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Susan Frederick-Gray: Our opportunity to support Florida’s modern-day suffragists

There is a direct link from the work of my namesake and relative Susan B. Anthony, who fought for a woman’s right to vote in the mid-1800s, and the modern-day suffragists urging us to pass Amendment 4 on the ballot this November in Florida.

Growing up, I was told the stories of Anthony and Lucy Stone, as well as Ida B. Wells and Frederick Douglass; people who fought for the right to vote for women and people of color. It always left me wondering what I would do if I were alive at a time when a whole class of people were denied the ability to have a say in our democracy.

For the Sunshine State, this is not a rhetorical question.

Florida is one of three states that indefinitely bans former felons from voting, even after they have fully served their sentences. Amendment 4, the Second Chances Amendment, would repeal this Jim Crow era ban and re-enfranchise more than a million Floridians — one in 10 of the state’s adults — who have served their time but are still sentenced to a civil death. This would be the largest expansion of voting rights since women earned the right to vote in 1920.

Alongside those childhood stories of our family’s connection to voting rights, I was also raised a Unitarian Universalist, a faith where I now serve as national President.

At the core of our faith is a belief that no one is ever cast out of the circle of love. One can make mistakes, lose one’s way, but that never separates us from God’s love. As Universalists, we are taught that love, community, and forgiveness — the possibility of redemption — is essential for humanity and a healthy society.

That is why to learn of people who have permanently lost their citizenship rights because they have come into contact with a criminal justice system that we know is uneven at best and discriminatory at worst rings so wrong to me.

A parable I often draw on when I preach about forgiveness and redemption is that of the Prodigal Son. In the story, a younger son takes his inheritance early, leaves his family and squanders it all in wild living. Penniless and starving, the son returns home hoping to at least work as a servant for his father. Instead, when the father sees his son, he is filled with compassion, and rather than punishing him, he welcomes him home, offering a new beginning. Yes, we may all struggle to live this unconditional love as fully as the father, but all of us, at different times in our lives, are in need of forgiveness and second chances. And just like in a family, society and community begin to fall apart without practices of restoration and redemption.

In Florida, like in many states, too many people do not receive such a welcome. A criminal justice system that is not focused on successful re-entry can neither be considered just nor a service to our common good. Barriers to housing, employment, and the pride and ownership that comes with civic engagement erode our society rather than protect it.

I myself have spent a short time in jail as a result of religious acts of conscience. I have witnessed firsthand how our criminal justice system dehumanizes and punishes. I’ve known people beaten in jail and I carried scars on my wrists for years after, even though as a faith leader, I was handled with ‘relative’ care.

I am coming to Florida to support Amendment 4, because I do not want us to become a society where we so harden our hearts that one’s citizenship, and democracy itself, is withheld as a lifelong punishment with no chance for redemption.

Even when politics frustrates me and I feel disheartened by leadership, I keep voting. I do it because I remember that someone fought hard for me to have this right. I remember the women who organized, who marched, who went to jail and faced torture so that I would have the right to vote. The 15th Amendment which gave voting rights to African-Americans wasn’t passed until 1870, after the Civil War. The rights it enshrined weren’t extended to women until 1920. Native Americans didn’t gain the right to participate in elections until 1924. And it took the civil rights movement and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to overcome the legal barriers that prevented black Americans from fully participating in citizenship and democracy.

Now in 2018, Floridians, more than a million of them, are fighting hard for their voting rights. And I will be there to support them.

As an American, we can see this moment as a chance to bring our laws closer in line with our highest values and proclamations. As a faith leader, I see this as a moment to bring the values of redemption more fully to our society for all citizens. Through the lens of criminal justice, Amendment 4 is a step forward toward a system with greater emphasis on rehabilitation, restoration, and reintegration.

And as a relative of Susan B. Anthony, I see Amendment 4 as a crucial contribution to the democratic promise of this country, one that has never been achieved without people organizing and pushing for it.

