With the 2021 Session in the rearview mirror, Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo was unsparing in assessing the work of this year’s Legislature.
“We’ve just had a horrendous Session,” Taddeo told reporters Tuesday.
Like some of her Democratic colleagues, Taddeo criticized the GOP’s policy priorities during Tuesday’s press call, which included measures altering Florida’s election laws and increasing penalties for out-of-hand protests.
Taddeo also laid into Republicans for warnings that Democratic election wins would lead to a socialist and communist agenda and more control over Floridians’ lives. She contrasted those warnings with the new anti-riot bill, which the Governor has already signed into law.
“They just behaved like an authoritarian regime, absolutely pulling down bills that were so regressive, especially when it comes to our First Amendment right to be able to protest,” Taddeo said.
“And look, I represent Miami. I represent an area that has people that have stood up for the things that they have not liked, whether it’s 90 miles away (in Cuba) or right here.”
Those priorities, Taddeo and other activists argued, paled in comparison to the need for additional unemployment help or increased Medicaid expansion. A proposal to raise unemployment benefits from $275 to $375 per week failed, and Republicans again balked at expanding the Medicaid program.
“This is the most politicized Session that I have seen,” added Vanessa Brito, who has worked to assist individuals in securing unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You would think that what has happened over the course of the last year would have softened some of that partisan politics and would have softened the hearts of so many elected officials. But it didn’t, everything was so politicized.”
Ana Sofía Peláez, co-founder of the Miami Freedom Project, called out Gov. Ron DeSantis and other Republican leaders for pushing an election bill (SB 90) that limited the use of ballot drop boxes. While Republicans argued the measure increases ballot security, Democrats framed the push as red meat for Donald Trump supporters who bought into the lie the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him.
Peláez argued that Florida’s actions gave credence to those conspiracy theories, especially given the lack of problems during the last election cycle. DeSantis and other Republican leaders even lauded the state’s election successes in 2020.
“It creates division. We had a highly partisan election. We have deep divisions in our community,” Peláez said of the new bill.
“It’s not directly addressing any kind of systemic failure. It adds more fuel to that fire at a point where we need to move on and we need to be all moving forward together into the recovery from this terrible pandemic.”
Taddeo called out the Governor specifically, accusing him of playing partisan politics to position himself for a presidential run in 2024.
“He pushes laws and things that have nothing to do with the real urgent matters that people are dealing with every single day right now,” Taddeo said.
“We called for a Special Session to deal with unemployment, to deal with the crisis of COVID. And instead, we’re told ‘no.’ But now, we’ll be back in two weeks to deal with gambling.”