Florida Phoenix – Informed Comment https://www.juancole.com Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Tue, 23 May 2023 04:35:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.7.9 Chinese Immigrants sue over New DeSantis Law in Florida Barring them from Buying Homes or Land https://www.juancole.com/2023/05/chinese-immigrants-desantis.html Tue, 23 May 2023 04:04:31 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=212161

Community members warned lawmakers that the bill was discriminatory


Chinese citizens who live and work in Florida have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a law recently signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis restricting any “foreign principal” from China or six other “countries of concern” from purchasing property in the state.

The suit contends that the law, set to go into effect on July 1, will codify and expand housing discrimination against people of Asian descent in violation of the U.S. Constitution and Fair Housing Act.

The federal lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida, Tallahassee division.

The ACLU of Florida and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund filed the lawsuit in coordination with the Chinese American Legal Defense Alliance on behalf of four citizens of the People’s Republic of China who lawfully reside in Florida, as well as Multi-Choice Realty, a real estate brokerage that primarily serves Chinese and Chinese American clients.

The complaint lists Florida Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson, acting Florida Secretary of the Department of Economic Opportunity Meredith Ivey, and Florida Real Estate Commission Chair Patricia Fitzgerald as defendants. Their agencies are charged with enforcing the law.

The legislation (SB 264) restricts ownership of real estate by Chinese buyers and individuals from the other countries of interest within 10 miles of a military installation or critical infrastructure, with some exceptions.

Foreign principals who already own property within those zones must register with the Florida departments of Agriculture and Consumer Services and Economic Opportunity. Failure to file a “timely registration” is subject to a civil penalty of $1,000 for each day the registration is late and may result in a lien being placed on the property for unpaid penalties.

The House language was co-sponsored by Miami Republican David Borrero and Palm Beach County Democrat Katherine Waldron and received bipartisan support in both chambers. In the House, nearly half of the Democratic Caucus joined all of the Republicans in supporting the measure.

But the bill was severely criticized by Chinese Americans throughout the state, including dozens who testified in person against the bill during one committee meeting, with many of them expressing concern about being discriminated against when purchasing real estate. Some warned it would lead to hate crimes.

“All Asian Americans will feel the stigma and the chilling effect created by this Florida law, just like the discriminatory laws did to our ancestors more than a hundred years ago,” said Clay Zhu, an attorney with DeHeng Law Offices P.C., in a written statement. “We shall not go back.”

Similar bills have been debated in state legislatures around the country as tensions between the Chinese and U.S. governments have escalated in recent years, but Florida is the first state to pass such a measure. Waldon told the House State Affairs Committee last month that the measure was meant to be “proactive and not reactive.” She referred to recent events including the U.S. Department of Justice’s arrest of two Americans for operating a secret Chinese police station in New York City.

“Florida is taking action to stand against the United States’ greatest geopolitical threat — the Chinese Communist Party,” DeSantis said in a press release after he signed the bill earlier this month.

“I’m proud to sign this legislation to stop the purchase of our farmland and land near our military bases and critical infrastructure by Chinese agents,” he continued, adding that “we are following through on our commitment to crack down on Communist China.”

Ethnic discrimination alleged

Although the law specifies that such land cannot be purchased by foreign principals from China or Russia, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, or Syria, the lawsuit claims that the law defines those areas are so broadly “that they bar affected individuals from being able to purchase property across much of the state.”

“The central feature of the new law is that it broadly prohibits Chinese persons from purchasing or acquiring any real property, or interests in real property, within Florida based on their race, ethnicity, color, alienage, and national,” the suit says. [Emphasis in original.]

The suit lists the specific circumstances of the four plaintiffs. None are citizens or permanent residents of the United States or members of the Chinese government or the Chinese Communist Party, it says.

  • Yifan Shen holds a H-1B visa for nonimmigrant workers. She has lived in Florida for four years. She has signed a contract to buy a single-family home in Orlando which “appear to be located within 10 miles of a critical infrastructure facility and within five miles of a military installation.” She is set to close on the home in December, after the law’s effective date. The suit says she stands to lose all or part of her $25,000 deposit if forced to cancel her real estate contract.
  • Xhiming Xu was persecuted by the Chinese government and fled to the United States. He has lived in Florida for four years. In early 2023, he signed a contract to buy a single-family home near Orlando that “appears to be located within 10 miles of a critical infrastructure facility.” The closing date is some time after July. The suit says he stands to lose all or part of his $31,250 deposit.
  • Xinxi Wang holds an F-1 visa, a nonimmigrant document for international students and has lived in Florida for five years. She own a property in Miami which “appears” to be located within 10 miles of a critical infrastructure facility. She is subject to the law’s registration requirement, which the suit claims is “burdensome, discriminatory, and stigmatizing to Ms. Wang.”
  • Yongxin Liu holds an HB-1 visa and has lived in Florida for four years. He is an assistant professor at a Florida university and own a property close to Daytona Beach. Because his property “appears” to be located within 10 miles of a critical infrastructure facility, the registration requirement is “burdensome, discriminatory, and stigmatizing to Mr. Liu.”
  • The suit says that Liu plans to purchase a second home in Pelican Bay near a critical infrastructure facility. “Mr. Liu reasonably fears that real estate agents will refuse to represent him because he is Chinese, and that his search for real estate will be more costly, time-consuming, and burdensome as a result.”

The suit asserts that Multi-Choice Reality, a real estate brokerage that primarily serves Chinese-speaking clients in the United States and China, was involved in 74 property acquisitions in 2022, most of which for Chinese or Chinese American clients. The firm says the new law will force it to lose one-third of its business.

A spokesperson for Agriculture Commissioner Simpson said the department is “currently reviewing the lawsuit.”

