Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Recapping Florida's 2017 Legislative Session - Part 3

In Part 1 of this series of recap posts, I took a high-level look at the roughly $82 billion FY 2018 state budget passed by the Legislature on May 8th. It included K–12 funding of $20 billion, up just 1.2% over the current year, which equated to per-student funding of $7,220.72, up just 0.3%.

I also described the sweeping $419 million education policy overhaul bill (HB 7069) that was cobbled together over a long weekend behind closed doors in the session's final days. That bill was championed by House Speaker Corcoran, a strong proponent of “school choice.”

While that bill passed easily in the House, it was a tough sell in the Senate. In addition to strong objections to portions of the bill, the way the bill was cobbled together in secret attracted national attention.

As quoted by the Washington Post in “It’s hard to overstate how much critics hate Florida’s ‘scam’ education bill” from a piece in the Orlando Sentinel:

Instead of carefully considering education proposals one at a time, Republican leaders went behind closed doors to cram 35 different proposals — rules on everything from sunscreen use to charter-schools incentives — into a single, 278-page, take-it-or-leave-it bill unveiled at the last minute. For me to simply reprint the bill, it would take 75 columns this size … and you still wouldn’t get to the part where legislators want to siphon money away from traditional schools until column No. 46.

House Speaker
Richard Corcoran
To get his bill passed, Corcoran agreed to deliver the House’s votes on Negron’s number two priority, SB 374, a higher education bill meant to “help certain state universities attain ‘elite’ status, while putting community colleges back in their place.” (Negron had already gotten his top priority, a controversial new reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee, in another closed-door deal. More here.) It was a classic quid pro quo arrangement.

Ultimately HB 7069 passed the Senate by just one vote., with three Republicans, including the chair of the Senate Education Budget Committee, voting against it.

When the Legislature adjourned on May 8, Corcoran and Negron were happy, but the Governor was not. His priorities had been soundly ignored. He wanted $7,421 per student for K-12 public school funding; he got just under $7,221. He wanted $76 million for his VISIT Florida tourism marketing agency; he got $25 million. And he wanted $85 million for his Enterprise Florida economic development organization; he got $16 million.

When Part 1 of this Session recap was published last month, it was clear that another deal was needed, and that with his veto pen, Scott had the upper hand. In Part 2 on May 22, I summarized the major education policies that, along with the budget, awaited the Governor’s signature and urged readers to weigh in.

Senate President
Joe Negron
On June 2, after “several days of backstage negotiations mostly involving Corcoran, Scott and their top staff members,” at a hastily convened press conference with Corcoran and Negron at his side, Scott announced that agreement had been reached. After signing the 2017-18 budget and vetoing the entire public education budget and $410 million in local projects, he called a special session of the Legislature for June 7 to 9 “to fight for students and jobs.”

Going in to that session, Scott wanted another $100 per student for K-12 education, a total of $76 million for VISIT Florida, and $85 million for a new Florida Job Growth Grant Fund. Corcoran wanted Scott to sign his charter-friendly HB 7069. And Negron wanted him to sign his sweeping higher education SB 374.

When it was over, Scott got what he wanted, Corcoran got what he wanted, and Negron was left out in the cold.

Scott vetoed Negron’s higher education bill, saying it would “impede” progress at state colleges by boosting Florida’s universities at the expense of community-based schools. More here.

This stunning outcome was beautifully described in a Sun Sentinel editorial, “Joe Negron got played — Florida public schools pay price:”

Florida Senate President Joe Negron so badly wanted his top priority this year that he failed to do what citizens expect of the Legislature's upper chamber: stop bad things from happening.

Until now, the Senate has been the more-measured chamber, the adult in the room that kept an important check on the upstart House, whose members too often walk in lockstep on extreme proposals.

And sometimes, doing the right thing means being willing to sacrifice your pet project.

But after securing his first priority of the session — a new reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee — Negron fiercely sought his second: a sweeping higher education bill meant to help certain state universities attain "elite" status, while putting community colleges back in their place.

To secure Senate Bill 374, Negron made a bad gamble on the session's last day. He agreed to push his chamber to pass House Speaker Richard Corcoran's pet project: House Bill 7069, a bill to further privatize public education, tied with a bow of elementary school recess and teacher bonuses.

In the end, “Negron got outplayed,” wrote the Sun Sentinel. “His leadership mantle is shaken.

"And all this matters because our public schools are about to pay the price.”

___________________
Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can subscribe to Sparker’s Soapbox by email at www.sparkers-soapbox.blogspot.com, "like" me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sparkers.soapbox or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Sparker's Soapbox Month in Review - May 2017

May was a busy month for our elected officials. At month-end, the School Board was sued by three parents and the Florida Citizens Alliance over its textbook selections. Earlier in the month, the Board heard public comments in support of a local charter school and began considering next year’s budget.

The County Commission discussed major road and building projects, whether to purchase a significant parcel of land, and whether to raise the tourist tax. Naples City Council is debating the ethics of one of its members, and it too, has a major building project to consider.

The Florida Legislature completed its 2017 session, with House and Senate leaders criticized for both what they did and how they did it. With term-limits triggered next year, races to succeed the Governor and the three Cabinet members got underway.

With all that is happening, how are busy Collier voters, many who are out of town for the summer, to keep up?

This post is my attempt to help. It's the first in what could become a new series called Sparker's Soapbox Month in Review. It was inspired by a narrowly-focused daily email I receive about one small aspect of national news. By reading it and some of the news stories it references, I feel well informed on its topic. I wondered if I could do something similar that is narrowly focused on our local and state elected officials and the issues and decisions they face.

Throughout May, I clipped articles and web posts about the Collier County School Board and District, the Board of Collier County Commissioners, the Naples City Council, the Florida Governor and Legislature, and upcoming state and local elections. I also clipped Naples Daily News editorials that provided meaningful relevant commentary. In the last days of the month, I pared down and organized what I'd collected. My goal was to publish a summary of top stories for Collier voters on the first of June.

I certainly can’t guarantee I found everything that is relevant, but I hope what I did find is informative.

With that -- here's Sparker's Soapbox Month in Review for May 2017.

