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A Little About Rita

My name is Rita Harris, and I'm proud to be your State Representative for Florida House District 44!

 

In addition to being a public servant, I am a mother, an advocate, an activist, and a twenty-year resident of our community. I started my activism at Planned Parenthood when I was in high school.

My journey back into activism started in 2017. My daughter had just started college, so I was deciding what I wanted to do in my next chapter in life - I could go back to school or work, but Trump had just been elected, and the threat to our values and way of life was very real. As a wife to a Black man and mother to a biracial Black daughter, I was horrified by the blatant racism, and I feared for their safety, so I rolled up my sleeves and got to work to elect as many good people as possible in 2018. I became the chair of the Events Committee for the Orange County Democrats and founded the Democratic Women's Club of South Orange County. 

This District includes Universal, International Drive, Seaworld, and the Orlando International Airport. COVID has exposed cracks in our system - the people that work at these economic engines should be able to afford to live here, have access to affordable housing, and earn fair wages with benefits and paid time off. 

Also, with Shingle Creek, the headwaters of the Everglades in our beautiful community, the environment is a top priority. As Secretary, I am proud to serve on the Florida House Climate & Energy Caucus. I know how important it is to protect our natural resources, not only because they attract tourists but also because a good climate policy is good for all Floridians.

In Tallahassee, I worked tirelessly as a party member in the super-minority, filing amendments to reduce harm from some of the worse legislation we've seen filed. I advocated passionately on the house floor for our community and helped pass good bills. In the District, our office is helping constituents, supporting local community centers that provide needed resources and are as accessible as possible. 

I love fighting and working for us! And can't wait to go back to do it again!

 

2024 Endorsements

My Platform

I will continue to fight for you!

Work hard to ensure economic opportunities and an economy that works for you by supporting small-business and fair wages. This is why one of my first events after the session was to host the Small Business Administration in the district to work one-on-one with small business owners still dealing with the impact of COVID and two back-to-back hurricanes last year. I also proudly co-sponsored HB 1283, Small Business Investments. Also, we got a good appropriation on the Final Budget for the Hispanic Federation, which will go towards seeding small businesses. We know District 44 has an entrepreneurial spirit, and we will continue supporting our constituents . 

Fully funding our public schools by increasing teacher pay for all teachers and education support staff like bus drivers. Make sure that school funding resources are allocated by need, and ensure that our students have what they need to learn in a safe and inclusive environment. I sponsored HB 905, Deferred Retirement Option Program Eligibility for School Employees and Personnelwhich would have allowed retired teachers and staff to come out of retirement before the 12-month waiting period. This would have been an easy solution to deal with our teacher and faculty shortage. I was also proud to co-sponsor HB 19, IEPs, and HB 271, Minimum Baseline Salaries for Full-Time Teachers.

As a teenager, I found my voice in advocacy at Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood is why I discovered my passion for championing bodily autonomy and the right to privacy. Our right to agency over our body is innate, and as your State Representative in Tallahassee, I have diligently fought to protect it. However, access to healthcare, like abortion, requires us to be bold and willing to stand up. I filed HB 1033, Reproductive Healthcare Rights, which would have returned reproductive healthcare access before the 15-week abortion ban. While I know the majority-led legislature would not hear the bill, I also know that we must never give up the fight for bodily autonomy. 

I stand up for our civil rights and, work to ensure that voting is accessible, and stand against attacks on historically excluded communities like Black, Brown, Indigenous, LGBTQIA people. Black Lives Matter and the LGBTQIA community shouldn't be erased. As legislators, we are incumbent on being leaders and using our platforms to speak out against hate. I sponsored HB 393, The Gay and Tarns Panic Defense Ban, because people shouldn't be able to use bigotry as a defense for assault. I also filed HB 863 Holocaust Rembereance Day because our beautiful state has seen a worrying rise in anti-semitic activity, including Florida House District 44. I also proudly co-sponsored HB 49 Abandoned and Historic Cemeteries, HB 311 Postsecondary Intellectual Freedom, and Viewpoint Diversity. HB 1441 Florida Museum of Black History, and other good bills that will encourage learning about the world from another lens.

Climate change is the existential issue of our lifetime, and we must address the issue at hand. I will work to protect Florida’s wetlands by limiting unfettered sprawl. I will work with leaders on expanding opportunities for clean energy use that will bring good-paying jobs to Florida and ease the state’s dependence on fossil fuels. Our district has beautiful Shingle Creek, considered the headwaters of the Everglades, and will work to preserve it. I am the secretary of the House Climate and Energy Caucus and advocate for consideration and care of environment.

Affordable housing - As your state rep, I fight against the continued raiding of our Sadowski Funds and work to protect them to help those who are dealing with housing insecurity. Up in Tallahassee, I have been an affordable housing champion and an advocate for good wages and economic opportunities that Floridians can thrive on, not just survive on. I was proud to cosponsor HB 1499, Affordable Housing.

Every family deserves the opportunity to do a little better than the last generation and offer their children a better future. That's the Florida I believe in.

You can view the full list of my sponsored and cosponsored bills.

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