Black state lawmakers say legislative initiatives aimed at improving conditions in communities of color haven’t gained traction with Republicans. But a Boricua senator from Florida says Latinos are also affected.
Although the Florida Legislative Black Caucus continues to advance bills in the legislative process, not one has made it to the House or Senate floor for a full vote in the GOP-controlled Legislature, according to a press release from the Caucus.
The proposed legislation addresses everything from building more affordable housing and securing voting rights to reforming a criminal justice system that, among other issues, places non-violent children into the adult prison system.
“Our bills address the real-life struggles Floridians confront on a daily basis. They deserve a hearing and a vote,” state Democratic Sen. Bobby Powell, who is also the Black Caucus chairman, said in a statement.
Latinos Are Also Impacted
However, Black people are not the only ones affected by this lack of response, according to Democratic Sen. Victor Torres, Jr., who represents Florida’s District 15 (Osceola and parts of Orange County).
“Last year, African Americans and Hispanic voters used vote-by-mail more than ever before,” Torres told Floricua. “In response, the Republican led Legislature passed Senate Bill 90, a restrictive voting rights bill.”
Opponents of DeSantis’ law say it creates major obstacles to vote by mail, curtails access to drop boxes, and makes it harder for Latinos, Black people, older adults, people with disabilities, and low-income residents to vote.
“The effects of all this are to disenfranchise primarily minority communities from being able to participate in voting,” said the Boricua Kissimmee resident.
The rising cost of housing, which is forcing many state residents to abandon their home, is another way Black and Latino communities are negatively impacted, according to Torres.
“We have seen the Legislature redirect over one billion dollars in the past ten years that should have been used to increase much-needed affordable housing options across Florida to help working families and seniors to have safe, affordable places to live,” added Torres.
The disparity in the prison system, which the Black Caucus attempted to address without success, is another issue that disproportionally affects communities of color.
“We have far too many Black and Brown residents serving longer prison sentences and getting higher prosecution rates than their white counterparts,” said Torres. “Reform of our state prison system is long overdue.”
Whoever Holds the Vote Holds the Power
Torres believes the power to effect positive change is in the hands of the people, because those hands, after all, hold the ballot that chooses who will hold office at the local and national level.
But to accomplish fairness and equality for all, Torres said, “We need stand together, make our voices heard and get our people to vote for elected officials who will work on representing our interests and fight for our rights, no matter our race or ethnicity.”