Florida’s Lawless Legislature

Emboldened by greed, a gerrymandered system that assures their political dominance and or by the recent packing of the Florida supreme court with conservative justices this iteration of the Florida Legislature has snubbed it’s nose at the law and the will of the people like no other.  


First they passed a massive expansion of vouchers that will be paid for directly with public money, something the Florida Supreme court declared unconstitutional fifteen years ago.


From the St. Augustine Record,
… the Republican-led Legislature’s support for a new voucher program, dubbed Family Empowerment Scholarships, looks bound to be the lone significant test of whether the recast court is willing to rethink past decisions.

The scholarships would send taxpayer dollars to private schools, a redirection which even most supporters acknowledge would defy a 2006 Florida Supreme Court decision.
Next annual punching bag, education has seen them pass several bill that flout the Florida Constitution.
Text of Section 4:

School Districts; School Boards
(a) Each county shall constitute a school district; provided, two or more contiguous counties, upon vote of the electors of each county pursuant to law, may be combined into one school district. In each school district there shall be a school board composed of five or more members chosen by vote of the electors in a nonpartisan election for appropriately staggered terms of four years, as provided by law.
(b) The school board shall operate, control and supervise all free public schools within the school district and determine the rate of school district taxes within the limits prescribed herein. Two or more school districts may operate and finance joint educational programs.[1]


Notice how the constitution says boards will operate, control and supervise all free public schools? Well that didn’t stop Jason Fischer from championing a bill that strips that power and responsibility away from duly elected school boards and gives it to colleges and universities.

From WJCT News,

Republican Rep. Jason Fischer is sponsoring the bill (HB 1197), which cleared the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday by a vote of 19-10. His proposal would expand what is now the responsibility of locally-elected school boards to state-appointed college and university trustees.


But the degradation of school boards and local representation didn’t stop there as the Senate just passed massive Tax Breaks for charter schools if they open up in hundreds of areas around the state. 

From the Florida Phoenix,

Charters — public schools designed to be free from bureaucracy and operated by private entities – have ballooned over some two decades in Florida, creating tension between the charters and traditional public schools.
Now, Republican lawmakers are moving to open the door for even more charters across Florida.
The charter initiative showed up suddenly Thursday in the Senate, when senators were debating legislation to create a new voucher program.
Republican Sen. Manny Diaz, Jr. of Miami-Dade, inserted an amendment to make it easier to set up new charter schools in certain low-income areas where public schools have been struggling.
Manny Diaz by the way takes six figures from the charter industry during his day job. He also doesn’t mention that fewer and fewer charter schools even try and open up in our poor communities even more because most fail and do a lot worse than the public schools there.
Do you think that’s enough? Well I am just getting started.
Because greed is apparently inexhaustible for the school choice industry, the Florida House passed a bill forcing different localities who have stood up to support their public schools and passed additional funding measures, to share that money with charter schools.
From the Tampa Times:
When voters choose to hike their local property taxes to help schools in their county, that money would need to be shared between districts and charter schools under a bill passed by the Florida House…
Charter schools are publicly funded schools operated by private entities, and are defined as public schools under Florida law.
Democratic Rep. Dotie Joseph, also of Miami, said this bill is “smoke and mirrors” simply because Republicans didn’t like how districts are using their discretionary spending when they raise local money to go above inadequate state funds.
“We try to play like the voters don’t know what they’re doing. They know absolutely what they’re doing,” she said. “What happened here was simple: Tallahassee failed us so we took matters into our own hands at the local level.”
The presidents of both the statewide teachers’ union and the Miami-Dade teachers’ union held a news conference earlier this week at the Florida Capitol where they protested this bill and said lawmakers were usurping the will of the voters.
Beyond the fight in Miami, Avila also pointed out an ongoing lawsuit in Palm Beach County over this exact issue, which he said proves the point that greater “clarity” is needed in the law to settle that districts must share their funds.
In addition to the piece about school funding, House Bill 7123, the House’s tax package, also would significantly reduce the state’s commercial lease tax…
Ugh

Then even though it’s not directly education related lets talk about what they are trying to do to amendment 4 which restored the states felons right to vote.

From the Miami Herald, 

After hours of debate, the Florida House on Wednesday passed along party lines its version of a bill implementing Amendment 4, which was supposed to restore the right to vote to more than a million former felons. 

The 71-45 vote sets up a potential dispute with the Senate over whether court fines, fees and restitution should be required before felons can vote. 

The House bill requires all of those to be paid before a felon can vote.


Um, why do we have laws and a constitution if like with the will of the people, the republican’s in Tallahassee think they can just snub their nose at them?

Friends, we aren’t being led, we are being ruled.    

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