Today's news -- June 7, 2017





Special session in jeopardy before it even begins *

A special session of the Legislature, intended to finalize a deal inked behind closed doors last week on education and economic development, is falling apart before it even begins. Gov. Rick Scott called state lawmakers back to Tallahassee for three days starting today with orders to do three things: boost spending per student in K-12 education; fund the state's tourism agency, Visit Florida; and create a new economic development fund Scott can use to lure businesses. But by Tuesday, the consensus collapsed, as Senate President Joe Negron called for lawmakers to address hospital funding and override some budget vetoes, threatening to derail a deal Scott struck with House Speaker Richard Corcoran. The odds of an on-time finish to the special session Friday look increasingly bleak. Facing pressure from state senators who felt they were being asked to approve a deal worked out between the House and Scott with little in return for the Senate, Negron, R-Stuart, announced Tuesday that he will push to restore $260 million to hospitals and override Scott's vetoes of projects at state universities. "I have made no agreement that would dictate an outcome for this special session," Negron said Tuesday in a memo to senators. "Nor have I made any agreement to limit the subject matter."

Negron's proposals would have to be accepted by the House, but Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, says he's not interested. "Without question, the House will not allow funding for our schoolchildren to be held hostage to pork barrel spending and special interest demands," Corcoran said in a subsequent statement. Reducing the hospital cuts would "raid reserves to give to hospital CEOs," he said. After spending the past eight months attacking Scott's signature programs as "corporate welfare," Corcoran has now found him to be his main ally. "The governor was very clear in what is included in his call for this week's special session," Scott spokesman McKinley Lewis said in a statement. Complicating matters further, the House and Senate have put forward different proposals for oversight and how to fund the agreed-upon $215 million for education, $76 million for Visit Florida and $85 million for a new economic development fund in the Department of Economic Opportunity. That means that lawmakers still have negotiations ahead of them. And because the $20.6 billion base education budget is involved, senators decided to heed a 72-hour cooling-off period that the Constitution requires of the state budget. In short: Unless either the House or Senate agrees to everything in the other chamber's school spending bill as it was originally written, a Friday night finish is impossible. That seems unlikely, with Corcoran on Tuesday calling the Senate's proposal "a massive property tax increase." Negron said the House's could "negatively impact our budget, and potentially our bond rating, in future years." One of the norms of special sessions is that all sides — House, Senate and governor — agree ahead of time, allowing them to avoid the appearance of crisis. The level of discord Tuesday suggests that may have been forgotten. Looming over the deliberations is another issue that isn't even on the agenda this week. A sweeping education bill (HB 7069) that Corcoran championed, negotiated in private and passed in the final hours of the regular session last month, has drawn sharp criticism from traditional public schools, as well as many state senators who feel they were forced to accept a bill they didn't like. Among its effects, the 274-page bill would route more taxpayer dollars to charter schools and make it easier for them to expand in Florida, especially in areas served by traditional public schools that fail year after year. Still, angst over the education bill has seeped into other areas of the session, particularly in the Senate, where it passed by a narrow 20-18 vote and some Republican lawmakers hoped Scott would veto it. "The governor has the right and the responsibility to look at that bill and make individual decisions about what he allows to become law," Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, said May 8. "We'll pass it down and let him do his job." Scott hasn't decided whether he will sign it, though several senators believe he will if the Legislature passes economic development legislation. "The only reason Richard Corcoran is considering Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida is because of 7069," Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon of Miami Gardens said.

The centerpiece of the education bill is a new “Schools of Hope” program that provides state money for charter schools to open up near low-performing traditional public schools and compete for their students. The bill also has a provision that requires school districts to share local property tax dollars collected for school construction with charter schools. “Charter schools will make out like a bandit,” said Sarasota County School Board member Shirley Brown, a former Democratic state representative.


Expect “full and open” budget debate in Senate, chairman says


A fed-up Senate spells big trouble for Scott and Corcoran


House and Senate bills differ


Latvala: “Cooling-off” period applies to Special Session bills


Will the Legislature's special session end with compromise or more confusion?


