Jeremy’s Sun-Sentinel Op/Ed: “Restore voting rights to those who’ve paid their debt”

By Jeremy Ring

Can you imagine facing a debt that you could never pay off — one that never goes away, regardless of how many times you try to pay?

Well, unfortunately, for hundreds of thousands of nonviolent felons across Florida, this is their reality.

When nonviolent offenders break the law, they’re rightly forced to pay their debt to society through years in jail, countless dollars worth of fines and penalties, and the social burden of being labeled a felon for the rest of their lives.

They broke the law. They paid the price. That should be the end of it, right?

Not in Florida.

In our state, nonviolent offenders who have paid their debt to society are stripped of their voting rights, and it’s an onerous procedure to get those rights restored.

Here’s the worst part: Florida’s voter disenfranchisement isn’t just poor policy, it also disproportionately affects communities of color and the poor, many of whom received a felony just for minor offenses.

As a candidate for Florida chief financial officer, and as a Floridian and American concerned with the cause of economic equality and equity, I believe this is a disgrace — and it needs to stop.

If I have the honor of being elected as chief financial officer next year, I would have an active role as a member of the Cabinet in advocating for policy initiatives that would seek to correct this fundamental injustice in our current state laws. And if the Florida Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative [Initiative #14-01] also gets on the ballot in the November 2018 election, we will get a head start in bending that proverbial arc back toward justice.

Together, we can ensure that all Floridians who have paid their debt to society are treated fairly. We can ensure that our great state sets a positive example to the rest of the country — and to the world — in combating one of the most fundamental threats to the health of our democracy.

Jeremy Ring, a former state senator from Parkland, is a candidate for Florida chief financial officer.

Read the original op/ed here. “Jeremy Ring disowns task force’s pension reform move”

By Jim Rosica,

Read the original post here. 

State Sen. Jeremy Ring is lashing out against a government-efficiency task force report that again is recommending the state’s pension system be closed to new hires.

Ring released a statement through the Florida Senate Democratic Office on Tuesday.

He is actually a member of the Task Force on Government Efficiency, having been appointed by outgoing Senate President Andy Gardiner.

“The Florida pension fund is the gold standard for the state of Florida, the only part of the state that’s not only stable but strong,” said Ring, a former Yahoo executive.

“By injecting a political agenda into its operations, the changes to the fund would not only bring about its eventual collapse, but jeopardize the state’s bond ratings and financial stability.”

The Naples Daily News on Monday reported that the Task Force, created in 2006 and meeting every four years, said the state “could save $9.8 billion in 26 years if the Legislature closes the Florida Retirement System pension plan to new employees, an idea already rejected by lawmakers.”

The task force made the same suggestion four years ago.

For years, House Republicans have pushed some version of pension reform that fizzles out in the Senate. The House wants to move new state workers into 401(k)-style retirement accounts, as most private companies offer.

The Florida Retirement System, the nation’s fourth-biggest public retirement system, is currently 87 percent funded, Ring says.

As the Tampa Tribune once explained: “Financial experts generally call pension plans healthy if they’re at least 80 percent funded. That’s because employees retire at different times, meaning a run on the bank is unlikely.”

“There’s not a legitimate pension expert in this country that would sound the alarm on our state’s pension fund, and to suggest otherwise is a disservice to the beneficiaries, and the taxpayers of Florida,” Ring said.

Tallahassee Democrat: “Jeremy Ring: State pension reform attempts purely political”

By James Call, Tallahassee Democrat

Read the original post here. 

Former state Sen. Jeremy Ring swung through Tallahassee Tuesday warning about disingenuous politicians threatening public employees’ pensions.

Before he was termed out of office in November, the Fort Lauderdale Democrat spent eight years as chair of the Senate Government Oversight Committee, where he consistently blocked attempts to reform the Florida Retirement System.

Jeremy Ring is considering a statewide run for CFO. Tuesday he spoke to progressives in Tallahassee James Call

The former Yahoo executive is considering a run for state chief financial officer in 2018. He called the FRS the strongest asset the state has and said it is likely the strongest retirement system in the nation.

Bills filed this year would close the defined benefit plan to city and county workers if their employer was not a member of the system Jan. 1. Ring said reform attempts are purely political and based on no factual evidence whatsoever.

