Tag Archives: Florida legislature

Florida’s Legislative Update

by Jeremiah Tattersall

The 60-day legislative session is just over halfway over, but there’s still a lot of things that can happen until May 1, the last day of session. Below is a partial summary of some of the more interesting bills working their way through the legislative process.


Budget: The Florida House has passed their $76.2 billion budget, but it’s about $4 billion off from the proposed Senate budget and is almost entirely due to health care. Florida has continued its refusal to expand Medicaid due to Obamacare, which will now result in a loss of $2.2 billion hospital funding for the Low Income Pool (LIP) program. The LIP funding is crucial for hospitals that treat large populations of the working poor. The Senate budget has allocated money to fill this shortfall as well as $2.8 billion to expand a Medicaid-esque program in Florida. What’s more important for the Florida House — to help the working poor or to spite Obama?

Chances: Both budgets must be identical before the end of session. If LIP and Medicaid expansion isn’t fixed, there might need to be a special session called.

Continue reading

Florida Legislature’s Attack on Public Education


The Florida Legislature is hard at work implementing an ideological agenda to defund, demonize, and demoralize traditional public schools.  But why, you may ask?

The answer is that they are government institutions and the Florida legislators believe that private is better than public. Never mind that our public schools have been the great equalizer in America, enabling the most humble among us to compete on a level playing field. Never mind that they have made this country great.

The move now is to enable for-profit charter schools, for-profit virtual schools, and publicly funded private schools to take over. Students will certainly get the shaft as private companies work to squeeze a profit out of the pitifully small amount the state allots per student. Profit, not educational excellence, is the motive.

Here are some recent developments taking place in Tallahassee:

1.  The corporate voucher bill gives tax deductions to corporations on the condition that the corporations use this money to fund vouchers for private schools.  Of course, this tax break is paid for by taxpayers, so it is an end run around the Florida Supreme Court ruling outlawing public money to fund vouchers for private, including religious, schools. This year the amount given to this program is $250 million, and the bill stipulates that the amount be increased by 25 percent each year hereafter.  This is money denied public schools and private schools will gradually usurp their role.

Amendment 8 on the 2012 ballot asks voters to approve “religious freedom.”  However, the real purpose is to permit taxpayer funded vouchers for private, religious schools.
2.  The state, in opting out of the federal No Child Left Behind Law, has agreed to changes that will dramatically increase the number of failing schools in the state.  They do this by making the FCAT significantly harder and by requiring the FCAT scores of English language learners to count in the school’s grade after their first year in this country. (Research shows that it takes 2-5 years to achieve enough mastery to compete with native speakers.)  I would love to see our legislators personally accomplish this.  Disabled students’ scores would also count in the school grade.
3 .  The so-called “parent trigger” bill would allow a majority of parents in a low-performing school to “put the trigger” to close the school (remember, there will be more failing schools  See #2.) and turn it over to a for-profit charter school corporation.  The new charter school may be no better than the one it replaced, and in fact, studies show that charters perform no better than traditional public schools.  In California where the law is in effect, charter schools advertise constantly for parents to “pull the trigger.”
The Florida legislature already requires all students to take and pass a college prep curriculum to graduate as well as an end-of-course exam for every subject taught (without providing funding for test development).  The student must pass the exam to pass the course.  These actions will undoubtedly increase drop-outs as not all students are interested in taking chemistry or physics.  (Only 30 percent of Florida’s students ultimately complete college.)

The Florida Legislature is hoping you will not notice their schemes to hijack public schools. By handing down unfunded mandates and passing unfair laws to undermine or destroy public schools, they think they will convince the public to abandon public education and settle for a system that rewards stockholders at the expense of children.

The Florida Legislature’s Attack on Women

by staci fox

On Jan. 10, the Florida Legislature began its 2012 session. The focus of the 2012 legislative session should be on strengthening our economy and getting Floridians back to work, not attacking Florida’s women and their access to reproductive health care.

Some of the most egregious bills attacking reproductive health care are:

HB 277/SB 290: These bills would limit access to reproductive health care services such as life-saving cancer screenings because a health center also provides abortion care. The proposed legislation only targets doctors that provide abortion care; therefore, it has only one purpose – to interfere with patient care and further restrict women’s access to legal, safe abortions.

HB 839: This bill would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks with limited exceptions (if the pregnancy endangers a woman’s life or could cause her “substantial and irreversible physical impairment”). There are no exemptions for pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest.

HB 1151/SB 1374: These bills are a direct legislative attempt to challenge the US Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision by outlawing almost all abortions in Florida.

These bills do nothing to reduce unintended pregnancies and the need for abortion. Instead these bills tell women and their healthcare providers that they are not to be trusted and reduce access to legal health care services. These bills will do nothing to create jobs or balance our state’s budget.

Planned Parenthood of North Florida, along with the other Florida Planned Parenthood affiliates, will work hard to prevent these bills from becoming law, but we need your help.

On Feb. 21, hundreds of Floridians will travel to Tallahassee to lobby and make their voices heard in support of reproductive health care for Florida’s women and families. Will you join us? Please contact Planned Parenthood of North Florida for more information at (352)376-9000.

Staci Fox is the CEO and President of Planned Parenthood of North Florida. 

District Court of Appeal Rules in Favor of Public Education Funding

Report courtesy of Citizens for Strong Schools

In a major legal victory for the local group Citizens for Strong Schools and other public education advocates across the state, the 1st District Court of Appeal has rejected the Florida Legislature’s request to dismiss a lawsuit on educational funding and policies.

In an 8-7 vote, the court ruled that the issues raised in the lawsuit are “of great public importance” and asked the Florida Supreme Court to hear the case.

“We’re thrilled with the ruling,” said Mark McGriff, chairman of Citizens for Strong Schools, an education advocacy group established in 2008. “It means state leaders can’t prevent us from having our day in court.”

The Gainesville-based non-profit Southern Legal Counsel filed the lawsuit back in 2010 on behalf of Citizens for Strong Schools, an Orlando-based group called Fund Education Now and several parents from Duval County. The lawsuit alleges that the state has not lived up to its obligation to provide a ‘uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high quality system’ of public schools.

That obligation is spelled out in Article IX of Florida’s Constitution, which also says that public education is the state’s ‘paramount duty.’ The language was added to the Constitution in 1998 after 72% of Florida voters approved it. Since then, the state has cut school budgets dramatically and shifted more of the responsibility for funding schools onto local communities.

Lawyers representing the legislature, the Board of Education and the Department of Education raised a number of objections to the lawsuit, including a contention that the courts have no role in interpreting Article IX. Circuit Court Judge Jackie L. Fulford rejected that argument back in August of 2010, but state leaders appealed her decision to the District Court of Appeal.

In the court’s majority opinion, one judge wrote that the case “involves a clash of two extremely important precepts,” namely the power of the legislature to fund schools and set educational policy and the right of citizens to demand that the language they added to the constitution be followed–and to appeal to the courts if they believe that’s not happening.

He also wrote that “the defendants are here seeking to derail proceedings in the trial court before they can conclude here.”

Jon Mills was Speaker of the Florida House in 1986-88 and was a member of the Constitutional Revision Commission that drafted Article IX. He is currently teaching law at the University of Florida and is working with the Southern Legal Counsel on the case. He said he fully expects the Supreme Court to take on the case.

“This is a confirmation that the ‘high quality’ provision in the Constitution means what the public thought it meant and that the court believes it’s enforceable,” he said. “That’s the biggest step forward yet and puts us in the best position we could be in at this point.”