When Florida Republicans gerrymandered the state’s legislative districts, they assumed they were dealing a crushing blow to Democrats. However, what they did was give the state’s black legislators political power that they never had before and may never have again.
This realization materialized when black legislators met with representatives of The Florida Lottery seeking to get budget items passed in the Florida House Appropriations Committee. With $25 million to spend on advertising, Lottery officials told them that $250,000 would be spent with black media. That was an insult, even to the legislators.
Insulting as it was, though, it was also possibly one of numerous lies told by Lottery folk. Asked why such a paltry amount was to be spent on advertisement in a community that spends, percentage-wise, more money than many other ethnic groups, Lottery officials explained that ad proposals were requested from black newspapers to be considered in finalizing the Lottery ad buys.
But, a rudimentary investigation by legislators did not find a single black-owned newspaper that received an ad proposal request from the Lottery.
There will be a follow up meeting and I would advise the Lottery to be more honest this time because black media owners should be in attendance at the next meeting with black Legislators.
So, what can the black Legislators do and what power do they have to do anything? Well, they can do what the Speaker of the U.S. House, John Boehner, is doing. Maybe Florida’s black state legislators can’t shut Florida government down but they sure can slow Florida government up.
Right now, there are two main state agencies under fire for not spending money with black-owned businesses, the Lottery and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).
FDOT spends billions of federal dollars and, guess what, all federal dollars have minority business and disadvantaged business aspects to them. The state of Florida, unlike many other states, has refused to do a disparity study into how much black businesses get from FDOT and the agency could face a lawsuit stemming from its disrespect, disdain and rejection of federal laws attached to federal funding.
In other words, Florida’s black legislators have all of the information and all of the reasons to demand that state agencies coming before the Legislature to ask for budget money spend some of that money with black businesses.
What can Florida’s tea party Republicans do about a political/economic rebellion led by black legislators that will slow down the state’s legislative process? Not a thing, because many black lawmakers, including some on the Legislative Appropriations Committees, are term-limited and will be leaving office after this year and don’t have to worry about re-election, or playing it safe.
Yes, if the Florida Lottery, the Florida Department of Transportation and other state agencies don’t deal properly with black state legislators, the 2014 Legislative Session could go long and wrong.
The term-limited black state legislators can run out in a flame of businesses opportunities for black businesses or they can go out of the Legislature like a flicker on a rainy day.
I suggest they do what white Congressional Republicans are doing. They can file amendment after amendment until agencies quit lying and begin to spend some real money with black businesses.
President Barack Obama won’t be on the 2014 ballot and Democrats across the U.S. won’t have a chance to defeat Republicans if blacks believe Democrats won’t fight for black people and black businesses. Black state legislators have power at the polls, too.
Lucius Gantt, a political consultant based in Tallahassee, is author of the book Beast Too: Dead Man Writing, which is available at Amazon.com. You can like The Gantt Report page on Facebook and contact Gantt at www.allworldconsultants.net