Florida Democratic Sen. Shevrin D. “Shev” Jones and Florida Republican Rep. Tom Fabricio said this year’s legislative session wasn’t as divisive as it appeared.
Jones, of Miami Gardens, and Fabricio, of Miramar, both represent districts in areas of Miami-Dade and Broward counties. They said there was camaraderie behind the scenes.
During This Week In South Florida on Sunday, Jones said he had hoped the support Republicans showed him would have translated into votes.
“When you talk about love or support, it’s not ‘I support you,’ but it’s, ‘I support you, period.’ And that was the message that I wanted my colleagues to understand,” said Jones, who represents District 35.
The bills that triggered differences of opinion on race and the rights of the LGBTQ+ community were especially painful for Jones, the first openly gay Florida state senator. He mentioned the many protesters who showed up with rainbows in Tallahassee.
They are human beings who were out there, voicing their concerns and in their faces, my colleagues basically said, ‘No, your voice [doesn’t] matter.’”
Fabricio said the Parental Rights in Education bill got more national attention than any of the other bills. He added that since critics dubbed it the “Don’t Say Gay” bill it got “misplaced” and the analysis was “completely off.”
“The crux of the bill again, it’s very simple. It’s whether certain topics are appropriate for these very young children,” said Fabricio, who represents District 103.
Jones said many of his Republican colleagues said they did not want to vote for that bill and some did not even want to bring it up. He and other Democrats said Republicans pushed a culture war-heavy agenda.
Aside from sexual education in public schools, there were other bills that triggered differences of opinions on everything from abortion and immigration, to Black history and “woke” instruction.
Fabricio, an attorney whose father was an El Nuevo Herald journalist, blamed reporters’ coverage of the issues for the national hype and what he said was an inaccurate portrayal of the Florida bills.
“The media has just gone off the rails, unfortunately,” Fabricio said.
A bill that Fabricio believes should have gotten more national attention was related to the Champlain Towers building collapse in Surfside, which killed 98 people. Legislators couldn’t agree on a bill to require associations to set aside funds for structural repairs.