"I do not believe this legislation, and the process by which it is being considered, would have been tolerated during the Golden Age of the Florida Legislature."
I am sometimes asked why my content so often includes references back to the '70's and '80's in the Florida Legislature. That era was described as a reporter then as The Golden Age of the Florida Legislature. In an Op Ed of March 6, 2014, carried in several statewide newspapers, I wrote why I felt that time frame drew an extraordinary group of legislators into public service. I pointed out that I did not think they were not any better than individuals serving at other times, but the circumstances and public culture drawing them into public service seemed more altruistic and honorable. I also pointed out in that Op Ed how and why we lost that kind of extraordinary public service, subsequently..
This week I noticed HB 7055 being debated in our Legislature, which reminded me of the contrast in governance then and now. It is not pretty.
HB 7055 dealing with the administration of public education, passed the House and was moving through the Senate when it got side tracked out of public view. In secret, apparently amendments were drawn to the bill expanding the diversion of public monies out of public schools into private schools through vouchers. This has been the practice for the Republican led Legislature and Governor for a number of years, but now the amounts of money are getting so large that the trend is to stipulate certain kinds of students to receive these vouchers--those disabled, poor, and now bullied. It is a cleaver way to spread the stakeholders, all at the expense of the Constitutionally protected public education. The aggregate diversion of pubic dollars into private school vouchers continues to increase at record levels.
If that is not enough, amendments were offered in secret to HB 7055 that further relaxed accountability for unethical administration by private school vendors receiving state money. I find these actions by current legislators to be criminal stealing while protecting criminal activity. But without leadership from the Legislative and Executive branches to change this, the only recourse remains with the third branch of our government--the Courts.
I predict HB 7055, if enacted into law, will find itself on a court docket soon. In my opinion, it, and the process by which it is being considered, would not have been tolerated in the Golden Age of the Florida Legislature.