Lucy McBath, mother of slain teen Jordan Davis, criticizes House passage of Stand Your Ground Expansion

Lucy McBath, mother of Jordan Davis, criticizes passage of HB 245 by Florida House of Representatives.
HB 245 Would Effectively Require Stand Your Ground Defendants to Be Convicted Twice, Once in Front of a Judge and Again in Front of a Jury
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Lucy McBath, faith and outreach leader for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Everytown for Gun Safety, whose son, Jordan Davis, was shot and killed in a Florida gas station parking lot in a dispute over loud music, today released the following statement denouncing the House passage of HB 245, legislation that would expand Florida’s already lethal Stand Your Ground law. HB 245 would flip the burden of proof in pretrial immunity hearings to prosecutors, effectively requiring Stand Your Ground defendants to be convicted twice, once in front of a judge and once in front of a jury. The bill heads next to Governor Rick Scott’s desk.


“...Florida takes one step closer to becoming one of the few states to expand or enact a Stand Your Ground law since the senseless killings of my son, Jordan Davis, and Trayvon Martin. Expanding the already deadly Stand Your Ground law in Florida will lead to even more families having their loved ones killed by gun violence, particularly families of color. Our lawmakers should focus on legislation that helps keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, not on measures that place targets on our children’s backs. We must continue to fight for the safety of our communities and we must hold Governor Rick Scott and other elected officials accountable for their support of legislation that will jeopardize public safety.”
Photo:  Moms Demand Action

Folk Heritage Award Recipient William “Billy the Kid” Emerson Honored in Ceremony in Tarpon Springs

TALLAHASSEE— The Florida Folklife Program and the City of Tarpon Springs recognized 2017 Florida Folk Heritage Award recipient, William “Billy the Kid” Emerson, in a special ceremony today hosted at the Tarpon Springs Heritage Museum. This ceremony honored Mr. Emerson for his lifelong contributions as a songwriter and producer.

William Emerson was born in Tarpon Springs in 1925, where he learned to play piano in church. Following in the footsteps of his uncle George Hannah, Emerson began performing publicly throughout the area. He joined the Navy in 1943, and after the war, resumed performing with Tampa area acts including Ivory Mitchell, the Billy Battle Band, and Alfonso Brown Band. He acquired the nickname “Billy the Kid” while playing with a band that dressed like cowboys.

Also a talented athlete, Emerson attended Florida A&M University on an athletic scholarship but left to serve in the Air Force during the Korean War. He later met Ike Turner and after being discharged, joined Turner’s Kings of Rhythm band. In 1954, he signed a contract with Sam Phillips and wrote and recorded hits for Sun Records including “When It Rains It Really Pours” (later recorded by Elvis Presley) and “Red Hot.” In 1955, he joined Vee-Jay Records, where he released “Every Woman I know (Crazy ‘Bout Automobiles).” Shortly after, he joined Chess Records as their recording manager. Emerson later formed Tarpon Records, and continued to record and perform rhythm & blues both internationally and abroad.

In 1978, Mr. Emerson rededicated himself to his faith, became a pastor and returned to Tarpon Springs where he continues to serve his congregation and compose sacred music. Although he no longer performs secular music, the compilation album, Red Hot: The Sun Years, was released in 2009, and Mr. Emerson was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.


William Emerson
William Emerson publicity photo

The Florida Department of State presents Florida Folk Heritage Awards annually to citizens who have made long-standing contributions to Florida’s cultural heritage by perpetuating community traditions. Like the National Heritage Fellowships, the Florida Folk Heritage Awards honor the state’s most influential tradition bearers for excellence, significance and authenticity as folk artists or folklife advocates. Information on how to make a nomination is available here and additional information regarding past recipients, including photos and bios, is available here.

The Florida Folklife Program is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts’ Folk and Traditional Arts Program. For further information about the Florida Folklife Program, contact State Folklorist Amanda Hardeman at 850.245.6427 or visit flheritage.com/preservation/folklife.


Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson on direction of education under Trump and DeVos



Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson released the following statement in response to President Trump’s Visit to Florida to Promote School Choice:

“I am very concerned about the direction in which President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos want to take the nation’s education system. Earlier this week, in his first address before a joint session of Congress, Mr. Trump urged lawmakers to pass legislation to fund school choice programs. Today he and his education secretary traveled to my home state to tour Orlando’s St. Andrew Catholic School and hail it as an example of how voucher programs can benefit disadvantaged and minority children.