I will be in Florida because I do not believe that anyone should be permanently cast out. I will be there because the purpose of the 13th, 14th, 15th and 19th amendments was to prevent us from becoming the two Americas we’ve witnessed ourselves becoming. Amendment 4 will end disenfranchisement and strengthen democracy not just in Florida but nationwide.

I ask that all those who can vote, vote yes on Amendment 4, so others too will have that right to vote again.


Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray is the President of the Unitarian Universalist Association based in Boston Massachusetts. She is a first cousin, five generations removed, of Susan B. Anthony, a leader of the women’s suffrage movement.

Joe Henderson: No time for politics with Hurricane Michael on its way

Politics seems so trivial in times like the Florida Panhandle is about to experience with Hurricane Michael. Petty red and blue arguments are out of place when a storm like this threatens everything and everyone in its path.

If you’re a Democrat and intend to vote with vigor for Bill Nelson to the U.S. Senate, you still should be rooting for his election opponent, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, to carefully and successfully manage this horrible situation in the days ahead.

Same goes for Republicans who support Ron DeSantis for Governor. I sure hope they’re wishing for his Democratic opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, to be a steady and effective leader in this crisis. If it costs your man a few votes, at least you can be consoled by the fact it also might have saved some lives.

Only the most cynical and selfish person would think otherwise.

There is an appropriate time to question how leaders stepped up during a storm like this, but for the next few days, everyone just needs to be a Floridian. Think we’re up to it?

I hope we are.

But here is a reality: Hurricane Michael likely will cause catastrophic damage, and that can’t be fixed overnight. When Hurricane Irma blew through Tampa last year, some people went many days without power. There were flooded streets. Fallen trees and large limbs blocked some roads and it took a while to get them all clear.

Grocery stores had near-empty shelves for many days after the storm.

But as Floridians, we had each other and that’s how we got through it all — well, that, peanut butter, Chunky soup, and the stockpile from the local ABC store you safely stashed away.

At my home, power was out for a few days but people on the other side of the street had lights. So, you know what a neighbor did? She allowed us to run a long extension cord from her outdoor outlet to our house to keep the refrigerator going.

A small thing maybe, but it made life a little bit easier in a trying time.

Random acts of kindness like that will be in high demand in the next few days.

Charitable agencies will be looking for contributions, and I’m sure Floridians — and thousands of people from other states — will step up. But thank the workers, too.

I think one of the great things we see in this country is when workers from power companies all over the country head into a disaster zone to get the lights back on as quickly as possible. They’re working extra-long days away from their families and the lives they know just to help strangers get back on their feet.

If and when scoundrels try to take advantage of a natural disaster with price-gouging, looting, or bogus insurance claims, thank law enforcement officials when they make these mopes pay for their behavior. We had a FEMA rep show up at my house months after Irma hit to process the claim we made for our roof and other damage.

One problem: We didn’t have any significant damage and we hadn’t filed a claim. But somebody had our address and other information and was also trying to bill the government under our name for staying several weeks in a local hotel.

Storms like Michael are just the price we pay for living in Florida, and some bad people will try to take advantage of that. As we always find out though, the good outnumber the bad by a lot.

What’s about to happen here isn’t red or blue.

If somebody in authority really messes up, there will be time before the election to deal with that. But for now, just remember that Hurricane Michael isn’t red and isn’t blue, and that means we’re all in this together.

Rabbis Steven Engel, Jack Romberg: Take anti-Semitism out of Florida politics

Are politics in Florida truly descending to the lowest level?

We ask that because of articles appearing around Florida in which the Ron DeSantis campaign accuses Mayor Andrew Gillum of being anti-Israel, and Chris King along with Gillum of being anti-Semitic.

As the rabbis of two major Jewish communities in Florida, we object to any campaign using the politics of fear to influence our people.

The accusations of Gillum being anti-Israel and anti-Semitic are based on his endorsement by the Dream Defenders, a group connected to Black Lives Matter, which has taken an anti-Israel position.

