Gov. Rick Scott laid out his ambitions — which included cutting taxes, addressing problems created by hurricanes Irma and Maria, and expanding victims’ rights, among other things — during the State of the State speech in the Capitol building on Tuesday, but not too far away, a different, more intimate crowd listened to an alternative message — one that spotlighted Scott’s failures rather than lauded his achievements.
Dubbed Awake the State, the immediate response to the governor’s speech is an annual tradition that seeks to undermine what was telecasted throughout Florida just minutes before.
It’s “the people’s State of the State,” said Barbara DeVane, the head lobbyist for Florida’s National Organization for Women.
The speech featured a lineup of speakers, who each were qualified for their own progressive talking point. Those points ranged from climate change to public education spending to anti-fracking messages to the implementation of medical marijuana, and also were complemented with a healthy dose of liberal sensationalism. One sign read “NO COASTAL DRILLING,” a sentiment concurred by Scott earlier this week.
Still, valid and compelling arguments and observations were made by the group of speakers.
Climate change was not addressed in Scott’s State of the State. Affordable housing for the influx of Puerto Ricans — something Orlando Democratic Sen. Victor Torres said he is championing this year — also was not mentioned by the governor. Additionally omitted: expanding public education.
The group also more than hinted at what will be prioritized by left-leaning advocates in The Process this Session.
Julio Calderon, a representative from the Florida Immigrant Coalition and an organizer for the We Are Florida campaign, laid out a rather timely initiative: preventing the state from banning sanctuary cities, which House Speaker Richard Corcoran has promised to do in this first week of Session.
Calderon said the coalition has been mobilizing individuals to advocate for immigrants in the Legislature. He said that won’t change this year.
“We need to tell the state that we are here and we are here to stay,” Calderon said. “Students, farmworkers, children. They all come with us.”
“Legislation like HB 9 is nothing greater than an anti-immigrant bill,” Calderon said regarding Corcoran’s first-week priority.
Sen. Gary Farmer, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, went as far as laying out a 2019 priority: legalizing marijuana.
Farmer said his staff will soon draft a bill that permits “full use and possession of recreational marijuana — the full legalization of marijuana.”
For that, he received an audible “yea” from someone in the crowd.