Top stories: Collier County Public Schools

  • Three parents and Florida Citizens Alliance sue the Collier County School Board over textbooks slated for public school classrooms next fall. The suit calls for an "emergency injunction" on the books and the School Board's selection process for violating state transparency laws and education standards. (Naples Daily News 05/31/17)
  • Florida Citizens Alliance Objections to Textbooks to be Heard at Special School Board Meeting June 1st. Florida Citizens Alliance is a "self-professed constitutionalism group" whose issues are the Second Amendment and local control of public education. (Sparker's Soapbox 5/25/17)
  • CCPS critics believe textbook review committees were stacked to promote progressive ideas in history, economics and the law. School officials say the committees reflect who applied and that neither party affiliation nor political leanings were considered when selecting members. (Brent Batten, Naples Daily News 5/22/17)
  • Florida’s Auditor General calls Collier schools ‘best in state’ on internal controls and FEFP compliance. The senior lead auditor who conducted the District’s last three audits routinely uses the District’s processes and procedures as the model when conducting statewide training. (Kamela Patton, Guest Commentary, Naples Daily News 5/14/17)
  • Better-than-budgeted FY17 results expected to add $3.5 million to District reserves. The preliminary FY18 budget anticipates revenue and additional cost savings to more than cover higher costs, making staff salary increases a possibility. (CCPS Budget Presentation 5/20/17)
  • Thirteen Collier schools will have new principals in the fall. The retirement of Deputy Superintendent David Stump provides an opportunity to restructure the District leadership team to support new principals and offer more ongoing professional development. (CCPS Press Release 5/16/17; Naples Daily News 5/23/17)
  • The School Board should hire an internal audit firm to perform a risk assessment and develop a longer-term internal audit plan. (Erika Donalds, Guest Commentary, Naples Daily News 5/20/17)
  • A large crowd of Mason Classical Academy supporters turned out for the May 9 School Board meeting. They urged the Board to renew its charter, which expires June 30, in over an hour of public comments before the business portion of the meeting. (Video-on-Demand 5/9/17)


Top stories: Board of Collier County Commissioners

  • Decision on $60 - $80 million sports complex likely at June County Commission meeting. The project seems to have support from a majority of commissioners, but how it will be funded is more controversial. (Naples Daily News 5/3/17; Naples Herald 5/24/17)
  • County resumes long-delayed plans to extend Vanderbilt Beach Road. It will need to buy rights-of-way from dozens of homeowners in the six to eight miles between where the road ends now, just east of Collier Boulevard, and the project’s end. Expected completion in 2023, at a cost of about $60 million. (Naples Daily News 5/5/17)
  • Collier Commission votes 4-1 to end temporary ban on medical marijuana dispensaries October 10. Commissioner Bill McDaniel dissented, saying the moratorium should end immediately. Proposed regulations will be vetted during public meetings this summer. (Naples Daily News 5/9/17)
  • County to increase spending on wildfire prevention after recent fires in Golden Gate Estates put it “one spark away from losing 900 structures and 500 homes in a densely populated area.” (Naples Daily News 5/13/17)
  • An 18-story, 300-unit mixed use project with a 75-slip marina proposed near Vanderbilt Beach in North Naples. It would replace several buildings, most more than 30 years old, and require a rezoning and growth plan amendment. (Naples Daily News 5/16/17; Naples Daily News 5/18/17)
  • County loses lawsuit against CVS and landlord over eminent domain; commissioners to consider appeal. A win would let the County recoup some of the $6.5 million it paid CVS and its landlord for taking away 11 parking spaces to widen a road, and could drastically reduce the cost to taxpayers of eminent domain for years to come. (Naples Daily News 5/22/17; Brent Batten, Naples Daily News 5/29/17)
  • HHH Ranch owners offer Collier County 1,010 acres in exchange for mining proceeds. The ranch is three miles east of Collier Boulevard and north of I-75/Alligator Alley. Commissioners will get two appraisals of the property as a first step in considering the proposal. (Naples Daily News 5/25/17)
  • Lawyers ditch Everglades City's troubles with water, sewage plants, citing "irreconcilable differences" with city leaders. Will the County have to take over? and at what cost? (Naples Daily News 5/26/17)
  • County to take back Goodland Drive from the City of Marco Island, but repairs still years away. The road floods substantially during the rainy season and has been a public safety concern for years. Construction could begin in 2020, but a budget for it has not yet been approved. (Naples Daily News 5/28/17)
  • Collier officials soon to decide on room tax, beach aid, advertising, sports complex. On June 13, Commissioners will revisit how they spend the roughly $20 million the county collects every year from a sales tax on overnight stays. (Naples Daily News 5/30/17)

Top stories: Naples City Council

  • Councilwoman Linda Penniman and City Attorney differ on development disclosure rules. Penniman requested the disclosures after the Naples Daily News reported on a potential conflict of interest involving Councilman Sam Saad’s relationship with a real estate investment group. (Naples Daily News 5/11/17)
  • Collier NAACP files an ethics complaint against Councilman Saad, saying he violated Florida Bar rules when he voted to approve a development project in the City’s River Park neighborhood. (Naples Daily News 5/24/17)
  • Naples design board OKs plan for 118-room hotel at Third Street Plaza. The project would replace the >25-year-old plaza often described as an eyesore. It requires final approval by the Naples City Council. (Naples Daily News 5/24/17)

Top stories: State Government

  • Recapping Florida’s 2017 Legislative Session - Part 1 (Sparker's Soapbox 5/15/17)
  • Recapping Florida’s 2017 Legislative Session - Part 2 (Sparker's Soapbox 5/22/17)
  • Gov. Scott signs legislation aimed at building reservoir that should eventually help ease freshwater discharges to the Caloosahatchee River. (News-Press 5/12/17)
  • Food money for low-income seniors in Lee, Collier, Charlotte counties back in budget, thanks to Naples Sen. Kathleen Passidomo’s “last-minute maneuvering.” (News-Press 5/15/17)
  • Passidomo, Reps. Byron Donalds and Bob Rommel reflect on 2017 legislative session. (Naples Daily News 5/10/17; WGCU.org 5/18/17)
  • Legislative budget includes $1.2 million for Collier's business accelerators, thanks to “last-minute push” by Passidomo, Donalds and Rommel. (Naples Daily News 5/16/17)
  • Byron Donalds among four freshmen House Republicans running to be Speaker in 2022. (Politico 5/22/17)

Top stories: 2018 state elections

  • Florida governor’s race well underway: Already 18 candidates for 2018. (Palm Beach Post 5/28/17)
  • The biggest financial backers to-date of candidates running for governor in 2018. (Tampa Bay Times 5/18/17)

Top Naples Daily News Editorials

  • 'Local control' may be House without home. The House voted 68-48 for House Bill 843 by Naples state Reps. Byron Donalds and Bob Rommel. Thankfully the misguided bill didn’t pass. (Naples Daily News 5/4/17)
  • A visionary approach to future fire danger. Editorial Board applauds Collier government leadership for taking a three-point approach toward addressing the high fire danger that inevitably will return. (Naples Daily News 5/10/17)
  • Goodland Drive, ATV Park: numbers may not add up on beneficial deals. When government agencies fail to strike a deal, the cost of that failure affects everyday citizens who see promises broken by public officials or people’s well-being caught up in a political tug-of-war. (Naples Daily News 5/11/17)
  • Two state formulas need revision to help replenish Florida beaches. The $50 million the Legislature and Gov. Scott agreed to spend for beach projects in the 2017-18 state budget isn’t nearly enough to address the state’s extreme coastal erosion problem. (Naples Daily News 5/17/17)
  • There's no emergency to merge Collier fire districts with ambulance service. The desirable goal is a patient who has received thoughtful, progressive care -- not rushed, emergency treatment. This is a case where it’s good to be waiting for the ambulance. (Naples Daily News 5/18/17)

What do you think? Did reading this post make you a more informed voter? Would you like to read something similar weekly, bi-weekly or monthly?