Their endorsement of Gillum has nothing to do with Israel, and everything to do with his concern for racial and bigotry issues in our country. If we were to stoop to that level of politics, we could accuse DeSantis of being a white nationalist, possibly a racist and maybe even anti-Semitic. Why? Because DeSantis is a former co-manager of a Facebook page that contained racist remarks. In addition, there are white nationalists supporting his candidacy.

Does that actually make him a racist?  We would say no because neither of us personally knows Mr. DeSantis; so, to judge him on that level would be totally unfair.

However, between the two of us, we know Mayor Gillum and Chris King.

I, Rabbi Romberg, have served as the rabbi of Temple Israel in Tallahassee since July 2001. Temple Israel is the largest Jewish congregation along the North Florida I-10 corridor outside of Jacksonville.

I met Andrew Gillum 15 years ago through a congregant serving on the Tallahassee City Commission with him. In 2006, our Jewish community lobbied to have Tallahassee become a sister city to Ramat Hasharon in Israel. Then-Commissioner Gillum was extremely supportive of that project and, when it became official, traveled to Israel.

I accompanied him and our Mayor at that time on their tour of Israel. I witnessed Gillum’s positive impression of Israel’s great success as a country, answered questions about the country’s history and joined him in exploring Israel’s culture.

In later years, Gillum made two more trips to Israel, which taught him the difficulties Israel faces and deepened his appreciation for having strong economic ties between Israel and Florida. It also solidified his opposition to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Just as important as supporting policies regarding Israel, Gillum’s has shown strong support for Tallahassee’s Jewish community. Here is one example — Temple Israel’s largest fundraising event is our annual Jewish Food and Cultural Festival. As both a Commissioner and Mayor, Gillum has volunteered numerous times to work at the festival. He never wanted to be the center of publicity or attention, but simply worked alongside a group of our congregants, making and serving sandwiches.

I, Rabbi Engel, have been the rabbi of Congregation of Reform Judaism for 21 years.

It is Orlando’s and Central Florida’s largest congregation. I am also a co-host of a weekly radio show called “Friends Talking Faith” along with a Reverend and an Imam.

Through my interfaith work, and on a personal level, I know Chris King. He and I also have many mutual friends who we are both very close to. It is antithetical to everything I have heard Chris say and do, in public and private, to think that he is anti-Semitic.

In fact, he is one of the most open, embracing and empathic religious people I know. After the Pulse massacre here in Orlando, he quickly reached out to support the LGBTQ community as a religious person.

He has many close friends who are my synagogue members who he confides in as if they were his own family.

The incident that is being used to smear Chris was simply a young adult misspeaking. He has taken responsibility for his words and apologized in a repentant way. This was ignorance and not anti-Semitism.

To not admit the difference and use it to smear someone is dishonest. The irony is that at the same time this happened, Chris was being targeted for being a Christian. He knew what it felt like to be targeted and also had a brother who was targeted. I know that as a person of faith, Chris would never do the same thing to others that was done to him. It is simply not in his character, nor in the family that raised him.

This charge of Chris King being anti-Semitic is a despicable tactic being used to scare Jews away from him. Jewish Floridians should not fall for this, because our history exemplifies the many times people have branded us and hurt us, without knowing us.

For us to do the same to anyone else is inconceivable.

Both of us ask that rather than engage in character denigration, all political candidates and those supporting their campaigns, show respect for Florida Jews by sharing their policy plans regarding economics, the environment, education, health care and yes, continuing to improve our relationship with Israel.

The Jews of Florida care about what is best for all people of our great state.

You will not impress our community through the low-level politics of personal degradation.


Rabbi Steven Engel is from Orlando. Rabbi Jack Romberg is from Tallahassee.

Joe Henderson: With Hurricane Michael bearing down, state leaders must excel

When you see Governor Rick Scott put on the Navy ballcap, stuff’s about to get real. It has become his trademark look when taking the lead role as warner-in-chief during past Florida hurricanes, and we can expect more of the same in the coming days as Hurricane Michael takes aim on the Panhandle.