The Department of Economic Opportunity did not respond to a request for comment, while the Phoenix could not reach the Real Estate Commission for comment.

Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.

Published under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

Bernie Sanders unveils push for $17-an-hour federal minimum wage, citing state increases https://www.juancole.com/2023/05/sanders-unveils-increases.html Mon, 08 May 2023 04:40:19 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=211856
DeSantis ramping up his campaign against Disney, accusing it of “Sexualizing Children,” closeness to “Chinese Communism” https://www.juancole.com/2023/05/sexualizing-closeness-communism.html Tue, 02 May 2023 04:02:55 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=211733  

( Florida Phoenix) – The legal fight between Gov. Ron DeSantis and The Walt Disney Co. broadened Monday when a board hand-picked by the governor voted to countersue the company over its development plans.

The move came less than a week after Disney filed a First-Amendment lawsuit accusing the government of political retaliation after it criticized last year’s Parental Rights in Education Act, or “Don’t Say Gay,” restricting discussion of LGBTQ+ issued in public schools.

The new Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board voted to defend the lawsuit that Disney filed Wednesday in federal court in Tallahassee and also to sue Disney directly in state court, according to published reports.

DeSantis said following the vote that he’d had no advance notice of the new round of litigation but is all for it.

Gov. Ron DeSantis held a news conference on May 1, 2023, in Titusville. Source: Screenshot/DeSantis Facebook


“I saw the report [about the vote]. I didn’t know that they necessarily were doing that. But I think what they’re gonna do is just say, here is why it’s invalid. Of course, the Legislature is also going to invalidate it,” DeSantis said during a news conference called so he could sign “law and order” legislation.

He accused critics of his treatment of one of Florida’s largest employers of “trying to pursue an agenda and trying to pursue a narrative” against him.

“The reality is, there’s a lot of people who always used to criticize this arrangement that Disney had as being corrupt, of being unfair. And then the minute I was the one to come in and help unwind it, then they flipped just because they want to go against me. That’s just their partisanship that’s showing,” he said.

“You’re seeing people shill for a multinational corporation to have special benefits and corporate welfare as if that is something that’s really important.”

Disney’s federal lawsuit alleges that DeSantis launched a “targeted campaign of government retaliation” against the company. “In America, the government cannot punish you for speaking your mind,” the brief reads.

The lawsuit asks the court to invalidate legislation passed earlier this year dissolving the Reedy Creek Improvement District, created by the Legislature in the late 1960s to allow Disney to run its own government in areas where the company operates amusement parks and other developments.

Disney’s lawsuit

In that district’s place, the legislation created the Central Florida district. But, just before that board became active, Reedy Creek voted to adopt development agreements returning to Disney the right to decide how to build on its property.

Disney’s suit also names acting Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Secretary Meredith Ivey and all five members of the Central Florida board.

“It’s been very disappointing to watch this particular company, what they’ve done by advocating things like the sexualization of children, very close relationship with the Chinese Communist Party. That’s all very problematic, but at the end of the day it’s about good governance,” the governor said.

Disney had come out against 2022’s Parental Rights in Education Act, also known as “Don’t Say Gay,” barring any mention of sexual orientation or gender identify in K-12 public schools in certain grades.

DeSantis’ supporters accused opponents of that law of trying to “groom” young children — a word formerly reserved for adults who try to lure kids into sex.

Disney, like a lot of U.S. corporations, does business in China.

Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal.


Via Florida Phoenix

Published under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

Climate Change makes ‘Florida Rain-bombs’ more Common, as DeSantis would Know if he had bothered to Visit Ft Lauderdale https://www.juancole.com/2023/04/desantis-bothered-lauderdale.html Sun, 23 Apr 2023 04:02:45 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=211522

Governor Ron DeSantis and Republican Legislature focus only on coping with sea level rise, ignore other effects of warming climate

Craig Pittman
Craig Pittman
( Florida Phoenix)- If you live in Florida, you never suffer from an irony deficiency. Case in point: Flood managers from across the nation gathered in South Florida last week for a conference — only to run into the region’s worst flooding in yeeeeeeeeears.

(Hey, do you think we can get the nation’s lottery managers to meet at my house? Just asking.)

We’re accustomed to a little rain here in Florida. We call ourselves the Sunshine State, but that’s a lie we made up to fool the tourists.

Most of our cities get more annual rainfall than famously drizzly Seattle. Four show up on the top 10 list of the rainiest cities in America: Pensacola, West Palm Beach, Miami, and Tallahassee.

But what hit Fort Lauderdale last week was the kind of storm that would make Noah start rounding up animals: nearly 26 inches in 24 hours.

My grandmother used to talk about storms so heavy she called them “toad-frog stranglers.” I think this one was so big it strangled a whole army of amphibians.

Fort Lauderdale airport flooding, via screen grab of Dylan Huberman Twitter


Some news stories referred to it as a “rain-bomb,” which sounds fairly accurate for the amount of damage it caused. The airport shut down, schools closed, scores of people abandoned their cars and fled their waterlogged homes.

“If the numbers hold up, Wednesday’s storm will go down in the history books,” the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported. “The previous record for 24-hour rainfall for Fort Lauderdale was 14.59 inches, set in 1979.”

Bear in mind that that record-shattering rainfall hit right after three days of storms that deposited more than 31 inches of downpour in Broward County’s drainage system. Bear in mind, too, that rampant development has covered much of the once-porous landscape with concrete, making the flooding worse.

But wait, we’re not done!

On Sunday, so much rain fell on West Palm Beach in 24 hours that it broke a record set in 1897. The monsoon that hit there included “tropical storm-force gusts, sprinkles of ice, and booming thunder,” thanks to “an explosive 35,069 lightning events,” The Palm Beach Post reported.

