How is a Legislator Supposed to Vote When a Bill Isn’t Perfect?

Some Florida Senators and Representatives voted no on bills banning fracking because the bills didn’t ban all fracking. Environmentalists felt the omission was intentional and encouraged legislators to vote no on any bill that didn’t ban ALL fracking. SB 314 is the good law. Whereas SB 7064 fails to include a ban on matrix acidizing that threatens Florida’s sources of potable water.

I listened to a committee meeting discussing SB 588 designed to take away home rule regarding the banning of plastic straws. GOP legislators introduced a bill to prevent a county from banning plastic straws and then added wording to the bill about generators at gas stations. Why did they do that? If a legislator didn’t like the preemption bill concerning plastic straws, then would the legislator be forced to also vote no on the part of the bill that would keep gas stations open during a hurricane evacuation?

What is a representative to do IF a bill isn’t perfect?

Senator Gibson’s quote from this article:

I am a champion for all people, all races and all religions. And there’s a lot of misinformation and seemingly deliberate efforts to try to paint me as someone I am not.

Senator Gibson had asked that a bill (mentioned in the article) be more broad in terms. She wondered if singling out one religion might have unintended unwanted consequences to the group being singled out.  I also feel it would be better if Representative Fine used the following wording (instead of the wording in lines 61 to 78 of HB 741 that he used):

Bigoted language includes: calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of a group of people based on their religion, race or gender; making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about a group of people based on their religion, race or gender; denying a well documented atrocity.

The above wording was copied in part from Representative Fine’s bill EXCEPT he made the wording specific to ONE minority religion. I rephrased his wording so that bigoted language was defined more broadly.

I also have other issues with Representative Fine’s bill HB 741. Why doesn’t SB 1272 (and the companion bill HB 741) drafted by Representative Fine apply to ALL schools receiving public monies either directly or indirectly? It only applies to the neighborhood schools and the magnet schools. Why didn’t Representative Fine want the bill to apply to charter schools and private schools receiving voucher money?

Another thing causing me to worry about Representative Fine’s bill (as it was worded when Senator Gibson voted no on the bill) is that adding religion to 1000.05 of the Florida Statutes might allow the evangelical dominionists to have more power to use religion as a sword to harm others.

We need the wording of the Do No Harm Act whenever we’re adding religious protection so the law can be used as a shield against discrimination and not a sword to harm others. RFRA taught us that sometimes people use what was meant to be good legislation in a way that harms others. Whenever religious freedom is added to the laws, the following wording should also be added:

This religious freedom law should not be interpreted to authorize someone to cause harm to another.

HB 741 adds religion to 1000.05 of the Florida Statute. Here is how the statute (before adding religion) reads now:

1000.05(2)(a)Discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, disability, or marital status against a student or an employee in the state system of public K-20 education is prohibited. No person in this state shall, on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, disability, or marital status, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any public K-20 education program or activity, ….

I am not saying that HB 741 doesn’t have the potential to be a good bill. It merely needs to make the wording broader with the goal of preventing bullying of people based on religion, race,  gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin, disability, or marital status.

More information about the rise of bullying based on religion, race and gender:

The current legislature and governor are diverting more and more taxpayer money to charters and private school vouchers. Why aren’t these anti-discrimination and anti-bullying laws applying to those schools?


Don’t burden the public schools with unnecessary rules

If a rule is good, then all schools getting taxpayer money (including those tax credit scholarship funds) should be required to follow it.  If it isn’t a good rule, then why do public schools have to follow it?

Please write your state representative.  And if they don’t agree with you, please consider that when you vote in August and November.  Why are charters and private schools that receive taxpayer money not required to follow the same rules (including FS 1006.28 to 1006.31) as public schools?   You can find those statutes at LINK

In my view Florida Citizens Alliance is the bad guy in this story. is the good guy.

Quote from an article found at :

And parent Eric Otto said “… Florida Citizens Alliance wants religion to balance science in a science class. To me that seems like teaching financial literacy in english class.”