With this potential Category 3 monster approaching, Scott is already sounding the familiar warnings of the impending emergency and for residents to find safe shelter or get out of Dodge before it’s too late. 

Well, that’s what he should do – and most people believe some of Scott’s best moments have come during these tense situations with the potential for disaster. The stakes are even higher now, both for Scott and Democrat and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

This time, the October surprise came from the National Hurricane Center. What’s about to happen here should be about people and saving lives, but there is no escape from the fact it also comes with major political implications.

How the Governor and the Mayor perform in the days leading up to the storm and its aftermath could tilt close elections in their favor – Scott, for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Bill Nelson, and Gillum in what has become an increasingly snippy race for Governor against Republican Ron DeSantis.

There really isn’t much Nelson or DeSantis can do to keep the spotlight off their opponents, either – although Nelson, to be fair, was visible along with Republican senatorial counterpart Marco Rubio during last year’s bouts with Mother Nature.

But Scott will have all the cameras focused on him for updates as the storm gets closer. And with Florida’s strategic importance in the national political picture, he won’t have any trouble getting whatever aid people need to be delivered from FEMA in a timely matter when the storm is gone – probably with lots of free media coverage on TV, too.

Republicans, meanwhile, have already opened attacks against Gillum for his performance in the aftermath of Hurricane Hermine in 2016, when much of Tallahassee’s power infrastructure was damaged.

In an ad that has been appearing around the state in recent days, Republicans claim Gillum refused help from outside workers waiting to help restore power to the city. DeSantis said Gillum was waiting for unionized workers to arrive on the scene, a claim vigorously disputed by Barry Moline, the former head of the Florida Municipal Electric Association.

In the Sun-Sentinel newspaper, Moline said the decision about accepting extra was made by him and Tallahassee’s general manager of electric utilities. Under Tallahassee’s form of government, Gillum was not empowered to make that call.

“Any claim that suggests the mayor had anything to do with rejecting crews is a flat-out lie,” Moline said. “It’s wrong. It’s false. It didn’t happen. The mayor wasn’t involved with selecting or choosing crews to bring into Tallahassee.”

But, the ads keep airing and the image DeSantis is painting of Gillum might stick with enough voters to turn a close election. 

The image of Gillum, shovel in hand to help fill emergency sandbags, that was being circulated Monday afternoon on Twitter may help to blunt some of that.

Performing exceptionally in the coming days would blunt all of it though.

Hurricane Michael a real-life situation far too familiar to this state, and how the men who want to lead it to show what they can do under real pressure will go a long way toward determining if Floridians believe they’re up to the job.

Michael Sittig: If Amendment 1 passes, most of us lose

When you go to the polls in November, there is more at stake than the general election. You’ll also be voting on Amendment 1 to the state constitution, and a no vote will help ensure that we won’t be hit right in the wallet.

Florida’s property tax system is a complicated mess. Amendment 1 won’t fix it. Instead, it would make it worse and more complicated.

Don’t be misled by the description of the amendment as a “homestead exemption increase.” Amendment 1 is not fair. Some pay less, but millions pay more. The state politicians call it a tax break, but it’s actually a tax SHIFT.

Most of the tax breaks go to a handful of homeowners. Less than one-fourth of Florida’s properties fall into that narrow category. This means that more than three-fourths of the properties owned by small-business owners, manufacturers and working families will carry a heavier load. Shouldn’t Florida’s tax system work across the board for all of us who own property, not just a select few? Renters also are expected to carry an increased share of the property tax burden, passed on from their landlords.

If you own a small business, then Amendment 1 is a double-whammy. First, it shifts taxes onto small businesses. Second, Amendment 1 exposes small businesses to bigger tax hikes later because a business’ taxable value grows faster than that of a home. That means business owners will shoulder a larger share of the tax burden. That’s bad for our small businesses, and it’s bad for our economy.

