Rick Scott Archives - Page 2 of 172 - SaintPetersBlog

Rick Scott: Hope for a free Cuba better for Florida than current thaw

Readying to join President Donald Trump in Miami Friday for the president’s expected reinstitution of economic sanctions on Cuba, Florida Gov. Rick Scott indicated in Orlando Friday morning that he is ready to support such a move.

At a jobs announcement in Orlando, Scott said he’s convinced the long-term economic advantage of democracy and economic freedom in Cuba is preferable for Florida to any business opportunities and other relationships opening due to the thaw and lifting of economic sanctions that President Barack Obama initiated.

“I’m going to fight for Cuban families to have freedom,” Scott said. “Long-term, that’s good for every Cuban family that’s come here.”

Scott would not respond to press inquiries allowing that Cuba’s regime had survived more than 50 years of strict U.S. sanctions without moving to democracy, and wondering Trump’s vision might be different from that long-standing U.S. policy. Scott said he was looking forward to hearing what the president proposes.

“I’ve spent a lot of time with President Trump to let him know about the importance of democracy and freedom in Cuba. He’s known that all along,” Scott said. “I look forward to hearing exactly what he’s going to say today. I believe it is something that is going to push democracy and freedom.”

Scott insisted Obama’s policy didn’t work. He cited Cuban President Raul Castro‘s human rights crackdowns over the past two years, including almost daily arrests and detainments of the “Ladies in White” protesters. Scott did not directly respond to questions about whether he thought the Obama policy had helped Florida businesses, or improved situations in which Cuba was cooperating on such matters as human trafficking.

“Barack Obama capitulated. Raul Castro hasn’t changed. He’s gotten worse,” Scott said.

“The reality in this: more democracy in Latin America means more jobs in Florida, whether that’s through our ports, or whether that’s through people doing business here… we need more democracy,” he added.

In Tampa, Richard Corcoran faces hostile crowd angry about school bill

It was a tough room for House Speaker Richard Corcoran.  

Speaking before an unfriendly crowd of public school supporters in Tampa, Corcoran doubled down on his support of an education bill that creates a new system of charter schools to replace underperforming public schools.

On Thursday, Corcoran stood beside Rick Scott in Orlando as the Governor signed the controversial HB 7069.

To its critics, the most provocative part of the omnibus education bill was Corcoran’s ‘schools of hope’ plan, which includes a $140 million incentive plan to attract high-performing, specialized charter schools to in effect compete with struggling neighborhood schools.

“The only way you can draw down that money if you’re a charter school was if a situation existed in Florida where we were taking children and forcing them into ‘failure factories’ where they were getting an inferior education,” Corcoran said Friday morning to a packed house at the Oxford Exchange in Tampa’s North Hyde Park district.

The Land O’Lakes Republican was the featured guest at the weekly Tampa Con Cafe lecture series.

It was the term “failure factories” that drew particular ire during the extended Q&A portion of the morning, during which Corcoran was criticized by Kenny Blankenship from Pasco County.

Afterward, Corcoran explained it was the same language used by the Tampa Bay Times in their award-winning 2015 series about failing schools in South St. Petersburg.

“Only in those situations where you’ve had the local attempts — they’re called turnarounds — they’re given one year, two years, three years, to turn around those schools and have been incapable of doing so,” Corcoran said. “Only in those situations, would we allow a not for profit charter with an absolute proven record of success … in low-income areas.”

He said the “proven record” of success for those schools is that they had to have an 80 percent graduation rate, 80 percent go on to a college, and they had a higher than the average county and state testing scores.

But critics say the bill will devastate already cash-strapped traditional public schools. They’re concerned about changes in the allocation of Title I funding, the federal money used for low-income schools. That could affect districtwide programs such as summer school.

There’s also concerns about a part of the bill making it possible for universities, churches and several other types of institutions to provide space for charter schools without zoning exceptions, overriding local control over zoning decisions, according to the Miami Herald.

House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz calls the bill “an assault on public schools.”

Democratic state Sen. Linda Stewart of Orlando says it “an unwise experiment in education policy opposed by our state’s teachers, parents, professional administrators and superintendents.”

And Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham declared it to be a “massive step toward turning Florida’s public-school system into a public-school industry designed to benefit corporations and powerful interests.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum said Scott “would rather his for-profit charter school friends make a quick buck instead of providing our kids with the world-class education they deserve.”

Even some who support the bill, such as Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, have blasted the lack of transparency in how it was assembled.

But Corcoran continues to defend how it all went down.

“The parts of that bill were defended in committee: one committee, two committees, on the floor, sent over to the Senate, and the parts of that bill that they said we’re done in secret, the total votes for the parts in the bill between the two chambers was 1,600 plus votes, to 200 no votes,” he said.