The aftermath of such a deluge is obvious. Regional waterways are now so full of pollution they’re filthier than a gas station toilet. Meanwhile, so much standing water seems likely to breed a bumper crop of disease-bearing mosquitoes.

After reading all these soggy stories, I called up David Zierden, who serves as our state climatologist (Yes, we really have one! Don’t tell the politicians!)

As I suspected, he said those heavy rainstorms are showing us just one aspect to the alterations that climate change has brought our world.

David Zierden via FSU.


“A warmer atmosphere holds more moisture to feed these heavy rainfall events,” he told me.

Between the increasingly heavy storms that send rivers cascading down the streets and the rising sea level pushing up into the storm drains, coastal Florida towns are hip-deep in big trouble and sinking fast.

Zierden is far from the only climate expert singing this rain song.

“The literature is very clear that those [storms] are increasing in intensity, frequency, and sometimes also duration,” Andreas Prein, a project scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, told the Miami Herald. “We see this in observational records, in our modeling analysis and we understand this well theoretically.”

Fort Lauderdale flooding, via Florida DOT District 4 Twitter

Toward the end of our phone call, Zierden added a chilling postscript for anyone who knows what the Florida weather calendar looks like between May 1 and October 1:

“We’re not even into the rainy season yet.”

What if we were evacuating?

Irony showers down on us in Florida even more heavily than storms do.

For example, one of the people who got caught unprepared by last week’s flooding was Jennifer Jurado, Broward County’s own chief resilience officer.

“Resilience,” by the way, is government-speak for “trying to cope with the effects of climate change.”

“I was supposed to be flying to a climate change conference in New Hampshire,” she told me. “Rather than stop by home, I thought I would go straight to the airport. But I couldn’t make it very far at all.”

She managed to drive through and around flooded areas and at last her car made it onto the elevated Interstate 95. That’s when she said to herself, “Well, I’ve made it.”

On the plus side, she was now higher than the flooded local streets clogged with abandoned cars and trucks. On the minus side, lots of other motorists had joined her on the interstate, trying to get somewhere despite the blinding rainfall.

“I did 25 mph all the way home,” she said. “I live in Hollywood and I finally made it to the exit ramp. But then it turned out that the exit ramp was flooded.”

Jennifer Juraldo via Linkedin.


Her car conked out just short of her destination. It’s in the shop now, she said. Because there are so many other home and auto claims from last week, an insurance adjuster can’t get to the garage to give her an estimate on the damage until the end of the month.

Broward County is pretty far along with building a larger stormwater system to handle the increased flooding of this modern era. But no pipes or pumps they’re building now are large enough to handle the runoff from getting 26 inches of rain in 24 hours. Still, it could have been worse.

“One of the many lessons here,” Jurado said, “is that it’s one thing to get stranded when you’re trying to get home. But what if this happened while we we’re all trying to evacuate ahead of a hurricane?”

Hurricane season, in case you don’ t know, starts June 1.

Bust out the white waders!

While the rainy season and hurricane season are still a little ways away, we’ve already started campaign season (or as my mom aways referred to it, “the silly season”).

Florida Gov. Ron “Buy My Book So I Can Avoid Going Home” DeSantis attracted a lot of criticism last week for not showing up in Fort Lauderdale during the devastating disaster. I was sorry to see this, primarily because it hurts my campaign to convince everyone to call him “Gov. DeSastrous.”

One Sun-Sentinel editor wrote a column headlined, “Where was DeSantis when Broward needed him?”

“Jeb Bush would have stood in the middle of State Road 84, right in front of Lester’s Diner, helping a motorist get out of her stranded Subaru,” columnist Steve Bousquet wrote. So where was DeSantis? “Up in Akron, of all places, giving another ’ain’t-I-great’ speech to hundreds of Republicans.”

The problem with expecting our pudding-fingered chief executive to grab hold of the steering wheel of state to rescue folks from the floodwaters is that it requires something he does not possess. He lacks the necessary level of engagement with actual people, rather than adoring campaign backers.

This perpetual political lightweight would have to embrace something more substantive than threatening to build a state prison next to Disney World. Or commenting about how he’s stopped drinking Bud Lite and now prefers Guinness (apparently unaware of that beermaker’s politics).

He also might be avoiding the floodwaters because he’s shy about showing up again in those shiny white waders his wife picked out for him to wear last year in Arcadia.

No, he’s far more comfortable standing in front of a supportive crowd ranting about “woke” this and “woke” that. You notice he never bothers to explain what he means by that term. Honestly, whenever he starts talking about “woke,” it always reminds me of Groucho Marx singing, “Whatever it is, I’m against it.”

Sea-level rise is evident in this photo of a flooded palm tree taken on the Panhandle’s St. Vincent Island. Credit: Susan Cerulean


These floods expose the flaw in his preferred method of dealing with Florida’s climate change fight: Talk about “resilience,” spend millions on pumps and pipes to help the coastal areas cope with sea level rise, and ignore all the other symptoms, such as rising temperatures and heavier rainfall.

Meanwhile, he (and other Florida politicians) actively defend the cause of our watery woes: the fossil fuel industry whose emissions are messing up our atmosphere.

The way our chief executive talks about the oil and gas industry, he sounds like he’s itching to prove his manhood by sucking all the exhaust fumes straight from a Hummer’s tail pipe.

Glug glug glug goes your pocketbook

Even if you love the governor the way Lynyrd Skynyrd said Birmingham loved George Wallace, even if you scoff at all this talk about how climate change is wrecking Florida, you should care about this.