“What both the president and Secretary DeVos failed to acknowledge is that programs like the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship do not cover the full cost of tuition and other expenses that are required when one sends a child to private school, such as books and supplies, transportation, and extracurricular activities.

“More important, vouchers drain public school systems of badly needed funding. Some of the so-called private schools that accept vouchers lack accountability and have not demonstrated the kinds of academic gains that justify siphoning taxpayer dollars out of the public school system, leaving our most disadvantaged students even further behind in underfunded schools with even fewer resources.

“Since 90 percent of American students attend public schools, children in disadvantaged communities would benefit so much more if President Trump and Secretary Devos would focus on how to provide them with high-quality schools that are equitable to those attended by children in middle- and upper-income communities, instead of superficial alternatives like voucher programs.

“I am hopeful, however, that Secretary DeVos and the president will be willing to work with Democrats on ways in which we can strengthen our nation’s public school system, without focusing exclusively on superficial alternatives like school choice programs.”

Here's why YOU should VOTE NO on Amendment 1

By now you've either heard the commercials on the radio or seen the commercials on television touting Amendment 1 as favorable to Florida's consumers. Don't fall for the okey doke. Here's what you need to know AND share with your family, friends, co-workers, etc. VOTE NO ON AMENDMENT 1!



Drivers Licenses Restored for Hundreds at Reinstatement Event


Wilson and jordan
Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson (left) and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Barbara Jordan (right) helped hundreds of drivers restore their licenses at local reinstatement event.

MIAMI, FL – Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson (FL-24) and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Barbara Jordan, in conjunction with the Public Defender, Eleventh Judicial Circuit County Court Criminal Division, and the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles helped hundreds of people with suspended driving privileges restore their licenses at a driver license reinstatement event on Friday, October 21, 2016, at the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building in Miami-Dade County. 

“Many people who came today were thankful and said that this event was a lifesaver,” said Congresswoman Wilson.  “A suspended license can create a vicious cycle that is difficult to break as traffic fines continue to collect interest.  This event has put many people on the road to prosperity because they can now get to school or work and improve their quality of life.” 

The reinstatement event, coordinated by Chief Judge Samuel J. Slom and other members of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit County Court Criminal Division, alleviated the burden of traffic fines and fees that had previously hindered over 350 individuals from securing their licenses.  The event was offered on a first-come, first-serve basis to individuals with specific citations in Miami-Dade County excluding driving under the influence, felony-involved traffic offenses, habitual traffic offenses, and suspensions for failure to pay child support. 

“Since the year 2000 the cost of tickets has risen 170%, while the minimum wage only rose 53%,” said Judge Samuel J. Slom.  “It’s easy to see by those statistics why people are unable to pay tickets that have been assessed.  Today we’re giving people a chance to modify those obligations so they can get their licenses and seek employment.” 

More than 1.5 million people in Florida have had their licenses suspended for a variety of reasons including seat belt violations, unpaid traffic tickets, and broken tail lights.  Nearly 500,000 of those people live in Miami-Dade County.  A suspended license limits transportation options and hampers the livelihood of a major facet of the community.

“My mantra since I’ve been in Congress has been jobs, jobs, jobs,” said Congresswoman Wilson.  “Events like this are part of furthering that mantra.  I am certain we can reduce our nation’s deficit if people who want to work, can work.” 


BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY: 7-Eleven Brings Back Zero Franchise Fee Program on 32 Florida Stores and 300 Nationwide


7-Eleven Brings Back Zero Franchise Fee Program on 
32 Florida Stores and 300 Nationwide
MIAMI - (March 21, 2016) - 7-Eleven, Inc. is bringing back its successful Zero Franchise Fee initiative to 32 stores in Florida and 300 stores nationwide as an ongoing program to offer a low-cost investment opportunity for both proven business owners and would-be entrepreneurs.

In the program, 7-Eleven® will waive the franchise fee on a select number of its U.S. stores available for franchising, a savings of up to $80,000. Last year, the Zero Franchise Fee initiative allowed 100 people to become new 7-Eleven store owners or multiple store-owners. (Download program details

"We had such a great response last year when we launched the limited-time Zero Franchise Fee offer that we decided to bring it back," said Lawrence Hughes, 7-Eleven vice president of franchise systems. "Hard-working Americans are always looking for great opportunities, and I think 7-Eleven is one of the best around. Becoming a 7-Eleven franchisee without the upfront expense of a franchise fee makes it an attainable goal for many who otherwise might not be able to own their own business."