I welcome your feedback and suggestions.

___________________
Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can subscribe to Sparker’s Soapbox by email at www.sparkers-soapbox.blogspot.com, "like" me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sparkers.soapbox or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.




Thursday, May 25, 2017

Florida Citizens Alliance Objections to Textbooks to be Heard at Special School Board Meeting June 1st

Thursday, June 1, 4 PM
CCPS Administrative Center
5775 Osceola Trail, Naples
Seven Collier County parents affiliated with the Florida Citizens Alliance will each have up to ten minutes to object to Collier County Public School textbook selections at a Special School Board meeting next Thursday, thanks to SB 864: Instructional Materials for K–12 Public Education, signed into law by Gov. Scott in 2014.

Florida Citizens Alliance (FCA) is a "self-professed constitutionalism group" whose issues are the Second Amendment and local control of public education. It was founded by Keith Flaugh of Marco Island; Collier School Board member Erika Donalds was also a founding member, and unsuccessful 2016 School Board candidate Louise Penta serves on the group’s Board of Directors.

Backed by FCA, SB 864 requires at least one parent to be included in a school district’s textbook review process. This year’s CS/HB 989, sponsored by Donalds’ husband Rep. Byron Donalds and also backed by FCA, takes SB 864 even further by giving any local taxpayer the right to challenge, in FCA’s words, “factually inaccurate instructional materials (materials that do not present balanced viewpoints on issues), as well as other instructional materials that contain age-inappropriate sexually explicit material that violates existing Florida Laws.”

Read the objections to the textbooks on FCA’s website here or on the CCPS website here.

My goal with this post is to make readers aware of who these objections are coming from (not just any parent) and their ideology. I will share some of the objections to each book, but to get the full flavor, I encourage you to read at least one of the submissions in its entirety. By clicking a book’s title, below, you can access the book from the District’s website, but this access may only be available until the conclusion of the Special School Board Meeting.

Florida Social Studies - used in grades K–5

The objection to this series of social studies books was submitted by Kenneth Lee Dixon, unsuccessful 2014 School Board candidate and parent of a Mason Classical Academy Charter School student, and Mary Ellen Cash, a teacher of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). Read it here. They assert that the series is suited for English language learners and therefore “reduce(s) rigor and is not appropriate for mainstream or gifted students.” They also criticize when and the way in which immigration is presented and that immigration law is not addressed.

By the People: A History of the United States - used in high school Advanced Placement U.S. History

David Bolduc, who succeeded Erika Donalds as president of Parents ROCK, and a parent of a Naples High School student, objected (here) to this book. In his view, “this History textbook is more concerned with indoctrinating our children to become future social justice warriors part of a humanistic, collectivized society where rights are given by government, rather than teaching them the United States of America was created based on the universal principles of the unalienable God-given rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness as stated in the Declaration of Independence.” He believes the theme or purpose of the book is “To glorify advocates who want to destroy the founding values of the United States of America and substitute them with an authoritarian, communist, collectivise [sic] form of government and economy,” the consequence of which would be “to accept collectivism as beneficial."

Understanding Economics - used in high school Economics

James Kelly submitted an objection (here) to this textbook. The same document on the Florida Citizens Alliance website was submitted by Joseph Doyle, a frequent CCPS critic at School Board meetings. They call the book “a continuation of the left-leaning propaganda that demonizes free enterprise while advocating top-down government, deficit spending and class warfare.” They point to a lesson on fiscal policy that “is riddled with editorializing and sweeping generalizations that disparage supply-side economics,” and say the textbook “glorifies the biographies of ideologues Karl Marx, Cezar Chavez, and Paul Krugman as well as pop culture financial industry celebrities Suze Orman and Janet Yellen, and CEO's [sic] Daniel Akerson and Irene Rosenfeld.”

Street Law: A Course in Practical Law - used in high school Law Studies

Brantley Oakey, parent of a Mason Classical Academy student, objected (here) to this textbook. He sees a “recurring theme that the Constitution is inferior and should model the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and provide economic rights.” As a consequence, “Students will be conditioned to believe everyone should be entitled to free healthcare, housing, and work as a legal right and that the Constitution needs to be changed to accommodate this.”

Steven J. Bracci also objected to the Law Studies textbook (here). Bracci, a Naples attorney who has sued both the Collier County School Board and the Superintendent, is a parent of students attending Gulf Coast High School and North Naples Middle School. He cites a “bias against the status quo of the U.S. legal system, and the U.S. Constitution in particular.” Among his specific criticisms:

  • The book frames the National Rifle Association in the negative (they "oppose restrictions on gun ownership and use”) rather than in the affirmative (“for instance, promoting the Constitutional right to bear arms as set forth in the Second Amendment”).
  • The section on voting “is slanted as a criticism of a republic form of government, advocating instead in favor of direct votes by the people.”
  • The section on campaign finance reform is biased in that it does not “provide any hyperlink to an organization that supports the Citizens United position; by contrast, the link to the League of Women's [sic] Voters specifically opposes it.”

United States Government: Our Democracy - used in high school U.S. Government

J. Eric Konuk, parent of a Naples High School student, submitted a review (here) that according to the FCA website was co-written with FCA founder Keith Flaugh. It begins by criticizing the book’s title, writing: “US is not a democracy; We are a Constitutional Republic,” and quotes the following from lexrex.com which I traced to The American Ideal of 1776: The Twelve Basic American Principles:

“Democracy and Republic, are not only dissimilar but antithetical, reflecting the sharp contrast between (a) The Majority Unlimited, in a Democracy, lacking any legal safeguard of the rights of The Individual and The Minority, and (b) The Majority Limited, in a Republic under a written Constitution safeguarding the rights of The Individual and The Minority …."

