The 2021 Legislative Session was a difficult one to swallow for Democrats, given a series of highly contested proposals pushed through by the GOP. But while Rep. Dan Daley joined his Democratic colleagues in decrying measures restricting transgender athletes and changing the state’s election laws, he also found room to push through several policies important to his community, including families affected by the 2018 Parkland shooting.
One of Daley’s biggest legislative wins was a provision attached to a larger school safety bill (HB 7035) which aims to ensure parents receive timely notification when a school threat emerges or has been dealt with.
Daley proposed a bill to increase parental notification rights in February. That bill was released with support from Stand With Parkland, a safety advocacy organization launched by families who lost loved ones in the Stoneman Douglas shooting.
“Ultimately, one of the problems you had with Douglas is you had, for years, this student causing problems, wreaking havoc and people filing complaints with the school,” Daley explained. “And they all just kind of, for the lack of a better way to put it, got swept under the rug. The hope here is that the more information you share with parents, the more pressure you put on the school district to be held accountable and to be transparent with what’s going on and how it’s being handled.”
Daley was successful this year in walking the tightrope so common to Democratic lawmakers as they make up a minority in the Legislature. He spoke out against GOP policy proposals unpopular with the Democratic base while also working with Republicans in charge to advance bipartisan legislation.
Daley secured approval for four local bills and saw four of his other policy measures adopted into larger packages approved by the Legislature.
“I try to be reasonable. I try to deal in the art of the possible in Tallahassee and get things done,” Daley explained in describing his approach during a particularly combative Legislative Session.
“I’m always going to stand firm on my convictions. I’m always going to stand firm for things I believe in, like reasonable gun reform. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t work with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle.”
Democratic lawmakers have not minced words when sharing their thoughts on the recently wrapped Session. Several GOP priorities earned Democrats’ ire. A measure aiming to crack down on riots that Democrats say will chill First Amendment rights was near the top of the list. Another bill barring transgender women and girls from playing on women and girls’ school sports teams was another. And Democrats also argued a bill adjusting Florida’s vote-by-mail rules and limiting the use of drop boxes was unnecessary and limited the right to vote simply to appease believers in Donald Trump’s election conspiracy theories.
On Wednesday, Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo argued Gov. Ron DeSantis was the main driver behind those polarizing items, due in part to his rumored 2024 presidential ambitions. Daley argued that was one of several factors influencing the combativeness of this year’s Session.
“I would say it’s probably three things tied together. It’s (the Governor’s) ambitions and his agenda, and the majority trying to help him. I think it’s the fact that the House and the Senate both picked up seats this last election cycle, so they feel emboldened. Why be moderate when you don’t have to, right? And then third is COVID. You basically shut the Capitol down to the public. So any people who came to speak had to jump through additional hoops, and it’s hard enough to speak in Tallahassee as it is,” Daley explained.
“I think it’s probably the perfect storm of those three things tied together that led to some of the more controversial stuff being passed.”
Still Daley managed to push through several bills. Also attached to the overall school safety bill was a provision from Daley and Democratic Rep. Marie Woodson requiring school ID cards to contain phone or text information for a crisis intervention hotline.
“This is providing some more resources for someone who may be struggling,” Daley said. “Maybe they’re getting bullied, maybe they’re being abused, maybe they’re depressed.”
Daley’s bill on water safety was wrapped into a charter school bill (SB 1028) containing the controversial provision on transgender athletes. The water safety language will require school officials to ask if newly enrolled students are able to swim. If not, a parent or guardian will be provided with information on the importance of swimming and will be pointed to five low-cost or free swim courses nearby.
Daley’s final policy proposal approved this Session was an internship tax credit program rolled into the overall tax package.
“This provides a corporate income tax credit to businesses who hire and pay their interns,” Daley explained.
“The whole concept is you’re giving a kid that may not otherwise be able to afford that internship the opportunity to take an internship that may turn into an entire career. They’re building a relationship with a good Florida business, and the good Florida business is being rewarded for paying their intern and giving that student a shot.”
His four local bills each dealt with similar issues, calling for board members of local districts to be elected.
“This increases transparency, it increases accountability and it puts them to a popular vote just like any other duly elected official in Florida,” Daley said.
The measures alter the election processes for the Coral Springs Improvement District, the Pine Tree Water Control District, the Sunshine Drainage District and the North Springs Improvement District.
With the 2021 Session wrapped, Daley said he’s now turning his attention to the Special Session scheduled for May 17 to deal with the proposed gaming compact. While Daley said he’s not opposed to a new gaming deal, he’s concerned about certain aspects of the deal, particularly those on Standardbred racing.
“I’m going to try to dig in pretty deep in that,” Daley said of the proposed compact. “I just want to make sure we’re getting dealt a good hand here.”