“I used to challenge them. Go anywhere in the world find one pension expert, one financial expert and bring them to our committee to tell us our pension fund is one bit challenged,” said Ring, who confessed that although he made millions as an entrepreneur, he gets more personal satisfaction from his political successes. “For eight years they could not do that. All they gave were political answers, never policy answers.”

This year’s reform bill, SB 428 has cleared one committee and waits to be scheduled in the oversight committee, which Ring once chaired. It passed its first committee on a 5 -2 vote. Ring is on a statewide listening tour, although he has not filed officially to be a candidate for CFO.

When asked about a potential run for the Cabinet position, he quipped,

“We’re the only people talking today about who will be CFO in 2018,” Ring said about a Cabinet race. “And the day before the election, we’ll probably still be the only people talking about the CFO.” “In Tampa, potential CFO candidate Jeremy Ring tells his story”

By Mitch Perry,

Broward Democrat Jeremy Ring isn’t officially a candidate for Chief Financial Officer, but he talked the part during a stop in Tampa on Friday.

Speaking at the Oxford Exchange as part of the Cafe Con Tampa weekly event, the former Yahoo executive introduced himself to the audience by humble-bragging about his private sector background, describing himself as the first salesman for the internet search engine company when he started there as a 24-year-old (he’s 46 now).

As proud as he was of his private sector career, Ring was self-deprecating when it came to his knowledge about politics when he decided to first run for the state Senate in 2006.

“I had never been to Tallahassee,” he says. “I barely knew that Jeb Bush was Governor of Florida. When I lived in Silicon Valley, Nancy Pelosi was my Congresswoman – I never heard of her (actually, Pelosi represents San Francisco, an hour north of Silicon Valley, which is located in Santa Clara County). All true. I was the least experienced candidate in the history of the state of Florida.”

The meat of his message is on making Florida an innovative economy, a theme he campaigned on during his first run for office a decade ago. And he’s produced results.

In 2008, he helped create theFlorida Growth Fund, which invests in state and local pension funds involving technology and high-growth businesses with a significant presence in the state, and the Florida Opportunity Fund, a multimillion-dollar program that directs investments to high-performing funds committed to seed early stage businesses.

Ring says that Florida has one of the most complete innovation “ecosystems” in the country, not that it’s something that many lawmakers know or understand.

“Most elected officials in Tallahassee will inspire you instead of becoming the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, they’ll inspire you to be the next homebuilder or land use attorneys,” he said. “The biggest thing that we’re lacking in this state to build an innovation economy is not the pieces. The pieces exist. It’s the culture. We don’t have the culture.”

Ring’s legislative record shows that he is definitely unorthodox compared to his Tallahassee colleagues. Last year he sponsored a bill that would make computer coding a foreign language option, an idea he received from his 14-year-old son. The bill failed, though St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes is sponsoring it again this year (Brandes and Tampa Republican Representative Jamie Grant were singled out by Ring as understanding innovation).

Ring is adamant that the worst thing the state could do was to “starve our universities,” and he was critical of House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s new offensive scrutinizing state university foundations. And he said that Florida cannot afford to freeze college tuition.

He tends to think that lawmakers (and the press) are in a bubble in regards to the general public’s attention span. In describing the uproar over former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli pulling the House out of Session days before it was scheduled to end (only to have to come back in a special session), he says ,”Not a single person called my office caring about that. It just wasn’t relevant to their lives.”

Acknowledging that it’s like a cliche, but Ring describes himself as a fiscal conservative and a social liberal. And he is coldly realistic about his chances of success in capturing the CFO seat next year.

It would require raising an “incredible amount of money,” having a solid campaign team and essentially ignoring the Florida Democratic Party. The bigger challenge, he said, is that most Floridians don’t give a hoot about the CFO race, and that part of the campaign will be out of his control.

“What’s the Governor’s race going to look like?” he asked. “Is Donald Trump at one percent or 99 percent?”

Though he said he’s confident of raising substantial money both inside and outside of Florida and having a strong campaign team, “If Adam Putnam is leading the Governor’s race by 10 points, then no, but if John Morgan is leading the Governor’s race by 10 points, then a Democrat’s probably going to win.”

Tampa Bay Times: “Jeremy Ring likely to run for CFO”

By Adam C. Smith, Tampa Bay Times

Read the original post here.

