What will it take for Tallahassee to shift its focus from power and control back to people?
Inside: Florida Session updates, Police Drama (again), new Community Calendar, and upcoming Picnic!
I’ve been trying to write this newsletter for the past few days now, but drama keeps unfolding at both the local and State level. Enough has happened though that warrants an update.
Before jumping in, I want to mention that it’s been a year since I filed for City Commission! I saved my sentimental gooeyness for my soon-to-be-published op-ed, but I just want to briefly say I appreciate you all so much! Running for City Commission as a grassroots and independent candidate was tough, but I really would not have been able to do it without your encouragement and support. Another run for office is out of the picture for now, but I’m so grateful for this community we built together in the process.
Speaking of community… I need some help planning a low-key community picnic! Over 250 people are subscribed to this newsletter. It would be great to get together in person and enjoy each other’s company. If you can help plan the picnic, please send me a message!
Alright, dive in below for a news round-up & personal updates. Talk soon!
Header Image from Florida Memory - “African American woman discussing "balancing the scales" with white men in Tallahassee.”
Florida’s Legislative Session is shaping up to be one of the most destructive in modern history.
Florida’s legislative session started earlier this month. Over the 2-month Session, Florida’s Legislators will debate and pass laws to shape the future of our State. Their decisions will impact everything, from our quality of life to our environment, education, and utility bills.
So far, Florida legislators have decided to:
Move forward the 6-week Abortion Ban – abortions are currently allowed up to 15 weeks. If proposed legislation passes, the ban would make abortions both illegal and inaccessible after just 6 weeks.
Abortions should be viewed as a last result. Instead of banning them, our government should be investing in education, low-cost birth control (like condoms and IUDs), and other options to reduce the abortion rate.
Contact your Legislators and let them know how you feel about this ban. Even though Republicans have a supermajority, Senator Kathleen Passidomo has publicly stated she doesn’t like the 6-week ban. She is the ultimate gatekeeper on bills getting to the floor. I’ll send out an alert once the Senate or House bill has been scheduled for its next committee stop.
Consider restricting how much money municipal utilities (like the City of Tallahassee’s) can divert to their general fund – I have mixed feelings about this legislation. On the one hand, this legislation addresses cities’ unfair practice of balancing their checkbooks with our utility payments (leaving infrastructure upgrades to the wayside), but it also puts municipal utilities in a tough position, especially the City of Tallahassee, that’s reliant on utility revenue to fund general operations and programs. If passed, this legislation could lead to higher property taxes to compensate for the low(er) transfer rate and widen the door for State regulation over municipal utilities.
The House version of the bill will be heard today in the Energy, Communications, and Cybersecurity Subcommittee. Contact your Legislators and/or the Committee members to express your sentiments about this bill.
Ignore comments against erasing diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives on college campuses – Everyone should have heard about this effort by now. HB999/SB266 intend to completely reform higher education and the cultural makeup of Florida’s college campuses. It’s a complete overreach. Once again, contact your Legislators and let them know how you feel.
Advance a food insecurity bill – SB1172 and HB1555 are bi-partisan bills that would, if passed, establish a pilot program at Florida's top three schools with the most Pell Grant recipients to reduce food insecurity by implementing measures such as setting up EBT on-campus terminals and providing additional funding for food pantries. This is a good thing! One out of three college students struggle with food insecurity. Seriously, let your Legislators know if you support this bill. A version of the Hunger-Free Campus Act has already been passed in California, New Jersey, Maryland, Minnesota, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania. Let’s add Florida to this list.
Weaken restrictions to carry a gun – Proposed legislation would allow permitless concealed carry in Florida, allowing gun owners to legally carry a concealed firearm or weapon in the state (except in gun-free zones like schools or college campuses).
Permitless carry would erase the requirement to get a permit (and the associated training or background check) to carry a concealed weapon.
I don’t like guns and think permitless carry will lead to more chaos and fear. But even gun owners say the removal of background checks and training is worrisome. Either way, once again, contact your Legislators and let them know where you stand. This legislation should be heading to the floor soon for a debate.
There are more bills going through the Legislature, but this is about as much as I can summarize. Feel free to update, contribute to, or view the Open Bill Tracker for additional information.
The Tallahassee Police Department is taking heat, again. This time for excusing a police officer for testing positive for a controlled substance – Tallahassee Police Chief Lawrence Revell decided to go against city policy and not to fire an officer who tested positive for a controlled substance while on duty, ignoring the objections from city Human Resource officials. The city’s HR Director was later fired "without notice or explanation" for recommending the officer’s firing.
Cmr. Matlow and Porter held a news conference yesterday to criticize the handling of this incident and the hasty upcoming vote on the Police Union (PBA) contracts.
In response, Mayor John Dailey said he supports the TPD Chief Revell’s decision to retain the officer, City Manager Reese Goad’s decision to fire Blair (the HR Director) and new contracts with the PBA. The PBA contracts, which come up tomorrow at the City Commission meeting, include raises for officers, investigators, sergeants and lieutenants and higher pay for starting officers.
The city disposed of a dedicated employee to shield a police officer who deserved to be fired. Tallahassee will continue to suffer from stagnancy as toxicity and unchecked power controls City Hall. In what workplace is it acceptable to break a policy and retain your job, especially when the prior 22 employees who broke this policy were fired… Tallahassee needs to get it together.
The City Commission is meeting tomorrow at 3pm. Submit a comment or show up in person. The Tallahassee Community Action Committee is collecting signatures to require accountability from our police department.
On a personal note… I started an internship last week at the Florida House Democratic Office! I’m still keeping my day job as a Research Fellow with the Energy & Policy Institute, but am enjoying this opportunity to soak up as much as I can during Session!
Ending on a good note: Tallahassee now has a community calendar! I built an open community calendar with Open Tallahassee, an up-and-coming digital publication. Go here to subscribe and know what events are happening in town!