Why? Because all this increased flooding is draining your pocketbook. Can you hear it? It’s going “glug glug glug…”

Florida homeowners were already paying three times the national average for property insurance before Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole blasted through the state last year.

Lots of flooding followed those hurricanes, some of it hitting places far from the coast. Some houses remain flooded six months later. Lots of insurance claims filed over that flooding wound up being denied because the policies covered wind but not water damage.

As a result, the Legislature voted back in December to require the 1.2 million customers of the state’s insurer of last resort, Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, to buy flood insurance. — the first mandate of its kind in the country.

It doesn’t matter whether you live in a flood zone or not. The law says you will have to spend extra to get a policy to protect your property against the kind of thing that happened in Fort Lauderdale last week.

“There’s no safe spot in Florida when it comes to flooding,” a plain-talking spokesman for the Insurance Information Institute told WTSP-TV. “We could have storms like that in any part of Florida at any time of year.”

Incidentally, most flood insurance policies currently providing coverage in Florida are underwritten by the National Flood Insurance Program. And who runs the National Flood Insurance Program? The governor’s greatest nemesis: the federal government. Specifically, it’s the Federal Emergency Management Agency., aka “The People Who Bring in Those Ugly Trailers After the Hurricane.”

So guess who’s paying for settling all those flood claims filed by people in Florida: You, the taxpayer.

Meanwhile, a gracious plenty of insurance companies discovered they were unable to handle all these claims. They have reacted like an expensive tropical fish in a stagnant aquarium — they went belly up.

So many of those companies have failed to pay claims that the state has slapped a 1 percent surcharge on all the other property insurance policies to cover the cost of those unpaid claims. That, of course, pushes those too-high bills just a little higher.

The governor and Legislature’s answer to the state’s daunting insurance crisis? Make it harder and more expensive for you and me to sue the insurance companies.

Even a certain wealthy club-owner in Palm Beach blasted this as an industry bailout. Meanwhile, the rest of us are left to do the other kind of bailing out, one bucket at a time.

Tim Cerio, President, CEO and Executive Director of Citizens Property Insurance Corporation. Credit: Citizens Property Insurance Corp.


Fear not, though, citizens who insure with Citizens! I have a commonsense solution for all this increased flooding caused by alterations in our climate.

Put up your brolly!

When you hear the first drops of rain pitter-pattering on your roof, what do you reach for?

I, personally, grab a raincoat. But a lot of people reach for an umbrella. Or, if you’re sultry pop star Rihanna, an “umbrella-ella-ella-ay-ay.”

Whether it’s a little collapsible brolly or a full-size Patrick McNee-style bumbershoot, this expanding mechanism of metal and fabric will provide you with portable protection against precipitation.

Clearly, then, what we in Florida need to do is to build a series of ginormous umbrellas all over the place. Then, when those rain-bombs go off, government employees — maybe even the governor’s revived Florida stormtroopers! — can race around and raise the shields.

The cascade of water from the latest toad-frog strangler will simply slide off the sides and into the various canals, creeks, rivers, and other waterways scattered around the state. That way we could preserve the roadways and airports for continued dry-land use.

What? You think a system of big umbrellas to cover South Florida sounds silly?

I think it makes just as much sense as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to spend billions of dollars building six miles of walls up to 13-feet high  around the South Florida coast to protect it from rising sea levels.

You know what strikes me as silly? That our elected leaders go grasping for these incredibly expensive engineering solutions to climate change rather than take any steps to cut back on fossil fuels.

Despite the growing popularity of solar power and electric vehicles, they protect the old polluters who have been aiding their campaigns. They’d rather do that than help the people who are suffering.

There’s a word for that. As Alanis Morrisette would say, it’s like a rain-bomb on your wedding day.

Craig Pittman
Craig Pittman

Craig Pittman is a native Floridian. In 30 years at the Tampa Bay Times, he won numerous state and national awards for his environmental reporting. He is the author of six books. In 2020 the Florida Heritage Book Festival named him a Florida Literary Legend. Craig is co-host of the “Welcome to Florida” podcast. He lives in St. Petersburg with his wife and children.

Via Florida Phoenix

Published under a Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

Florida Legislature approves extreme 6-week Abortion Ban, after Weeks of Protests and Debates https://www.juancole.com/2023/04/legislature-approves-abortion.html Fri, 14 Apr 2023 04:04:09 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=211337

In less than a year, Florida has moved from a 15-week abortion ban to the passage of one of the most restrictive bans in the nation — a 6-week abortion ban.

The state House approved the legislation after at least six hours of questions, amendments, debate, protests and a final vote that will clear the way for Gov. Ron DeSantis to consider the bill. The Senate had already approved the ban earlier in April.

The pivotal piece of legislation is already garnering attention and scrutiny, including from the Biden administration.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre provided a statement that includes:

“Florida’s Republican supermajority-controlled legislature sent an extreme and dangerous new abortion ban to Governor DeSantis’s desk for signature. The ban flies in the face of fundamental freedoms and is out of step with the views of the vast majority of the people of Florida and of all the United States.”

“This ban would prevent four million Florida women of reproductive age from accessing abortion care after six weeks — before many women even know they’re pregnant. This ban would also impact the nearly 15 million women of reproductive age who live in abortion-banning states throughout the South, many of whom have previously relied on travel to Florida as an option to access care.”

Kara Gross, ACLU of Florida’s legislative director and senior policy counsel, stated: “The Florida Legislature just passed a near-total abortion ban, even though Floridians overwhelmingly support safe, legal, and accessible abortion care … Gov. DeSantis has made it clear that he intends to ignore the will of the people and continue to harm pregnant Floridians by further restricting their access to care, despite the fact that two-thirds of Floridians support the right to this necessary medical care.”

