not been heard in committee.

Here’s how the representatives voted:

Health Quality Subcommittee (1/24/18)

YES
Burton
Byrd
Donalds
Grant, J
Mariano
Massullo
Perez
Pigman
Stevenson

NO
Ascensio
Jones
Mercado
Newton
Plascencia
Silvers

Judiciary Committee (2/7/18)

Record Vote:
YES
Burgess
Byrd
Fitzenhagen
Gonzalez
Grall
Harrison
Metz
Moraitis
Perez
Plakon
Spano
Sprowls
Trumbull

NO
Alexander
Cortes, J
Diamond
Geller
Hager
Pritchett
Slosberg
Stafford

AAUW Florida Legislative Report 2018

01/22/18

Florida AAUW Lobby Days are January 24-25. If you can’t be in Tallahassee at that time, you can support us by contacting your legislators and asking them to support these bills. If you see your legislator(s) among the sponsors, please thank them.

Notes: Legislators are designated with D for Democrat and R for Republican, and their district number. You will note that items 2, 4, and 5 have bipartisan support while 1 and 3 are supported so far by Democrats only. The numbers of districts start in the Panhandle and move south.

  1. The Helen Gordon Davis Fair Pay Protection Act

HB 393 and SB 594 amend and extend the Florida equal pay statute. This is “our bill”, having been filed in a revised version of last year’s bill by Reps Lori Berman (D 90, part of Palm Beach) and Janet Cruz (D 62, part of Hillsborough), and co-sponsored by Abruzzo (D 81), Davis (D 13), Geller D 100), Jenne (D 99), Mercado (D 48), and Smith (D 49). The Senate bill was filed by Linda Stewart (D 13, Orange). AAUW Public Policy emphasizes economic security for women.

  1. All employees covered (language excluding those covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act was stricken)
  2. Protections
    1. Employers can’t retaliate against individuals involved in legal proceedings to enforce the law
    2. Employer can’t retaliate against employees who discuss wages
    3. Employers can’t reduce another employee’s pay to comply
    4. Employers can’t request salary history
    5. Employers can’t provide less favorable career opportunities based on sex
  3. Employer defenses clarified
    1. Defenses must be job-related
    2. Agreement for a lesser wage is not a defense

We aim to do all we can to see that this bill is at least heard in committee. It is now “in” the House Careers & Competition Subcommittee. We could really use some Republican co-sponsors!

AAUW Priority: to achieve economic self-sufficiency for all women.

  1. Victims of Human Trafficking and Trust Funds

HB 167, linked with HB 169.  Ross Spano (R 59, part of Hillsborough) is the sponsor of both with co-sponsors Burgess (R 38); Cortes, J. (D 43); Drake (R 5); Edwards (D 98); Fitzenhagen (R 78); Killebrew (R 41); Leek (R 25); Pigman (R 55); Stone (R 22); Williams (D 92); and Yarborough (R 12).

Senate bills include SB 338, 340, 1044, and 1046. The Senate bills are by Randolph Bracy (D 11, part of Orange) and Lauren Book (D 32), part of Broward.

These bills aim to reduce human trafficking by providing a civil cause of action for victims of human trafficking against a trafficker or facilitator; providing procedures and requirements for bringing a claim, and creating the Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking and Prevention within the Department of Law Enforcement. The Trust Fund can also be used for public education, resource centers, and legal aid for victims. Also included in the group are bills to require hotels and restaurants to provide training in recognizing trafficking victims (SB 338). SB 340 provides for redaction and sealing of personal identifying information of victims of human trafficking upon request

The House bills have been reported favorably by the Civil Justice and Claims Subcommittee and by the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee. They are now in the Judiciary Committee, the last on the list. Senate bills 1044 and 1046 have been referred to two committees. Another series of Senate bills is linked to SB 338 are only referred so far.

AAUW Priority: to guarantee equality, individual rights, and social justice for a diverse society.

  1. Access to Clinics

HB 189, SB 320, sponsored by Amy Mercado (D 48, part of Orange), with co-sponsors Diamond (D 68) and Smith (D 49); Senate bill sponsored by Linda Stewart (D 13).

They would prohibit a person from committing certain acts against reproductive health services clients, providers, and assistants. Those acts include intimidation or physical harm or the threat of force, providing some protection to women entering abortion clinics and those working there. Criminal penalties and cause of civil action are provided.

Neither of these bills has yet been heard in committee. The first House committee is Civil Justice and Claims.

AAUW Priority: to guarantee equality, individual rights, and social justice for a diverse society.

