We need a growing economy that works for all Floridians, not just the wealthy and well connected. But all too often our state lawmakers put large campaign donors, corporate special interests and ideological extremism above the needs of everyday Floridians.
Fortunately there are some silver linings among the dark clouds of big-money influence that hang over Tallahassee. That’s why for the sixth consecutive year, Progress Florida has recognized a group of Florida legislators as “Middle Class Champions” for their unwavering support of Florida families.
While there are a number of legislators who are fighting to protect and expand the middle class, Middle Class Champions are a select few who voted the right way 100 percent of the time on the critical bills that affected everyday Floridians during the 2016 session.
They championed issues including expanding access to health care, standing up for our public schools, protecting civil liberties, public safety, and retirement security, stopping fracking, opposing political interference in women’s access to reproductive health care and rejecting a $192 million corporate tax giveaway.
The 2016 “Champions of Florida’s Middle Class” are:
Senators Oscar Braynon (D-Miami Gardens), Dwight Bullard (D-Cutler Bay), Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth), Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa).
Representatives Lori Berman (D-Boynton Beach), Randolph Bracy (D-Orlando), John Cortes (D-Kissimmee), Janet Cruz (D-Tampa), Dwight Dudley (D-St. Petersburg), Joseph Geller (D-Dania Beach), Evan Jenne (D-Hollywood), Mark Pafford (D-West Palm Beach), Sharon Pritchett (D-Miramar), José Javier Rodríguez (D-Miami), Cynthia Stafford (D-Opa Locka), Richard Stark (D-Weston), Victor Manuel “Vic” Torres, Jr. (D-Orlando) and Barbara Watson (D-Miami Gardens).
Berman, Pafford, and Stafford have been named “Champions of Florida’s Middle Class” every year since the award was first given in 2011.
Some high-profile votes that were considered in naming our winners included the ban on local control of fracking (HB 191/SB 318), attack on public schools (HB 7029), attack on access to reproductive health care (HB 1411/SB 1722), guns on campus (HB 4001/SB 68), and the corporate tax giveaway (HB 7099).
It’s easy for any Floridian to be cynical about politics these days. Obscene amounts of corporate campaign cash drown out the voices of hard working, middle class Floridians and those who fight to lift their families out of poverty. Too often we have seen Gov. Rick Scott and his allies in the Legislature stand up for the narrow, greedy agendas of Big Oil, the for-profit school industry, and big developers over what’s truly in the best interests of hard-working Floridians.
Yet, in an environment where virtually every issue of importance to everyday Floridians was under attack by Scott and legislative leaders carrying the water for large campaign donors and corporate lobbyists, the courage of these 18 legislative champions should be applauded.
For the sixth year in a row, award winners are featured at www.MiddleClassChamps.com along with all the votes that earned them this distinction.
Floridians continue to demand an economy that works for all, not just the wealthy. They want legislators who promote values that move our state forward, not regressive ones that restrict access to health care, despoil our environment, and undermine our public schools. That’s why it’s important to take time to thank these legislators who have fought for us day in and day out.
Many of them may sit in the back of the chamber, but there’s no doubt that they stand at the front of the fight for a better Florida.
Mark Ferrulo is Executive Director of Progress Florida Column courtesy of Context Florida.