Amendment 1 is a one-size-fits-all scheme concocted by state politicians. But what’s good for some of our communities isn’t always good for others. What should be done with local property taxes should be decided locally, not by a group at the capital.

I have 45 years of service to the Florida League of Cities, with 20 years as executive director, which gives me a good perspective on what works and doesn’t work for our cities and our citizens. Looking back, we see that in the two previous homestead exemptions, counties were forced to increase their millage rates. While it’s not inevitable, you could make a good argument that the same thing could happen again. Regardless of whether taxes are increased, if you’re not in that narrow $100,000 to $125,000 slot, you’ll get hit with a larger, unfair tax burden.

We believe in citizen-centered local self-government. Our local communities should be trusted to decide their priorities and determine how they’re going to pay for them.

Amendment 1 is opposed by the Florida League of Cities, the Florida Association of Counties, the Florida Policy Institute and Florida TaxWatch.

We must link arms with our neighbors and stand together. Vote No on Amendment 1.


Michael Sittig is executive director of the Florida League of Cities.

Charles Steele Jr.: Marsy’s Law Amendment 6 takes on inequality in justice system

Charles Steele Jr.

Our founder, Dr. Martin Luther King, famously said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Dr. King made it his life’s mission to shine a bright light on the injustices he saw in this world and called for us all to work together to make right what is wrong. Since his time on this Earth, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference has carried on his mission and raised our voices up for those who need to be heard.

Right now, victims of crimes are among those whose voices are falling on deaf ears.

Too many crime victims feel ignored and left out of the justice process. Many victims feel the person who committed the crime against them has more rights than they do. Crime victims, many of whom are at the most vulnerable points of their lives, should be treated with equality and fairness. They should be appropriately protected and recognized.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference stands for equity. Protecting and strengthening crime victims’ rights falls in line with our pursuit of equality and justice.

That is why I am proud to support Florida’s Amendment 6, also known as Marsy’s Law for Florida.

Amendment 6 would provide Florida’s crime victims with a stronger set of rights than what is currently afforded to them and it would place these rights in the state constitution. Victims would be kept informed of developments in their case, including upcoming hearings and trial dates. It would ensure they are notified about the custody status of the accused — if they are out on bail, released from prison and if they escaped. Amendment 6/Marsy’s Law for Florida would provide victims the opportunity to be present — and heard — at court proceedings.

In terms of equity, it is important to note this amendment will not take away any of the guaranteed constitutional rights already provided to criminals and criminal defendants. They will still have all their U.S. Constitutional rights, as well as the rights provided to them under the Florida Constitution. They will still have due process and fair trials. The amendment would simply elevate the rights of victims to the same, equal constitutional level as the rights of the accused and convicted.

Crime does not discriminate. Anyone can become a victim of crime at any time. Crime happens across all genders, ages, races and socioeconomic levels. Becoming a victim of crime changes your life forever. The trauma, pain and fear associated with that life-altering event lasts long after the justice process is concluded. However, while they are navigating that justice process, victims of crimes — no matter who they are or where they live — should be able to take comfort in knowing they are guaranteed certain rights and protections.

Above all, they should be treated with dignity and respect.

A society is measured by its values and priorities. As a society, one of our core values should be to help those among us who need protecting, including crime victims. The people of Florida are facing a pivotal moment. Do you demand justice by calling for fair treatment of crime victims in the justice system?

Or, do you allow the inequities to remain?

Floridians have the opportunity to give a greater voice to a group of people who deserve it — crime victims. I have been honored to lend my voice to victims and I encourage all Floridians to stand in support of crime victims by voting yes on Amendment 6/Marsy’s Law for Florida on November 6.


Charles Steele Jr. is an American businessman, politician and civil rights leader. Dr. Steele was one of the first African-Americans elected to the City Council of Tuscaloosa and one of the first African-Americans elected to the Alabama State Senate. He is the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Joe Henderson: Matt Gaetz ‘kill-’em’ remark straight out of middle school

Um, Matt Gaetz?

