I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Individual Freedom of Choice in Advocacy Language Passes The Florida Senate!

The Tampa Bay Times Buzz Blog and the Miami Herald both had articles covering the Senate’s passage of Don Gaetz’s HB 7029 yesterday--- a massive bill that has a lot of interest statewide.
Just before the Senate amended and passed this bill, individual freedom of choice in advocacy language was inserted by Sen Stargel as an amendment to HB 7029.  The bill, as amended, passed the Senate with notable support from Democrats Montord and Ring.

The Miami herald article was somewhat negative in their word choice regarding what this amendment would actually do---instead framing the issue as one group attempting to divert taxpayer money from another, more worthy recipient---as if this is somehow nefarious conduct.  News flash—FCSBM is a 501c3 just like FSBA is.  Also, the characterization of HB 1155 and SB 1426 as “Punitive” was also a disingenuous description at best, and a slap in the face of the Senators and Representatives that brought this important and desperately needed legislation to the session…    
From the Miami Herald article:

“Then with only minutes’ notice, Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, successfully added an amendment that could steer taxpayer dollars to the Florida Coalition of School Board Members — a rival organization to the Florida School Boards Association and whose members are more conservative, like the Republican-led Legislature. The provision was originally part of a separate bill (HB 1155) by Stargel that was ready for a Senate vote. That bill would have retaliated against the FSBA for previously suing the state over a voucher-like program that Republican lawmakers supported by barring the FSBA from using taxpayer money in future lawsuits. Facing scrutiny from Democrats and some Republicans, Stargel averted a possible defeat on that bill by postponing a planned vote”

The subject of most of the debate prior to the passage of the bill centered on the insertion of the individual freedom of choice language.  Most Democrats simply did not want to see that language

inserted, and the majority of these Democrats voted against the bill.  Sen Bullard made the case that the language was being inserted to politicize school board decision making.  I don’t believe that to be the case.  In fact, Sen Bullard and other members that are in the minority party of the Senate are permitted to send their taxpayer subsidized advocacy dollars to “Progressive” associations, because the majority party in the Senate respects the rights of the minority party.  I guess Bullard doesn’t want school board members to have this same accommodation—which seems hypocritical to me.  Senator Garcia very effectively made this same argument on the floor toward Bullard and other Democrats that still waffled on supporting the bill.  Garcia totally and completely neutralized Bullard’s argument just before the Senate passed the amended bill 28-12.

Whether or not this bill gets over the line and becomes law, I am proud of the fact that language respecting the individual freedom of choice in advocacy for school board members has now passed the house twice and the senate once.

This concept is solid, and sooner or later this concept will be codified in law because it is the right thing to do.

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