What was done at the end of the legislative process on the education bill was taking completely vetted and debated bills and put together, Corcoran added. He did acknowledge that he would like to “work” on limiting the “number of mergers in the last week of Session.”

Public school supporters in Florida have blasted the Legislature’s support for charter schools for years, saying they are not held to the same standards of accountability. Corcoran pushed back on that argument Friday.

“There are public charter schools, and there are public traditional schools. Both of them are under the same accountability provisions,” the Speaker said, eliciting disapproval from the audience.

When he said charter schools came with the same certification requirements, the growls grew louder.

“Yes, they do!” he replied. “I’ll be glad to sit down with you and go through the statutes. They don’t have to be unionized. That’s the biggest difference between the two — “

“No!” responded at least a dozen members of the public.

Among those public educators who were shouting at Corcoran was Naze Sahebzamani, a Hillsborough County public school teacher who accused the House Speaker of speaking in “half-truths.”

“I just think if he wants to make education a priority in the state and we want us to become leaders in this country in education, then he has to fund public education and he has to hold the charter schools to the same standards, and the same accountability as the rest of us, which they’re currently not doing,” she said.

There were also several questions highly critical of what city and county government officials said this year has been an unprecedented attack on the issue of home rule.

Tampa City Councilman Harry Cohen asked Corcoran how he could justify the Legislature’s decision to place a measure on the 2018 ballot to expand the homestead exemption. If passed, the proposal will reduce property taxes in every local jurisdiction in the state (Tampa’s estimated loss would be $6 million annually; Hillsborough County’s $30 million).

“First, I’d say, I care more about the people of this state than I do the governments of this state,” Corcoran replied, a line he repeated later during the hour.

Discussing how the Legislature has been able to find loads of waste in a variety of state agencies (like VISIT Florida), the Speaker would have none of it.

“The concept that you can give somebody a $25,000 homestead exemption and put in on the ballot, and the result is this: that local governments have only two choices — they have to raise taxes, or cut essential services that really benefit their local community, is absolutely crap.”

Corcoran defended his opposition to the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992.

He said, “suspect classes” like blacks or women deserve protection, but for others, “there are laws on the books that allow for the protection for being dismissed for any kind of egregious behavior.”

Corcoran added that government should be getting out of such “hyper-regulations.”

Later in the discussion, a man who identified himself as a lifelong Republican said he took offense to Corcoran’s comment.

“I’m a Jew,” the man said, “and you can’t tell that unless I tell you.”

Corcoran is reported to be strongly considering a run for Governor in 2018, but he said Friday that any such announcement will not be forthcoming anytime soon. He won’t make any such decision until he finishes his reign as Speaker after the Florida Legislative Session ends next March, a time that seems extremely late, especially as candidates like Putnam are already raising millions of dollars early in the process.

Then again, Corcoran is right now actively raising money in his PAC, which he says would go to other issues he cares about — if he chooses not to run for higher office. Those issues include a six-year ban on legislators lobbying and/or judicial term limits.

Despite the intense vibe in the room, Corcoran never lost his cool.

Talking about how he stays in touch with his legislative district, because he has to run every two years, Corcoran said he often attends community forums like this, “even though you guys aren’t in my district. And it sounds like that might be a good thing.”

With that, the crowd erupted in laughter.

(In the interest of full disclosure, it is important to note that Richard Corcoran’s political committees, like many other candidates, advertise on several Extensive Enterprises Media platforms.)

State, feds agree to extension for red snapper fishing

Most anglers thought the red snapper season for fishing in federal waters came and went almost two weeks ago. Thanks to an agreement between the U.S Department of Commerce and the State of Florida, recreational anglers now have 39 additional days to go after the prized catch.

The previous season lasted only three days, from June 1 until June 4, leaving fishing enthusiasts and members of Congress highly frustrated. The new arrangement calls for rolling back available red snapper days in state waters while extending the opportunities in federal waters.

“We are thankful for the leadership of Gov. Rick Scott, U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and Florida’s Congressional delegation as well as the partnership across all five Gulf states in providing more sustainable fishing opportunities and sound fisheries management,” said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Executive Director Nick Wiley. “Though we had to reduce state waters fishing days in the summer and fall, we are pleased to be able to offer more fishing access this summer to anglers across Florida.”

The 39-day additional season begins Friday and will continue every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Labor Day, September 4. Also included is Monday, July 3 and Tuesday, July 4.

“Local folks wanted me to fight for their right to fish, and I was happy to help,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Ft. Walton Beach Republican from the First Congressional District. “I’m glad the Trump administration has agreed to extend the federal red snapper season.

