The 2018 Florida legislative session starts on Jan. 9 and ends on Mar. 9. We are asking you to stand with us and speak out to make the Florida we believe in a reality. Here's some of our to-do list for 2018:
Criminal Justice Reform
The ACLU of Florida’s criminal justice priorities are grounded in the notion that: all Floridians deserve equal treatment within Florida’s criminal justice system, racial injustice and inequality must be abolished, punishments should be fair and appropriate to the crime committed, children should not be punished as adults, judges should have increased levels of discretion to consider individual and extenuating circumstances and not be bound by mandatory minimums, and individuals should not be punished for being poor.
To accomplish these ends, we will actively lobby for comprehensive criminal justice reforms that will assist in reducing mass incarceration and achieving racial justice. We have identified the following five specific proactive criminal justice reform priorities for the 2018 legislative session: (1) raising the property theft felony threshold from $300; (2) creating a safety valve that allows judges to depart from various drug-related mandatory minimum sentences; (3) reducing the number of non-driving related offenses that result in an individual’s driver’s license being suspended or revoked; (4) enacting an adult civil citation program that would encourage police officers to issue civil citations for certain nonviolent misdemeanors, similar to the juvenile civil citation program that is currently in place; and (5) reducing reliance on monetary bail for individuals who cannot afford to pay and who do not pose a risk of danger or flight.
In addition, we also support various other criminal justice reform legislation that will result in reducing the overall number of incarcerated individuals and ensuring that all individuals are treated equally regardless of their race, including but not limited to legislation limiting the practice of children being tried as adults and expanding the use of juvenile citations.
The ACLU of Florida is committed to ensuring that no individual is discriminated against based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Florida's Civil Rights Act and Fair Housing Act do not adequately address LGBTQ discrimination and need to be amended. While these laws currently protect some Floridians from discrimination, they do not offer adequate protections based on an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. We will support comprehensive legislation prohibiting discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity or expression in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
Immigrant rights are under attack and the ACLU of Florida will continue to work tirelessly to defeat anti-immigrant legislation and ensure greater protections for immigrants. In the 2017 Legislative Session, the ACLU of Florida and aligned partners successfully defeated legislation that would have required specified criminal offenses to be reclassified to the next higher level offense if committed by an undocumented immigrant; and legislation that would have prohibited sanctuary policies and required state & local governmental agencies to enforce federal immigration law. Not surprisingly, the bill prohibiting sanctuary policies and requiring compliance with ICE detainer requests has been re-filed this year (HB 9/SB 308) and we anticipate that several other anti-immigrant bills will be filed this session as well. We will continue to vigorously oppose such legislation and advocate for our most vulnerable populations.
The ability to decide whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term is essential to women’s equality, autonomy and dignity. We will oppose legislative efforts that seek to erode a woman’s constitutional right to abortion and we will be vigilant in protecting a woman’s privacy and ability to decide what is right for her. Last legislative session, the ACLU of Florida and aligned partners successfully defeated legislation that would have imposed a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, as well as legislative efforts to increase abortion providers’ liability for damages for physical injury or emotional distress. We anticipate that these and other similar bills will be filed this year and we will continue to work to defeat such legislation and safeguard a woman’s safe and legal access to abortion care.
The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy. The ACLU of Florida advocates to ensure a system of fair and open elections in which all qualified citizens — regardless of gender, race, socioeconomic status or any other category — may cast a vote and have it accurately counted. We will oppose any legislation that seeks to disenfranchise eligible voters or that makes it more difficult for individuals to exercise their fundamental right to vote.