  1. Sexual Harassment

HB 1233, sponsored by Kristin Jacobs (D, part of Broward) and SB 1628, sponsored by Lauren Book (D, part of Broward) and Lizbeth Benacquisto (R, part of Lee)

Creates a Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Harassment and Misconduct that would meet at four year intervals to study the problem and recommend best practices. It provides a new definition of sexual harassment. also prohibits public officers, qualified candidates, agency employees, & lobbyists from sexually harassing individuals; provides penalties for lobbyists who violate prohibition against sexual harassment; requires Commission on Ethics to report to Governor & Cabinet, or Legislature upon violations of act.

The House bill is in the Oversight, Transparency and Administration subcommittee.

AAUW Priority: to guarantee equality, individual rights, and social justice for a diverse society.

  1. Prescription Contraceptive Coverage

HB 1273, sponsored by Holly Raschein (D, Monroe) and SB 1718, sponsored by Lauren Book (D, part of Broward)

Requires health insurance policies & health maintenance contracts to provide coverage for certain contraceptive drugs, devices, products, & procedures without imposing cost-sharing requirements. Religious employers are exempt but must provide notice to employees and prospective employees.

In the House it is listed as in the Health Innovation Subcommittee.

AAUW Priority: to guarantee equality, individual rights, and social justice for a diverse society

  1. Prohibited Discrimination

HB 347 and SB 66 (latter is similar)

Ben Diamond (D 68, part of Pinellas) and René Plascencia (R 50, Brevard/Pinellas) are the main sponsors of HB 347, with co-sponsors Abruzzo (D 81); Alexander (D 8); Antone (D 46); Asencio (D 118); Berman (D 90); Cortes, J. (D 43); Cruz (D 62); Davis (D 13); DuBose (D 94); Duran (D 112); Edwards (D 98); Fitzenhagen (R 78); Geller (D 100); Gruters (R 73); Hardemon (D 108); Jacobs (D 96); Jacquet (D 88); Jenne (D 99); Jones (D 101); Killebrew (R 41); Latvala (R 67); Mariano (R 36); Massullo (R 34); Mercado (D 48); Moskowitz (D 97); Newton (D 70); Peters (R 69); Raschein (R 120); Richardson (D 113); Santiago (R 27); Shaw (D 61); Slosberg (D 91); Smith (D 49); Stark (D 104); and Willhite (D 86).

SB 66 is co-sponsored by Darryl Rouson (D, parts of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties); Thurston (D 33); Stewart (D 13); Bracy (D 11); Book (D 32); Rodriguez (D 37); Young (R 18); Taddeo (D 40); Farmer (D 34); Braynon (D 15); Torres (D 15); Garcia (R 36); Powell (D 30); and Montford (D 3).

This bill adds “sexual orientation and gender identity” as impermissible grounds for discrimination in public lodging establishments and public food service establishments. This language is added to several existing civil rights statutes. Religious corporations, organizations or societies are granted exceptions.

The House bill is now in the Careers & Competition Subcommittee.

AAUW Priority: to guarantee equality, individual rights, and social justice for a diverse society.

We have no bills to oppose at this time. SB 274, Concealed Weapons, is dead. Pregnancy Support Services has cleared all committees in the Senate (SB 444) but has not gone to the floor as yet. HB 41 has been passed by the House.

Go Face to Face With Your Legislators

It’s so easy to click on links to email your representatives, or even send them (yikes!) snail mail, as long as there’s no white powder in it.  But you can be intellectually and emotionally stimulated by taking an active part in the legislative process in person. Look them in the face! It’s powerful, and they need to see AAUW, the advocates for women and girls who are civil, informed and educated.

There are two ways to do it. First, you can contact your local representatives both state and national while they are in their home districts. Take some AAUW material with you and just tell them what we are advocating for, and then listen. It really helps to hear what they think. Even if they don’t share our priorities, it helps to learn why. Compromise may yet be possible, and sometimes you can overcome their reservations with facts. AAUW is all about research and facts. What about taking them a seasonal greeting card signed by branch members too?

Florida legislators are home right now, and there is another committee week in Tallahassee December 5-8. They should be returning home after that. The legislative session starts January 9, 2018.

The second way is, of course, our Lobby Days in Tallahassee, January 24 and 25 with a training evening January 23 in the hotel. There’s nothing like sampling the atmosphere at the Capitol. See how the sausage is made! Gauge the allegedly sexually charged atmosphere! See what other groups are there! More importantly, visit your representatives. Rep. Lori Berman, one of AAUW’s best friends in the House (also running for Florida Senate next year), says nothing counts more than these in-person visits. You will need to schedule them ahead of time to be (relatively) sure of seeing the representative, but if you can’t do that, you can probably talk with staff.

