The Florida GOP enjoys supermajorities in the state House and Senate, along with a governor who spent the spring legislative session itching to show off his conservative bona fides before entering the presidential primary.
Thus, these days are rough for progressive groups such as Progress Florida and Florida Watch, as indicated by the annual People First Report Card – which grades Florida state representatives and senators on how friendly their voting record is to the left.
The results are not sunny for anyone hoping for a progressive agenda in Tallahassee.
The analysis included 159 lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats. One Republican legislator, Rep. Fiona McFarland of Sarasota, was shown as N/A, with no letter grade. Overall, the grades were assigned as A through F, though no D grades were listed.
Of the lawmakers who received letter grades, 112 got an F, and they were all Republicans except Democrat Kimberly Daniels of Jacksonville.
As to overall Democrats, 35 lawmakers got A grades. Progressive mainstays such as representatives Anna Eskamani of Orlando and Yvonne Hayes Hinson of Gainesville, were among the 14 who scored a perfect 100 percent progressive voting record.
Mark Ferrulo, the executive director of Progress Florida, said his group puts the annual report card together because they feel a disconnect between how legislators vote in Tallahassee and how their constituents know how they vote – because of a gap in communication and physical distance.
“One of the main motivations for doing the People First Report Card is to educate voters about how their legislators are voting on the issues, the real issues that matter to them and their daily lives,” Ferrulo said.
Bills such as SB 144, which requires lactation spaces to be available in county courthouses, and HB 389, which allowed public schools to provide free menstrual products to students, passed unanimously. The report card deemed them to be “Good for Floridians.”
Josh Weierbach, executive director of Florida Watch, expressed both the report card’s metrics and his group’s priorities in a press release.
“Too many legislators acted as little more than rubber stamps for Governor DeSantis’ non-stop assault on our freedoms, as illustrated by their passing of a near-total abortion ban, dangerous permitless carry of loaded, concealed guns that will make us less safe, and relentless attacks on LGBTQ+, immigrant, and Black communities,” Weierbach said.
Republican Sen. Keith Perry of Gainesville is chair of the Florida Senate’s Appropriations Committee on Education and vice chair of the Rules Committee, called any characterization that DeSantis directed the 2023 legislative session’s agenda is “100% garbage.”
“The governor found himself in a position where his beliefs were shared by a lot of Republicans,” Perry, who scored F on the report card, said. He also said that in his meetings with DeSantis, the governor never made a legislative policy directive.
Perry voted in favor of a number of bills that ultimately passed and signed into law by the governor the report card. Those bills were deemed as “Bad For Floridians,” according to the progressive report card analysis.
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