1. Florida Politics

William March: Renewed effort to ratify Equal Rights Amendment in Florida

Rep. Fentrice Driskell is one of at least two Tampa legislators renewing a move to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. [Photo courtesy of Driskell campaign]
Rep. Fentrice Driskell is one of at least two Tampa legislators renewing a move to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. [Photo courtesy of Driskell campaign]
Published Mar. 7, 2019

In what might seem like a return to the '70s, a Tampa professional women's group and at least two Tampa legislators are among those renewing a move to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment for women, saying Florida could be the state that finally puts it into the Constitution.

"To be able to advocate for it means a great deal for me personally. I don't think equality for women should be a partisan issue," said freshman Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, who wasn't even born when Congress first approved the amendment in 1972.

Twenty-two state legislatures quickly ratified it, but then opposition from conservatives opposed to the women's movement virtually halted ratifications. Three quarters of the states are required, or 38, and Illinois became the 37th last May.

Driskell and Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, are among the Florida legislation's sponsors.

This week, Tampa's Athena Society heard a presentation by Illinois Rep. Steve Andersson, a Republican who led the effort to pass it there.

"I believe in equality for women and we don't have it right now," he said in an interview.

The Athena Society was formed in 1976 to push for ratification of the ERA, said Athena president Betty Castor.

Andersson offered some advice to them. Opponents, he said, will portray the amendment as a pro-abortion rights measure.

"I'm pro-life, and it has nothing to do with that," he said. "You have to defuse that issue."

To get Republican legislators' support, Andersson said they must be convinced they won't be harmed politically. "You need to recruit Republican women who will tell them, 'I've got your back.' "

Some states have rescinded their ratifications and two deadlines set by Congress for state ratification have passed. But Andersson argued that under Supreme Court case law, the deadlines and rescissions are moot, because they aren't specifically authorized in the Constitution.

Passage in Florida's GOP-dominated Legislature isn't likely. It's been introduced every year since 2003, often by former Tampa Sen. Arthenia Joyner, and died in committee each time.

"It may be an uphill battle," said Driskell, "but we have these positions to push for the rights of all people. We can't abdicate that just because it's an uphill battle."

GOP ups efforts in city races

The Hillsborough County Republican Party upped its game in this year's Tampa elections.

"It's the first time in years I've seen the party put boots on the ground in a city council race," said April Schiff, political consultant for Lee Lowry, who was perhaps the party's best hope for a winner in Tuesday's election. She lost to Bill Carlson.

"They offered that help to all the Republican candidates running," and walked precincts in Lowry's District 4 and in District 5, she said.

Unfortunately for the Republicans, it didn't help — all their candidates lost in the Tuesday election.

City Council races are non-partisan — the candidates aren't allowed to run representing parties, and parties can't endorse or contribute to them.

Still, both local parties find ways to back "their" candidates.

This year, the local GOP did "a major strategy effort … to get more heavily involved in the city races," including social media ads, communications to party members and canvassing, said Chairman Jim Waurishuk.

In emails and social media, it identified GOP candidates and disseminated candidate questionnaires focusing on conservative issues. It has also encouraged party members to volunteer for the campaigns.

"I'm hopeful they've decided it's time to start working on building their bench," said Schiff.

Facing Tampa's Democratic electorate, no Republican ran for mayor, although Jane Castor and David Straz changed registration to Democrat for the race. A last-minute attack mailer from an outside group smeared David Straz, a former Republican, for his previous support of Donald Trump, whom he now rejects.

There were four GOP council candidates, including David Loos, who didn't make the runoff in District 1. Wendy Pepe lost to incumbent Guido Maniscalco in District 6. And in District 4, the only council district with more Republicans than Democrats, Democrat Bill Carlson nonetheless defeated Republicans Lowry and Sal Guagliardo.

Lee, Galvano back toll road expansion

Two legislators representing Hillsborough County, Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, and Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, will be pushing an initiative in the Legislature to expand Florida's toll road system, including extending the Suncoast Parkway to Georgia and building the Heartland Parkway from Polk to Collier counties.

