If at the end of the session that starts next week you want to be designated by the group as a "Champion of Florida's Middle Class," vote the right way on these 10 issues:
- Guaranteeing Free, Quality Public Education – We must ensure Floridians’ constitutionally protected right to a “uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools” by rejecting efforts to revive the so-called “parent trigger” bill and curtailing the use of private school vouchers, both of which slash public education funding while privatizing public education for corporate gain. Charter schools should not be funded by taxpayers at the expense of public schools. We cannot continue the practice of cutting K-12 and higher education funding and threaten our state’s Bright Futures Scholarship program.
- Creating and Protecting Quality Middle Class Jobs – Florida’s Defined Benefit retirement plan is one of the strongest in the nation and should be strengthened and preserved, rather than phased out in favor of risky 401(k) type plans. Florida’s low-income earners should be protected from corporate extremists aiming to preempt local laws designed to prevent wage theft or provide benefits such as earned sick time. Public employees should not face the threat of job loss due to corporate privatization schemes like the prison plan that narrowly failed last year. The legislature should not be placing large corporations over small businesses and middle class working families. Florida should be putting our main street, family owned small businesses first.
- Ensuring Effective, Efficient Government – Corporations must pay their fair share in taxes. We cannot continue the practice of increasing billion dollar corporate tax breaks and subsidies and pushing for further reductions or the elimination of the corporate income tax altogether while slashing funding for education and neglecting the needs of the state's small businesses. Large corporations must pay their fair share and corporate tax loopholes should be closed once and for all. Inefficient government practices, like taxpayer subsidies for nuclear power plants and other handouts to big business that don’t help create jobs, should be stopped. Cutting corporate taxes simply rewards big business and the wealthy and does nothing to aid job creation.
- Promoting a Stronger Democracy and Protecting Voting Rights – To avoid a repeat of last year’s election fiasco, when voters endured unforgivable wait times of up to eight hours (the longest in the nation), we need to return to a minimum of at least 14 days and 12 hours per day of early voting for all Florida voters. Voters should have the same access to the ballot regardless of what county they reside in. The legislature should be held to the same 75-word maximum for constitutional amendments that citizen-led constitutional amendments are.
- Ending Corporate Welfare and Protecting Small Businesses – Attracting new businesses and industries to Florida should be a top priority this legislative session, but that goal cannot be achieved without creating a balanced approach to the state's budget problems, making smart investments in education and infrastructure, ensuring taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and making sure corporations pay their fair share so that small businesses have a competitive opportunity against large corporations.
- Reforming Tallahassee’s Culture of Corruption – In order to reach optimal government effectiveness we must clean up the culture of corruption in Tallahassee and push for real ethics reform. These reforms would prohibit the use of Committees of Continuous Existence (CCEs) except to engage in political activities related to the election or re-election of candidates; provide teeth for the Commission on Ethics to go after those current and past elected officials who have been found to have violated ethics and elections laws; eliminate the revolving door of legislators and their staff leaving public service to lobby their former colleagues; and keep contribution limits to candidates low while increasing disclosure and transparency.
- Providing Access to Affordable Health Care – We must address Florida’s high rate of uninsured residents by extending Medicaid to pay for health care coverage for nearly a million Florida families in dire need. Florida must take advantage of provisions under the Affordable Care Act to set up a state health insurance marketplace in 2014 that will allow millions more Floridians to have access to affordable health care coverage.
- Protecting Our Land and Water – The successful Florida Forever conservation and recreational land buying program should be restored. Attempts by corporate polluters to influence policy when it comes to protecting our water should be rejected. Any efforts to expand the dirty and dangerous practice of oil drilling on state owned land should also be rejected.
- Advancing Women’s Rights and Equality – Lawmakers should stop putting politics in the exam room by introducing bills that restrict access to health care services, and instead make it easier for more women to access health care. Florida lawmakers should also support ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment and the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in employment, housing and public accommodations.
- Protecting Homeowners – Homeowners should be protected from predatory practices that have contributed to the state’s sky-high foreclosure rate. Homeowners should be allowed every opportunity to save their homes and should be afforded their day in court.
Last year, 27 lawmakers -- 26 Democrats and one Republican -- were named "middle class champions." (None were legislators who represented Manatee County.)