The federal government establishes quotas for red snapper fishing. Based on whether that quota was exceeded or under-fished in federal waters, the season is adjusted accordingly.

“We pressed Washington for an expanded season and Washington listened,” said Rep. Neal Dunn, a Panama City Republican from the Second Congressional District. “This decision provides relief this season while we work to fix what’s broken in recreational management of the red snapper fishery. I’m glad the Commerce Department is letting common sense prevail for Florida anglers.”

Capitol Reax: Rick Scott signs HB 7069

Gov. Rick Scott signed a sweeping education bill (HB 7069) that, among other things, sends more public money to privately-run charter schools. The legislation, a top priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, also requires recess in elementary schools, makes changes to the state’s standardized testing system, and includes millions of dollars for teacher bonuses.

The governor’s decision to sign the bill sparked a reaction from both sides of the issue.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran

“Today is a great day for Florida’s students, parents, and teachers. This bill is the most transformative pro-parent, pro-student, pro-teacher, and pro-public education bill in the history of the state of Florida. It ends failure factories. It rewards the best and brightest teachers and principals. It gives bonuses to every highly effective and effective teacher. It puts a focus back on civics education and teaching our students about what made our country great. It provides scholarships to students with disabilities. It mandates recess for our students. It reduces testing. And last, but not least, it forces more money into the classroom by making the money follow the students. In other words, it gives children hope and dignity. It says all children deserve a world-class education.

“Today is a great day for Florida’s students, parents, and teachers. This bill is the most transformative pro-parent, pro-student, pro-teacher, and pro-public education bill in the history of the state of Florida. It ends failure factories. It rewards the best and brightest teachers and principals. It gives bonuses to every highly effective and effective teacher. It puts a focus back on civics education and teaching our students about what made our country great. It provides scholarships to students with disabilities. It mandates recess for our students. It reduces testing. And last, but not least, it forces more money into the classroom by making the money follow the students. In other words, it gives children hope and dignity. It says all children deserve a world-class education.

I want to thank Governor Rick Scott for his courage and commitment to education options for our poorest kids. The Governor has taken on the status quo his entire career and the people of Florida are better off for it. I believe one of the great legacies of this session will be saving school childrens’ futures.”

Sen. Linda Stewart 

“I would like to thank the Governor for visiting Senate District 13, but I’m very disappointed that he used the signing of HB 7069 as the reason to stop by.

 “This bill is an unwise experiment in education policy opposed by our state’s teachers, parents, professional administrators and superintendents. That’s why I urged him to veto it. Many of those that have opposed HB7069 have dedicated their lives to educating the students in Florida’s schools. HB7069 was secretly produced and passed as a 278-page bitter pill that flew in the face of every tradition of transparency and openness required by our state’s laws and constitution.

 “Let’s be clear about what HB7069 actually does: it enriches the for-profit education industry at the expense of Florida’s traditional public schools. The same schools that educated the vast majority of Floridians for generations despite daunting odds and an indifferent legislature for the past two decades.

 “The legislation you signed today gives to the charter school industry a free hand and promises them a bountiful reward. It allows corporations with no track record of success, no obligation to struggling students, and no mandated standards of accountability to flourish, with the sole obligation to their shareholders. Not the public. Not to well-intentioned parents desperate to see their children succeed – but to a group of investors who have made a business decision to add these companies to their portfolios because they are interested in making money.

 “I would remind those who stand to profit personally from this legislation, some of whom hold high office, that an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

Sen. Gary Farmer

“Today I am saddened by the Governor’s action in signing HB 7069. This devious bill, hatched in secret, and strong-armed through the Legislature will deal a significant blow to our State’s public education system. For the first time, private charter school operators will now have access to local school district tax revenue. This will undoubtedly lead to less money for our already starved-traditional public schools. I fear that a lack of accountability in these charters will result in wasted dollars for untested and redundant facilities, all to prop up private entities that are closing down nearly as fast as they are opening up. I join the thousands of parents, schoolteachers, and education advocates around Florida in bowing my head in shame. Our government can do better.”

Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon 

“To no one’s surprise, but to many Floridians’ disappointment, Governor Rick Scott approved HB 7069 today, firmly cementing his legacy of putting campaign politics above sound public policy.

Equally troubling, he signed off on a bill hatched in secrecy which he had openly criticized, but now suddenly agrees that it’s ok to circumvent transparency, it’s ok to negotiate in secret, it’s ok to pull a fast one.

HB 7069 aims an arrow straight at the heart of public education in Florida, a system that is struggling to stay alive despite repeated overhauls, starvation, and mandates under the latest standardized tests-du-jour.

And it sets up a guarantee for the profitability of the charter school industry in this state by delivering public schools we’ve purposely ignored to corporate managers we’ve deliberately positioned for success.

