With days left in legislative session, House Dems plan to fight immigration, higher education bills

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Members of the Florida House of Representatives work during a legislative session at the Florida State Capitol, Monday, March 7, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

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Florida’s legislative session is set to end this Friday. But House Democrats say there are still several bills they plan to fight before then. 

In a press conference on Monday, Representative Fentrice Driskell said one phrase describes this current legislative session. 

“For Floridians, this has been an anti-freedom session,” Driskell said. “That’s how I would describe it. It’s anti-freedom.”

Driskell said the new six-week abortion ban and House Bill 837, which will make it more difficult and expensive to sue insurance companies, are just some of the bills that have made Democrats concerned. 

Governor Ron DeSantis’ continuing feud with Disney is another issue Democrats said DeSantis has taken “too far.” 

Disney spoke out against the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law last year, which restricts discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms. Since then, DeSantis has targeted Disney’s self-governing status and a recent development deal

Representative Kelly Skidmore said the governor’s actions are attacking the corporation’s First Amendment rights

“Everyone has a constitutional right to an opinion and there should not be retaliation for that opinion,” Skidmore said.

Amid these concerns, Democrats said there are two pieces of legislation they are focusing on this week: Senate Bill 266 and 1718.

Representative Driskell said Senate Bill 266 jeopardizes academic freedom, as it prevents Florida universities from using state and federal funds to support diversity, equity and inclusion programs. 

Senate Bill 1718 prohibits counties and municipalities from issuing identification to immigrants lacking permanent legal status. 

Driskell said Florida’s economy has always depended on these individuals, especially in the agriculture, construction and hospitality industries. 

“It is wrong to profit off of them year round and then demonize them from the air-conditioned capital to appease the GOP base,” Driskell said. “It’s just wrong.”

Driskell said “a number of amendments” to Senate Bill 1718 have been filed in Democrats’ preparation to counter this legislation.

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