The House chamber adopted the Senate’s version of the bill, SB 300, and lawmakers voted 70 to 40, with several Republican House members voting against the bill, and nine lawmakers — Republicans and Democrats alike — who didn’t vote.

Most of the lawmakers who spoke in favor of the legislation were men.

Only four women argued in support of the bill — and two of them sponsored the legislation in the House.

The legislation has exceptions for victims of rape, incest and human trafficking. Those victims would be subjected to the 15-week timeframe that Florida law currently imposes to terminate the pregnancy.

The 6-week abortion ban has other restrictions: People would have to obtain an abortion in the presence of a physician, even for medically-induced abortions, creating additional hurdles for people seeking an abortion within the proposed six-week time frame.

Telehealth services to obtain an abortion, even medically-induced abortions, are prohibited. Patients could not receive medically-induced abortions through the mail either.

Black women discuss abortion

Rep. Kiyan Michael, a Republican who represents part of Duval County, was one of the only females who stood up and voiced her support of the legislation during the hours of debate. She is a Black woman and said that she finds it appalling that people are fighting to “continue exterminating, to continue killing Black babies” through abortions.

Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka (left) and Rep. Jennifer Canady (right) discussing SB 300 on April 13, 2023. The two women were primary sponsors of the 6-week abortion ban. The House ultimately approved the legislation. Credit: Danielle J. Brown

“‘A woman’s right to choose’ — I’ve heard people talk about that. Well, that right to choose begins before you have sex. It should not be after you have sex,” Michael said. “I’ve heard… ‘abortion is health care,’ but how does health care end with a dead baby? Makes absolutely no sense.”

State Rep. Fentrice Driskell. Credit: FL House of Representatives.


The House Democrat leader, Rep. Fentrice Driskell, also a Black woman, argued in favor of abortion access.

“As a Black woman, who’s also heard those old-tired arguments — that abortion is a way to suppress the Black population – no, no, it’s not any of that,” Driskell said in opposition of the bill.

“Abortion’s health care. Plain and simple. Health care that women enjoyed the right to for over 50 years. It was protected for 50 years. It was nearly 50-years protected…until the Supreme Court threw it out. Regardless of how you feel on this issue as Americans, we should all be concerned. When we have a Supreme Court taking rights away, I’m concerned about the direction that this nation is heading in.”

Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby, a Democrat who represents part of the Tampa Bay area, said that reproductive justice and abortion helps women have the right to either have children, or not.

“Reproductive justice is the belief that all women and birthing people have the right to have children. Have the right not to have children,” said Rep. Rayner-Goolsby. “Have the right to nurture that child and have the right to nurture that child in a safe healthy environment. With this bill we are removing people’s bodily autonomy and making decisions about one of the most personal health care situations.”

Personal stories

Rep. Dana Trabulsy, a Republican who represents part of St. Lucie County, spoke in support of SB 300. She briefly discussed the regret she’s felt about her seeking abortion when she was younger, a story that she told lawmakers in 2022 when the Legislature approved Florida’s current 15-week abortion ban.

“My own story was about my own regret with my own decision to have an abortion, when I was younger…when I made the wrong decision and I live with that regret every day. And I’m not gonna retell that story again, but what I am gonna tell you is since I told that story last year, I cannot even count the number of emails I’ve gotten, the number of phone calls I’ve taken, and the number I’ve doors I knocked on during election time, where women have opened up to me and told me a story similar.”

State Rep. Kelly Skidmore, a Democrat representing part of Palm Beach County. Credit: House of Representatives.


Rep. Kelly Skidmore, a Democrat who represents part of Palm Beach County, urged lawmakers to stay out of personal medical decisions of those who are pregnant.

“I have a story and it’s my story — and quite frankly it’s none of your business, and I don’t need to share it with you to make it real, because it’s real to me,” Rep. Skidmore said.

“I don’t need your advice on my personal health care choices. I don’t want or need your presence in my exam room. My sisters don’t want your advice or presence in their exam room. And my daughter doesn’t want your advice or presence in her exam room,” she added.

“We don’t need your help putting on our paper gowns. We don’t need your help putting our feet in ice cold stirrups. I don’t need you peering over my shoulder or peeking under the sheet. Don’t want an abortion? Don’t have one. Keep your sanctimonious opinions for your own family and stay out of mine. Save your Bible verses for teaching your own family and stay out of mine, and I’ll stay out of yours,” Skidmore continued.

Restricting rights or preserving ‘life’?

Rep. Felicia Robinson, a South Florida Democrat, “I’m speaking to all the women — not just here, in this chamber — that’s in Florida. Are we truly trying to go back? If they take this right away from us, who’s to say they’re not going to say that we don’t have the right to vote one day? Or we don’t have the right to go to work one day?”

“You know, there was a time when they wanted a woman to be — what? Barefoot and pregnant and in the kitchen. We’re not going back. So you best watch out, because it always starts with one thing.”

Rep. Marie Paule Woodson, a South Florida Democrat, argued that if a women can carry a child, why can’t she make her own decisions regarding abortion and pregnancy?

“I believe that I can make a decision for myself, because I came to this United States by myself,” Woodson argued. She was born in Port-de-Paix, Haiti, according to the House of Representatives website.

“I am deeply offended by the fact that we are sitting here thinking that a woman cannot decide for herself. That a daughter cannot decide for herself,” Woodson said. “I have a 22-year-old daughter. Guess what? She is very smart. She’s very bright and she knows, if facing a similar situation, she will be able to decide for herself. I, as a mother, won’t even interfere, because she’s 22 and she can make that decision for herself.”

Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka, a Republican who carried the bill in the House, said that the Florida Legislature has “the opportunity to lead the national debate about the importance of protecting life and giving every child the opportunity to be born and find his or her purpose.”