All of these perks we give to this industry under this bill — unregulated expansion, temporary teacher employment, financial self-rewards through cherry picking by principals — none of this is found in traditional public schools. Nor is the amount of state aid we owe to build or maintain the public schools long relegated to second-class status.

 “For all of these reasons, it’s a bill that should have been vetoed, as countless Floridians continuously urged. And it’s a bill that we will not soon forget.”

Rep. Jason Fischer, a Jacksonville Republican

“I want to thank Governor Scott for signing HB 7069 into law. The Governor’s signature marks the start of a bold and innovative plan to reform and strengthen Florida’s K-12 education system. Today is a momentous occasion for Florida’s students and hardworking teachers and I’m excited about what the future holds with this legislation in place. I would also like to thank Speaker Corcoran, Representative (

“I want to thank Governor Scott for signing HB 7069 into law. The Governor’s signature marks the start of a bold and innovative plan to reform and strengthen Florida’s K-12 education system. Today is a momentous occasion for Florida’s students and hardworking teachers and I’m excited about what the future holds with this legislation in place. I would also like to thank Speaker Corcoran, Representative (Michael) Bileca, and Representative (Manny) Diaz for their leadership and for their dedication to helping students and teachers.”

House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz

“Not since the creation of the unconstitutional voucher system has there been an assault on our public schools as flagrant and hurtful as what’s contained in HB 7069.

Rather than providing additional resources for public schools, Republicans have instead chosen to divert $140 million into a slush fund for private charter school corporations. Rather than providing our school districts the resources they need for maintenance and upkeep, Republicans have instead chosen to divert local capital funding districts rely on into buildings the state does not own. And rather than giving our overworked and underpaid teachers the raise they deserve, Republicans have instead chosen to continue to fund an arbitrary bonus system based on test scores from when they were in high school.

“Most disappointingly, Republican leadership, and now Governor Scott, have chosen to ignore the voices of thousands of frustrated parents, teachers, and public school administrators and associations in favor of the AstroTurf efforts of private foundations awash in your tax dollars. It is my hope that next session we can look for ways to repair this misguided legislation in a bipartisan manner. Our parents and teachers deserve to have their voices heard.”

Rep. Shevrin Jones, the ranking Democratic member on the House Education Committee

“HB 7069 exemplifies confronting critical problems in our public education system with unreasonable and impractical solutions. This law will significantly hurt our public education system, rather than providing our teachers and students with the resources they need to succeed. On both sides of the aisle, we have kept education at the forefront of our priorities and though we claim to have a common goal, the outcome of signing this legislation is a step in the wrong direction.

“We cannot continue to place politics over people. It is unbelievable that Governor Scott has ignored the frustration and concerns that were made through phone calls, letters, and emails from parents, teachers, students, and superintendents.

“As a former educator and a believer in our process, this is the one time I can say, the process was violated and the people were ignored. It is my hope that every school district will look at this law and challenge the constitutionality of how it degrades our public school system. I am not against creating new standards for our lowest performing schools, but I am against violating the process of legislating that our constituents sent us to Tallahassee to uphold.”

Rep. Michael Bileca, chairman of the House Education Committee 

“I commend Governor Scott for signing HB 7069 into law. This legislation has the power to transform the lives and futures of poor children across the state of Florida. It puts their future before the agenda of bureaucrats and institutions that have deprived them of the quality education they deserve. This legislation is a direct and targeted approach that will break the cycle of poverty by enabling world class schools to flourish in high poverty areas. I would also like to thank my fellow lawmakers who have worked alongside one another to fight against a system resistant to change, and afford our children the best education we can provide.”

Rep. Manny Diaz, chairman of the House PreK-12 Education Appropriations Committee  “I want to commend the Governor for his continued support of the best educational options for all students in our great state regardless of what ZIP code they reside in. Today marks another transformational step for Florida as a nationwide leader in education reform. I want to thank Speaker Corcoran for his leadership and steadfast support for All kids in our state, it is truly an honor to work side by side with him and Chair Bileca to fight for what is right.”

“I want to commend the Governor for his continued support of the best educational options for all students in our great state regardless of what ZIP code they reside in. Today marks another transformational step for Florida as a nationwide leader in education reform. I want to thank Speaker Corcoran for his leadership and steadfast support for All kids in our state, it is truly an honor to work side by side with him and Chair Bileca to fight for what is right.”