The ”About Us” page of the Lexrex website Konuk and Flaugh reference concludes: “Forget about 'Saving the Public Schools!' SAVE YOUR OWN CHILDREN FIRST! Hopefully the kids in the government-controlled schools can be rehabilitated by your homeschooled kids later. We should have free (100% voluntary - funded by true charity) schools for poor kids and government-controlled schools for no one's kids.”

Florida United States History - used in high School U.S. History Honors

Douglas A. Lewis, an attorney and parent of three Mason Classical Academy students, and H. Michael Mogil, owner of a local math tutoring company, submitted a 26-page objection (here) to this textbook. Among their objections:
  • There is “a strong social undercurrent in the book, attacking white men and businesses and favoring immigrants and government activity.” 
  • Judging the missions and goals of “the large number of civic and social groups that are listed as program advisors and program partners”, “it is clear that community action for social change and social justice are strong focus.”
  • “The material is written in too simplistic a format; questions are not rigorous enough; supportive material is often lacking; and the focus remains on a timeline rather than topical. Further, history in this book is dominated by social and people issues, rather than discussions of significant issues."

My take, and looking ahead

While I commend the effort it took to review the materials and prepare the written objections, I do not share FCA’s ideology and find a good deal of the rhetoric on its website and the cited lexrex.com website, and in the submitted objections, disturbing.

That said, if the criticism that the books fail to present both sides of issues is valid, I encourage teachers to supplement those presentations. In these highly polarized and politicized times, young people must learn that there ARE controversial issues and how to identify them. They must learn that there are extreme positions as well as more moderate ones, and that dialog and ultimately compromise on difficult issues are necessary in a civil society.

Curriculum and instructional materials were issues in past School Board elections and will continue to be in the elections ahead. FCA can be expected to continue its efforts.

Five elected School Board members make District policy and hire the Superintendent who oversees the education of Collier’s kids. Three of the five seats will be on the ballot in August 2018. It’s not too soon to be paying attention.

Update 
As initially published, this post had an incorrect date for the Special Board Meeting, and said each speaker would have three minutes to address the Board. The correct meeting date is Thursday, June 1. I have been advised that each speaker will have up to ten minutes to address the Board.

___________________
Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can subscribe to Sparker’s Soapbox by email at www.sparkers-soapbox.blogspot.com, "like" me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sparkers.soapbox or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.





Monday, May 22, 2017

Recapping Florida’s 2017 Legislative Session - Part 2

As promised in my last post, here's a look at the major education policies contained in bills awaiting the Governor signature.

Testing - The many people who wanted fewer state-mandated tests, a later “testing window” (calendar) in which to give them, and a return to paper-based assessments got much less than they asked for. Just one end-of-course exam (Algebra II) and phys ed for student-athletes who don’t take a PE course were eliminated. The testing window was pushed back to start May 1 and reduced to two weeks, gaining one to three weeks of instructional time. Paper-based testing will be required for grades three through six in English language arts (ELA) and math starting in the 2017-18 year, and for all ELA and math exams no later than 2018-19. Test results will have to be provided more quickly and with clearer explanations. Exceptions are for third-grade reading and paper-based tests in grades three through six, which take longer to grade. These provisions are included in the massive HB 7069, which has not yet been received by the Governor but could well be vetoed.

Teacher Pay - The Legislature again this year favored bonuses for “effective” teachers over across-the-board pay increases for all teachers. They expanded the 2015 “Best and Brightest Scholarship” program to more teachers in that for the next three years, those who earn a "highly effective" rating would get a $1,200 bonus while those with "effective" ratings would get $800. After that time, new criteria would kick in for a higher payout. They also added an award for principals in schools with the highest percentage of Best and Brightest teachers, and eliminated the bonus cap for teachers whose students successfully complete AP, AICE and similar tests. Responding to teacher complaints, they  removed the requirement for districts to evaluate teachers using the controversial "value-added model," which relies on test scores. But they took away the ability of school boards to offer guaranteed employment extensions to teachers on annual contract, something many districts have done since 2011. All these provisions are included in HB 7069.

Mandatory Recess - Florida's self-designated "recess moms" wanted 20 minutes of daily elementary school recess. They found quick support in the Senate, but the House was slow to respond. The idea resurfaced in the final days of horse-trading and was included in the massive HB 7069, but with an unrequested exemption for charter schools.

Instructional Materials Review - Rep. Byron Donalds and local supporters including the Florida Citizens Alliance and Better Collier County Schools wanted non-parent community members to be able to challenge curriculum and library materials. Opponents, including Florida Citizens for Science, strongly opposed the controversial HB 989, citing supporters’ “vociferous opposition to established, accurate science concepts” including evolution and climate change. Following a massive lobbying effort by both sides, lawmakers adopted most of Donalds’ original bill. And districts will have to bring in an "unbiased and qualified hearing officer" to hear complaints and issue recommendations. Next stop: the Governor’s Office.

Religious Expression in Public Schools - Further testing the line between church and state, the Legislature passed SB 436, the "Florida Student and School Personnel Religious Liberties Act.” Students may use religious content during lessons, wear clothing and jewelry with religious symbols at school, and participate in religious activities including prayer at school during “appropriate" times. Districts must adopt policies allowing "limited public forums" for students to pray at school events, and school employees may participate in student-led religious activities on school grounds, as long as the activities are voluntary and do not interfere with the employees' responsibilities. Next stop: the Governor’s Office.

Improve middle school study performance - The Legislature was shown data sourced to an email from the Foundation for Florida’s Future showing that Florida students in grade 8 have performed below the national average on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Mathematics test since 1990, and below or most recently at the national average on the NAEP Reading test since 1998. It was told that NAEP is “the largest nationally representative assessment of students’ knowledge and performance in a variety of subject areas, including but not limited to mathematics, reading, and writing.” In response, the Legislature passed HB 293 directing the state Department of Education to solicit competitive bids to “conduct a comprehensive study of states with high-performing students in grades 6 through 8 in reading and mathematics, based on the states’ performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress,” and submit recommendations to improve middle school study performance by the end of this year. The bill is pending in the Governor’s Office; he has until June 2 to act.

It’s not too late to weigh in

Do you oppose the lack of transparency with which so many education policy issues were decided and shoe-horned into a 274-page bill? Do you think there’s still too much state-mandated testing? Do you object to the charter-school exemption from the mandated recess time? Do you think the "Best and Brightest Teacher and Principal Scholarship" program is the best way to attract and keep the best teachers in Florida? Are you okay with the “Religious Expression in Public Schools” bill? Are you concerned about the education budget or any of the other policy changes included in HB 7069? If so, it’s not too late to let Governor Scott know!

