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Florida lawmakers debate 'individual freedom' bill, which could spur lawsuits

The sponsor of SB 148 says the goal is to prevent discrimination, but some lawmakers say the bill is expanding statutes and opening up the potential for lawsuits.
Credit: AP
People walk past the Florida State Capitol Building, with the Historic Capitol building in the background during a legislative session, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A bill that could potentially impact what your child learns in school – or the training you receive at work – is moving forward in the Florida Senate's education committee.

The sponsor of Senate Bill 148 says it aims to prevent discrimination at school and in the workplace. But, critics say it's going to give more people leverage to sue employers and chill discussions in the classroom about race and gender. 

Democratic State Sen. Tina Scott Polsky of Boca Raton wonders if this bill is turning the legislature into “the thought police.”

“Now we're telling a company if they want to teach anti-discrimination, they want to teach diversity, they want to teach unconscious bias which is a course in the Florida Senate that they are potentially creating a cause of action from a disgruntled employee,” Polsky told the committee.

The bill's sponsor says the bill is about protecting individual freedom.

“The aim of this is to clearly have those discussions, to talk about the tough conversations and have it done in a manner where there's an open dialogue," sponsor Republican State Sen. Manny Diaz, Jr. of Hialeah Gardens said.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis proposed legislation called the Stop W.O.K.E. Act to address critical race theory back in December. 

Supporters say they want to see SB 148 more closely resemble Oklahoma and Iowa's legislation. Florida groups that are opposed to the bill include the NAACP, Florida PTA, ACLU of Florida and Equality Florida. We've posted a link to the bill here.

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