2019: The best legislative session or the worst?

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - From felons' voting rights to restrictions on citizens' initiatives and allowing teachers to carry guns, a coalition of progressive groups is calling the 2019 legislative session the worst in state history.

While Republican leaders have touted 2019 as one of the most productive sessions, progressive groups like the League of Women Voters, the ACLU, and the Southern Poverty Law Center say it was one of the most destructive.

“The 2019 session was a dark day for Florida's democracy,” said Scott McCoy with the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Police must cooperate with federal authorities under the sanctuary cities legislation and teachers will be allowed to carry guns in some counties under this year’s school safety expansion.

Citizens' initiatives will no longer be allowed to pay by the petition under a last-minute amendment tagged on to an elections bill and felons will have to pay restitution, fines, and court fees before voting if the Governor signs the Legislature’s Amendment 4 implementing bill.

Progressives hope the Governor will break out his veto pen.

“We hope sincerely that he will take a step back, take a deep breath, and really understand that he represents the people of Florida and that these things are not good policy,” said McCoy.

Governor Ron DeSantis supports most, if not all of the bills in question, and asserts the 2019 session crossed political affiliations.

“The environment stuff that appeals to a lot of Democrats. We did a big increase in affordable housing, which is important to a lot of liberals,” said DeSantis.

While big policy items were heavily Republican-leaning, some Democratic lawmakers say on issues like the budget, they were given a seat at the table.

Representative Anna Eskamani, a Democrat, was most excited about scoring funding for a memorial at the site of the Pulse Night Club Shooting and increased funding for arts and culture.

“That's only a reflection of the collegiality and the respect we have for one another though we disagree on much policy,” said Eskamani.

However, for many progressives, the policy disagreements outweigh bipartisan victories.

McCoy says if the Governor chooses to sign the legislation, the SPLC and ACLU plan on taking the fight to the courts.