Former state Sen. Jeremy Ring of Broward County is poised to run for chief financial officer in 2018. The investor and former Yahoo executive had been looking at running for governor but told The Buzz that the CFO post became more and more intriguing as he analyzed the job.

Ring hasn’t committed to running, but sounds pretty close to it.

Other names floating as potential CFO candidates to succeed term limited Republican Jeff Atwater include Democratic Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler, a former state House member and Republicans including state Sen. Tom Lee of Brandon, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, developer and former legislator Pat Neal of Bradenton.

Miami Herald: “Florida Senate endorses making computer coding a foreign language”

By Kristen M. Clark, Miami Herald

Read the original post here.

Florida senators overwhelmingly approved a proposal Wednesday to allow high school students to count computer coding as a foreign language course, although questions linger about whether the two subjects should be considered one and the same.

The Senate passed Sen. Jeremy Ring’s bill (SB 468) by a 35-5 vote.

“With this bill, we’re putting a stamp on it: Florida is a technology leader in this country,” said Ring, a Democrat from Margate and a former Yahoo executive. “We are truly, in this state, pioneering something that I believe will be a very significant trend.”

Ring said, if it becomes law, the computer-coding measure — which would take effect in the 2018-19 school year — would be the first of its kind in the country. He said “dozens of other states are looking at this.”

But critics of the proposal worry it could dilute students’ cultural education and place a burden on public schools that already lack adequate technology resources. The bill includes no funding to improve students’ access to computers at school, and Ring has maintained his proposal has no financial impact on districts.

The five senators who opposed the measure Wednesday were Republican Sen. Anitere Flores of Miami and Democratic Sens. Dwight Bullard of Cutler Bay, Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth, Eleanor Sobel of Hollywood, and Geraldine Thompson of Orlando.

“What I’m fearful of is now we’re at a place where certain students in certain ZIP codes may not have access to those kinds of classes because they may have antiquated equipment,” said Bullard, who is also a high school social studies teacher in Miami-Dade.

Ring said amendments added to the bill should resolve any fears of an unfunded mandate on schools. The changes, adopted Tuesday, aimed to sync up the Senate version with a similar-but-broader proposal (HB 887) that’s also ready for floor action in the House.

Gone is the requirement that public schools “must provide” computer coding. Instead, if districts cannot or do not offer coding, schools “may provide students access to the course through the Florida Virtual School or through other means.”

Clemens said he appreciated the intent of Ring’s proposal but disagrees that computer coding is — as Ring argues — a language, rather than a computer science.

“This debate is not about coding,” Clemens said. “It’s about whether or not we value culture and whether or not we value foreign language as a means to teach that.”

Miami-Dade public schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho is among those who have opposed making computer coding a substitute or alternative to foreign languages, especially because of the global economy and Florida’s increasingly bilingual communities.

Clemens challenged Ring by asking whether someone who learns computer coding is bilingual.

“In my mind, I think yeah,” Ring said.

Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate

Ring said computer coding is more aligned with the liberal arts than computer science. He argues computer coding is a universal language that helps prepare students for careers in high-demand careers in science, technology, engineering and math fields.

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“Computer coding [and] technology is a basic skill in everything we’re going to do,” Ring said. “You can’t do a job in this world … unless you have an understanding of technology or you absolutely will be left behind.”

Other senators agreed and praised Ring for his innovation.

“We may debate whether or not it’s a foreign language but it [coding] is a valuable skill,” Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, said. “Let’s give our students a valuable skill that they’re going to use forever.”

Florida’s public colleges and universities would be required to accept computer coding credits toward foreign language requirements for admission. Parents and students would have to sign a waiver acknowledging that out-of-state or private colleges and universities might not honor the credits as a foreign language.

The legislation has been marked as a priority by tech companies and other special interests. One of the biggest proponents, Motorola Solutions, gave legislators $88,500 between July and the start of the 2016 legislative session in early January.

Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach — the House sponsor — argues the legislation will also have broader effects by helping children who have dyslexia or mental disabilities, which make it difficult to learn global languages.

The House version has not been scheduled for floor consideration yet and it still differs from Ring’s. The House and Senate have to pass identical bills in order for legislation to be sent to the governor for his signature.

Adkins’ bill includes a provision directing the Higher Education Coordinating Council to develop recommendations for student success in post-secondary education and careers in computer science, information technology and related fields. It includes funding for a $79,000 position at the Department of Education for a “program specialist” to support that directive.