“For the past 50 years, we’ve had a culture grow in this nation — a culture of abortion, for any reason, at any time,” she said.

“This culture refuses to discuss when is the life of an unborn child important? When does his or her life matter? This culture refuses to discuss… that abortions can have serious repercussions on the women who undergo the procedure especially later in term,” Persons-Mulicka claimed. “It is physically dangerous and is mentally and psychologically dangerous to these women. Well, today as a woman, as a mother, as a sister, as a friend, as a legislator — I stand in front of you and I choose to lead.”

Who didn’t vote:

Fabián Basabe, Republican, representing part of Miami-Dade County.

Robert Charles “Chuck” Brannan III, Republican, representing the counties of Baker, Bradford, Columbia, Union, and Part of Alachua.

Kimberly Daniels, Democrat, representing part of Duval County.

Dotie Joseph, Democrat, representing part of Miami-Dade County.

Traci Koster, Republican, representing part of Hillsborough County.

Fiona McFarland, Republican, representing part of Sarasota County.

James Vernon “Jim” Mooney, Jr., Republican, representing Monroe County and part of Miami-Dade County.

Paula A. Stark, Republican, representing parts of Orange, Osceola counties

Cyndi Stevenson, Republican, part of St. Johns County.

Republicans against the bill:

Michael Caruso, Republican, representing part of Palm Beach County

Karen Gonzolez Pittman, Republican, representing part of Hillsborough County

Peggy Gossett-Seidman, Republican, representing part of Palm Beach County

Sam Killebrew, Republican, representing part of Polk County

Chip LaMarca, Republican, representing part of Broward County

Vicki Lopez, Republican, representing part of Miami-Dade County

Rick Roth, Republican, representing part of Palm Beach County

Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown

Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University. She has served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine and Rowland Publishing. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat.


Published under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

U.S. Senate in bipartisan Vote repeals decades-old Iraq War Authorizations, But Marco Rubio voted ‘No’ https://www.juancole.com/2023/03/bipartisan-repeals-authorizations.html Thu, 30 Mar 2023 04:08:35 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=210998

U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott of Florida voted no on the bill.

( Florida Phoenix) – WASHINGTON — U.S. senators revoked their approval for the Gulf and Iraq wars on Wednesday, taking a broadly bipartisan vote to repeal the Authorizations for Use of Military Force that have stayed on the books years after the two wars ended.

The 66-30 vote sends the measure to the U.S. House, where Speaker Kevin McCarthy remains lukewarm on the repeal effort, though he’s indicated a similar bill could move through the Foreign Affairs Committee and to the floor. Eighteen Republicans joined Democrats and independents in the Senate vote.

U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott of Florida voted no on the bill, according to a roll call vote.

President Joe Biden backs efforts to repeal the 1991 authorization for the use of military force in the Gulf War and the 2002 authorization against Iraq, and would likely sign the legislation if lawmakers reach a final bipartisan agreement.

The Senate vote to sunset the two Iraq War military authorizations doesn’t repeal a third and separate 2001 AUMF that Congress passed following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That military authorization, originally used for the war in Afghanistan, has since been used by several presidents to justify counterterrorism military operations around the world.

McCarthy, a California Republican, said last week he supports repealing the Iraq War AUMF and expects a bill to do just that will move through the House Committee on Foreign Affairs before heading to the floor in that chamber.

“I was not here to vote on either of the creation of those, but you’re 20 years into this now. I think it’s very healthy that we take this up and look at this,” McCarthy said from the House Republican retreat in Florida.

McCarthy said he supports keeping the 2001 authorization for the global war on terror in place.

“I support keeping the worldwide AUMF, so there’s action that can be taken if there’s a terrorist anywhere in the world. But Iraq, we’re 20 years into it, I don’t have a problem repealing that,” McCarthy said.

That’s a change from June 2021 when McCarthy voted against a bill that would have repealed the 2002 Iraq war AUMF. The House, then controlled by Democrats, passed the measure following a 268-161 vote, but the Senate never took up the bill.

McConnell opposed

The Republican-controlled House advancing the measure could be politically tricky with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, vehemently opposed to Congress repealing the Iraq military authorizations over concerns about Iran and Middle East foreign policy.

“While the Senate’s been engaged in this abstract, theoretical debate about rolling back American power, Iran has continued its deadly attacks on us. Just last week a suspected Iranian attack killed one American and wounded six more in Syria,” McConnell said in a written statement. “Some in America may think our war against terrorism is sunsetting, but clearly the terrorists do not agree.”

Despite McConnell’s objections, Senate debate on the measure this week was broadly bipartisan.

Republican Sen. Todd Young of Indiana, an original co-sponsor, said during floor debate Wednesday that Iraq is no longer the enemy it was 20 years ago, but “a strategic partner, an ally in advancing stability across the Middle East.”

“A lot has changed in the last 20 years and yet according to our laws today we are still at war with Iraq,” Young said. “This isn’t just the result of an oversight, it’s an intentional abdication of this body of its constitutional role in America’s national security.”

Allowing the military authorizations to stay in place, Young contended, would be a “strategic mistake,” in part because Iran is trying to establish a path to the Mediterranean Sea that would run through Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.

“Iraq cannot follow this path,” Young said. “It cannot become a satellite of Iran. And Iran cannot be permitted unrestricted access across the region.”

Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, who sponsored the bill, noted during debate that 4,500 Americans died during the Iraq war and more than 31,000 troops were wounded. He also noted that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians were killed.

Kaine said that motivations for the war — specifically that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction — proved not to be true.