It wasn’t funny.

It wasn’t clever.

I’d say the Republican congressman from the state panhandle ought to be ashamed of himself, but he is a politician, and every time anyone thinks there is a line that can’t be crossed, it gets obliterated.

This was one was especially tasteless, though, referring to Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum as “Andrew Kill-‘em” — a reference to an FDLE report that the crime rate in Leon County has been the highest in Florida for four consecutive years.

You know, this might be a good time to bring up Gaetz’s A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association. At least 14 of the county’s 22 homicides in 2017 involved a gun. Oh, that’s right — guns don’t kill people, bullets do.

That’s not to say Tallahassee’s crime rate is not fair game on the campaign trail, but juvenile remarks like the one Gaetz made lowers the debate to something you would expect to hear in middle school. The issue merits a serious discussion, not just the same ol’ crap that we need arm everyone and the good guys will sort it out.

I imagine Matt Gaetz and the guys had a good chuckle around the table when this nickname was hatched, but I guess it’s understandable. After all, the leader of the GOP, President Trump, has elevated name-calling to an art form — so anything that plays to the base, right guys?

Do they really believe this makes Florida a better place, or they just don’t care and laugh it off as political hardball?

Democrats were quick to pounce, calling Gaetz’s lowbrow attempt at humor as racist and irresponsible. Janet Cruz, who is running for state Senate, called it “an abomination” and demanded Gillum’s Republican opponent, Ron DeSantis, disavow the remark.

He has not.

Maybe this is also a good time to recall that on the day after the primary, DeSantis said Gillum, an African-American, could “monkey up” the state’s economic growth by calling for higher corporate taxes to pay for the expansion of health care.

DeSantis later called the national flap over the remark a “nothingburger.”

Maybe to him.

Now this.

Republicans can let their eyes grow wide in denial and put their hands to their foreheads in faux “who, us?” anguish after not-so-subtly reminding their base that Gillum is black, but they are playing the race card. Period.

Gaetz’s remark was reminiscent of Barack Obama’s first campaign for President, the one where some Republicans delighted in emphasizing his middle name — Barack HUSSEIN Obama — while people like Donald Trump kept the insipid theory alive that he wasn’t born in America and he was a secret Muslim out to invoke Sharia law here.

There are reasonable arguments to be made against voting for Gillum, starting with the real question of how he could work with Republicans if they keep control of the House and Senate. His signature issues of health care expansion and raising the starting pay for public school teachers to $50,000 would never get out of committee, let alone to his desk for a signing ceremony.

But it’s just easier to smear and snicker.

That says more about Matt Gaetz and DeSantis than it does Gillum.

Blake Dowling: Another day, another Facebook breach

Friday evening, I met with a crew from WCTV/CBS in Tallahassee; we talked Facebook.

They wanted some info ASAP as to news of the latest Facebook breach breaking that day, offering to meet me wherever I was. That happened to be a fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters at the local bowling alley.

Hold my beer: Team Lucky Strikes (our company bowling team) is making the evening news.

The segment by Katie and her WCTV crew was great; the most intriguing part of this story will most likely break down the road.

More on that in a bit.

First off … what happened?

Last Tuesday, Facebook discovered a vulnerability, where unknown cyber-assailants gained access to 50 million FB accounts.

The following day, the company reported it to law enforcement; by Thursday, Facebook said the vulnerability was no longer an issue.

This specific exposure had to do with bugs in the “view as” feature which allows users to see their profile as someone else might.

Bug No. 1 had a video upload feature in the “view as” section. Bug No. 2 was involved with the auto log-in function and access tokens that allow you not to have to log in every time you visit the site.

So, what’s going on? What was taken? Who did it? All that is not yet known, which is why (as I said earlier) it will be a while before the cyber-dust settles on this one.

