Milton resident shares battle and betrayal over Florida youngster help legislation

Camille Malone Fiveash is pretty much an authentic Northwest Florida native. The 61-year-old mother of three “grown” children is a seventh-generation Milton family whose family came to Florida in horse-drawn carts long before air conditioning and Magic Kingdoms hit the peninsula.

“Other than the Native Americans around here, I guess I’m as local as it gets here,” she laughed.

Fiveash is also divorced. After more than three decades of marriage, she said an ugly split in 2011 involved a man’s infidelity and a domestic violence restraining order.

“I’ve been married for 30+ years, staying at home, raising our kids, even homeschooling them at times, then all of a sudden – BOOM! He goes and cheats on another woman,” she said.

As part of the divorce negotiations and settlement with her ex-husband, Fiveash received what is considered “permanent alimony” in Florida.

Fiveash is not rich and her alimony payments are not luxurious. She works part-time at a bakery to pay for health insurance.

“My kids are all grown up and productive members of society now and I’m really proud of the work I’ve done in raising them and believe me it’s been work,” she said.

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And for more than five years, Fiveash has been part of a small but tough group of women who have taken on the unpaid labor of resisting numerous attempts to pass a state law, under the guise of “support reform,” that would long break the statutory covenants would hollow out time. Alimony payments made by women and men at the end of their marriage.

Fiveash describes the laws as annual attempts by a relatively small group of wealthy and influential men to essentially bribe Florida legislators into passing a law that would let them off the hook for money owed from previous marriages.

“The process is bought by rich men,” Fiveash said. “Many of them are in South Florida and have spent hundreds of thousands on lobbying and campaign contributions. And I hate to say it because I’m a Republican, but it was Republicans who were trying to pass this law. ”

Fiveash said the mostly male supporters of the alimony laws were notoriously aggressive. She has a collection of social media screenshots in which advocates allude to violence and death when railing against the women who oppose it. Photos of her home have been posted online with ominous implications. She was once pushed to the ground at the State Capitol by a man demonstrating for the alimony bills.

Cartoons by Andy Marlette for the week of February 28, 2020.

This year’s version of the bill is “one of the worst ever,” Fiveash said. It was condemned by the Florida Bar’s family law department for a number of reasons and ambiguities in the law, including changes to custody presumptions that Fiveash said would benefit the rich men (and their new, young girlfriends) who are stepping up to their commitments want to withdraw .

The bill passed by a 74-42 vote in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, after passing the Senate 21-16 the previous week. Fiveash and the women who oppose it now hope DeSantis will do the right thing and kill it, as Gov. Rick Scott said twice before.

“Republicans shouldn’t do that. It’s not about family values. We’re not talking about marriages between 20-year-olds who have been married for a few years. It will hurt women like me who have spent 20 or 30 years raising children and running a household instead of pursuing a career.”

All local Republicans voted to pass the law this year

All local Republicans voted to pass the law this year. saltman. andrade Williamson. And Broxson. Fiveash said those locally elected officials have all either ignored or insulted her when she has tried to hire them on the various versions of the alimony bill over the years. And that brings us to the larger story of betrayal that illuminates Fiveash’s story.

The purpose of this column is not to analyze or argue the details of alimony and divorce policies.

The point of this is to tell the story of a committed citizen who educated herself on a particular issue and participated in the civic process, only to have her own party’s local lawmakers decide to support a’s lobbyist-driven priorities , are more likely to be a wealthy interest group than a real local resident like Camille Fiveash.

Senator Doug Broxson never bothered to speak to her.

“I tried everything to reach Broxson and he didn’t even call me back. Last year he was supposed to meet me and then he met me with his assistant at the last minute,” Fiveash said.

And it didn’t go well.

“Rather than listening to my position as a voter, at the end of the call his aide told me how selfish I was and started assessing my situation,” she said. “It was ugly.”

Rep. Jayer Williamson has at least called her back for the past few years and has been “polite,” Fiveash said.

“He claimed he had nothing to do with the bill and knew nothing about alimony issues,” she said.

Williamson voted in favor of the bill on Wednesday.

Rep. Alex Andrade has personally sponsored and co-sponsored various versions of the bill, earning harsh criticism from women who have opposed it in recent years. Fiveash said her experience with Andrade was “nasty” and personally abusive in conversations that took place both in person and over the phone and via social media.

“He’s just nasty on Twitter, nasty on Facebook … He even told me I need to go to prayer,” Fiveash said.

“Once he had a fit while he was talking to us,” she recalled with a slight Southern twang. “He has quite a temper to yell at older ladies. I would probably smack my sons on the head if they talked to someone like that.”

Earlier in this session, Representative Michelle Salzman, in a committee hearing, referred to continued alimony payments as “welfare,” which is a particularly ironic way for a politician who accepts a paycheck and taxpayer-funded benefits to describe personal financial arrangements between individuals.

“Several members of our group have tried to contact her but she would not speak to us,” Fiveash said. “We worked for our families and made the money we get. To them it is insulting to call it welfare.”

Salzman responded in a text message that Fiveash’s group had never asked to meet and that she had never declined to meet with any group.

“If I were a Democrat, maybe I would understand why they would ignore me,” Fiveash said. “But I’m a Republican. And I’m from the area. Shouldn’t they at least listen to me? The problem is that I’m not a lobbyist or a rich man. I’m just an old woman with no money to donate to politics.”

When asked why elected officials don’t even listen to local members of their own party, Fiveash sighed and said it was all “pay to play”.

“It’s not about being a good Republican or a good Conservative. It’s not about family values. They’re just taking orders and that’s sad,” she said.

After years of observing and participating in the Tallahassee process, Fiveash sees a policy pattern not dissimilar to the legislation for which Florida Power & Light was able to win the Republican legislature’s support, despite the company’s current problems with community injury and small businesses.

“It’s the same as FPL, our problem just affects fewer people,” Fiveash said. “But just follow the money and you see the politicians who sponsor the laws get paid to do it. They are absolutely selling out the local citizens. Nobody should be treated like that. Especially from your own government.”

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