Florida’s legislative session wasn’t as divisive as it looked, lawmakers say

PEMBROKE PARK, Florida. – Florida Democratic Sen. Shevrin D. “Shev” Jones and Florida Republican Rep. Tom Fabricio said this year’s legislative session isn’t as contentious as it looks.

Jones, of Miami Gardens, and Fabricio, of Miramar, both represent districts in the Miami-Dade and Broward county areas. They said there was camaraderie behind the scenes.

During that week in South Florida on Sunday, Jones said he had hoped the support Republicans had shown him would translate into votes.

“When you talk about love or support, it’s not ‘I support you’, it’s ‘I support you, period’. And that was the message I wanted my colleagues to understand,” said Jones, who represents District 35.

Bills that have sparked differences of opinion over race and the rights of the LGBTQ+ community have been particularly painful for Jones, Florida’s first openly gay state senator. He mentioned the many protesters who showed up with rainbows in Tallahassee.

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“These are human beings who were out there expressing their concerns and on their faces my colleagues basically said, ‘No, your voice [doesn’t] question.'”

Fabricio said the Parental Rights in Education Bill has garnered more national attention than any of the other bills. He added that since critics dubbed it the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, it was “misguided” and the analysis was “completely flawed”.

“Again the crux of the bill, it’s very simple. It’s about whether certain topics are appropriate for these very young children,” said Fabricio, who represents District 103.

Jones said many of his fellow Republicans said they didn’t want to vote for the bill, and some didn’t even want to talk about it. He and other Democrats have said Republicans have pushed a culture war agenda.

Besides sex education in public schools, other bills have sparked differences of opinion on everything from abortion and immigration to black history and “woke” instruction.

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Fabricio, an attorney whose father was an El Nuevo Herald reporter, blamed reporters’ coverage of the issues for national media hype and what he said was an inaccurate portrayal of Florida’s bills.

“The media has just gone off the rails, unfortunately,” Fabricio said.

A bill that Fabricio said should have gotten more national attention was related to the collapse of the Champlain Towers in Surfside, which killed 98 people. Lawmakers could not agree on a bill requiring associations to set aside funds for structural repairs.

This week’s full episode in South Florida

Sarah Ramdin of Local 10 News contributed to this report.

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