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Florida progressives will gather at Awake the State summit

Awake the State is organizing and mobilizing Floridians who are against Gov. Rick Scott and the GOP-led state Legislature during a summit in Orlando this weekend. Organizers are describing the event as a “gathering of both organizers and supporters collaborating to build a stronger movement.”

Progress Florida’s Mark Ferrulo says this is “the next part of the evolution of the movement” that began in early March. Since then, thousands have rallied in up to 40 events in cities all over the state. Ferrulo says the summit is an effort to “expand” the local groups that have already joined “and continue to grow the movement.”

“This is a movement of middle-class Floridians that are fed-up with Scott and the state Legislature’s policies,” he says.

Another focus of the summit will be “LegiCamp 2012, a program designed for participants to better understand issues and to organize projects around them,” according to the event website. The summit agenda includes a “presentation on the legislative process and budget process.”

Ferrulo says the focus will shift to “the upcoming legislative session” and campaigns people can put together to address “the onslaught of attacks” that have “undermined” the state’s middle class. He says Scott’s economic plans will be a big focus during the summit. Ferrulo says the state has suffered through devastating cuts to public education, health care and environmental protection.

“This is why big corporations do not want to come to Florida,” he says. “It’s obviously not taxes. It’s our quality of life.”

Tea party activists announced this month that they have set up a “Tallahassee headquarters” in the Florida Senate building. The group says that “keeping a space at the Capitol will help them during the hectic days of session, when they need to react with speed to lawmakers’ surprise amendments and unfavorable votes,” according to The Miami Herald. Awake the State is hoping to educate activists on how to provide the progressive voice to the Legislature, a perspective that was largely absent during the past session.****

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According to Ferrulo, the Legislature has “refused to close huge tax loopholes” in the state while simultaneously “eviscerating social programs.” Ferrulo says big monied interests have more of a say in state policy than everyone else.

“Florida is the poster child of politics being run by special interests such as Blue Cross Blue Shield and FPL,” Ferrulo says. “They literally write the laws we all live under.”

Ferrulo says that explains why groups like the Occupy Wall Street movement have been successful, adding that movement around the country to “effectively shine a public spotlight on the fact that the wealthiest people run the country” is very positive.

The Awake the State summit will take place at the University of Central Florida in Orlando on Oct. 22 and 23.

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