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Progressives to rally statewide Tuesday for alternative legislative agenda

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As the legislative session kicks off Tuesday, a progressive group is coming together in communities across the state to put forth a more progressive agenda than what has been seen in the overwhelmingly conservative Legislature.

The group Progress Florida is organizing statewide rallies called “Awake the State” for the fifth year in a row as the 2015 session gets underway.

The group will unveil its list of five legislative priorities during a noon-time rally at the state Capitol in Tallahassee Tuesday. The priorities were chosen based on a survey of nearly 2,000 Floridians.

“Every year under Rick Scott and his allies, we’ve had to fend off regressive policies including attacks on public education, working families and women’s health,” said Barbara DeVane with the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans. “We won’t stop fighting these attacks, but this year Awake the State is putting forward a progressive vision for what Gov. Scott and his legislative allies could – and should – do to build a Florida that works for all Floridians,”

One of the priorities is likely to be expansion of the state’s Medicaid system. Thus far, lawmakers have continued to refuse $51 billion in federal funding to expand the program to nearly one million uninsured, low-income Floridians.

Many of those individuals fall into what has been called the coverage gap where they don’t make enough money to qualify for a subsidy in the private health-care exchange under the Affordable Care Act, but also don’t qualify for Medicaid because the state hasn’t expanded.

Only those individuals and families earning between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level qualify for a subsidy on health insurance costs. Those below poverty level would have to pay full-market value for their coverage.

Other possible priorities could be opening the door for broad medical marijuana, blocking anti-abortion proposals or legislation to allow guns on college campuses.

Regardless, the five proposals the group will unveil are aimed at protecting and assisting working families and individuals rather than wealthy people, corporations or special interests.

“These proposals would do more for hard-working Floridians than anything Gov. Rick Scott and his legislative allies have done in the last five years,” said Progress Florida executive director Mark Ferrulo.

Activists will rally in St. Pete at Spa Beach at 10 a.m. Tuesday morning. Spa Beach is located on the uplands of the downtown St. Pete Pier.

Here’s a list of other gatherings statewide:

Brevard County

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli’s Office

2460 N. Courtney Pkwy, Suite 108, Merritt Island FL 32953

Starts at 5:30 p.m.

Broward County

United States Federal Courthouse

299 E. Broward Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale FL 33301

Starts at 4:30 p.m.  

Lee County

Uncommon Friends Fountain — Centennial Park

2000 West First Street, Fort Myers FL 33901

Starts at 4:30 p.m.

Marion County

Ocala Downtown Square

50 E Silver Springs Blvd., Ocala FL 34470

Starts at 5:30 p.m. 

Orange County

Senate President Andy Gardiner’s Office

1013 E. Michigan Street, Orlando FL 32806

Starts at 4 p.m.

Palm Beach County

West Palm Beach City Hall/Library Plaza

407 Clematis St., West Palm Beach FL 33401

Starts at 4:30 p.m. 

Putnam County (Melrose)

Intersection of SR 26 and SR 21 in Melrose

Starts at 4:30 p.m.

Putnam County (Palatka)

Putnam County Courthouse

410 Saint Johns Avenue, Palatka FL 32177

Starts at 4 p.m.

Volusia County

Corner in front of state Sen. Dorothy Hukill’s office

209 Dunlawton Avenue, Port Orange FL 32127

Starts at 4:30 p.m.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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