By Jeff Spencer
Florida citizens have seen a string of scenarios illustrating just how bad the last twenty years of Republican leadership has been.
The state endured a yearlong battle with red tide and toxic blue-green algae blooms in 2018. These environmental crises were the result of Republican efforts to reduce environmental regulations while catering to large agro business and developers. Politico reported that Republican Rick Scott bared much of the responsibility.
“…Scott was gutting the budgets and staffs of state environmental agencies and water management districts, shifting their focus from enforcement of pollution violations to reduction of regulatory burdens, and eliminating the state’s growth management agency entirely. He would later repeal a law requiring routine inspections of septic tanks to make sure they weren’t leaking untreated waste into state waters.”
The state has also been at the center of gun safety debate, enduring the Trayvon Martin shooting, Pulse Nightclub and Parkland attacks. Republicans have passed countless laws that have expanded access to guns including Stand Your Ground and, most recently, allowing teachers to carry guns in school.
They still refuse to take up the most logical of solutions to gun violence – fewer guns.
Today, the coronavirus is forcing Floridians to deal with a double dose of misguided Republican governance.
The first is providing healthcare for the large numbers of uninsured. State officials are scrambling to obtain waivers from the federal government to bring more Floridians on to Medicaid. If only Republicans believed healthcare was a right.
Voters should remember that Republican lawmakers declined the Medicaid expansion available with the passage of the Affordable Care Act. The Miami Herald reported on March 17 the following: “There are nearly 400,000 uninsured Floridians living below the poverty line who don’t qualify for Medicaid.”
The second issue confronting Floridians is the woeful unemployment system. Florida’s unemployment assistance is one of the lowest in the country and an article in New York Magazine shows how the Republicans set up the system to prevent people from getting the aid they need.
“Unemployed Floridians used to receive up to 26 weeks in benefits; (Governor) Scott cut that to 12 (though the cap does rise gradually after the state’s unemployment rate exceeds 5 percent). He established a new rule requiring the program’s beneficiaries to meet with at least five prospective employers a week to retain their benefits; eliminated the options of applying for benefits over the phone or in person, forcing all laid-off Floridians to sign up through (a poorly designed, underfunded) website; and he made it easier for employers to “prove” that their laid-off workers had been fired for cause and thus did not qualify for benefits”
The website has been a particular problem for Republicans as of late. One advisor to Governor Ron DeSantis, when asked about the unemployment website and Scott, was quoted as saying, “It wasn’t about saving money. It was about making it harder for people to get benefits or keep benefits so that the unemployment numbers were low to give the governor something to brag about.”
Voters in this state will have an opportunity to vote for state representatives this November, and who they select will be in charge of preparing this state for the future. One party has shown that its decisions are causing pain and suffering to Floridians now. Remember that at the ballot box.
Jeff Spencer is the Vice Chair of the Collier County Democratic Party.