Other things you can do during Lobby Days include sitting in the House or Senate gallery if they are in session. You are only allowed to stay 15 minutes or so, and it can be hard to find a seat. Also, they are often boring, with ceremonial processes going on that have little to do with actual legislation. If there is a committee meeting you’re interested in, that can be better because that is really where the sausage is made. You may fill out a form when entering the room if you wish to make your views known. There are two ways to do that: you can “waive” in favor or opposed to the bill they’re considering (yes, I spelled that correctly), or you can apply to speak on the bill. If you apply to speak, you may have to wait quite a while, and you should be brief and to the point, but it is really worth doing.

A list of Florida AAUW’s legislative priorities for this year will be out very soon—watch for it! But don’t be surprised if it changes by January 24. It’s a roller coaster ride up in Tally!

Start Now to Work for the HGD Fair Pay Protection Act!

The pay gap between full-time working men and women is real. The figures come from the Department of the Census’ Current Population Survey and median figures are calculated across all occupations for full-time workers. It varies by state, locality, occupation, age, and other factors, but it is always there. For example, nationally the pay gap is 20% (earnings ratio 80%), but in Florida the pay gap is 13%. More information can be found on the AAUW and Institute for Women’s Policy Research websites.

Many factors influence the pay gap, including women’s choices. But two studies have looked at full-time employed college graduates one year out and at the workforce in general, and after controlling for everything known to affect pay, a 7-8% unexplained gap was found.

The pay gap is an important social problem. Lower pay for women affects families as well as single women; half of American families include a woman earning at least 40% of the household income. Closing the pay gap would reduce poverty in Florida by more than half . In Florida, 25% of family households headed by a woman without a husband present are living in poverty. At higher income levels, closing the pay gap would boost women’s influence. The pay gap is larger in terms of percentage in the “professions” and management. It’s not just money. Women may be encouraged or required to accept positions that do not lead to advancement (sometimes called “mommy tracking”). This contributes to the lack of women in corporate leadership.

Several initiatives have been proposed to close the pay gap. Women can be encouraged to choose more lucrative occupations, usually those dominated by men. But several studies have found that as more women enter an occupation, wages go down for both genders. Women have been shown to be more reluctant to ask for raises or negotiate salary, but when they do, they risk being labeled as difficult.

Legislative remedies at the national level, such as the Paycheck Fairness Act, have stalled, so advocates are promoting remedies in several states. In Florida, the Helen Gordon Davis Fair Pay Protection Act, SB 594/HB 393 , has been filed by Rep. Lori Berman and Senator Linda Stewart. Similar to last year’s version, which was never even heard in committee, it provides the following protections:

  • Employers can’t retaliate against individuals involved in legal proceedings to enforce the law
  • Employers can’t retaliate against employees who discuss wages
  • Employers can’t reduce another employee’s pay to comply
  • Employers can’t request salary history
  • Employers can’t provide less favorable career opportunities based on sex

In addition, employer defenses are clarified: they must be job-related and agreement for a lesser wage is not a defense. The law, if passed, would apply to all employees including those covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (which has fewer protections).

The first step is to contact the following legislators and ask them to schedule HB 393 for consideration because:

  • The pay gap is real, and found in all industries and locations.
  • The pay gap is significant for women and families. Closing it would reduce poverty in Florida by half.
  • HB 393 will help to close the pay gap. It prohibits practices that make the pay gap worse. Stopping the practices of requiring applicants to submit prior salary history and of penalizing employees who discuss their salaries would help both women and men.

Rep. Halsey Beshears, chair of the Careers and Competition Subcommittee:   (850) 717-5007, Halsey.Beshears@myfloridahouse.gov

Richard Corcoran, Speaker of the House: (850) 717-5000     Richard.Corcoran@myfloridahouse.gov

 

Greater Naples Branch in Naples Day of Action

Members of the Greater Naples Branch will take part in Naples’ nonpartisan Citywide Day of Action / Day of Issues this Saturday, Nov 4.  The Day of Action is a new event for Naples, sponsored by Collier Freedom, an organization created to hold the January Women’s March. They have continued their work in Collier County.

From noon until 3 pm, we will demonstrate in support of the issue “Women’s Rights” by peacefully holding signs and banners for all passing vehicles and pedestrians to see. At nineteen different intersections in greater Naples, activists will support various issues with signs and banners.

A rally will follow at Cambier Park from 4 to 6 pm at which we will have a table and distribute AAUW Public Policy flyers. Thus we will have a presence with our signs and banners. Close to 50 groups will participate in the day long event.

Karen Clegg and Ardel Nelson
Public Policy Co-Chairs
GNB AAUW  FL3037