Andrew Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee and a Democratic gubernatorial candidate

Public education has made all the difference in my life and so many others. Were it not for the guidance and work poured into me by public school teachers like Linda Awbrey, there would be no Mayor Gillum, and I would never have dreamed I could succeed at a run for Governor. The signing of H.B. 7069 is another deeply painful decision by our state’s leaders giving tax dollars away to for-profit charter school executives — instead of to our students. It’s a stark reminder that we must take back this state in 2018 from the well-heeled special interests, and when I’m Governor, revitalizing public education will be at the top of my list.:’”

Gwen Graham, a former Democratic congresswoman from Tallahassee and a 2018 candidate for governor

“This bill is another massive step toward turning Florida’s public school system into a public school industry designed to benefit corporations and powerful interests at the expense of our kids and schools. Teachers and parents called, wrote and even protested Governor Scott, imploring him not to sign this bill — but yet again, he’s abandoning his responsibility to our children and instead siding with special interests.”

As Governor, I will veto any budget or policy that shortchanges our schools in favor of the education industry. I’ll work with the legislature at every step of the process to build an education policy that puts our public schools and students first. We will end teaching to the test, end the lottery shell game and pay teachers what they deserve.

As a mother, former PTA president, and school district official, nothing is more important to me than our students and public schools. I’ve worked alongside the teachers who will be hurt by this legislation. I’m running for governor to be their advocate.”

— David Bergstein, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee

 “Scott is proving once again that he is a typical Tallahassee politician who is only ever looking out for himself — his pathetic and transparent efforts to advance his own political interests at the expense of hardworking Floridians is the kind of toxic baggage that will follow him into any political campaign he mounts. Wherever he goes, Scott will have to explain why he’s draining resources from schools in order to spend tax dollars on a slush fund for his campaign contributors and political cronies. For voters, this bill is just another demonstration that Scott is only ever looking out for one person: himself.”

Johanna Cervone, communications director for the Florida Democratic Party

“There are no words. By signing HB7069, Rick Scott and Tallahassee Republicans have declared war on our public schools. This bill is a national disgrace and was universally regarded by school boards and superintendents to be a death knell for public education. Scott and Corcoran are caricatures of themselves — crooked Tallahassee politicians cutting backroom deals and pilfering dollars from our children to ensure their corporate benefactors get funded. Scott got his slush fund, and Corcoran got millions of dollars for for-profit charter schools, but Florida’s families are left with next to nothing. Voters will remember who was responsible for this legislation — including those who were complicit in its signing, like noteworthy political coward, Adam Putnam, who tiptoes around every issue.”

Mark Ferrulo, executive director of Progress Florida 

“Today, Gov. Rick Scott ignored thousands of parents, teachers and community leaders who have spoken out against this travesty of a bill and embraced a secret and unaccountable process to deal an underhanded sucker punch to public education in our state. Our students — the next generation of Floridians — are the ones who will pay the price.

 “Floridians deserve a strong and well-funded public school system so that a child’s opportunity to learn isn’t dependent on where they live or whether they win a school lottery. We shouldn’t waste precious resources on a parallel system of for-profit private voucher and charter schools that is less accountable to citizens and has produced mixed results at best.”

— Joshua Karp, spokesman for American Bridge

 “Since his first year in office, Rick Scott has fought against public schools on behalf of wealthy corporate special interests. Today’s anti-education bill was crafted in secret by lobbyists and Tallahassee insiders to funnel millions of dollars to corporations that seek to profit off children’s education while diverting precious funding from Florida’s public schools where every dollar is precious. Yet again, Floridians will be worse off because Rick Scott and his friends care more about making money.”

Charly Norton, executive director of FloridaStrong

“For the second time in two days, the Governor has made clear he serves only his own agenda — not the people he was elected to represent. The fact that Scott ignored thousands of veto calls over this past month from parents, school boards, educators and other public school advocates demonstrates his shameful disservice to the state of Florida. Speaker Corcoran and the lawmakers who pushed this ‘scam‘ of a bill are actively dismantling Florida schools and undermining our kids’ chance at success as a result. They can claim they care about the future of this state until they are blue in the face, but their actions prove otherwise.

William Mattox, director of JMI’s Marshall Center for Educational Options

“Education choice is an idea that ought to unite liberals and conservatives because it acknowledges that students are diverse and that they are often ill-served by one-size-fits-all schooling policies that fail to account for each child’s unique learning needs. We commend the legislators in both parties who voted to expand student options in 2017, and we hope legislators will work together in 2018 to move us even closer to the goal of universal education choice for all Florida students.”

J. Robert McClure, president and CEO of The James Madison Institute For 30 years, The James Madison Institute has been on the front lines of the battle of ideas and principles in Florida. We thank Governor Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran for their support of this legislation. They have been steadfast in their efforts to match students with educational opportunities that provide the greatest chance for success in life, and this commitment is reflected in legislation that expands school choice for economically-disadvantaged students and those with unique abilities, while providing more digital education access and allowing successful charter schools to open new schools in areas with chronically failing public schools.”