Note the bowling alley carpet; very awesome and perfect for any room.

With Cambridge Analytica, Facebook (and a third party), it took a while before the whole story came out. If this was the work of an amateur hacker (or digital prankster) maybe nothing will come up down the road.

However, if this was the work of a nation state who knows what went down? We may not find out until November. Are they looking to mess (or mettle) with the elections?

Or will there be something else more devious next year?

We have seen so much negative press on Facebook, perhaps we are becoming immune to the severity of breaches — there have been so many. To counter people not taking breaches seriously, I offer a conversation from my day yesterday.

A staffer at a statewide Florida association told me about an email she got that said they know her password and that if she does not give them a set amount in bitcoin they will post her browsing history online and expose the adult sites that she visits.

If you have ever received an email like this, it is bogus, with the exception of the criminal who wrote the email actually having an old password in the email.

Where did they get that password? A LinkedIn breach? Equifax? Who knows, but eventually info from all these breaches makes it to the dark web — and hackers.

The bottom line: Don’t use the same password for different sites, social media, financial etc. Use complex passwords; change them every 30 days. This goes for Facebook as well.

This story is most likely just the beginning, so stay tuned for more in 2019.

Now you may return to all things college football, Brett Kavanaugh, and Andrew Gillum versus Ron DeSantis.

Have a great day.


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

Aegis bowling team, the Lucky Strikes.
Big Brothers Big Sisters board of directors and friends.

Steve Crisafulli: Dorothy Hukill leaves legacy in space and lower taxes

This week, we lost a true public servant in state Sen. Dorothy Hukill.

Dorothy cared deeply for her constituents, and she leaves behind an impressive legacy of expanding economic and educational opportunities for all Floridians.

She was a shrewd and effective legislator who served Brevard and Volusia County families well in the Senate. I had the good fortune of knowing Sen. Hukill for the past 10 years. I first met her while serving together in the Florida House. I quickly came to respect Dorothy for her outstanding negotiating skills, sharp wit and passion for service. Dorothy was a friend and a trusted leader in both the House and Senate.

Dorothy began her political career as a councilwoman for Ponce Inlet and later served as mayor of Port Orange in Volusia County. By the time she got to Tallahassee in 2004, she already intimately understood the legislative process and how to effectively advocate for her constituents. She was proud of the communities she represented. She relished the opportunity to see constituents in Tallahassee, welcoming groups with new inventive signs outside her office every day.

When I arrived in Tallahassee in late 2008, Florida was firmly in the midst of the Great Recession. Dorothy Hukill was one of the House members leading the charge to turn our economy around.

Although Dorothy did not represent Brevard County at the time, she strongly supported the aerospace industry and eagerly helped me pass legislation to attract commercial space opportunities to our area. With Dorothy’s help, we strengthened the economic toolkit of Space Florida, reorganized Space Florida’s board of directors to better position the agency for success, and made it easier to develop facilities at the Kennedy Space Center for commercial space purposes. Dorothy also worked to expand economic incentives for aerospace companies, which were critical in reviving Brevard’s economy.

We should all be grateful for Dorothy’s commitment to the space industry. Her efforts helped lead us where we are today, with a booming commercial aerospace sector that has replaced the space shuttle program with thousands of high-paying, skilled jobs.

In addition to her advocacy for economic development, Dorothy also believed strongly in lowering taxes. Her legacy on tax issues will appear on the ballot this November as Amendment 2, which seeks to extend the annual cap on property tax increases for non-homestead properties, such as businesses and rental units.

Dorothy was one of the legislators responsible for spearheading the effort to put the original tax limitation for non-homestead properties in the state Constitution in 2010. She recognized that, just like homeowners, business owners, renters, and snowbirds could not afford to be hit with punishing property tax increases year after year.

During her last term in the Senate, Sen. Hukill chaired the Education Committee, overseeing policy decisions affecting students from pre-K through college. Education was a true passion of hers, especially in terms of empowering young people to make good decisions.