And given the many press reports that he’s listening, I urge you to do so. (PoliticoFlorida)

It’s easy to call the Governor’s office — (850) 488-7146 or (850) 717-9337 — and leave a message with your name, your city and zip code, the bill number you’re calling about, and whether you want him to sign or veto it. It would be nice, but not necessary, for you to include a one-sentence reason why. Or email Rick.Scott@eog.myflorida.com.

Let your voice be heard now!


__________________________
Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can subscribe to Sparker’s Soapbox by email at www.sparkers-soapbox.blogspot.com, "like" me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sparkers.soapboxor follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.



Monday, May 15, 2017

Recapping Florida’s 2017 Legislative Session - Part 1

The Old Capitol Building
Tallahassee, FL
The 2017 Legislative Session ended Monday, 3 days late, because the House and Senate could not get their only constitutionally-mandated job — passing a balanced budget for the 2017–18 fiscal year — done on time.

It took Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran making significant deals behind closed doors to get it done, for which they have been widely criticized. (Sunshine State News)

Gov. Rick Scott got just a fraction of the tax cuts he wanted and his three biggest priorities (VISIT FLORIDA tourism marketing, Enterprise Florida incentives to lure businesses to the state, and money to speed up rebuilding the leaking dike around Lake Okeechobee) were virtually ignored. (BizJournals.com)

In this post, I’ll take a high-level look at the budget deal Corcoran and Negron reached with an emphasis on the areas I’m most interested in: education, health care and the environment. In my next post, I’ll look more specifically at how K–12 education was affected.

A high-level look at the budget


The deal struck resulted in a $82.4 billion budget, which is essentially unchanged from the current year. An additional $2.4 billion in additional appropriations is contained in budget conforming bills for items including hospital funding (the low income pool), state employee pay raises, Visit Florida, Enterprise Florida and educational programs. (More below.)


Education


The Legislature approved K–12 funding of $20.4 billion, up just 1.2% ($241 million) over the current year. This equates to per-student funding of $7,220.72, up just 0.3%.

Beyond what was in the main budget bill, a 274-page, $419 million education policy overhaul (HB 7069) was cobbled together and narrowly passed in the session's final days. In a statement on the House budget, Speaker Richard Corcoran touted the package of “innovative programs to end failure factories” and said "I think [it] is going to go down as one of the greatest K-12 bills in the history of the state of Florida." (Miami Herald / FloridaPolitics.com)

While separate from the budget, I'm discussing HB 7069 in this post because it's such a significant amount of money. It includes many priorities of the school choice movement, and -- if signed by the Governor -- it will affect everything from charters and recess to teacher contracts and virtual schooling.

For example, it funds a $140 million “Schools of Hope” program that offers incentives to privately-managed charter schools to entice them to take over low-performing public schools in poor neighborhoods. This program is opposed by many who because it takes money away from already-struggling districts.

The bill also includes $234 million to expand to more teachers and extend to principals the “Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program” which awards bonuses based on GPA or scores on standardized tests. Many, including the Governor, question the program's assumption that those who did well while in high school on standardized tests make the best teachers or principals.

In another controversial funding area resolved by compromise, two school voucher programs were significantly expanded. The Gardiner Scholarship program benefiting children with disabilities was broadened so that more could qualify, and the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program got more money so families can stay in the program when their children advance to high school, where private education is more expensive. That program, made possible “almost entirely by a single organization led by an influential and wealthy school choice advocate,” gives businesses dollar-for-dollar tax credits for donating money to the scholarship fund. (Miami Herald / Sunshine State News)

Calls for veto

In the hours and days since Monday’s session-end, supporters of public education have spoken out strongly. The state’s largest teachers union was among the first, urging the Governor to veto the K–12 part of the budget as well as HB 7069.

The Florida League of Women Voters said the Legislature “sent a message that our schools, teachers, and students are not valued,” and also called for the veto of HB 7069.

In a fact-filled and strongly-worded editorial titled “Gov. Rick Scott should veto efforts to starve public schools,” the Tampa Bay Times wrote, “Gov. Rick Scott should veto the anemic public schools budget and a mammoth education bill that was negotiated in secret and micromanages school districts to death.”

And in an editorial titled “Long state legislative session came up short,” the Naples Daily News wrote, “Teacher retention in public schools is a critical issue in Collier and Lee. The Legislature delivered a paltry $24 more per student, some $200 less per student than Scott proposed. House leaders instead crowed about helping charter schools.”

Health Care


Legislators struggled to resolve health care funding issues, ultimately agreeing to cut $521 million from hospitals, including a reduced reimbursement rate for serving poor and uninsured patients. (Naples Daily News / Health News Florida)


Environment


Funding for the environment is always a contentious issue. Ultimately, Senate President Negron got money for his priority, a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee that will be used to help avoid harmful discharges to coastal waterways. And while the budget includes funding for beach and springs restoration, nothing was provided for the Florida Forever land acquisition program. (FloridaPolitics.com / Tampa Bay Times)

My take


Like many, I am not happy with the budget that was passed. Per student K–12 funding was shortchanged at the expense of a private school voucher program and charter school expansions. Gov. Scott does have the power to veto the entire budget, but that’s unlikely since Speaker Corcoran has said they have the votes to override. I can only hope the Governor will use his ability to line-item veto budget items and/or veto outright HB 7089.

Hospitals that care for the poor and uninsured will have to make do with half a billion dollars less. The will of Floridians who approved the Water and Land Conservation Amendment 1 in 2014 was again ignored.

We need to do better.

This is not the first year I’ve been unhappy with the Florida budget, but wouldn't it be great if it was the last? Next year, Floridians will elect a new Governor and Cabinet, all 120 members of the House, and 20 of the 40 members of the Senate.

Elections matter. We need to be paying attention and start preparing now.



Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can subscribe to Sparker’s Soapbox by email at www.sparkers-soapbox.blogspot.com, “like” me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sparkers.soapbox or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Education bills before the Florida Legislature

In Session
March 7 - May 5, 2017
In the four weeks that the 2017 Legislative Session has been underway, I've struggled to find a way to monitor the many proposed bills that would affect public education in Florida. A few, notably SB 1210/HB 989 Instructional Materials for K–12 Public Education, have deservedly gotten a lot of attention, but I wanted to see the bigger picture. Who is making education policy in Florida? In addition to the most covered issues, what else is being considered? What’s the best way for me to be involved, and with my goal of encouraging informed voting, what should I share with readers?