Kaine argued that Congress rushed into authorizing military action in Iraq, noting the 2002 AUMF moved through the House in a week and was pending before the Senate for three days before it was approved.

“The Senate voted to go to war, a war that has had massive consequences, with a total of three days of analysis,” Kaine said, later noting he believes that many of the challenges the United States faced during the war began with that rush.

“I am very dedicated to the proposition — and I have been since I came here — that the United States and the Article 1 branch of Congress, we should never be pushed into a war and we should never be rushed into a war,” Kaine said.

GOP senators in support

Republican Sens. Mike Braun of Indiana, Ted Budd of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Steve Daines of Montana, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Josh Hawley of Missouri, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Mike Lee of Utah, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Roger Marshall and Jerry Moran of Kansas, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Eric Schmitt of Missouri, J.D. Vance of Ohio and Young of Indiana voted to pass the measure along with Democrats.

Senators rejected 11 amendments over the last week, including amendments from Rubio and Scott:

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio’s amendment was rejected following a 32-63 vote. It would have delayed repeal until 30 days after Biden certifies that “Iran has stopped providing financial, technical, and material support to terrorist organizations and other violent groups in Iraq and Syria.”

Senators voted 33-62 to reject an amendment from Florida GOP Sen. Rick Scott that would have created a 12-member Joint Select Committee on Afghanistan, with each of the congressional leaders nominating three lawmakers to the panel. The committee would have been tasked with issuing a report on the 2021 withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan following two decades of war.

The Senate passed a key procedural hurdle earlier this month when lawmakers voted 68-27 to advance the bill toward final passage, though behind-the-scenes debate about amendment debate slowed passage until Wednesday.

Via Florida Phoenix

Jennifer Shutt
Jennifer Shutt

Jennifer covers the nation’s capital as a senior reporter for States Newsroom. Her coverage areas include congressional policy, politics and legal challenges with a focus on health care, unemployment, housing and aid to families.


Published under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

Texas Plaintiffs targeting Abortion Pill want Judge to Overrule FDA: Why that might not even be Possible https://www.juancole.com/2023/03/plaintiffs-targeting-possible.html Thu, 23 Mar 2023 04:02:44 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=210850 By:

( Florida Phoenix) – At the center of the federal anti-abortion lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is the abortion drug mifepristone and the regimen that reportedly accounts for the majority of abortions in post-Roe America. That’s why the whole country is bracing itself for a ruling from a notoriously anti-abortion judge in Amarillo, Texas.

The attention and confusion around this case might end up being the most impactful aspects about it, as many legal scholars doubt the judge has the legal authority to do what plaintiffs are asking for, which boils down to forcing the FDA to essentially recall a drug that for two decades has maintained a record of efficacy and safety.

But regardless of the lawsuit’s outcome, legal experts still think a ruling that even briefly or partially favors plaintiffs will likely have lasting consequences on U.S. abortion access and affect medication policy beyond abortion.

“What this case is doing is only increasing the politicization of mifepristone and abortion, as well as the entire FDA approval process, and [it’s] calling into question the impartiality and the legitimacy of our court system, as well as our FDA approval process,” Georgia State University law professor Allison M. Whelan told States Newsroom.

Matthew Joseph Kacsmaryk, the U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Texas. Credit: U.S. District Court.


Last month Whelan along with 18 other FDA legal scholars co-signed a “friend of the court” brief on behalf of the FDA, arguing that U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk doesn’t have the authority to force the FDA to immediately withdraw approval of mifepristone, which plaintiffs have asked him to do via preliminary injunction while the rest of the lawsuit unfolds.

Theoretically, the judge could decline to order the total withdrawal of the drug but could grant some of plaintiffs’ other demands, which include ordering the FDA to reinstate regulations that were lifted within the last several years.

In 2000 the FDA approved a medication abortion regimen involving the hormone blocker mifepristone followed by misoprostol to expel the pregnancy. Later the FDA extended the gestational age that this protocol could be used from seven weeks to 10, eliminated the in-person dispensing requirement, and most recently has allowed pharmacies to dispense the drug directly to patients under certain restrictions – though that policy is still being rolled out.

The FDA scholars and other legal experts say the process to withdraw drug approval (or to undo decisions made around a drug) can take years, requires public input, and discretion ultimately falls to the FDA. And in the meantime, the agency could choose whether or how to enforce any order that the drug is unapproved, said Whelan, whose scholarship and teaching focus includes FDA law and reproductive justice.

Photo by Kateryna Hliznitsova on Unsplash

“[T]he FDA would issue this policy statement that signals for manufacturers that from the FDA’s perspective, the FDA is not going to bring any sort of a civil or criminal action against the company for continuing to sell their drug,” Whelan told States Newsroom. “The FDA has issued enforcement discretion policies many times, including recently with the infant formula crisis.”

Even Kacsmaryk questioned his own powers during last Wednesday’s injunction hearing.

“[I]s it that you expect this Court to order the FDA to begin a suspension or withdrawal, almost like a writ-type scenario, or that the Court itself can withdraw or suspend on its own accord?” Kacsmaryk asked, according to the court transcript.

“The latter,” replied Erik Baptist, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, the conservative Christian legal shop representing plaintiffs. “We take the position that the Court, on its own accord, can order the FDA to withdraw or suspend the approval of the drug.”

“And explain to me your argument on why this Court has that sweeping authority,” Kacsmaryk replied.

Baptist replied vaguely that the court has the power to “enjoin and take whatever action to prevent harm.”

Despite plaintiffs’ claims that medication abortion is dangerous, there is ample evidence of its efficacy and safety. In more than two decades, there have been 28 reported deaths associated with mifepristone and a generally low rate of adverse events, according to the FDA.