Here is a quote from the Florida Citizens Alliance website (LINK)

[Under] FS 1006.31 Charlotte County residents [note it says residents and not parents] presented their concerns to the school board ……. at least fifteen of the textbooks present evolution as fact. … which violates [according to Florida Citizens Alliance] Florida law (FS 1006.31.2) that requires textbooks to be “accurate, objective, balanced, non-inflammatory”

Excerpt from Rabbi Shapiro’s article that alerted me to this issue:

The Florida Citizen’s Alliance, the FLCA, is likely to bring their efforts to a county near us!  We must remain vigilant and prepared to preserve academic integrity and sound science. When they challenge textbooks being used in our neighborhoods, a hearing is required [by FS 1006.31]. You can be a hearing officer, if you wish!  Just contact the school board and let them know you wish to become a hearing officer for cases of school book challenges!

How to Contact the Board Office


• District 1 – The Honorable Cheryl Grymes|

• District 2 – The Honorable Scott Shine

• District 3 – The Honorable Ashley Smith Juarez|

• District 4 – The Honorable Paula D. Wright|

• District 5 – The Honorable Warren A. Jones |

• District 6 – The Honorable Becki Couch |

• District 7 – The Honorable Lori Hershey |


• District 1 – The Honorable Cheryl Grymes | 390-2371

• District 2 – The Honorable Scott Shine | 390-2386

• District 3 – The Honorable Ashley Smith Juarez | 390-2239

• District 4 – The Honorable Paula D. Wright | 390-2374

• District 5 – The Honorable Warren A. Jones | 390-2372

• District 6 – The Honorable Becki Couch | 390-2373

• District 7 – The Honorable Lori Hershey | 390-2375

Article by Rabbi Shapiro about Amendment on Florida’s Nov 2018 ballot

Forward–article by Rabbi Shapiro
Did you know that Florida has a commission, mandated by Sunshine State voters in 1968, that meets only every 20th year? It began in 1978, met again (different commissioners, but same commission) in 1998, and now in 2018! Prepare yourself—it will meet again in 2038 and 2058 unless the law is changed!

This group is called “The Constitution Revision Commission” and is made up of the Attorney General, fifteen appointees from the Governor, nine appointees from the Florida Senate President, nine appointees from the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives and three appointees from the Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court. You need to know this just to get an idea of where on the political spectrum, from left to right, these commissioners are situated!

The work of the Constitution Revision Commission began in September 2017 with organizational meetings and the process of collecting proposals for changing Florida’s Constitution. Proposals were solicited from the public and the commissioners themselves. A process for narrowing the list down from the 782 public proposals and 103 commissioner proposals led to a list of 37 proposals that were brought to a series of “listening meetings” around the state including one on the campus of the University of North Florida. It was an opportunity for public comment on the 37 proposals and 180 people signed up to have their voices heard.

One of the proposals calls for the elimination of language from our Florida Constitution, Article I, SECTION 3. Religious freedom. That Section 3 currently reads:

There shall be no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting or penalizing the free exercise thereof. Religious freedom shall not justify practices inconsistent with public morals, peace or safety. No revenue of the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.

Proposal 4 (it will have a different amendment # when it appears on our ballot) calls for the elimination of that second sentence of Article 1, Section 3. Eliminating that second sentence would allow the government to take revenue from the “public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.”

A powerful delegation, led by Freethought Society’s Earl Coggins went to the hearing to oppose Proposal 4. The speakers on our side (and there were many who were not part of the Freethought Society, educators, representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union, the League of Women Voters, prominent among them) were eloquent in their defense of the wall of separation of church and state that has made our country so great. Many spoke of the real intent of this proposal, to fund religious schools that otherwise are unregulated by the state, have teachers with little more than high school educations, principals who have not graduated from college, curricula that teach science based on superstitions debunked during the renaissance and revisionist history that speaks to the Christian roots of our country. Many did not want to be coerced into supporting religious institutions whose teachings are counter to their own beliefs.

Hopefully the commissioners were listening! But if not, Proposal 4 calling on the end of the restriction of funding religious institutions with tax money, yours and mine, will, undoubtedly, find its way to a ballot that you will have an opportunity to cast this fall!

The price of our liberty is eternal vigilance! We were lucky to have Freethought Society President Earl Coggins and his delegation speaking for us, against this proposal!

