Today's news -- November 16, 2017





School districts ask Supreme Court to block HB 7069 *

Raising the prospect of “irreversible damage” to the public-education system, nine school boards want the Florida Supreme Court to block a massive education law approved in May. The school boards filed a constitutional challenge at the Supreme Court to the bill, which has become known in the education world by the shorthand HB 7069. The 274-page bill, spearheaded by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, dealt with a wide range of issues, including controversial subjects such as charter schools and teacher bonuses. The challenge contends that the law violates part of the Florida Constitution that requires legislation to deal with single subjects. It alleges HB 7069 is a “prototypical example of logrolled legislation” --- legislation that puts together a patchwork of issues. School districts, including Orange County’s, also have filed two lawsuits challenging HB 7069 in Leon Circuit Court. But the new case filed directly to the Supreme Court involves different legal grounds and contends that immediate action is needed to block the law from moving forward. “Waiting for a trial-court determination and its subsequent appellate review will allow irreversible damage to the function of the public education system to occur throughout the state of Florida,” the lawsuit said. Plaintiffs named in the case are the school boards of Alachua, Bay, Broward, Hamilton, Lee, Polk, St. Lucie, Volusia and Wakulla counties. In arguing the Supreme Court should take up the case, the school boards are seeking a court finding that the Legislature violated the Constitution because of the single-subject issue.


Does one-subject legislation apply to HB 7069?

Logrolling. It's defined as the practice of including multiple unrelated items in a single legislative bill, with the goal of attracting wider support for the measure as a whole. The Florida Constitution forbids it, stating: "Every law shall embrace but one subject and matter properly connected therewith, and the subject shall be briefly expressed in the title." And now nine school districts — Alachua, Bay, Broward, Hamilton, Lee, Polk, St. Lucie, Volusia and Wakulla — are asking the state Supreme Court to halt HB 7069, the controversial education law adopted in the waning hours of the spring 2017 legislative session, because of it. "Without the benefit of any conference-committee analysis of the new legislation — and with only a single weekend to review the bill — HB 7069 passed by only two votes in the Florida Senate. This is precisely the type of logrolled legislation that the single-subject rule is designed to prevent," lawyers for the districts wrote in their 715-page (including attachments) brief filed late Monday. The bill, initially a 6-page committee proposal to amend the Best and Brightest teacher bonus, was in its final form titled simply as "An act relating to education." But it takes nearly 20 pages to explain the proposed actions before getting to the actual amendments. Those include, the lawsuit contends, "several provisions unrelated to K-12 education or even to education at any level." Key lawmakers warned of such a challenge even as they debated the measure on the floor. Sen. David Simmons, who led the Senate discussion on the bill before voting against it, stressed repeatedly that the ideas within HB 7069 deserved to live or die on their own merits, and not be lumped together and shoved through the process. The Supreme Court has written unfavorably against the practice of logrolling in the past. In the 1980 case Brown v. Firestone, for instance, it stated, "Were we to sanction a rule permitting an appropriations bill to change existing law, the legislature would in many instances be able to logroll, and in every instance the integrity of the legislative process would be compromised." The plaintiffs in this HB 7069 case argue a similar concern, further suggesting no need existed to create such a wide-ranging law. "Indeed, nowhere in the 274-page text of HB 7069 does the word 'crisis' appear, nor does the Legislature make any attempt to identify any overarching policy or concern with the education system to warrant such broad legislation," the lawyers wrote.


