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          The Hillsborough County Democratic Party

What’s Happening Now

Hillsborough County Leads the Way on Criminal Justice Reform

“Lock ‘em up and put ‘em away – it’s an outdated way of thinking,” Florida State Attorney Andrew Warren told a crowded room at a meeting of influential county  Democrats and large donors at the Hillsborough Society quarterly meeting on June 13th.

Warren became Florida’s top prosecutor in 2016 on a pledge to bring about broadscale criminal justice reform. His platform emphasized victim support, being tough on violent offenders and domestic abusers and using civil citations and other diversions to keep low-level offenders – especially kids – out of prison and help them onto a better path.

Thirty months into his first term, Warren says Hillsborough has become a model for other Florida counties, who have been approaching him for advice on modernizing their own criminal justice systems.

“We’re starting to see people have realized that what we are doing is completely changing the landscape of criminal justice,” Warren said.

Among his accomplishments, for the first time, Hillsborough County is enforcing laws which prohibit those with domestic abuse cases before them from carrying guns.

For Florida’s kids, Warren has overseen a 58 percent reduction in the number of cases where children are tried as adults, bringing the state in line with the national average.

He’s created juvenile and adult civil citation programs which give those charged with minor demeanors access to counseling in areas like anger management and addiction, conditional upon not re-offending. These strategies are designed to keep people out of jail – which he contends costs taxpayers as much as ten times the cost of counseling.

“Prison should be the last alternative to maintain public safety,” Warren said, adding that without a criminal record, these minor offenders have a much better chance of finding employment or going back to school.

Warren says the new system has already kept 1200 adults and 800 youths out of prison in the last year.

Other changes brought about under Warren’s leadership include new courts specifically tasked with dealing with mental health issues, and allowing judges to waive excessive fines and fees associated with so-called ‘poverty crimes’, in which an impoverished individual whose only crime is his or her inability to pay a traffic ticket may quickly find himself in jail and unable to work.

On Amendment Four, the ballot initiative that passed last year to allow returning citizens to register to vote, Warren expressed concern about recent legislation which adds conditions to the amendment by forcing individuals to pay all fines and fees associated with their sentence before being allowed to register. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if we saw state attorneys making motions to convert fees and fines into a few hours of community service, making regaining their voting rights achievable for those unable to pay.

“Fair is fair. When you’ve served your time, you should get your rights back,” he said.

Warren announced earlier this month that his campaign and an affiliated political committee had raised $200,000 in his re-election bid, making him the highest-raising candidate for State Attorney in all of Florida to date.

FUND SALARIES NOT VOUCHERS

This week, Florida teachers learned that they have slipped from 45 to 46 on the National Education Association’s annual report of average teacher salaries. Florida teachers earn $48,000/year; $12,000 below the national average.

Where Floridians DO lead the nation is in funding for private, often religious vouchers. Last year, Florida funneled almost $970 million into these programs, and bill SB 7070 before the Senate Appropriations Committee right now would expand that program.

The proposed legislation also ventures into new territory by funding the vouchers from general revenue. Until now, vouchers were funded using tax credits. This new bill would deliver taxpayer dollars straight to schools that are neither accountable to public education standards, nor accessible to all students.

The Florida Supreme Court already weighed in on vouchers decisively in Bush v. Holmes in 2006: “The diversion of money not only reduces public funds for public education but also uses public funds to provide for an alternative education in private schools that are not subject to the ‘uniformity’ requirements of public schools”. De Santis, however, has appointed three new Supreme Court judges, tilting the court to the right and potentially opening the door for the new program.

We the members of the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee, call on the
Senate Appropriations Committee to oppose SB7070. We believe that EVERY CHILD in Florida has the right to a quality education. Every child means EVERY child, no exceptions. SB7070 diverts public funds from public schools and sends them to schools which are not accessible to all, and not accountable to taxpayers. Instead, we urge the Committee to fund teacher salaries. The best way to invest in our
children’s futures is to give our teachers salaries which are competitive with the national average.

Hillsborough Democrats oppose TECO’s extension & Trump’s Declaration of Emergency

On February 18th, the membership of the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee ( HCDEC) unanimously adopted a Resolution in opposition to the TECO Energy’s plan to build a nearly 900 million dollar fracked gas power plant in Hillsborough County.

The body also directed the Chair of HCDEC, Ione Townsend, to write to each member of the Hillsborough County US Congressional Delegation to express the Party’s opposition to President Trumps Declaration of Emergency at the southern border.

Find the documents here:

UPCOMING EVENTS

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WHO IS THE HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY DEC AND WHAT DO WE DO?

We are dedicated to getting Democrats elected in Hillsborough County and throughout the State of Florida.

Membership in the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee (DEC) is open to all registered Democrats in Hillsborough County.

As a member of the Hillsborough County DEC, you’ll have a voice in setting the party’s overall direction and supporting the candidacy of Democrats in local, state, and national elections.

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