Florida Lawmaker Crusades Against Education Reform Bill

by | Jun 8, 2017

It’s not even on the agenda for this week’s special legislative session but it’s presence is very much on the minds of some state lawmakers in Tallahassee.

On the second day of the three day special session, there is some question as to how much of a role an education reform bill (HB 7069) that passed during the regular session could play in the outcome of the special session.

The bill has been criticized for the way it was brokered in back room deals. Public school advocates are critical of the bill saying it’s too charter school-friendly.

“While there are some very good things in HB 7069, there are some other things that are fundamentally flawed,” said Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs.

Simmons introduced an amendment in the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday morning that would have gutted much of the $419 million that was included in HB 7069. His plan was to reroute the money to boost funding for K-12 public schools, which is one of the reasons lawmakers are in special session this week.

“What I’m saying is that I’m bringing light and attention to what I consider to be a highly, highly problematic situation regarding HB 7069,” Simmons told committee members before withdrawing the amendment and telling his colleagues he might bring it back up for a vote on the Senate floor.

“I thought it was a good idea, but then we’d be dealing with the money that we already dealt with in the (regular) session. It was already the subject of whatever agreements were made during the session and we don’t go back on our agreements in the Florida Senate,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater.

Simmons isn’t giving up. He planned on reaching out to members in the House for support in trying to address the issue of HB 7069.

While the bill is not a part of this special session’s agenda, many believe it could be indirectly involved.

The legislation has yet to reach the desk of Gov. Rick Scott, who many lawmakers had believed would veto the measure.

But, the education reform bill is a priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran. It was Corcoran who led efforts to cut funding for two of the governor’s priorities–tourism marketing and economic development–during the regular session. It’s now believed that in order for Scott to get funding restored for his priorities, the governor will sign the education reform legislation–giving both men what they want out of this special session.

But Simmons isn’t giving up.

“Persistence erodes resistance,” Simmons said. “For those who say this is all done and over. It’s not done and over. It’s just begun. It’s just begun.”

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