For 30 years, The James Madison Institute has been on the front lines of the battle of ideas and principles in Florida. We thank Governor Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran for their support of this legislation. They have been steadfast in their efforts to match students with educational opportunities that provide the greatest chance for success in life, and this commitment is reflected in legislation that expands school choice for economically-disadvantaged students and those with unique abilities, while providing more digital education access and allowing successful charter schools to open new schools in areas with chronically failing public schools.”

Blake Williams, communications director for For Florida’s Future

“Last week Rick Scott convinced Tallahassee Republicans to replenish his Enterprise Florida slush fund with taxpayer dollars to pay off his political donors, and in return, he’s giving Republicans millions in taxpayer dollars for a slush fund of their own. HB 7069 is corporate welfare plain and simple, and the opposition to it has been broad and bipartisan. Florida’s largest school districts have publicly opposed it, teachers and parents have opposed it, and nearly every editorial board in the state of Florida has urged a veto. The job of Florida leaders should be to ensure equal access to properly funded education. Rick Scott failed that test miserably today.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permissions.

Rick Scott signs HB 7069, shifting education from ‘traditional public schools’

Surrounded by House Speaker Richard Corcoran and many of his members in a small, Orlando Catholic school dedicated to special needs students, Gov. Rick Scott signed House Bill 7069 into law, initiating major shifts in how Florida provides education.

While the education omnibus bill offers changes for all kinds of schools in Florida, from requiring recess to reducing mandatory testing, it accelerates state tax dollar funding for-profit and nonprofit charter and private schools, expands parents’ abilities to chose schools, and tightens Tallahassee’s controls over what local school boards can and cannot do.

Democrats almost universally opposed HB 7069, to the point of declaring it to be sabotage of Florida’s public school system. Joined by public school teachers, parents, PTAs, administrators and many school board members, they had urged for weeks that Scott veto the bill.

“What this legislation does today is it helps all students, which is important,” Scott declared, a few moments before signing HB 7069, ending weeks of speculation of whether he would sign or veto the controversial measure since Corcoran and his team pushed through a dramatic rewrite on the last day of the Legislation Session.

For Scott and Corcoran, the architect, the bill declares a major shift from continuing reliance on what Republican state Rep. Michael Bileca of Miami described as continuously-failing “traditional public schools.” If Corcoran is the architect of HB 7069, he credited Bileca and Republican U.S. Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. of Hialeah for being the engineers, finding the ways to make it work.

The supporters of traditional public education put up an almost universal opposition.

House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz of Tampa called the bill “an assault on public schools.” State Rep. Shevrin Jones of West Park called it “politics over people.” Democratic state Sen. Linda Stewart of Orlando called it “an unwise experiment in education policy opposed by our state’s teachers, parents, professional administrators and superintendents.” Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham declared it to be a “massive step toward turning Florida’s public school system into a public school industry designed to benefit corporations and powerful interests.”

But Scott, Corcoran and others called the bill Florida’s best hope.

“It is the greatest pro-family, pro-parent, pro-teacher session that we have had in the history of the state of Florida,” Corcoran said. All those things that we had listened to and heard, whether it is too much testing, whether we’re testing too much, whether it’s recess for kids in K-5, whether its pay raises for our highly-effective and effective teachers, whether it’s taking care of children with disabilities and giving them those funds to make those decisions themselves.

“We finally went in and said, ‘Hey, we’re the third-largest state, in the richest country in the world, and we have 195 failure factories, 340 if you just count a single year, the year we’re in right now, those are kids who are being robbed of dignity and hope, and a chance at a world-class education and a future in this world,” Corcoran said. “We go in there, and we address it, and we allow those kids an opportunity to come in go to a school, regardless of ZIP code, regardless of where they fall on the wealth scale.”

Little was said of the critics who say the bill will drain more away from the traditional public schools, including control. But Scott and the others have heard the criticism for weeks, since Corcoran unveiled the massive HB 7069 on May 9.

“If we didn’t have any critics, if we didn’t have people fighting back against us, we weren’t doing anything. This really does something to change the status quo,” Diaz said.

Rick Scott signs Janet Cruz-sponsored bill letting patients make fewer drug store trips

Rick Scott signed SB 800, the Senate companion to House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz’s HB 1191, putting medication synchronization into law.

What’s that, you ask?

Many patients, especially those with chronic conditions who may have been prescribed medications from different specialized physicians, currently face various refill dates and multiple trips to the pharmacy each to maintain their prescribed treatment plan.

This lack of alignment (or synchronization) in prescription fill dates has been identified as a major contributor to medication nonadherence, which results in bad health outcomes for patients and an estimated annual impact of $300 billion a year in avoidable costs to the U.S. health care system.

