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March 8 is International Women’s Day. To celebrate, hundreds of people from across Florida, including an entire bus from Miami, made the trek to Tallahassee this week to make sure state legislators heard about the issues women are facing in Florida.
So much of our lives are affected by what happens at the state level. So who’s your state senator? Your state representative? You should probably find out who they are if you don’t know, and save their number. Because they need to hear from you.
While there’s so much attention on what’s happening on a national level, what takes place on the state level in the next two months could impact all of us so much more. Florida’s legislative session runs from March 5 to May 3. Outside of the rare special session, practically every law that’s implemented on a statewide level gets passed during these eight weeks. And this year, so many of them will impact women in Florida, particularly immigrant women. One in five Floridians are immigrants, including 2 million immigrant women.
There are some terrible bills out there, but there’s also a lot that could actually make life better for women in Florida. Here’s a breakdown of some of the bills to watch this session:
- Anti-immigrant Local Preemption – HB 527/SB 168 forces government officials to collaborate with ICE, leading to break up and deportation of immigrant families at unprecedented levels. There is no protection for people reporting crimes, such as women calling police due to domestic violence. This bill has been called “a direct threat to Florida’s warm and welcoming reputation” and it could make immigrant communities “significantly less likely to report criminal activity and to cooperate with law enforcement.”
- Six-week Abortion Ban – HB 235/SB 792 bans abortion as early as six weeks, long before most women would even realize their pregnant. Similar bills have already been declared unconstitutional in other states.
- Expanding Financial Aid and Tuition Assistance Grants – HB 457/SB 1234 would expand the eligibility of scholarships and financial aid to DACA and TPS recipients.
- Driver Licenses and Identification Cards – HB 969/SB 1538 allows all immigrants, regardless of status, to apply for driver’s licenses and state IDs. Driving without a license is one of the primary reasons immigrants are detained, such as a mother of eight who is suing the Miami-Dade County after being arrested and held in custody for ICE.
- Florida Trust Act – HB 1303/SB 1566 is the polar opposite of anti-immigrant local preemption. It rebuilds trust and local autonomy by cutting the ties between local law enforcement and ICE.
- Unemployment for Domestic Violence Survivors – HB 563/SB 990 prohibits victims from being disqualified for unemployment benefits if they’re forced to leave their job.
- Dignity for Incarcerated Women – HB 49/SB 332 provides incarcerated and detained women with access to health products and adds safety requirements when interacting with male guards
How can you help? Making calls is a great start. However, one of the most impactful things you can do is join a mobilization to the capitol. Get together with amazing activists from across the state and tell your legislators in person how you feel about the bills they’re voting on. Travel and lodging for most of these mobilizations are completely covered. These are just a couple of the many mobilizations scheduled.
- Black Girls Day at the Capitol – March 13-15
- Muslim Day at the Capitol – April 4
- We Are Florida Lobby Days – March 25-29
Tallahassee’s really far from Miami, but we can’t forget how much of our lives are affected by these whirlwind two months every year. And we can’t let legislators forget, either.