Article by Rabbi Shapiro about HB 989

Reprinted with permission from Rabbi Shapiro

Won’t you join me­­­­­ in that quintessential expression of American ideals and participate in a vote?  In a democracy, voting allows us all to voice our decisions while allowing all to have the same voice.  If we can rule by the majority, while respecting minority voices, we are, after all, expressing a fundamental principle elaborated by the founders of our great country!

So, let’s vote on this question, please!

Should water molecules (H20) have one atom of hydrogen or two?

What do you think?

If you are in favor of water molecules having just one hydrogen atom, then please text the word “One” to me at 804-914-4460.

If you are in favor of water molecules having two hydrogen atoms, then please text the word “Two” to me at 804-914-4460.

Next month, I promise to report on the vote so that we can, together, after hearing everyone’s voice, after accepting input from all who wish to participate, decide whether or not water molecules should have one or two hydrogen atoms.

Wait! What?  You think this is silly?  Then you are just out of step with the mainstream thinking of Floridians and/or our Tallahassee leadership!

You see, the Florida State Legislature has passed, and Governor Scott has signed, a bill that allows parental and community input into the curricular materials, textbooks, etc. that will be used in each county school district.  After all, we all pay for our public schools (and too many religious schools, as well, I’m afraid, but that’s a different article in the Freethinker) so shouldn’t we get a say?

Thus, if we can get a large group of us to challenge textbooks that claim that water is H2O and decide that we want to have only materials that teach that water is H1O, we can go to our school board meetings and raise a ruckus!

Not going to happen, you say?

What if we can get a large group of us to challenge textbooks that claim the earth is 4 billion years old and have them replaced by materials that teach that the earth is more like 10,000 years old, just as described in Genesis Chapter 1?

What if we can get a large group of us to challenge textbooks that claim that God is not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution and have them replaced by materials that teach that our great country was founded on Christian principles?

What if we can get a large group of us to challenge textbooks that claim that the Ku Klux Klan holds extremist reactionary positions such as white supremacy, white nationalism, anti-immigration and anti-Semitism and have them replaced by materials that teach that the KKK has “tried to be a means of reform, fighting the decline in morality and using the symbol of the cross, targeting bootleggers, wife-beaters, and immoral movies. In some communities it achieved a certain respectability as it worked with politicians?” (That’s a direct quote from the textbook United States History for Christian Schools, 3rd ed., Bob Jones University Press, 2001)

The “What ifs” can go on and on.  The bill signed by the Governor CS/HB 989: Education,  already seems to say what A Beka Book and Bob Jones University Press curricula have been pushing, that Algebra II is the work of the devil!!

Elections and rule by the majority have their place, an important place, in our great democracy.  But elections can’t decide questions of right and wrong.  Nor can the courts.  Let us not forget that there are still with us women who were born into a U.S.A. where women could not vote!  There was a time that elections and the courts agreed that slavery was OK for our country.  Even now, it seems that the electorate, in some areas, and the courts, express the idea that LGBTQ people do not have the same rights as others.

Nor do elections, majority rule, or the courts, get to decide the facts.  Sound science and academic integrity tell us that water molecules are going to have two atoms of hydrogen no matter what our justices decide, no matter how the electorate votes!

Through our taxes, we’re all paying for the textbooks and curricular material used in our local school classrooms.

In the name of sound science, academic integrity, the thought processes, the brains with which we are all endowed, please keep an eye out for attempts to pressure our local school boards into thinking otherwise! If you see an assault on our traditional values, on the truthfulness of the textbooks used in our public schools, please scream!  Keep screaming all the way to the next meeting of the county school board!

Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program

Link to article  by The Rev. Harry Parrott

Quote from article:

The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program takes money that corporations would otherwise pay into the state’s general revenue fund and diverts it to a scholarship-funding organization that hands out vouchers for private and religious schools.

What began as a program capped at $50 million has been expanded by the Legislature and will grow to $873 million by 2018-19.

Florida Constitution-public education

I love this part of the Florida Constitution.