The new law now prohibits health care companies from denying patients the ability to receive a partial refill of a prescription if they choose to enroll in a medication synchronization program through their pharmacy. This should allow more patients to synchronize their prescription plan and lead to better health outcomes.

“This new law is an invaluable tool for elderly and chronically ill patients in Florida who find it burdensome to make multiple trips to the pharmacy each month,” Cruz said on Thursday. “Medication synchronization will lead to better health outcomes and longer lives for thousands of Floridians who are in need of continuing care. I am grateful to my colleagues for their overwhelming support of this legislation, and I thank Governor Scott for signing it into law.”

In new video tied HB 7069 signing, Florida House declares ‘hope has arrived’

The Florida House is touting the signing of a wide-sweeping education bill with a new video.

The nearly 3-minute web video, released ahead of a bill signing event at Morning Star Catholic School in Orlando, features news clips showing parents talking about their children and reporters highlighting the 2015 “Failure Factories” series by the Tampa Bay Times.

After the words “failure no more, hope has arrived” flash onto the screen, the video shows footage of Rep. Byron Donalds talking about the bill (HB 7069) during a committee hearing earlier this year.

“We are wasting the educational time and the economic future of the kids who sit in those classrooms,” the Naples Republican is shown saying in the video. “The real conversation is what are we doing to make sure the children who are in the biggest need have the greatest opportunity for success.”

“What we’re doing here is allowing operators who have a demonstrated track record of success in low-performing areas in other parts of the United States of America, and we are giving them the opportunity and the ability to come to Florida and perform for the kids who are at risk the most,” continues Donalds, who was an advocate for the bill. “That’s what we’re doing in this bill.”

The Governor’s Office announced Thursday he planned to sign a major education bill at 3:45 p.m. The governor’s daily schedule listed the event as “HB 7069 Signing and Budget Highlight Event.”

The bill, among other things, creates the “Schools of Hope” program that would offer financial incentives to charter school operators who would agree to take students who now attending chronically failing schools, many of them in poor areas and urban neighborhoods. Additionally, up to 25 failing public schools may receive up to $2,000 per student for additional student services.

It extends the Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program, expands eligibility for the Gardiner Scholarship Program for disabled students, and requires 20 minutes of recess each day for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

The bill also requires school districts share capital project tax revenue with charter schools, which Corcoran argued is one of the reasons why some school district officials have come out in opposition to the bill.

The Associated Press contributed to this reported, reprinted with permission.

As Hillsborough PTC winds down, one board member asks about job opportunities for staffers

With less than six months to go before the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission is officially dissolved, one board member wants to know if the County Commission is doing enough to find jobs for staffers facing unemployment.

County officials are still working with PTC interim executive director Kevin Jackson on how the agency’s workload will be transitioned into other county departments after the Legislature passed a bill ordering the agency’s demise. As it stands, the Sheriff’s Office will pick up the enforcement of illegal towing practices, while Tax Collector Doug Belden’s office will administer public vehicle driving permits.

While some PTC staffers have already moved on to new jobs and others are currently interviewing for positions, “it’s possible that there will be employees that don’t have positions at that time,” Jackson told PTC board members Wednesday, referring to the official dissolution of the agency December 31.

Temple Terrace City Councilman (and PTC Board Member) David Pogorilich asked Jackson where was the Hillsborough County government at this time?

“All during our discussions with Uber and Lyft, it was ‘Oh, they have families to feed. They have mouths to feed,'” Pogorilich said.

“Our PTC inspectors and staff all have families and mouths to feed too,” Pogorilich added. “Is there any indication that Hillsborough County [is] going to pick up our staff?”

Jackson said that “some” PTC staffers will probably find jobs within the county and that Belden’s office may pick some staffers with institutional knowledge. But he could not state with certainty that all staffers will find work with the county.

Left unsaid was the fact that County Administrator Mike Merrill has already instituted a hiring freeze. He did that last month in anticipation of reduced revenues coming into the county’s coffers if a measure that expands the homestead exemption for homeowners in Florida that is on the 2018 ballot is approved by voters.

“I just would love to see if possible some better guarantees from the county or the tax collector’s office that are PTC employees, through no fault of their own, who are now looking for jobs, that there’s at least some guarantee for some positions when this transition finally takes place,” Pogorilich said.

PTC Chair Al Higginbotham said that a draft ordinance from the county is currently in the works that may address some of Pogorilich’s concerns.

The Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation supported a local bill to kill the PTC last December, and Tampa Republican Jamie Grant passed a bill in the House unanimously this spring, a bill that Governor Rick Scott recently signed.

Although the agency — created in the 1970s by a special act of the Legislature — had picked up critics over the years who believed there was no reason why Hillsborough was the only county in the state needing such an agency, those criticisms dramatically escalated over the past three years.