Dorothy tirelessly advocated for improving financial literacy education. She wanted our state education standards to include more emphasis on money management in high school so students knew how to balance their checkbooks, pay their bills, and understand financial documents when they graduated.

And she was instrumental in expanding educational opportunities for students by restoring full funding for the Bright Futures Scholarship program and offering more school choice options to parents and students in elementary, middle and high school.

While Dorothy only served Brevard County for two years, I can assure you she was strongly focused on another issue important to us: our water. Dorothy had a solid environmental record. She supported efforts to restore the Everglades, protect sensitive lands and beaches, and fund projects to clean up the Indian River Lagoon.

Dorothy Hukill courageously battled cancer while serving Florida families with integrity, determination and commitment. She loved our state, and she loved helping to improve the lives of her constituents. Dorothy led a life well-lived and leaves behind an impressive legacy of service. Our next state senator will have big shoes to fill, indeed.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Senator Dorothy Hukill and her family. May she rest in peace.


Republican Steve Crisafulli is a Merritt Island agri-businessman and former speaker of the Florida House.

Joe Henderson: Florida can’t let #MeToo become yesterday’s news

Can it really be a year ago that Harvey Weinstein was exposed as a scumbag and #MeToo became the hashtag to live by? Titans toppled, old scores settled, secrets exposed.

While here in Florida … um, what? Political careers ruined (see Latvala, Jack).

SB 1628 from Democratic Sen. Lauren Book, tried to create the “Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Harassment and Misconduct.” It cleared the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee and then died in the machinery of delay in the Legislature.

“For far too long,” Book said at the time, “bad actions have been able to hide in the shadows of this process.”

She spoke of the “good ol’ boys club” where women knew to go along to get along and keep quiet — or else.

That’s only part of it. And the Parkland high school massacre moved from #MeToo to mourning the dead in the horrific slaughter of innocents.

So, here we are — a year later, with #metoo fading in the public consciousness even after the seemingly nonstop barrage of news from all angles. Bill Cosby is in prison. Al Franken is now a “former” U.S. Senator.

Powerful CBS Entertainment CEO Les Moonves was forced out following multiple allegations of sexual harassment. Actor Kevin Spacey is disgraced. And now, we have come full circle, with the controversy surrounding allegations against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh ripping open the wounds anew.

Democratic Florida state Sen. Jeff Clemens resigned after admitting to an extramarital affair with a lobbyist. Republican State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto joined with Book in a statement that said such misconduct, “whether in action or in spoken word, has no place in our world and certainly not in our places of work nor in the halls of power.”

Adding all that to the backdrop of President Donald Trump and the long-standing allegations of sexual messiness against him, and we were supposed to witness a movement that changed the world.

But has anything really changed in Florida?

It doesn’t seem so.

There have been many public demonstrations of outrage by women, and more women are stepping into the political arena.

But, Democrat Gwen Graham lost her bid to become Florida’s first female Governor when she was defeated in the primary to Andrew Gillum despite leading in the polls into Election Day, suggesting that voters were more motivated to support Gillum’s progressive agenda.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle publicly denounce any form of sexual harassment, but President Trump has argued that you can’t trust female accusers because they might be lying. Thursday’s FBI report on the Kavanaugh SCOTUS investigation was denounced as too quick, too shallow, too political to be taken too seriously.

Yet, it is likely to put a man on the Supreme Court despite the impassioned appeal by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and others that Kavanaugh sexually harassed them. And Trump mocked Ford at a political rally this week to the cheers of the Republican crowd.

In a few weeks, Florida will choose a new Governor; it’s a coin-toss whether it will be Gillum or Republican Ron DeSantis. No matter which man wins, there will be chatter about the direction the new Governor will take the state on vital issues of the environment, education, health care, taxes, and so on.

What about #MeToo?

Let’s just hope it doesn’t become yesterday’s news in the wake of tomorrow’s headlines.

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