There are no fast or easy answers to those questions, but I had to start doing something. In the Florida Legislature, House and Senate rules provide for standing committees, subcommittees, and special or select committees. The Senate President names the chairs and members of all Senate committees; the Speaker of the House names the chairs and members of all House committees.

After reviewing the list of Senate committees, I made the assumption that most education policy bills would go through the Senate Standing Committee on Education (Education Committee) before reaching the Floor for a final vote. And if that’s true, then monitoring that Committee and the bills that pass favorably through it should give me the overview I'm looking for. At least, that's the plan for now.

Knowing little about it, I did a deep dive into that Committee through the Florida Senate website. In this post, I’ll share what I learned.

The big picture

The Senate Education Committee has 10 members. Seven are Republicans and three are Democrats, which is fairly consistent with the makeup of the Senate as a whole. They are:


Chair Hukill is the only member of the Committee who has been an educator. A former elementary school teacher and now attorney/small business owner, she has held elected office in Central Florida since 1998. Due to treatment for cancer, she is not participating in this legislative session.

Vice Chair Mayfield is a self-described “public servant” who has served in the state Legislature since 2008. She is the only member of the Committee whose Senate bio lists being honored by the politically conservative Americans for Prosperity, Liberty First Network and Foundation for Florida’s Future.

Sen. Lee is vice president of a residential homebuilder and a realtor, Sen. Simpson is president of an environmental restoration and demolition services company, and Sen. Stewart is a former insurance agent. The remaining five Committee members are attorneys.

Getting caught up

A total of 111 Senate bills were referred to the Education Committee for consideration this session. Of these, 110 were “General Bills” (i.e. one of general statewide interest or whose provisions apply to the entire state) and one was a “Joint Resolution” (i.e. a proposed constitutional amendment) to establish a minimum salary for full-time public school teachers.

I reviewed the agendas, meeting materials, and in some cases video recordings of each of the Committee’s eight meetings so far, all of which are available here.

The March 21 meeting included a presentation on the current state requirements for high school graduation, statewide assessments, school grades and personnel evaluations by the Executive Vice Chancellor and an associate, K–12 Public Schools, Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) (slides here). The presentation served to provide background to bills that propose changes to current law.

Similarly, the March 27 meeting included a presentation on the current state of the Florida charter school sector by the Executive Director of the FLDOE Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice (slides here), and a presentation about KIPP public charter schools, by Trisha Coad, National Director, New Site Development, KIPP Foundation (slides here).

In its meetings to-date, the Committee considered 39 bills related to pre-K - 12 education and took the following actions:

  • 15 bills - Passed unanimously; now proceeding through their next assigned committee(s)
  • 2 bills - Passed with minority dissent; now proceeding through their next assigned committee(s)
  • 5 bills - Workshopped/discussed; passed unanimously; now proceeding through their next assigned committee(s)
So far, these 22 bills are the ones I'll be keeping an eye on.

  • 9 bills - Workshopped/discussed or temporarily postponed; not yet scheduled for next hearing
  • 8 bills - Workshopped/discussed; scheduled for next hearing
I'll pay more attention to these 17 bills when and if they are voted out of Committee.

Many bills to which Education was an assigned stop have not yet been (and may never be) scheduled to be heard, including the proposed minimum teacher pay amendment.

For a sense of the bills considered, below are their titles and, for ones of particular interest to me, a brief description; click a bill number for more information.

Passed unanimously; now proceeding through their next assigned committee(s):

  • SB 78 Public School Recess - Requiring each district school board to provide students in certain grades with a minimum number of minutes of free-play recess per week and with a minimum number of consecutive minutes of free-play recess per day
  • SB 104 Computer Coding Instruction - Authorizing high schools to offer students opportunities to take specified computer coding courses
  • CS/SB 148 Students Remaining on School Grounds During School Hours - Requiring schools in certain districts to obtain written parental consent before permitting students to leave school grounds during the lunch period
  • SB 256 Florida Center for the Partnerships for Arts Integrated Teaching
  • SB 360 Middle School Study - Requiring the Department of Education to conduct a comprehensive study of states with nationally recognized high-performing middle schools in reading and mathematics
  • SB 392 High School Graduation Requirements - Revising the requirements for the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards to include financial literacy; revising the required credits for a standard high school diploma to include one-half credit of instruction in personal financial literacy and money management and seven and one-half, rather than eight, credits in electives
  • SB 438 Out-of-school Suspension
  • SB 642 Public Educational Facilities
  • SB 780 Adoption Benefits
  • SB 808 Maximum Class Size - Revising requirements for charter school compliance calculating a school district’s class size categorical allocation reduction at the school average when maximum class size requirements are not met
  • SB 890 Florida Endowment for Vocational Rehabilitation
  • SB 978 High School Graduation Requirements - Authorizing the use of credits earned upon completion of a registered apprenticeship or pre-apprenticeship
  • SB 1252 Education
  • SB 1290 Career and Technical Education - Requiring each school district to develop at least one CAPE pathway in a specified area by a specified school year
  • SB 1458 Blind Services Direct-support Organization

Passed with minority dissent; now proceeding through their next assigned committee(s):

  • SB 376 Charter School Funding - Authorizing school boards to levy specified amounts for charter schools; prohibiting a charter school from being eligible for a funding allocation under certain circumstances
  • SB 436 Religious Expression in Public Schools - Prohibiting a school district from discriminating against students, parents, or school personnel on the basis of religious viewpoints or expression; prohibiting penalty or reward for a student’s religious expression in coursework, artwork, or other specified assignments

Workshopped/discussed; passed unanimously; now proceeding through their next assigned committee(s):

  • SB 604 Education Funding - Revising the amount each school board may levy for certain purposes
  • CS/SB 772 Assistive Technology Devices
  • SB 782 High School Graduation Requirements - Removing a requirement that a student participating in an interscholastic sport pass a competency test on personal fitness
  • SB 1210 Instructional Materials for K–12 Public Education - Requiring each district school board to adopt a process allowing parents or residents of the county to object to the use of specific instructional materials based on specified criteria; revising the requirements for school boards that adopt rules for the implementation of the district’s instructional materials program; revising the standards that an instructional materials reviewer shall use. This bill is being lobbied for by the Florida Citizens Alliance.
  • SB 1222 School Grades - Providing that a school exhibits a feeder pattern for the purpose of designating school grades if at least a majority of its students are scheduled to be assigned to the graded school

Workshopped/discussed or temporarily postponed; not yet scheduled for next hearing:

  • SB 584 Alternative High School Graduation Requirements - Authorizing certain students to be eligible for an alternative pathway to a standard high school diploma; requiring a school district to establish an Alternative Pathway to Graduation Review Committee for certain students; requiring each district school board to ensure certain instruction, to waive certain assessment results, and to administer a hard copy of the grade 10 ELA assessment or the statewide, standardized Algebra I EOC assessment for certain students
  • SB 906 Student Assessments - Requiring that the Commissioner of Education periodically publish on the Department of Education’s website any assessment administered or adopted during the previous school year
  • SB 964 Education Accountability - Requiring an application and charter for a high school charter school to require the administration of a specified assessment for graduation purposes; revising the requirements for a standard high school diploma; revising the grades in which the statewide, standardized Reading assessment must be administered; providing responsibilities of the commissioner to select and approve a nationally recognized high school assessment to administer in lieu of the Florida Standards Assessment
  • SB 1280 Mandatory Retention - Removing the requirement for mandatory retention of a third grade student based on his or her performance on the English Language Arts assessment
  • SB 538 Charter Schools - requiring applicants for charter status to demonstrate that they meet certain needs that the local school district does not, or is unable to, meet
  • SB 692 Student Eligibility for K–12 Virtual Instruction
  • SB 696 Charter Schools - Requiring a sponsor to honor irrevocable instructions by a charter school to deposit certain funds; providing that a charter school that pledges or assigns future payment of its funding is not pledging the credit or taxing power of the state or a school district
  • SB 1556 Education - Prohibiting a district school board from requiring any additional information or verification from a home education program parent under certain circumstances; providing an exception for certain children from the age verification requirements for school attendance; requiring a school and school district to comply with specified provisions before instituting criminal prosecution against certain parents relating to compulsory school attendance
  • SB 1572 Education Savings Account Program

Workshopped/discussed; scheduled for April 3 meeting:

  • SB 796 Charter Schools - Revising charter school contract and funding requirements; authorizing certain entities to apply for designation as a High-Impact Charter Management Organization; requiring the Department of Education to give priority to certain charter schools applying for specified grants
  • SB 868 Educational Options and Services - Revising student eligibility requirements for the Florida Virtual School and virtual instruction programs
  • SB 902 Gardiner Scholarship Program - Revising program eligibility requirements
  • SB 926 K–12 Student Assessments - Requiring the Commissioner of Education to review specified college entrance examinations to determine their alignment with the core curricular content for high school level English Language Arts and mathematics established in state standards; revising provisions relating to achievement levels for certain statewide, standardized assessments; providing requirements for administration of the statewide, standardized English Language Arts and mathematics assessments in specified grades
  • SB 1302 Private School Student Participation in Extracurricular Activities - Revising the eligibility requirements for certain private school students to participate in interscholastic or intrascholastic sports at specified public schools
  • SB 1314 Educational Options - Specifying the Department of Education’s duty to approve or deny an application for the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program within a specified time; requiring an eligible nonprofit scholarship-funding organization to allow certain dependent children to apply for a scholarship at any time
  • SB 1362 K–12 Education - Removing a requirement that the Department of Education compare certain charter school student performance data to certain traditional public schools; authorizing certain entities to apply to the State Board of Education for designation as a High-Impact Charter Network; revising the exams each public high school is required to administer to all enrolled 10th grade students to include the preliminary ACT, rather than the ACT Aspire
  • SB 1586 Student Eligibility for Interscholastic Athletic Competition - Revising requirements for the bylaws of the Florida High School Athletic Association governing student eligibility to participate in interscholastic athletic competition

The week ahead

The Agenda for the Monday, April 3, Committee meeting is packed. In addition to the eight bills noted above, the following 9 bills related to pre-K - 12 education are scheduled:

  • SB 468 Voluntary Prekindergarten Education
  • SB 856 - Education - Prohibiting a district school board from awarding an annual contract for instructional personnel under certain circumstances
  • SB 868 Education Options and Services - Revising student eligibility requirements for the Florida Virtual School and virtual instruction programs
  • SB 984 Shared Use of Public School Playground Facilities
  • SB 1330 Concealed Weapons and Firearms on Private School Property - Specifying that concealed weapon and concealed firearm licensees are not prohibited by specified laws from carrying such weapons or firearms on private school property
  • SB 1368 Exceptional Student Instruction - Prohibiting certain school districts from declining to provide or contract for certain students’ educational instruction; providing for funding of such students
  • SB 1552 Florida Best and Brightest Teacher and Principal Scholar Award Program - Creating the Florida Best and Brightest Teacher and Principal Scholar Award Program to be administered by the Department of Education
  • SB 1598 Education - Creating the Schools of Excellence Program; providing additional authority and responsibilities to the principal of a School of Excellence
  • SB 1710 Education - Revising the duties of the Just Read, Florida! Office to include developing and providing access to certain resources for elementary schools; requiring postsecondary students to demonstrate civic literacy

So many bills, so little time. Which ones to follow?

I initially planned to end this post by recommending several bills to follow and actions to take in the remaining weeks of the Legislative Session, scheduled to end on May 5. But with so many important bills pending, on what basis would I narrow the list to just a few?

Instead, I urge you to choose one of the bills to follow. Set up a free account on the Florida Senate website here to receive an email notification when something happens with your bill. Then, when your bill is scheduled to be heard, contact the members of the Committee that will hear it through links on the Committee’s web page. Let them know if you want them to support or oppose the bill, and why. A phone call to a senator’s Tallahassee Office is the quickest and easiest way to be heard. If you call after-hours, leave a brief message on their answering machine.

And let me know what bills you choose and how you think it's going!



Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can subscribe to Sparker’s Soapbox by email at www.sparkers-soapbox.blogspot.com, “like” me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sparkers.soapbox or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.

Friday, March 10, 2017

What our state legislators are up to

In Session
March 7 - May 5, 2017
My last post, titled “Whose priorities ARE they?,” described my attempt to compare the bills filed for Florida's 2017 legislative session by Collier County’s State Senator Kathleen Passidomo and State Representatives Byron Donalds, Bob Rommel and Carlos Trujillo to the legislative priorities and funding requests of the Collier County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) and Collier County School District (CCPS). Those are the two elected bodies I follow, and I wanted to know if the people we elected put forward bills to address their requests.

While our representatives had filed a total of 23 bills through the date of my post, I’d taken on the task too early. They still had a month to go to file bills.

Now that the deadline has passed, I took another look at the bills they introduced. In this post, I’ll share what I learned.