Approximately 300 eligible stores are available across the country in markets like Dallas, Cleveland, Charlotte, N.C.; Virginia Beach, Va., and Buffalo, N.Y. These stores typically have lower sales volume compared to the national average. In Florida, Zero Franchise Fee stores are available from Miami to Jacksonville and from Naples to Orlando. 

In the last five years, 7-Eleven has grown its store base by more than 1,600 locations through acquisition and new construction. The retailer is looking to transition these stores from company to franchise operations now that they have an established customer base. 

The convenience retailer is offering these stores to prospective, qualified franchisees as well as existing 7-Eleven franchisees who want to grow their retail business by adding stores.

To qualify for the Zero Franchise Fee offer, a candidate must be at least 21 years old and a U.S. citizen or have permanent residency, have three to five years of retail, operations and management experience, have excellent credit and, at least, $50,000 in liquid assets. Prospective franchise owners will still be responsible for the costs of licensing, permits and the initial down-payment on inventory, totaling approximately $30,000. Prospective franchisees for Zero Franchise Fee stores will undergo the standard franchise approval process, which takes between five and seven months.

After extensive training, 7-Eleven franchisees open their doors with a fully-equipped and stocked store with intuitive retail technology, merchandising and advertising support, high-quality national and private-brand products, and some of the world's most recognizable brands like Slurpee® and Big Gulp® drinks.
"Not only do franchisees get the power of the 7-Eleven brand behind them, but also a proven business system, extensive training and ongoing support as they build their businesses," Hughes said.

In business publications and websites like Entrepreneur, Forbes, Franchise Direct, and FranchiseRankings.com, 7-Eleven continues to rank at or near the top of their lists of best franchises to own. Military Times also named 7-Eleven as one of its "Best for Vets" franchises.

All Zero Franchise Fee opportunities also qualify for 7-Eleven's Gross Income Support Program that provides additional, limited-time financial support. 

How the Passage of House Bill 873 Would Affect Our Schools and Your Local Property Taxes

Say no to hb 873

It's not always best to multitask but there are so many pressing issues at play that affect our daily lives that we must find a way to effectively address them or prepare ourselves for the ghastly aftermath. The Florida Legislature will deal with HB873 very soon. You should know that passage of the proposed legislation will continue the decimation of public education AND adversely affect disposable income of taxpayers. 

Please pay attention to this message from the Miami-Dade County Council of PTAs/PTSAs. Call, email and tweet the legislators listed below. Ask them to vote NO on HB873. Thank You.

~ Va-Va 


How the Passage of House Bill 873 Would Affect Our Schools and Your Local Property Taxes

FEBRUARY 29, 2016
If passed by the Florida Legislature, House Bill 873 (Education Funding), sponsored by Miami-Dade's own Representative Manny Diaz, Jr. and co-sponsored by fellow Dade Delegation member Representative Erik Fresen, will dramatically affect what happens to the property taxes you pay for building, renovating, and maintaining local school district facilities. An amendment to the bill, filed by Representative Fresen and approved by the House Appropriations Committee, requires school districts to share a portion of these local taxes with privately-operated charter schools.
Over the past few years, charter schools have consistently received more state funding for capital outlay than traditional public schools. In both 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, for example, charter schools were allocated $55 million in state PECO (Public Education Capital Outlay) funds, while traditional public schools received $0. In 2013-2014, charters were allocated $90.6 million, and traditional public schools $6 million. The totals in 2014-2015 were $75 million for charter schools and $53 million for district schools. This year, both charter schools and traditional public schools have each been allocated $50 million--despite the fact that district schools vastly outnumber charter schools.
Most of Florida's traditional public schools are well over 50 years old, and the long drought in state maintenance and construction funds has forced school districts to face a difficult choice: delay addressing basic needs, such as repairing and replacing roofs and air conditioning units, or raise local property taxes to cover necessary expenses.
If HB 873 passes, part of our local property tax dollars will be siphoned off to charter schools for the lease, construction, or improvement of privately-owned facilities. Remember that in too many instances where charter schools have closed, the public has been unsuccessful in recovering taxpayer dollars spent on capital improvements: the Associated Press has estimated the cumulative loss at $70 million.
We need to act NOW!
Please email, call, or tweet TODAY!
Ask House Speaker Crisafulli and your local Representative to VOTE NO on HB 873

Speaker Steve Crisafulli
steve.crisafulli@myfloridahouse.gov, 850-717-5000, @SteveCrisafulli

Rep. Joe Geller
joseph.geller@myfloridahouse.gov, 850-717-5100, @JoeGellerFL

Rep. Sharon Pritchett,
sharon.pritchett@myfloridahouse.gov, 850-717-5102, @staterepsharon

