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Activists Ready to "Awake The State"

Floridians will mark the opening day of the 2016 legislative session with a series of rallies across the state. (Damien Filer/Progress Florida)
Floridians will mark the opening day of the 2016 legislative session with a series of rallies across the state. (Damien Filer/Progress Florida)
January 11, 2016

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - As lawmakers prepare to return to the capitol this week, hundreds of people across the state want to make sure their voices are heard on the issues they believe matter most.

From Medicaid expansion to income inequality and immigrant rights, people across Florida plan to voice their concerns tomorrow in what's become an annual tradition for the first day of the legislative session.

Damien Filer, political and communications director with Progress Florida, says the series of rallies known as "Awake The State" began in 2011 when Gov. Rick Scott first took office and unveiled a budget many considered to be an attack on the middle class.

"People across Florida, who really had never been politically active or engaged before, really wanted to have a voice and find a way to make it known that this government wasn't representative government," says Filer.

Organizers say the peaceful, grassroots movement has gained momentum each year. Protests and rallies will take place in communities across the state on Tuesday. More information is at AwakeTheState.com.

Filer says he's encouraged by the growing number of people turning out for these events. He says if Floridians don't feel the state budget reflects their values, they have a responsibility to let their representatives know how they feel.

"I don't think we have the luxury of looking away from the political process after we've completed our responsibility as voters," says Filer. "It's very important for them to understand that people are paying attention, that we're watching, that we're concerned."

The 2015 legislative session was marked by gridlock, with lawmakers at an impasse over health-care funding and unable to reach a deal on the state budget.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - FL