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Florida Democrats prepare for fights on abortion, anti-wokeness and gun control

FILE - State Rep. Fentrice Driskell speaks as Democratic lawmakers and invited speakers hold a press conference to oppose a special legislative session targeting vaccine mandates, on Nov. 15, 2021, at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. Driskell, the incoming House Democratic Leader, said the past few years were "defined by the governor's ambition and his willingness to stoop to any low to help energize and motivate his base no matter who he hurt." "For the next few years I think we can expect more of the same for him, and he might even turn it up a notch," Driskell said. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)
Rebecca Blackwell
State Rep. Fentrice Driskell speaks as Democratic lawmakers and invited speakers hold a press conference to oppose a special legislative session targeting vaccine mandates, on Nov. 15, 2021.

Florida Democrats are gearing up for a fight this session on issues including abortion access, anti-wokeness and gun control.

Florida House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell says the DeSantis administration is continuing its attack on Black history and culture. During a press call Monday, she said she sees the Department of Education’s rejection of an advanced placement class on African American History as the latest move.

"First we saw that they gerrymandered Black districts from four congressional districts down to two, then they overreacted about CRT being taught in grade school, which let me be clear—it’s not. Then they requested diversity equity and inclusion practices in our universities trying to get that information because we know they want to attack [diversity equity and inclusion] dollars. Now, we are seeing what I think will be the first of many attempts to whitewash history in order to soothe emotionally fragile people,” Driskell said.

State Education Commissioner Manny Diaz said in a Tweet the course is “filled with critical race theory” and goes beyond the history of Black Americans by veering into subjects including reparations and the Black Lives Matter movement, which he says runs afoul of state law.

Meanwhile, Senate minority leader Lauren Book said she is preparing for the Republican supermajority to push for added abortion restrictions beginning as early as six weeks.

A law passed last year bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy and does not include exemptions for rape, incest, or human trafficking. Republican Senate President Kathleen Passidomo has spoken in support of creating those exemptions, but Book worries that’s a tactic to put further restrictions in place.

“That is a get out of jail free card for Republicans to not look as cruel as they are. So while I really want that exemption, I want to also talk about the real implications of what this bill has done to Floridians, to women across the state of Florida when it comes to some healthcare decisions," Book said.

Passidomo has previously indicated she would support moving abortion restrictions up to 12 weeks.

Democrats are also raising concerns about a proposed move to reduce regulations for concealed carry. Driskell says the change could have a chilling effect on the state's tourism industry.

"We are dependent on our perception by the rest of the wold as a family friendly place to bring our loved ones to have a nice vacation," Driskell said. "I am very concerned that if unregulated carry passes it would have a negative implication on the perception of our state and our reputation as a family friendly place and in the ends it's every-day Floridians who would be hurt by the crippling damage this could do to our economy."

Democrats will have an uphill battle in the coming legislative session as they push against initiatives brought by Republicans since the GOP now holds a supermajority.

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