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The week that was in Florida politics – March 27

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

This week at the state capitol ended with House Republicans taking Democrats to school. There were four education bills on the agenda for a Friday session advocated by the GOP. All easily passed since Republicans outnumber Democrats 2 – 1 in the Florida House.

Thursday, Democrats argued against mandating school districts share construction and renovation money with charter schools and the lifting of penalties for failing to comply with the class size amendment. Friday the proposals, along with bonus money for school uniform policies and more hiring and budget authority for principals, passed with barely a word from the opposition.

The minority party did stand as one though against forcing districts to share capital outlay money with charter schools.

“The bill passed by the House delivers a double whammy to Florida’s public schools by allowing some charter schools to expand without limits while lowering the bar for capital-outlay eligibility. It’s an undue burden on already overextended local school districts,” said House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford.

The House voted to ease class-size amendment restrictions 107 – 3. Voters approved the initiative in 2002 and Pafford was one of the no votes. He later said that the legislature has a habit of interpreting constitutional amendments approved by the people.

“I think we’re in the midst of that interpretation when it comes to Amendment 1 right now and what water and land conservation is,” observed Pafford.

This week a trio of Floridians say they know what it is. They walked 1,000 miles from the Everglades to the Okefenokee and then headed to the state capitol to tell lawmakers what they had seen and their ideas about water and land conservation. Here’s Bruce Ritchie’s report.

The divide on Amendment 1 is one of three disputes we will watch for the remaining five weeks of the 2015 Legislative session. The big one that threatens to keep lawmaker in Tallahassee through May or to call them back to a steamy summer in the Capitol City is the budget. The House and Senate are about $4 billion apart but the difference comes down to their health care plans.

The Senate wants to fill a billion dollar hole created by the end of a federal hospital reimbursement program by expanding Medicaid to the uninsured. Friday, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli said the House is not considering such a plan because it expects that the Gov. Rick Scott’s negotiations with Washington about the program’s future to succeed.

The House position is laid out hereAnd insight into how the Senate is approaching negotiations with the House can be found here.

And this week the Charlotte’s Web weave of rule-making and investors and lawsuits grew more tangled. Sen. Rob Bradley has an idea of a self-executing law to bypass rule making and the courts to get cannabis cultivated and medicinal oil to sick children. Read about it here.

Bradley’s efforts though did not seem to appease growers who were filing two more challenges the day he was explaining his fix.

Bradley sponsored the Compassionate Medicinal Cannabis Act of 2014. The House sponsor was Rep. Matt Gaetz, who is so frustrated by the legal challenges that he talked about a special layer of hell for those who filed lawsuits. While one of the challengers said they only want properly regulated cannabis.”

I can hardly wait until Monday to see what happens next.

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