SENATE DEMOCRATIC LEADER AUDREY GIBSON
STATE OF THE STATE RESPONSE
MARCH 5, 2019
· Good afternoon, Florida. I’m Senator Audrey Gibson, Senate Minority Leader, and honored to serve our great state!
· I applaud our new Governor, Ron DeSantis on some priorities he addressed in his state of the state message, and some messaging gives me pause.
· His priorities on the environment, to clean up Florida’s water from all the toxic algae and red tide that killed untold numbers of dolphins, and other marine life, sounds great and is welcome news, and his support for quote “high quality education,” and being prepared to do quote, “what we must” so that each and every student receives such, is on target.
· Great news again since protecting the environment, for example, has always been a top priority of Democrats, and nearly all Floridians.
· But there are ominous signs that are rising, signaling that his proposed solutions really aren’t new at all. Worse, that many of them are sowing more divisiveness, in the legislative process and across our state.
· The issue of the water crisis in Florida didn’t erupt overnight. It was a process fed by deregulating environmental protections and allowing pollution to flow unchecked, over the last few years and will take long range planning to fix.
· This includes septic tank mitigation. Any efforts to finally clean up our water will have to take the full picture into account, by committing the state resources necessary to help homeowners transition away from septic to sewage systems, and better regulating discharges and management of industrial waste.
· Small grants to cities and counties here and there is still a problem in search of a solution, and that solution, again, is a long range statewide plan with sufficient funding dedicated to make a difference.
Now let’s talk about what a high quality education does and does not look like.
First, the Florida constitution defines what our responsibility is when it comes to education. Article 9, section 1, in part says: “Adequate provision shall be made by law for a high quality system of FREE public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education…”
· But that “high quality education” the governor talks about leaves out the “free public schools” part. Just as Republican administrations have been leaving out public schools year after year by grossly underfunding our school while calling a forty seven cent increase historic.
· Our constitution doesn’t mandate using tax dollars to pay for private schools. It doesn’t require us to subsidize for-profit charter management companies. It doesn’t require us to help build private schools in areas where public schools already exist.
· But that’s exactly what the Governor has laid out and is about to try to do.
· Using positive terminology like “family empowerment,” and then moving thousands of students out of their neighborhood school and into a voucher system while building privately run charter schools in the same economically depressed areas that have been deliberately left behind is a bait and switch scheme our children and families do not deserve.
· While the governor says his plan is about helping kids get a better education, especially disadvantaged kids, make no mistake, the plan is all about draining millions of your tax dollars to give to private schools, while dismembering public education in the state of Florida where the accountability and transparency parents seek and expect is already built into the public school system. None of these factors are guaranteed in publically funded private schools because none of it is required!
· If public schools aren’t being accountable, we can demand it. If teachers aren’t performing as they should, or children with special needs or learning disabilities or have unaddressed needs, we can require change, because the constitution in on our side.
· That’s why Democrats have stood up for teachers and public schools, and that’s why we will continue to stand up and defend our children.
· Ironically, while he’s reluctant to preserve and protect public schools, the Governor is willing put more guns in them and call it school safety.
· A teacher armed with a handgun is no match for an assault weapon. A teacher with a minimum number of hours of training cannot possibly hope to respond quickly, or accurately, or without mistakes, in the chaos of open gun fire.
· That’s why Democrats oppose arming teachers. Because adding more guns won’t solve the problem.
· In January, Governor DeSantis said he wants to “create better health-care options that put consumers first,” address opioid addiction and fund meaningful mental health care.
· These goals could be largely accomplished by a single act: expanding Medicaid in Florida. But the Governor refuses to consider it while nearly a million languish with no place to go for their health needs except the emergency room.
· Our state is one of the last 14 holdouts still fighting against the Affordable Care Act by refusing to expand healthcare to tens of thousands of Floridians eligible for coverage under the act.
· That’s why Democrats will continue to push for healthcare expansion. Standing by while thousands of Floridians are denied access to healthcare and ignored by this administration is not an option.
· Governor DeSantis like to use the word “bold”: “Bold Future.” “Bold Vision.” “Bold Agenda.”
· But being “bold” means unafraid to break the rules, to defy convention, and to buck any system that leaves any Floridian behind.
· How “bold” is it to pack the Supreme Court, the last place individuals seeking justice can turn to with people who all think the same and rubber stamp each other’s pre-conceived thoughts?
· How “bold” is it to whip up anti-immigrant sentiment over sanctuary cities that don’t even exist in Florida?
· Florida is a diverse state blessed with people of all backgrounds, nationalities, and cultures.
· We are rich with diverse opportunities and possibilities.
· Being “bold” means a willingness to put forward policy ideas that embrace this diversity and govern accordingly.
· Thank you.