Democrats deride anti-‘woke’ bill as a distraction from real issues
Rep. Ramon Alexander stands and claps with his colleagues during the Florida Legislature's Organization Session at the Florida Capitol Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020.

Organization Session 111720 TS 093
The Governor-inspired effort essentially targets critical race theory.

Democrats are preparing lines of attack against legislation taking aim at “woke” instruction that continues to march through the committee process.

The House bill (HB 7) is expected to go before the House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday. That measure and a similar proposal in the Senate (SB 148) passed out of their first committees earlier this month along partisan lines.

The legislation, filed in part at Gov. Ron DeSantis’ urging, is Florida Republicans’ effort to quell classroom or corporate training discussions they consider “woke” indoctrinations of cultural guilt. During the prior meetings, the bill drew partisan characterizations as either being about freedom from discomfort or a ban of discomforting facts.

As the bill continues to advance in the committee process, Democrats in the House and Senate are working to find ways to expose what House Democratic Whip Ramon Alexander called the bill’s hypocrisies, fallacies and shortsightedness, he told members of the media Monday.

“There’s a lot of gray area and broad-natured language in the bill, and we’re looking forward to not only talking about the part in regards to the education of our future, but also the implications it has on our businesses in regards to them being able to teach courses, diversity training, and what that impact is,” Alexander said.

The legislation is the House’s interpretation of DeSantis’ anti-woke education and business proposals pitched last fall. The Governor’s effort essentially targeted critical race theory.

Alexander called the bill “boogeyman tactics,” a way to avoid discussing jobs, health care, rent and child care. House Democratic Leader Evan Jenne, who Alexander is expected to succeed in November, similarly criticized Republicans’ strategy this Session, the final Session before DeSantis appears on the ballot for re-election.

“It’s a distraction technique,” Jenne said. “The real things that are affecting Floridians on a day-to-day basis — their pocketbook, and how they raise their families — those really aren’t being addressed in this current Legislative Session.”

The House bill, carried by Miami Springs Republican Rep. Bryan Ávila, could go much further than DeSantis discussed. Critics noted its potential impact on the teaching or discussion of other troubling historical events such as the Holocaust or Japanese internment camps.

Additionally, the measure could effectively ban books, classroom materials or classroom discussions if parents believe the materials have subjective spins on historical facts that could cause some students to feel discomfort, guilt or more because of their race. Enforcement would be placed in the hands of parents who, Ávila argued, would first be able to approach teachers to try to resolve concerns.

The bill also extends the same bans to corporate human resources policies and training to stop what Ávila cited as offensive cultural policies reported for such firms as AT&T, Coca-Cola, CBS, Google, Lockheed Martin and Walt Disney Corp.

“The alarming thing about this bill is actually what’s not in the bill,” Alexander said. “There’s nothing that addresses quality-of-life issues such as creating jobs, helping small businesses provide health care, and also addressing the wide range of issues in regards to the skyrocketing increases in rent (and) child care throughout the state of Florida.”

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Scott Powers of Florida Politics contributed to this report.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.



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