Senator Kathleen Passidomo
Kathleen Passidomo’s bills

Senator Passidomo introduced 34 bills and co-sponsored seven. A list with bill titles and links so you can read the ones you’re interested in is on her Florida Senate web page.  Here’s how I categorized them by topic (cs = “co-sponsor”); click a bill number to go directly to its web page:


Only one of Passidomo's bills addresses the issues of major importance to the BCC: SB 408 Highway Safety, which deals with bicycle and pedestrian safety. And none addresses any of the CCPS priorities.

However, she did co-sponsor SB 78 Public School Recess, requiring each district school board to provide students in certain grades with a minimum number of minutes of free-play recess per week and a minimum number of consecutive minutes of free-play recess per day. Collier School Board member Kelly Lichter has advocated for mandatory recess at Board meetings in the past.

Rep. Byron Donalds
Bryon Donalds’ bills

Representative Donalds filed 19 bills and co-sponsored nine. A list with links is on his Florida House web page. Here’s how I categorized them:

  • Children; families; guardians; public safety - 2173
  • Education, preK–12 - 119 (withdrawn), 303 (cs), 591 (cs), 757, 773 (cs), 989, 2187 (cs)
  • Health and medical care - 429 (cs), 2581, 2585
  • Infrastructure - 2171, 2175, 2383, 3313, 3315, 3515, 3517, 4099
  • Law enforcement; self-defense immunity – 245 (cs)
  • Legal system; regulated industries - 2583
  • Objecting to U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334 (Israeli settlements) - 281 (cs)
  • Public records exemptions; public meetings - 351 (cs), 843 (with Rommel)
  • Real estate; construction; development - 483
  • Taxation - 139 (cs), 289, 965

Two of Donalds’ Infrastructure bills would fund specific BCC appropriation requests:

  • HB 3313 would provide $1 million to replace eleven “functionally obsolete bridges” east of State Road 29. According to the Gator Canal Bridge Replacement Appropriations Project Request, the bridges are “heavily utilized for agriculture and other commercial traffic, and provide direct and timely access to local residents for first responders.”
  • HB 3315 would provide $950,000 for the repair or replacement of the Golden Gate City storm water outfall system. According to the Appropriations Project Request, the system is 35 to 45 years old and at the end of its useful life.

His other Infrastructure bills are appropriations requested by other entities in his District: the Hendry County BCC (HB 2171 and HB 4099), Florida SouthWestern State College (HB 2175), UF/IFAS (HB 2383) and the City of LaBelle (HB 3515).

The titles of Donalds’ bills related to preK–12 education which are of particular interest to me are:

  • HB 119 Interscholastic Extracurricular Activities (withdrawn prior to introduction)
  • HB 303 Religious Expression in Public Schools
  • HB 591 Maximum Class Size
  • HB 757 Voluntary Prekindergarten Education
  • HB 773 K–12 Student Assessments
  • HB 989 Instructional Materials for K–12 Public Education

Two CCPS priority areas – providing flexibility regarding state-mandated testing, and maintaining the flexibility in current law for schools of choice (i.e. charter schools) under the Class Size Amendment – appear to be the subjects of HB 773 and HB 591, respectively. But after reading the bills, my impression is that neither really aligns with what the District asked for.

Also of interest is Donalds’ HB 843 Public Meetings and Records/Meetings Between Two Members of Board or Commission, which he jointly introduced with Representative Rommel. See the Naples Daily News editorial “Donalds’ bad bill turns Sunshine into shade,” with which I agree, for more on this bill.

Rep. Bob Rommel
Bob Rommel’s bills

Representative Rommel filed 12 bills and co-sponsored seven. A list with links is here. Here’s how I categorized them:

  • Health and medical care - 537
  • Infrastructure – 3321, 3323, 3325, 3327
  • Law enforcement, self-defense immunity - 245 (cs), 249, 305 (cs), 697 (cs)
  • Legal system, regulated industries, real estate - 583 (cs), 927, 977, 6021
  • Objecting to U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334 (Israeli settlements) - 281 (cs)
  • Public records exemptions; public meetings - 243 (cs), 351, 843 (with Donalds), 1079
  • Taxation – 263 (cs) 

Two of Rommel’ Infrastructure bills would fund specific BCC appropriation requests:

  • HB 3325 would provide $500,000 to reconstruct and raise the elevation of Goodland Drive (CR 92A) to reduce the frequency and duration of impassibility which occurs due to flooding. According to the Appropriations Request, this is the only land access to the Goodland community.
  • HB 3327 would provide $750,000 to replace and upgrade the 40+ year-old Bayshore Gateway Triangle CRA Water Delivery System. According to the Appropriations Request, asbestos cement, cast iron, and ductile pipes will be removed and replaced, and added fire hydrants and increased water pressure will assist the Fire District in protecting residents.

Rommel’s two other infrastructure bills (HBs 3321 and 3323) would provide funding for projects requested by the City of Marco Island.

None of Rommel’s other bills address other Collier County or CCPS priorities.

Rep. Carlos Trujillo
Carlos Trujillo’s bills

Representative Trujillo holds key leadership positions in the House in his final term (due to term limits). He is Chairman of the Appropriations Committee and Alternative Chairman of the Joint Legislative Budget Commission. So I’m not surprised that he hasn’t introduced many bills. I am, though, curious about the one bill he DID sponsor: HB 885 Transactions with Foreign Financial Institutions.

This bill requires state-chartered financial institutions that do business with a foreign financial institution owned by a country under U.S. sanctions to, within 5 business days, identify and report the source of every transaction that passes through it to the Florida Office of Financial Regulation, and to certify that the source does not involve any confiscated property “as defined in the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996.” That law, also known as the Helms-Burton Act, strengthens and continues the U.S. embargo against Cuba.

Whose priority is THAT?

Next steps

I’d like to find out if bills have been introduced by other elected officials that address the Collier County and CCPS priorities. I’d also like to look into the special interest groups that have contributed to our legislators' campaigns to try to learn whose priorities their bills might be advancing. And I plan to look at what’s been happening in the House Committees and Senate Committees that will be considering bills related to preK–12 education. They began meeting months before Session began, and it will be interesting to see what presentations they’ve heard and what actions they’ve taken.

Meanwhile, I hope you will read some of the bills introduced by Collier County’s representatives and share your thoughts with them:

  • Senator Kathleen Passidomo - click here or call (850) 487–5028 and/or (239) 417–6205
  • Representative Byron Donalds - click here or call (850) 717–5080 and/or (239) 417–6270
  • Representative Bob Rommel - click here or call (850) 717–5106 and/or (239) 417–6200
  • Representative Carlos Trujillo - click here or call (850) 717–5105 and/or (305) 470–5070



Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can subscribe to Sparker’s Soapbox by email at www.sparkers-soapbox.blogspot.com, “like” me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sparkers.soapbox or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.