Rep. Manny Diaz, Jr.,
manny.diaz@myfloridahouse.gov, 850-717-5103, @RepMannyDiazJr

Rep. Carlos Trujillo,
carlos.trujillo@myfloridahouse.gov, 850-717-5105, @RepCTrujillo

Rep. Barbara Watson,
barbara.watson@myfloridahouse.gov, 850-717-5107, @TeamRepWatson

Rep. Daphne Campbell,
daphne.campbell@myfloridahouse.gov, 850-717-5108, @RepCampbell

Rep. Cynthia Stafford,
Rep. Jose Oliva,
jose.oliva@myfloridahouse.gov, 850-717-5110, @RepJoseOliva

Rep. Bryan Avila,
bryan.avila@myfloridahouse.gov, 850-717-5111, @BryanAvilaFL

Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez.
jose.rodriguez@myfloridahouse.gov, 850-717-5112, @JoseJavierJJR

Rep. David Richardson,
david.richardson@myfloridahouse.gov, 850-717-5113, @david4florida

Rep. Erik Fresen,
erik.fresen@myfloridahouse.gov, 850-717-5114, @ErikFresenFL

Rep. Michael Bileca,
michael.bileca@myfloridahouse.gov, 850-717-5115, @mbileca

Rep. Jose Felix Diaz,
jose.diaz@myfloridahouse.gov, 850-717-5116, @josefelixdiaz

Rep. Kionne McGhee,
kionne.mcghee@myfloridahouse.gov, 850-717-5117, @kionnemcghee

Rep. Frank Artiles,
frank.artiles@myfloridahouse.gov, 850-717-5118, @Artiles118

Rep. Jeanette Nuñez,
jeanette.nunez@myfloridahouse.gov, 850-717-5119, @RepJNunez

Rep. Holly Raschein,
holly.raschein@myfloridahouse.gov, 850-717-5120, @HollyRaschein

If you're not sure which House member represents you, please enter your address here.

Additional late breaking Education Bills update:
The Senate Appropriations Committee passed two omnibus education bills on 2/25, after attaching large amendments, sending the two bills to the Senate floor.
Senate Education Budget Committee Chair, Senator Don Gaetz, filed a 59-page, strike-all amendment to SB 524, which, while proposing measures to prevent charter school capital funding from flowing into private investors' pockets, also includes controversial issues like the "Best and Brightest" teacher bonus plan. SB 524 was previously a 3-page bill dealing with state university performance funding.
Senator Gaetz also filed an 85-page strike-all amendment to SB 1166 (Education Funding), with proposed revisions that include open enrollment for public school students (students can attend any school in the state that has availability) and high school athletics (opening public high school athletics to students who attend charter and some private schools).
We know that you are your student's best advocate. 

Nancy Lawther, VP of Advocacy and Legislation
Mindy Gould, Advocacy Chair
Eileen Segal, Legislation Chair
Miami-Dade County Council of PTAs/PTSAs


Early Voting begins In Miami-Dade County in the March 15 Presidential Preference Primary Election

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Today is the first day of Early Voting in the Presidential Preference Primary Election. See the dates, times and locations below. Get out and vote.  

From Miami-Dade County Elections: 


Why wait? Vote early!

Below are early voting schedules for upcoming elections.

