Mark Ferrulo: Florida’s “Middle Class Champions” deserve our thanks

Florida has the wrong leaders running our state with the wrong priorities, leaders such as Gov. Rick Scott and his allies in the Legislature who routinely ignore the needs of everyday Floridians. Bright spots, though, dot an otherwise dark sea of political pandering and corporate kowtowing.

That’s why for the fifth consecutive year Progress Florida has recognized a group of Florida legislators as “Champions of Florida’s Middle Class” for their unwavering support on behalf of Florida’s working families.

 While there are a number of legislators who fight to protect and expand the middle class in Florida, there were 15 who stood out by voting the right way 100 percent of the time on the critical bills that impact everyday Floridians this past legislative session.

Those lawmakers championed a range of issues including expanding access to health care, stopping political interference in women’s access to reproductive health care, standing up for our local public schools, and opposing a budget that, among other things, failed to close Florida’s health care coverage gap or adequately fund land and water conservation as voters mandated under Amendment 1.

These legislators deserve recognition for standing up for Florida’s working families at every turn, despite pressure from Scott and legislative leaders who pushed an extreme ideological agenda at the behest of their corporate campaign contributors.

Here are the 15 lawmakers who, with every one of their votes this legislative session, championed the middle class and those aspiring to be in the middle class:

Rep. Lori Berman (Boynton Beach); Rep. John Cortes (Kissimmee); Rep. Janet Cruz (Tampa); Rep. Reggie Fullwood (Jacksonville); Rep. Joseph Geller (Dania Beach); Rep. Evan Jenne (Hollywood); Rep. David Kerner (Palm Springs); Rep. Mark S. Pafford (West Palm Beach); Rep. José Javier Rodríguez (Miami); Rep. Irving “Irv” Slosberg (Delray Beach); Rep. Cynthia A. Stafford (Opa Locka); Rep. Richard Stark (Weston); Rep. Victor Manuel “Vic” Torres, Jr. (Orlando); Rep. Barbara Watson (Miami Gardens); and Rep. Clovis Watson, Jr. (Gainesville).

Representatives Berman, Pafford, Slosberg and Stafford deserve special distinction for being selected Champions of Florida’s Middle Class every year since the award originated in 2011.

We determined this year’s winners based on their votes on eight different bills that reached the floor of one or more chambers during the 2015 legislative session. The 15 lawmakers who voted the right way 100 percent of the time were awarded the title “Middle Class Champion.” High-profile votes that were considered in selecting the 2015 Champions of Florida’s Middle Class included Medicaid expansion (HB 2-A), online voter registration (SB 228), the mandatory abortion delay (HB 633), protecting Florida’s school system (HB 7037), the anti-gay adoption bill (HB 7111), and the state budget (SB 2500-A).

It’s easy for any Floridian to be cynical about the legislative process. Too often we have seen Scott and lawmakers stand up for big developers, the for-profit school industry, and monopoly utility companies over hard-working middle-class Floridians. We salute these 15 lawmakers who cast every one of their votes in favor of Florida families.

As Florida’s public interest community and allies continue the fight to protect and expand Florida’s middle class, we shouldn’t forget these legislators who are courageously standing and fighting for a Florida that works for all of us, not just the wealthy and politically connected. For a complete list of bills scored, and to send Florida’s 2015 Middle Class Champions a note of thanks, visit www.MiddleClassChamps.com.

Mark Ferrulo is executive director of Progress Florida. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Mark Ferrulo



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