Tallahassee Rep. Allison Tant tallied a pretty good record for the 2021 Legislative Session, especially considering the odds stacked against her.
“I’m aware that I’m a rank freshman and a Democrat,” Tant said frankly in a post-Session interview with Florida Politics.
Those two labels normally don’t get lawmakers very far in Florida’s Republican-led Legislature. Not to mention Tant previously reigned as chair of the Florida Democratic Party, a prestigious former title that could have easily gone the way of making Tant a target.
“I didn’t want anybody to have any notions that I knew stuff I didn’t know, so I just took everything very slowly,” Tant said. “I did go in very purposefully with a plan to be quiet.”
But it wouldn’t be wholly accurate to say Tant stuck to that plan. While she wasn’t vocal about every hot-button issue, she was vocal about her own priorities.
Tant successfully ushered through three bills, two of which are the result of Tant’s real-life experience with her son Jeremy and his disabilities.
“The life of a parent with a baby with disabilities is a lot of stress, trauma and fear,” Tant said. “A mommy wants to be a mommy and take care of everything the baby needs, and when you can’t, it’s just hard.”
Tant’s son is grown now and still requires a helper to live out his daily life.
“I feel like nobody understands. Nobody has walked down this path in that chamber but me. And so, if I don’t speak up and talk about it, then nobody will understand,” Tant said.
Tant has walked the path of a caregiver searching for resources, a mother balancing the needs of her disabled child with that of her other children, and now, a legislator working to help families like hers.
“With a child with disabilities, the easiest thing in the world to do is glance over and look away — like a car wreck, right? You look at it, and then you take off,” Tant said. “And that’s a very natural reaction, but the fact is we are not helping these families.”
But with Tant’s work this past Session, help might be coming if Gov. Ron DeSantis signs her two bills.
One of the bills (HB 117) directs the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) to create a roadmap of state resources for families of people with disabilities and requires that roadmap to be given to every family with a disabled person, regardless of whether they’re eligible for services or not.
“These are all things that I learned along the course of my son’s path that every child should have the same opportunities for,” Tant said.
Tant’s other bill (HB 173) starts workforce planning for disabled people, sometimes called transition, as early as middle school — that process currently starts in high school — and requires schools to let parents know about transition opportunities.
Tant said she is not done with her work to help people with disabilities. Next Session she plans to work to eliminate the state’s waitlist for services for disabled people and to further work on a bill that did not pass this last Session that deals with guided decision making to help families with people with disabilities make decisions.
“These are the folks that you govern for. These are the folks that there are nothing else for them. And so, I feel like if I am not in there telling this very hard story, and shedding light on what families like mine face, then I shouldn’t have run,” Tant said.