That’s when Uber and Lyft hit the region, revolutionizing pay-for-vehicle services in the county. While the services proved enormously popular with the public, they operated outside of PTC law for more than two years before being brought into compliance last fall.

 

With law now in place, Tampa Bay region moves closer to regional transit

Although modest in scope, Tampa Bay area lawmakers and business officials are happy that Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation (SB 1672) they believe is the first step toward creating a regional network to push for transit.

The bill changes the actual title of TBARTA. It will now be the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority (it used to be “transportation”).

The new agency is slightly smaller in scope in terms of geography, but not smaller than originally envisaged by Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala, the bill’s Senate sponsor. The new TBARTA will include five counties — originally to include only three: Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco.

Later on, Manatee and Hernando counties were added. Now, only Citrus and Sarasota are the odd counties out.

The TBARTA board will consist of 15 members, including some from the business community to be selected by Scott, in addition to those selected by lawmakers.

An amendment supported by Tampa Bay-area Republican (and anti-light rail) Sens. Tom Lee and Jeff Brandes says that any funding of commuter, heavy or light rail must have approval by the Legislature.

 

Rick Scott vetoes higher education bill, priority for Joe Negron

Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a wide-sweeping higher education bill, saying the legislation “impedes the ability of state colleges to meet the needs of the communities and families they serve.”

The bill (SB 374) was a top priority for Senate President Joe Negron, who has made improving the State University System a cornerstone of his term as Senate President.

The bill, among other things, enhanced policy and funding options for state universities to “recruit and retain exemplary faculty, enhance the quality of professional and graduate schools, and upgrade facilities and research infrastructure,” according to a May 5 conference report. It also restructured the governance of the Florida College System and modified “the mission of the system and its institutions.”

Scott appeared to take issue with the provisions dealing with the state college system. In a letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner explaining his veto, Scott said the legislation “impedes the State College System’s mission.”

“This legislation impedes the State College System’s mission by capping the enrollment level of baccalaureate degrees and unnecessarily increasing red tape. This interference impedes the ability of state colleges to meet the needs of the communities and families they serve,” he wrote. “In addition to this legislation, the total budget of the State College System was cut by $26.7 million during the 2017 Regular Session.”

Scott went on to say that while the bill makes “positive changes to several State University System programs, and there are many provisions I think would be good for students, it does so at the expense of the Florida College System.”

Negron said he fundamentally disagrees with that assessment.

“I fundamentally disagree that SB 374 makes positive changes to our universities at the expense of Florida’s community colleges. Like Governor Scott, many members of the Senate attended our state’s community colleges and we recognize the vital role they play in our public education system,” said Negron. “For that very reason, we crafted SB 374 to further elevate Florida’s nationally-ranked community colleges through a renewed focus on their core mission – on-time completion of vital associate degrees and workforce credentials that prepare students for jobs in communities across our state.”

In addition to changes to the state university and state college systems, the bill also increased student financial aid and tuition assistance by expanding the Florida Bright Futures Academic Scholars award to cover 100 percent of tuition and specified fees, plus $3000 per fall and spring semester for textbooks and other college-related expenses; expanding the Benacquisto Scholarship Program to include eligible students graduating from out-of-state; and establishing the Florida Farmworker Student Scholarship Program.

In his veto letter, Scott said the expansion of Bright Futures will still occur in fiscal 2017-18.

“Because this important expansion currently exists in the budget and proviso language in SB 2500, Florida’s students will still benefit from this critical program,” wrote Scott. “I urge the Legislature to pass legislation that revisits these issues and expands Bright Future Scholarships permanently while recognizing the importance of both our state colleges and universities in the 2018 Legislative Session.”

Negron said his travels across the state have taught him the importance of Bright Futures, and said the governor’s veto makes advance planning “much more difficult.

“As I have traveled the state talking to families, I have learned what an important role Bright Futures plays as students plan their financial investment in a college or university education,” he said. “Students and families deserve certainty when making these important decisions, and today’s veto makes advance planning much more difficult.”

The veto comes just days after the end a Special Session, where Scott saw many of his priorities approved. While the Senate backed Scott throughout the regular Session, there appeared to be some tension between the Senate and the governor during the three-day special session.

The special session also saw a reconciliation between Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who were often at odds with each other throughout the regular session.

Scott and Corcoran embarked on a one-day, multi-city victory tour Tuesday to highlight the legislative victories. A spokeswoman for Negron said Tuesday that Negron had already departed for a prior commitment in California before the events were confirmed, but said he “looks forward to attending future events with the Governor and Speaker Corcoran to discuss the important accomplishments of the 2017 Session.”

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