Presidential Preference Primary Election - March 15, 2016

Mon. Tue. Wed. Thur. Fri. Sat. Sun.
7 a.m. -
3 p.m.
7 a.m. -
3 p.m.
7 a.m. -
3 p.m.
7 a.m. -
3 p.m.
7 a.m. -
3 p.m.
8 a.m. -
4 p.m.
8 a.m. -
4 p.m.
11 a.m.- 
7 p.m.
11 a.m. -
7 p.m.
11 a.m. -
7 p.m.
11 a.m. -
7 p.m.
11 a.m. -
7 p.m.
8 a.m. -
4 p.m.
8 a.m. -
4 p.m.
  • City of Miami - City Hall
    3500 Pan American Drive
    Miami, FL 33133
    (Entrance is located at the northeast side of the building - ADA entrance is through the front door of City Hall)
  • Coral Gables Branch Library
    3443 Segovia Street
    Coral Gables, FL 33134 
  • Coral Reef Branch Library
    9211 SW 152nd Street
    Miami, FL 33157
  • Elections Department
    (Main Office)
    2700 NW 87th Avenue 
    Doral, FL 33172 
  • Homestead Community Center
    (William F. "Bill" Dickinson Community Center)
    1601 N. Krome Avenue
    Homestead, FL 33030 
  • John F. Kennedy Library
    190 W 49th Street
    Hialeah, FL 33012
  • Kendall Branch Library
    9101 SW 97th Avenue 
    Miami, FL 33176 
  • Lemon City Library
    430 NE 61st Street
    Miami, FL 33137
  • Miami Beach City Hall
    1700 Convention Center Drive
    Miami Beach, FL 33139
  • Miami Lakes Community Center
    (Mary Collins Community Center)
    15151 NW 82nd Avenue
    Miami Lakes, FL 33016
  • Model City Library
    (Caleb Center)
    2211 NW 54th Street
    Miami, FL 33142
  • North Dade Regional Library
    2455 NW 183rd Street
    Miami Gardens, FL 33056
  • North Miami Public Library
    835 NE 132nd Street
    North Miami, FL 33161
  • North Shore Branch Library
    7501 Collins Avenue
    Miami Beach, FL 33141
  • Northeast Dade-Aventura Branch Library
    2930 Aventura Boulevard
    Aventura, FL 33180
  • South Dade Regional Library
    10750 SW 211th Street
    Cutler Bay, FL 33189
  • Stephen P. Clark Gov’t Center
    (Elections Branch Office)
    111 NW 1st Street (Lobby)
    Miami, FL 33128
  • West Dade Regional Library
    9445 SW 24th Street
    Miami, FL 33165
  • West End Regional Library
    10201 Hammocks Boulevard
    Miami, FL 33196
  • West Miami Community Center
    901 SW 62nd Avenue
    West Miami, FL 33144
If you cannot view PDF PDF files, you can download Acrobat Reader  for free from Adobe Systems, Inc. In order to use PDF files, you must have Acrobat installed on your computer.


Miami-Dade County Public Schools teacher refuses to administer Common Core test to her students


Shirley Person, Miami-Dade County Public Schools language arts teacher who refused to allow her son to participate in Florida state standardized testing, will not administer the Florida State Standards Assessment. Her reasons are two-fold. She is opposed to the language and stipulations as set forth by the Florida Department of Education in the "Testing Administration and Security Agreement."

The agreement mandates that teachers include teaching certificate numbers along with their signatures. Teachers are also required to agree to stand for two to six hours while engaging in constant surveillance of students engaged in testing. In addition, Ms. Person is opposed to the mandates that forbid teachers to look at the tests, share information about the tests, or allow students to share information about the tests.

According to Ms. Person, "These mandates are extreme and unrealistic. This covert nature of testing that does not allow educators and students to discuss the tests and does not allow teachers, students, and parents to view the graded tests is indicative of ethics violations, systemic racism, and a hidden agenda that serve to undermine students, teachers, and public education."

h/t:  Ceresta Smith

Faith Leaders Flex Political Muscle at Polls with Eyes on 2016

Emerging Religious Voting Bloc Turns-Out on Issues of Racial and Economic Justice 

Orlando, Fla. – In an unpredictable political climate, people of faith working with Faith in Florida held 50,279 live person-to-person conversations about faith and voting with African-American and Latino voters. Those conversations focused on voting rights and drivers licenses for immigrants, which are two of the most important issues on the agenda of African-American and Latino voters.  Faith in Florida’s grassroots volunteer voter contact program highlights the growing power of religious voters who are committed to racial and economic justice.

“Republican and Democratic candidates ignore at their peril the emerging bloc of religious voters who voted their values on voting rights, immigration reform and affordable health care for all,” said Jerry Peña, Faith in Florida’s Executive Director. “Faith in Florida Get Out the Vote turned out 50,279 voters demonstrating that religious institutions that preach justice and redemption also have the ability to use sophisticated tools and targeting to move large numbers of people to the polls who might not otherwise vote."

As part of the Let My People Vote electoral program with the PICO National Network, the largest grassroots, faith-based organizing network in the country which held more than 500,000 live conversations in key states, Faith in Florida’s electoral program focused on the mobilization of African American and Latino faith voters whose voices have been ignored in the past. 

Churches across the state participated in registering and turning out their members, Souls to Polls events and phone banking and canvassing their neighborhoods. Over and over, volunteers delivered the message to voters that their lives, voices and votes matter.

“This election shows the power that people of faith can have when they stand up for their family, neighbors and coworkers, and signals a growing moral tide in American politics that can’t be stopped.” Said Rev. Alvin Herring, PICO’s National Deputy Director. “PICO National Network and other faith groups were able to mobilize a unique coalition of pro-working family religious voters, whose voice will only continue to grow in 2015 and beyond.”