GOP rep “not comfortable” with K-12 funding without changing HB 7069


Superintendents tell Scott they still want HB 7069 axed *

Despite calling lawmakers back for a special session to increase school aid, Gov. Rick Scott got an earful this weekend during private calls with several superintendents who still want him to veto H.B. 7069, a controversial K-12 education bill that boosts charter schools. Scott had tried to drum up support for his special session budget deal through the conversations with school district superintendents, who are among Florida's most powerful public school advocates. He talked with leaders of the state’s two largest districts, Miami-Dade County and Broward County, on Friday, and also placed called to leaders of at least seven other districts. In separate calls, Alberto Carvalho in Miami-Dade and Robert Runcie in Broward thanked the Republican governor for vetoing lawmakers’ proposed school funding levels, which would have resulted in a per-pupil increase of only $24. Scott has asked the Legislature to come back to Tallahassee this week to redo the Florida Education Finance Program; he’s asking for about $215 million more, which would mean a bump of $100 per student. But Carvalho reiterated his concerns about HB 7069, specifically a provision that would allow charter schools managed by for-profit firms to share in facilities funding generated by local property taxes, according to a district spokeswoman. Carvalho also said he opposes the bill’s proposed changes to how federal Title I funding is doled out, which would result in more money going directly to charters. The plan would “undermine our efforts with high poverty schools,” the district’s chief communications officer, Daisy Gonzalez-Diego, said in an email. Runcie, who himself initiated the call with Scott, delivered essentially the same message, according to a spokesman from that district.  Scott also spoke with Pinellas County superintendent Michael Grego; a spokeswoman for that district said they discussed the budget but not the conforming bill. Also, the governor left a voicemail for Pasco County's Kurt Browning about his intention to increase public school aid but apparently hasn’t connected with him yet, a district spokesman said. Scott reached out to leaders of rural districts, as well. According to a lobbyist who represents small counties, the superintendents of districts in Citrus, Lafayette, Sumter and Wakulla counties heard from the governor Sunday. Similar to their colleagues, they told Scott they appreciated the increase but still could not support HB 7069. The governor also called Escambia County's Malcolm Thomas, according to the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, of which Thomas is president. The district leader didn’t immediately return a call for more details on Monday afternoon. But the association — led by state Sen. Bill Montford, a Tallahassee Democrat — released a statement on Friday expressing gratitude for the increase but continued opposition to H.B. 7069. “While Florida superintendents appreciate Gov. Scott vetoing the FEFP and his call for a special session to address the budgetary concerns regarding K-12 education funding, we respectively reiterate our call for a veto of H.B. 7069 due to the long-term negative repercussions and the impending irreparable harm to public education,” the group said in the statement. Scott said Friday he was still reviewing the bill, a priority of Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran. But some lawmakers have said he has pledged to approve it as part of a larger deal that includes more money for K-12 and his economic development priorities.  The calls were not included on Scott's public schedules Friday or over the weekend. When asked about the correspondence, a spokeswoman for the governor did not offer an immediate comment.


Legislature taking makeup test on schools budget; hoping for better grade


Sparks fly over state legislation at Sarasota school board meeting


National, local politics infuse union fight over Panhandle county's teachers (Joanne McCall, Bill Vincent and Carol Poterek quoted, AFT and NEA mentioned)


Hillsborough tries to balance its budget (Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins quoted)


Jewish day schools allotted state money for security after bomb threats


Gates Foundation failures show philanthropists shouldn’t set public school agenda,amp.html


Pearson and the global assault on public education


DeVos: Discrimination on basis of sexual orientation “unsettled” law


Illinois poised to strip mayor’s control over Chicago schools


Special session an insult to voters, good government


Florida's costly special session: Seven things you need to know


Scott sold out to secrecy


Who will miss the Legislature's special session? Several lawmakers.


Constitution commission adopts rules but rift and power struggle continues


Florida, like Trump, considered saving money by cutting food stamps


Lawmakers reach agreement on medical marijuana for special session


America’s freedom to protest is under attack


Congress clears Trump-backed bill to fast-track firing of VA workers


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Comey talked with Mueller’s team ahead of testimony


Trump, furious and frustrated, gears up to punch back at Comey testimony


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Leaked NSA documents mean Russia hearings just got a lot more interesting


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Trump promised to go after leakers. Now he's doing just that


Trump encouraged Russian hacking during Doral speech less than a year ago


Sessions is said to have offered to resign


Trump is now raging at Sessions. This hints at a deeply unsettling pattern.


Clapper says Watergate “pales” in comparison with Trump Russia scandal


Senate attempting to add Russia sanctions to Iran bill


Putin’s campaign of personal revenge against the United States


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King says GOP health care bill mean steep increases for seniors


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GOP congressman defends call for killing radical Muslims


Trump picks Wray to be FBI director


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Florida gubernatorial candidates react to Trump withdrawal from climate accord


Broward commissioners challenge Trump on climate change


Rare floods to become the norm if emissions aren't cut, study warns


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State Department distances itself from Trump, creating an alternate foreign policy


Trump defends Twitter use as aides urge him to cut back


Twitter users blocked by Trump seek reprieve, citing First Amendment


Trump blocked some people from his Twitter account. Is that unconstitutional?


Trump undercuts his aides by contradicting their statements


Eric Trump says those who oppose his dad are “not even people”


How Trump shifted kids-cancer charity money into his business


The Trump Organization’s new budget hotel venture is an ethics nightmare


Saudi Arabia showers Trump Hotel with cash


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