Equal Ground October Newsletter
Updated: Nov 2
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FLORIDA BLACK POLITICAL EMPOWERMENT CALL
The Florida Black Political Empowerment Call is an opportunity for you to receive updates about issues impacting Black people in the state of Florida and receive information and tools to help improve our community through collective action. This month's speaker will be Rep. Maxwell Frost, Congressman for Florida's 10th Congressional District.
The next call will be Monday, October 16th. Please click HERE to RSVP.
The Saturday after our Black Political Empowerment call, we need your help to make sure our community is aware of the changes in our voting laws and is prepared for the 2023-2024 election cycle! Due to a new Florida law regarding mail-in voting, all voters who had a vote-by-mail request on file before the Nov. 2022 midterm elections must file a new request if they wish to vote by mail in upcoming elections. This change in law resulted in over 460,000 Black voters bring removed. Voters will now have to request their mail ballots each general election cycle moving forward. Help us re-enroll Black Floridians for Vote by Mail. CLICK HERE to register.
TAKE THE LEAD: LEGISLATIVE EDITION
Take the Lead Training series was created to help aspiring and experienced Black leaders expand their civic, civil, and political engagement within their local community and across the state. We believe understanding the fundamental structure of government and how to engage in that process is an essential component to holding our elected leaders accountable and producing the results we need in our community.
This year participants will have an option between two tracks. We will offer an intermediate track that covers the basics of the Florida Legislative Session and an advanced track that will provide tools and insight on how to take your advocacy to the next level when engaging with legislators in meetings. All attendees will also hear from legislative leaders about what to expect in the upcoming 2024 Legislative Session. Our featured speakers for the evening will be State Sen. Tracie Davis & State Rep. LaVon Bracy-Davis. Click HERE to register.
In preparation of this training and the start of Legislative session, we encourage you to follow the legislative process as the Legislature has begun to have committee meetings. Below is the committee schedule. Click HERE to watch meetings during those dates.
House Committee Week 1
September 18th - 22nd, 2023
Senate Committee week 1
October 9th - 13th, 2023
Joint Committee week 2
October 16th - 20th, 2023
Joint Committee week 3
November 6th - 9th, 2023
Joint Committee week 4
November 13th - 17th, 2023
Joint Committee week 5
December 4th - 7th, 2023
Joint Committee week 6
December 11th - 15th, 2023
Start of 2024 Legislative session
January 9, 2024
End of 2024 Legislative session
March 11, 2024
STATE REDISTRICTING TRIAL UPDATE
Despite a request from attorneys for both sides to fast-track the case to the Florida Supreme Court, The 1st District Court of Appeals has decided to hear the appeal in Florida’s Redistrincg case in state court. The 1st District Court of Appeal will hold what is known as “en banc” hearing, meaning that the full court will consider the case. In doing so, it will skip the usual process of a three-judge panel hearing the case. Attorneys for Secretary of State Cord Byrd and the House and Senate filed a notice of appeal after Leon County Circuit Judge J. Lee Marsh ruled Sept. 2 that the congressional redistricting plan was unconstitutional. Equal Ground and other plaintiffs asked for the case to go directly to the Florida Supreme Court to provide certainty to voters, potential candidates, and elections officials regarding the configuration and validity of Florida’s congressional districts sufficiently in advance of the 2024 elections. Our concern with having the case heard by the lower appeals court instead of going directly to the Florida Supreme Court is the potential for delay of a remedial plan ahead of the 2024 election. Both parties have filed a motion asking the court for a ruling by November 22. We believe that will provide time for either party to seek Florida Supreme Court review and for the Florida Supreme Court to render a decision in time for the Legislature to take up any remedial plan, if necessary, during the 2024 regular legislative session, and before the Legislature’s scheduled adjournment on March 8, 2024
FEDERAL REDISTRICTING UPDATE
In addition to the lawsuit challenging Florida’s redistricting case in state court, there is also an ongoing Federal challenge. Common Cause Florida, Fair Districts Now, the Florida State Conference of the NAACP, and individual voters from across Florida have filed litigation in federal court that alleges the Florida Legislature worked with Governor DeSantis to engage in intentional racial discrimination in violation of the 14th and 15th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution in crafting the state’s current congressional map by denying Black voters their right to elect candidates of their choice. The trial started on Monday, September 26, 2023, in Tallahassee and is expected to last about two weeks. You can click HERE to get daily updates about the case.
OFFICE OF GUN VIOLENCE PROTECTION
On September 22nd, President Joe Biden announced that we would establish the first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention that will be overseen by Vice President Kamala Harris. This announcement comes after years of advocacy by gun rights activists who have long called for common sense policy and coordination of prevention efforts across federal agencies. Two of those advocates, Congressman Maxwell Frost (D-FL) and Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), introduced a bill that would create the first-ever federal office to establish a coordinated response to the gun violence epidemic that is claiming over 100 lives a day. After being made aware of the provisions contained in their Bill, President Biden decided to act via Executive Action.
