- Associated Press - Thursday, April 1, 2021

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - The Florida House began its Thursday session by unanimously passing two civics education bills, including one sponsored by a representative who emigrated from Kosovo that would require schools to develop an oral history telling diverse, personal stories that promote civic awareness.

The bill was among nearly forty passed in less than two hours during a whirlwind session dealing with issues ranging from wine containers to chickee huts to bicycle seats. The House also passed a Parents’ Bill of Rights measure after sharply divided debate between Democrats and Republicans.

The first bill passed was sponsored by Republican Rep. Ardian Zika, who received loud applause from representatives after a passionate speech about his love for America after his family fled from Kosovo.

“Total darkness is the only way to describe growing up in Kosovo in the shadow of an evil dictatorship. It was a place where socialists stole your bread and communists stole your soul,” Zika said. “But even in the darkest of the dark, there was always a light. We knew what it was. It was America.”

The bill would require the development of a K-12 civics curriculum that, among other things, would include “portraits in patriotism” that tell the personal stories of civic-mindedness. Among those stories would be “first-person accounts of victims of other nations’ governing philosophies who can compare those philosophies with those of the United States.”

The curriculum must also include comparison of communism and totalitarianism that conflict with the democratic principles of the United States.

A separate bill would require the state to develop a civics literacy course study that includes participation in outside activities and a research paper describing the experience.

“This bill is going to provide more opportunities for young people to recognize that they too can learn the tools to be active and engaged citizens, they too can learn how government works,” said Democratic Rep. Ben Diamond, the bill’s sponsor.

The Parents’ Bill of Rights would give parents full access to their children’s school, health care and criminal justice records. It passed on a 78-37 vote.

Democrats opposed the bill arguing that a student who confides to a teacher that he or she is gay or transgender might be outed by the school to the student’s parents.

“Even today, too many parents are unwilling to put their biases aside in order to provide an unconditionally safe and loving home for their child. I know it, I’ve seen it, I have lived it,” said Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith.

Republican Rep. Erin Grall defended her bill.

“We hear … the horror stories of the bad parent, the abusive parent, the intolerant parent, and I continue to refuse to accept that we should diminish the rights of all parents in the raising of their children because of the acts of a few,” Grall said.

Among bills that passed with little or no debate are measures that would:

- Repeal a law that prohibits wine containers larger than 1 gallon.

- Exempt the Miccosukee and Seminole tribes from needing a building permit to build chickee huts.

- Revise a law that makes it illegal to ride a bicycle without a seat if the bicycle was manufactured to be ridden without one.

- Make clear in law that licensed message therapists can use their knees while treating clients.

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