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United Methodists head to Tallahassee for Advocacy Day

United Methodists head to Tallahassee for Advocacy Day

Leadership Social Justice

Florida Advocacy Day at the state capitol in Tallahassee traditionally is a time for United Methodists throughout Florida to meet with lawmakers and advocate for policies of social justice and other issues. Understanding how to navigate the complex process in which an idea becomes law can be daunting.

​So, on January 27, a small group advocate for issues central to the Florida United Methodist Conference. They will be joined by long-time partners from the African Methodist Episcopal and Florida Impact.  Also, we were informed that our Young Adult Missional Movement Ministry (YAMM) were going to be in the area for a retreat.  They will spend time with us as well as they learn how to effectively interact with lawmakers for the advancement of God’s mission. 

Lobbyists arrive last March for talks with lawmakers during Florida Advocacy Days.

In addition to this year’s one day event in Tallahassee, a small team will be working on a ministry project by which United Methodists, and others, can reach out directly to the legislators in their district throughout the year.

The experience is much more than an attempt to advocate for policy, however. It also is a time of worship and prayers for guidance as participants seek to aid the most vulnerable parts of Florida’s population.

That includes urging lawmakers to follow through on the intent of Amendment 4, which voters overwhelmingly approved in 2018. The law was meant to restore voting rights for felons who have completed their prison sentences, but the Legislature is attempting to require full payment of fines and court costs as a precondition to voting.

For many ex-felons, the financial penalty is too great to overcome, thus turning the loss of voting privileges into a life-time punishment.

Other vital issues include immigration and the burden on public programs and the SNAP/food stamp program.

Also, five bills that focus on children’s rights and health and childhood hunger are of particular concern for Florida Impact, UMC, and AME advocates, and will be the focus of discussions with legislators.

At the top of the list for Florida Impact is the government-sponsored Park and Recreation program bill (Senate Bill 668 and its sister House Bill 83), which helps to remove red tape that prohibits park programs from feeding hungry children.

More than 70 Florida United Methodists lobbied for social justice issues during Florida Advocacy Days in Tallahassee in March 2019.

“We have been working on this bill for three years,” said Trudy Novicki, President and CEO of Florida Impact. “We are really hoping to see this bill pass in order to feed more children who are in need through after school programs at our local parks.”

Also high on the priority list is House Bill 521, which provides more nutritious meals to school children at a reduced price.

Advocates for affordable housing are also keeping a close watch on The Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

“The Sadowski Fund is supposed to help drive development costs down so it’s more affordable for people to live in areas where developers can charge whatever they want,” Florida Impact Administrative Coordinator Kelly Green said. “When legislators sweep the fund, it doesn’t allow people who are vulnerable to be able to use the funds to live in the areas where the development is happening. 

Team members also will be closely watching are Senate Bill 190 and House Bill 81, which would make available more Medicaid school-based healthcare services.

Please be in prayer for these bills as the year-long ministry develops.

--Sarah Hundley is a freelance writer in Tallahassee.

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