Galvano has appointed political ally Lee chairman of a new Senate Infrastructure Committee to shepherd the legislation.

But how does that square with dealing with Florida's water pollution crisis, caused in part by development and sprawl?

In comments to reporters Tuesday, Galvano noted his own district was plagued by red tide, and denied former Senate President Joe Negron's pro-environment stances. He said the transportation corridors he's pushing could help.

"The corridors … have an environmental component by providing additional access to water and sewer systems, and moving away from septic (which is) at the heart of some of the problems we have," he said.

Lee couldn't be reached for comment.


  1. Visitors head to Florida's Old Capitol building on Tuesday, the first day of the annual session. The same day, the advocacy group Equality Florida denounced four bills filed by Republican lawmakers, calling them “the most overtly anti-LGBTQ agenda from the Florida legislature in recent memory.” [SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Most of the bills try to eliminate local ordinances, and Republicans say they’ve been unfairly labeled.
  2. Attorney Joseph Bondy tweeted this photo of his client, Lev Parnas (right) with former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi on Friday, Jan. 17. Bondi on Friday was named on of President Donald Trump's impeachment lawyers. [Twitter]
    Parnas’ lawyer tweeted out the photo of the former Florida attorney general along with #TheyAllKnew.
  3. In this Feb. 22, 2018 file photo, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, speaks to reporters outside the West Wing in Washington. President Donald Trump's legal team will include Pam Bondi, the former Florida attorney general, former Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr, the former independent counsel who led the Whitewater investigation into President Bill Clinton, according to a person familiar with the matter. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) [J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE  |  AP]
    The former Florida attorney general reportedly will join former Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr, the independent counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton.
  4. Florida Senator Rob Bradley, R- Fleming Island, watches the action on the first day of the session, 1/14/2020.  [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    A popular bill would allow judges to dole out punishments less than the mandatory minimum sentences spelled out in state law for many drug crimes if the defendant meets certain criteria.
  5. Vice President Mike Pence take selfies with supporters after giving a campaign speech during the "Keep America Great" rally at the Venetian Event Center at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in Tampa, Florida on Thursday, January 16, 2020.  [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    ‘Come November the American people are going to have our say,’ Pence said.
  6. Rep. Stan McClain, an Ocala Republican, presents a bill that would allow Florida public colleges and universities to sponsor charter schools, during a January 2020 meeting of the House PreK-12 Innovation subcommittee. [The Florida Channel]
    Alternative authorizers have been found unconstitutional in the past. But that isn’t stopping the effort.
  7. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, members of the Florida Cabinet, left, and the Florida Supreme Court, right, stand at attention as the colors are posted in the Florida Senate during the first day of the Florida legislative session in Tallahassee, Tuesday, January 14, 2020.  [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    The court ruled that Amendment 4‘s “all terms of sentence” include the payment of all court fees, fines and restitution.
  8. Thousands rallied and marched from the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center to the Florida Historic Capitol to demand more money for public schools Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. Thousands of school workers from around the state thronged Florida's Capitol on Monday to press Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature to more than double the nearly $1 billion the governor is proposing for teacher raises and bonuses.  (Tori Lynn Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat via AP) [TORI LYNN SCHNEIDER  |  AP]
    The PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee cutting exercise would come in nearly 25 percent below Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal.
  9. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.,, center, speaks as fellow candidates businessman Tom Steyer, from left, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. listen, Tuesday during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) [PATRICK SEMANSKY  |  AP]
    The candidates’ proposals reveal differences in how they plan to approach the issue.
  10. Vice President Mike Pence points to supporters before speaking during a campaign rally at the Huntington Center, Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020, in Toledo, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) [TONY DEJAK  |  AP]
    Vice President Mike Pence will take the stage in New Tampa, at the Venetian Event Center at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church, at 1:30 p.m. It wasn’t planned that way.