Liberal activists assess damage of legislative session at second "Awake the State" rally

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Not to wallow in a post-session depression, activists hosted their second "Awake the State" rally yesterday afternoon at Senator Beth Johnson Park (right next to the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce), promising a "hot summer" for Florida legislators in the wake of a slew of controversial bills set to become law. "Good afternoon, pissed-off Floridians!" boomed the emcee. This iteration of “Awake the State” appeared to be less a populist revolt and more a liberal activist powwow - in the crowd, for instance, were swaths of red shirts from AFL-CIO affiliate group Working America (which was instrumental in prodding State. Sen. Gary Siplin to take a stand against cuts to unemployment benefits, though the bill passed anyway). Political slings from the moral high ground were abundant, as event literature called this year’s legislative session "Anti-Voter, Anti-Healthcare, Anti-Education, Anti-Student, Anti-Women, Anti-Minimum Wage, Anti-Unemployed, and Anti-Environment." The roughly 100 people in attendance beheld a lineup of speakers including State Reps. Scott Randolph and Darren Soto, both of Orlando. Soto told the crowd that although there were many losses for the Democratic ilk -- the teacher merit pay bill, the easing of development restrictions, the aforementioned unemployment legislation -- himself and other legislators were nonetheless able to block all but two of the 18 proposed abortion bills, as well as stop the "Arizona-style" immigration law proposed by State Sen. David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs). "There were victories, but they were few and far between," Soto said. Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando president Sue Idtensohn also took the podium (actually, a picnic table), and jabbed male legislators who pushed for restrictions on abortion. “I think what we ought to do is propose legislation where it’s mandated that they all need to have a vasectomy,” she said, to cheering and applause. On a more serious note, Idtensohn warned the crowd that the same crop of legislators would be returning for another session. “Remember, we have another year of this,” she said. “They were just warming up.”

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