The issue of drug approval is just one among several reasons defendants (and legal analysts) argue the case should be thrown out. Others include that the statute of limitations on plaintiffs’ complaints has expired and that plaintiffs did not exhaust administrative remedies to challenge FDA’s approval of mifepristone.

Attorneys for the government have argued that plaintiffs do not have standing to bring their claims and have not shown how they would be directly harmed by keeping mifepristone on the market.

Plaintiffs have largely argued that doctors represented in the lawsuit might see an increase in workload in their emergency rooms if more medication abortion patients experience complications and seek medical treatment. Even if that were a viable argument, plaintiffs have not provided evidence that medication abortion is causing a large amount of adverse effects and problems – beyond speculation and minimal anecdotes.

Plaintiffs have also asked the court to weigh in on a dormant federal law from the 1800s known as the Comstock Act, which anti-abortion advocates have been trying to argue legally prevents abortion pills from being sent in the mail, but the Biden administration contests this. Defendants have argued that whether a drug can be legally mailed has no bearing on this case about drug approvals.

A Trump appointee, Kacsmaryk previously served as deputy counsel for a Christian conservative legal group called First Liberty Institute, where he worked on cases fighting access to reproductive health care. “As a federal judge, Kacsmaryk has struck down protections for LGBTQ workers and trans youth and ruled that a federal family planning program’s policy of offering confidential birth control to teens violates federal law and Texas state law, potentially making it harder for Texas teens to access contraception (the ruling has been appealed).

But given all of the legal problems with the abortion pill case, legal journalist Chris Geidner suggests there are a lot of reasons why this case could fail, despite Kacsmaryk’s ideology and sympathies to some of the plaintiffs’ arguments.

“Anything could happen — and much has been made of Kacsmaryk’s background and rulings thus far on the bench — but DOJ and Danco’s lawyers made as strong a case as possible that Kacsmaryk would be going far afield of the law by doing anything about the 2000 approval of mifepristone, especially with these plaintiffs on these facts.”

This case is ongoing (as are several federal lawsuits about medication abortion), and Kacsmaryk’s preliminary injunction is likely to be appealed. Additionally, the ruling itself would only apply to the FDA and Danco Laboratories, one of the manufacturers of the abortion pill.

Still, a decision that favors the coalition of national conservative Christian medical associations known as the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, and the four plaintiff doctors is sure to have far-reaching legal consequences, and could add more distress and confusion for manufacturers, pharmacists, and health care providers. Beyond abortion, Whelan said a favorable decision could open the door to lawsuits against politically controversial vaccines and hormone replacement therapies.

A favorable decision could also embolden more states to try to ban mifepristone using the argument – if Kacsmaryk buys it – that the medication abortion regimen was not lawfully approved or properly vetted, which many legal and policy analysts say is patently false. A ruling that limits medication abortion in some way – even if it’s not enforceable – will add yet another confusing legal layer to the panoply of state anti-abortion laws that have led to pregnant women frantically traveling for abortion care outside their states, even for medical emergencies.

“It’s like there is no light at the end of the tunnel as to when this is going to end, and it’s just so problematic from a patient and provider perspective because of the uncertainty,” Whelan said. “I cannot imagine being a healthcare provider who does reproductive health care going to work every day thinking, ‘Can I do this today? I was allowed to do it yesterday. Can I do it today? Will I be able to do it tomorrow?’”

Via Florida Phoenix

Sofia Resnick is a national reproductive rights reporter for States Newsroom, based in Washington, D.C. She has reported on reproductive-health politics and justice issues for more than a decade.

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Appellate Ruling means, Despite DeSantis, Florida Professors are free to Teach about Race, Sexism, as they see Fit https://www.juancole.com/2023/03/appellate-desantis-professors.html Sun, 19 Mar 2023 04:08:25 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=210745 By Michael Moline | –

( Florida Phoenix) – College professors can continue to teach hard lessons about race and sexism notwithstanding Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Stop Woke” act, his attempt to dictate how educators handle these topics.

In a terse order issued Thursday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit rejected requests by Florida’s Board of Governors and top state education officials to lift an injunction against enforcing the law imposed in November by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee.

“Appellants’ motions to stay injunction pending appeal are denied. The clerk is directed to treat any motion for reconsideration of this order as a nonemergency matter,” the panel said.

Participating in the decision were judges Charles Wilson, Britt Grant, and Barbara Lagoa. Wilson was appointed by President Bill Clinton and Grant and Lagoa by Donald Trump. Lagoa was a DeSantis appointee to the Florida Supreme Court before her elevation to the appellate bench in 2019. The order didn’t indicate how the vote broke down.

In his opinion blocking the law’s enforcement, Walker wrote: “Defendants argue that, under this act, professors enjoy academic freedom so long as they express only those viewpoints of which the state approves. This is positively dystopian. It should go without saying that if liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

DeSantis signed the measure, also known as the Individual Freedom Act, into law in April 2022. It:

  • Restricts conversations about race and gender in schools and workplaces, making it illegal to subject any student or employee to training or instruction or to compel a student or employee to believe concepts such as that “members of one race, color, national origin, or sex are morally superior to members of another race, color, national origin, or sex.”
  • Forbids suggestions that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race, color sex, or national origin, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”
  • Bars contentions that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, bears responsibility for, or should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of, actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, sex, or national origin.”

University of South Florida. Credit: USF Facebook page.

University of South Florida history professor Adriana Novoa and a student group at that university, the First Amendment Forum, filed suit, arguing the restrictions “impermissibly chill free expression and promote unconstitutional censorship on the state’s college campuses” in violation of the First and Fourteenth amendments.

In August, Walker enjoined portions of the law that sought to constrain workplace sensitivity training.

Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal.

Florida Phoenix

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