ANNUAL LEGISLATIVE CONFERENCE
Last month, Equal Ground’s leadership team traveled to Washinton D.C. to attend the Annual Legislative Conference hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. The conference is the premier policy forum where critical discussions, innovative solutions, and a unified vision for progress and equity come to life. In addition to attending several informative sessions throughout the conference, Equal Ground Action Fund in partnership with Congressman Maxwell Frost hosted the “Democracy Brunch” to bring state and national leaders together to talk about the importance of protecting our democracy in Florida. Below are some photos from the event.
16 of the country’s 19 historically Black land-grant universities have been underfunded by their states by a total of $13 billion, according to the federal analysis of per-student state spending data from 1987 to 2020. Only two states, Ohio and Delaware, were found to have equitably funded their HBCU land grants. The other states’ institutions had funding gaps between $172 million to $2.14 billion compared with their predominantly white counterparts.
The Biden administration is doing more to appeal to states where the disparities exist. On September 18, 2023, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack sent letters to 16 governors, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, pointing out the underfunding of land grant Black institutions compared to their non-HBCU counterparts and urged the governors to rectify the disparity. Advocates who have longed sounded the alarm on this issue view this as a step in the right direction to elevating a national conversation.
Most historically Black land-grant universities were created by state lawmakers who were given a choice by Congress: either allow Black students to attend their existing land grants or open a separate institution. If those lawmakers chose to create a separate university, federal law required states to equitably distribute funds between the two institutions. The historically Black land grants have been fighting for parity in state funding ever since.
Today, the Black Land grant institutions enroll a higher percentage of Black and low-income students than their traditionally white counterparts, and they play a key role in diversifying science, engineering and agriculture workforces. Meanwhile, they’ve had to deal with insufficient funding to update their aging facilities, expand their campuses and offer more aid to students, among other consequences.
Florida State Senator, Shevrin Jones serves on the President's Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The board meets regularly to develop recommendations to strengthen HBCUs.
BOOK BANS SURGED ACROSS THE US IN 2023. FLORIDA LED THE WAY
A recent study from PEN America Florida schools had more books removed from their shelves after objections to their content than those in any other state during the past year, according to a report released Thursday by PEN America, which tracks and advocates for freedom of speech and expression. In all, more than 3,300 instances of materials being removed or banned from school classrooms or libraries were recorded from July 2022 to June 2023. About 40% of those removals,1,406, were in Florida. Click HERE to review report.
MEDICAL DEBT RELIEF
The Biden administration has proposed federal rules to prevent unpaid medical bills from harming credit scores. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau plans to develop the rules next year. While the move faces industry opposition and legal challenges, it has received strong support from patient and consumer groups. Some states, like Colorado, have already taken steps to protect consumers from medical debt's credit consequences
If enacted, the regulation would potentially help tens of millions of people who have medical debt on their credit reports, eliminating information that can depress consumers' scores and make it harder for many to get a job, rent an apartment, or secure a car loan.
BILLS TAKE EFFECT OCTOBER 1, 2023
While most bills passed during Florida's Legislative session took effect on July 1, 2023, there are 33 bills from the 2023 regular legislative session that are slated to take effect Sunday, October 1, 2023. Click HERE to view the bills. Among the new laws taking effect this week are stiffer penalties for certain criminal offenses.
HB 1297 is a new law allowing the death penalty for people convicted of child rape. Additionally, under the bill, if at least eight jurors determine the defendant should be sentenced to death, the jury would have to recommend a death penalty, although judges can decide to impose a life sentence instead.
HB 67 adds judges, judicial assistants, clerks of court, clerk personnel, and family members of those court officials to a list of people protected by a law that makes it a crime to harass law enforcement officials.
HB 825 increases criminal penalties for people who assault emergency medical or hospital personnel.
LEGISLATIVE DELEGATION MEETINGS
As the Florida Legislature prepares to start the 2024 Legislative session process, each county's legislative members will convene for what is known as legislative delegation meetings. These meetings will take place from now until December and give you an opportunity hear directly from your legislators and pitch any ideas your have for funding or legislation. CLICK HERE to check if your county has announced their meeting date.
BIDGEN BLACK ENGAGEMENT
Building Back Together advances the policy agenda of the Biden-Harris Administration and communicates the positive impacts of these critical policies to the American people. HERE you will find a copy of the Black Engagement Newsletter, which includes the latest talking points, news, and fact sheets to highlight Black organizations and leaders who are helping us amplify the important work of the Biden-Harris Administration.
VOLUNTEER WITH US
With the many changes to Florida Election laws. We need help spreading the word to our community. Please CLICK HERE to explore volunteer opportunities to keep our community informed.
To watch full coverage of legislative session including committee meetings and floor debates, visit https://thefloridachannel.org/.
To learn more about the Florida Senate, find your Senator, and locate senate bills, please visit www.flsenate.gov.
To learn more about the Florida House of Representatives, find your representative and locate house bills, please visit www.myfloridahouse.gov.
Remember to visit your county’s Supervisor of Elections office to find what district you live in.
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