Article IX

SECTION 1. Public education.—
(a) The education of children is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida. It is, therefore, a paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders. Adequate provision shall be made by law for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education and for the establishment, maintenance, and operation of institutions of higher learning and other public education programs that the needs of the people may require.
SECTION 6. State school fund.—The income derived from the state school fund shall, and the principal of the fund may, be appropriated, but only to the support and maintenance of free public schools.

Florida Constitution and the Right to Freedom of Religion

By Rabbi Shapiro

Does the government have the right to speak out on the sale of tobacco products to minors?

Does the government have the right to speak out on the obesity epidemic in our country?

Does the government have the right to speak out on racism in our country?

The answer is firmly “No!” to each of the above questions! It may be making too much of a fine point, but we are all going to keep in mind that in a Democracy, the Government has no rights at all!! The People have rights, but the Government has only duties, obligations and responsibilities. Thus, the Government can and should speak out on the sale of tobacco products to minors, on the obesity epidemic in our country and on racism because it is the duty of the Government to do so. But the Government does not have the right to do so!

Again, this may seem like a semantic exercise in nitpicking, not worth the time to even discuss. But, as with many small tears in the fabric of our society, it will become larger and larger as we look forward to the next 24 months here in Florida.

Remember, when the People have rights and the Government has responsibilities, we have Democracy. When the People have responsibilities and the Government has rights, we have Fascism!

Coming our way between now and Election Day 2018 is the argument that the Government should have the right of Freedom of Religion.

It is the people that have the right of freedom of religion as enumerated in the First Amendment to the US Constitution and in Article 1 Section 3 of the Florida Constitution.

There will be an amendment on our ballot in November 2018 asking us to give the government the right to fund religious institutions. It will be up to the citizens of Florida to decide to give or withhold final approval.

At issue is Florida’s “No-Aid” clause, part of our State’s Constitution since 1885.
Article I
Religious freedom.—There shall be no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting or penalizing the free exercise thereof. Religious freedom shall not justify practices inconsistent with public morals, peace or safety. No revenue of the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.

Governor Scott is now assembling a “Constitutional Revision Commission” as required by law. Once every twenty years such a Commission has the opportunity to suggest changes to Florida’s Constitution and place those changes on the ballot for approval or rejection by the citizens of Florida. There is no legislative or judicial review involved.

The Commission, not yet formed, but whose leadership has been named, will argue that the “No-Aid” clause limits the Government’s right to support religious schools and other religious institutions!

Let’s not be taken in by this rhetoric and false model. Let’s protect ourselves from Government requirements that we support religious activities that are in opposition to our own beliefs!

Let’s begin by becoming familiar with Article I, Section 3 of our Florida Constitution and telling our friends and neighbors about the upcoming assault on the protections it provides each and every citizen of Florida!

This blog post was written by Rabbi Shapiro and reprinted here with permission

Taxpayer money and charter schools

Quote from the article:
In January the Freedom from Religion Foundation wrote the school district and provided photos of the charter school students attending an event in a chapel where there was a large cross …….  Anita Henry-Smith, Duval’s charter schools supervisor, warned Seacoast Charter’s officials that the event was a default on the school’s charter...

end quotes

Click here to find your representative and write

Please write your Florida representative and ask them to include the following suggestions into law:

Suggestions by the League of Women Voters:
1. A public charter school may be housed in a religious institution so long as secular identity is maintained and the student body reflects broad racial/ethnic/religious and economic diversity.

2. Charter public schools must report financial information in a format that is adequate for comparison with other public schools, particularly regarding facilities ownership and management contracts.
3. Members of the charter schools’ governing board MUST NOT have any financial interest in the charter school. Legislators serving on education or appropriation committees must recuse themselves on votes related to charter school finance if they have any financial interest in one or more charter schools.
4. As a recipient of public education funds charter schools should meet the procurement standards applicable to other public institutions as stated in statute and rule regarding competitive bids, purchasing of services, equipment, supplies and sites. Records of all transaction and procedures should meet all public records laws for full disclosure. Charter schools that acquire their facilities using public funds must assure that the facility reverts to public ownership at termination of the charter. If the facility is subject to a mortgage, the mortgage must disclose and protect the public’s interest in the facility. A conversion of an existing public school to a public charter school should only be authorized by the local governing school board retaining full public ownership of the facility and the assets associated with the school.