By Bryan Boggiano
Vice Mayor Joshua Simmons spoke out against Florida governance at Wednesday’s City Commission meeting, decrying what he sees as political stunts and a slide toward authoritarianism.
“If you know me, you know that I take our government very seriously.[ly], especially with regard to the foundations of our government and what they are based on, he said. “What we’re seeing here in Florida is a dangerous trend.”
Florida’s separation of powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches is eroding according to Simmons, in particular, he said that out of fear the legislature has yielded to the executive branch.
For Simmons, the current Florida government is going against what he learned in school.
While Simmons says he doesn’t want to sow fear, he says the country’s founders set up the three branches to prevent all-powerful or authoritarian leadership, but in Florida that separation of powers is eroding.
Simmons cited the state’s proposed Congress cards as an example.
“When the legislative branch of our Florida government decides to give up its authority and its job…and hand it over to one person so that person can carry out their own agenda…challenging a federal law…they have it done,” he said. mentioned.
The state legislature proposed several maps, which DeSantis vetoed.
Florida’s 5th congressional district was at the center of the controversy. The legislature originally proposed keeping the district, which stretches from Tallahassee to Jacksonville, intact to ensure representation for black voters in Congress.
DeSantis vetoed the card, saying it was a racial gerrymander. The legislature then redrew the map to include only Jacksonville, but DeSantis also vetoed it, according to FiveThirtyEight.
The Legislature initially retaliated, saying that removing black representation in the state would violate the state’s 2010 Fair Districts Amendment.
But once DeSantis began vetoing, the legislature gave in to his map proposal.
The electoral population of the current district is 44% black and 40% white. The electoral population of the newly approved district is 55% white and 30% black.
Simmons claimed the legislature gave up his authority and his job to give it to DeSantis, whom he did not mention by name, to carry out his own agenda against passing laws that protect minority representation.
“It comes down to voting rights law, it comes down to getting to the polls, it comes down to what so many black Americans fought for in the civil rights movement,” he said. “It’s all… under attack for one person’s political ambitions.”
Simmons also took aim at other state legislative priorities, namely Disney’s opposition to the Parental Rights in Education Bill.
He said the state should focus on skyrocketing rents, high home insurance costs, affordable housing and homelessness.
“How come we have a special session to get rid of a predominantly black congressional district and then open up to attack the House of Mouse?” Simmons said.
The bill, which the Florida Legislature approved and DeSantis signed into law, will ban classroom teaching about gender identity and sexual orientation between kindergarten and third grade, or “in a way that is not appropriate for the age or development of the students in accordance with state standards.”
Critics have dubbed the bill “Don’t Say Gay”, saying it goes against Florida’s LGBTQ community by being vague and potentially excessive.
After the bill passed, Disney pledged to challenge the law’s enactment.
In response, DeSantis expanded the state’s current special session on redistricting to possibly include revoking the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a tract of land that Disney operates independently through the Improvement Act. Reedy Creek.
The state legislature voted to repeal the law in both the House and the Senate. DeSantis signed the repeal on Friday.
“We are now in a place where one person is acting with political retaliation,” Simmons said.
Simmons said that while he speaks out against issues that others might find controversial, he doesn’t oppose people for their political affiliations or differences of opinion.
He said he favors open dialogue with everyone, even those with whom he disagrees. He strongly condemned the divisions pervading the country.
“I respect everyone’s opinion, I respect who they vote for, I don’t get mad at anyone they vote for, I don’t care if it’s your right to vote,” Simmons said. “But when something goes wrong, and it’s something that attacks the foundation on which this country is built…we have to fight against it.”
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A graduate in journalism from the University of Florida, Bryan is pursuing his master’s degree in geosciences at Florida International University. He has a strong interest in weather, entertainment and journalism.