Committee meeting turns testy over scheduling of “parent-trigger” bill

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Typically, the Senate’s Special Order Calendar Group draws little attention as it does the largely ministerial task of approving lists of bills headed to the Senate floor, reports the News Service of Florida. But the panel’s meeting Tuesday turned into a testy debate about Senate leaders’ plan to take a controversial “parent-empowerment” bill to the floor Thursday. Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, wanted to vote against moving forward with the bill, which would make it easier for parents to decide what happens to failing public schools, including turning them into charter schools. But a majority of the panel refused to allow separate consideration of the bill, forcing an all-or-nothing vote on the list. That touched off a debate that included Minority Leader Nan Rich, D-Weston, saying she is not a “rubber stamp” and that senators should have the right to vote against proposals they don’t like. A visibly angry Rules Chairman John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, said he was following the Senate’s rules and that he had “done everything I can to be open” to members of the panel. As Thrasher called for a vote, Lynn tried to ask questions. But Thrasher cut her off, and the panel approved the list of bills 4-3. The vote means senators likely will discuss and consider potential amendments to the bill (SB 1718) on Thursday and could vote on it Friday, the final day of the legislative session. The House has already approved its version (HB 1191) and sent it to the Senate.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.