Collier schools votes to join suit over new state law


Miami-Dade School Board elects new chair, who opposes suing over HB 7069


Jeb Bush praises HB 7069


Property taxes likely to spur school funding fight *

Another battle about using increases in local property taxes to bolster public schools will complicate upcoming state budget negotiations. In his $87.4 billion budget proposal for 2018-2019, Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday called for a $770 million increase in funding for state kindergarten through 12th-grade education system. But nearly $7 out of every $10 of that increase would come from rising local property-tax revenue, much of it the result of increasing property values with a stronger economy. Senate leaders support the governor’s plan, while House leaders remain firmly opposed to using the increased local property tax collections, arguing that such a move would represent a tax increase. The projected $534 million increase in local property tax revenue includes $450 million in “required local effort” taxes and $84 million in discretionary local school taxes. In an explanation of Scott’s budget, his office noted the school proposal does not change the required local property-tax rate, meaning “there is not a tax increase.” “The amount of local funding provided in the (school funding formula) calculation primarily increased due to a 6.15 percent, or $117.1 billion, rise in the school taxable value that was the result of an increase in the value of Florida property,” the explanation said. “When property values rise, it’s a good thing for Florida families.” Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley of Fleming Island said the Senate supports Scott’s K-12 plan, including the use of increased local property tax collections. “It’s not a tax increase. It’s just simply not,” Bradley said. “If I were to buy a lawnmower at Home Depot for $200 in January and then buy the same lawnmower as a present for my brother four months later and it’s priced $230, there will be more taxes owed on the $230 purchase, but that’s not a tax increase,” Bradley said. He said it’s “just the same tax rate being applied to a purchase that is a little higher than it used to be.” But House Speaker Richard Corcoran of Land O’Lakes, reaffirmed Wednesday that the House’s strong opposition to using increased property tax collections. “I think our position has been very clear for the last two years and it will not change,” Corcoran said. “We’re not raising taxes.”

The House prevailed in the negotiations on the current 2017-2018 budget, with the


Making class size measure irrelevant *

Seems every year the Legislature gives cracking the state’s class size amendment a try. This year, the effort may come from a different tangent. In 2002, state voters OK’d a constitutional amendment that set limits on class size, because lawmakers would not. Back then one newspaper columnist suggested that was because politicians like their citizens passive and their schools underfunded. How little has changed in 15 years. The amendment passed and mandated that there would be no more than 18 kids in pre-K through 3rd grade; 22 kids in grades 4 through 8; and 25 students in grades 9 through 12. Proponents were certain that the amendment would improve Florida’s education system, spitting better students out the other end. Opponents warned that passing the amendment would bankrupt the state. We’re not certain how we could measure student improvement since the amendment passed. However, the cost is clearly quantitative. The Legislature had to pony up an extra $1.7 billion the first year to fund it, with about half going to facilities and half to operating funds. That has continued. This school year, the cost is $3.1 billion. The total cost since 2002 is $39.8 billion. The effort at extracting schools from the class size mandates this year will likely come from the Florida Constitution Revision Commission. Commission member Patricia Levesque is CEO of the Jeb Bush-backed Foundation of Excellence Education. The group believes class limits don’t mean better learning. Her shtick to make the deal more digestible is to promise all the dollars saved from fudging class sizes will go directly into higher teacher pay. And, if you think about it, teachers’ jobs would become more difficult. What’s important to know should the amendment find its way to the ballot is that the class size mandate is pretty much a joke these days — watered down through the years by small legislative loopholes and exceptions — death by a thousands “buts,” if you will. The most popular ideas from the class size opponents is to average the class sizes over an entire school or an entire school district. While that is expressly forbidden in the amendment language, some districts are using “algorithms” rather than averages. In 2013, the Legislature opened another fissure in the class size volcano by allowing a select number of schools to exceed the size limits without being fined. The exception was for innovative schools such as magnets — the key word being “choice.” And since that time, you can’t imagine how many public schools are now defined as “choice” schools. The Marion County School Board has embraced these loopholes to where today the class size amendment means little, with classes of 30 or more commonplace in our schools. Another loophole legislated in was that “extracurricular” classes could fudge the cap. Language classes became that, as did marine biology and, finally, Advanced Placement classes could opt out too. As Marion County proved a few years back when it led the state in oversized classes, some school districts have discovered that it’s simply cheaper to pay the state fines than hire the extra teachers necessary to remain in compliance. All this really means is that the potential amendment is sufficiently diluted to make its real impact questionable. The bottom line is not who gets the dollars and how. Florida’s education issue is simple funding, and we’re 41st in the nation in student spending. No constitutional amendment you’ll likely ever see will fix the thing that’s really broken.


Union, Polk district reach agreement on teachers’ raises (Marianne Capoziello quoted)


Hillsborough teachers show up in the hundreds to clamor for promised raises (HCTA members quoted throughout all links, Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins in the third and fourth)


Lake teachers voice displeasure over contract talks (Stuart Klatte and LCEA members quoted)


Miami-Dade district signs agreement with teachers' union (UTD mentioned)


Florida Virtual School teachers seek to unionize (FEA mentioned)


Pasco County administration, non-instructional union trade pay proposals (USEP mentioned)


Pro-science group warns of textbook challenge in Nassau schools


Santa Rosa district, union reach tentative agreement on contract


UF, GAU reach agreement on stipend raises (Bobby Mermer quoted)

Campus, open-carry gun bills could be in trouble for 2018 session


Senators back college revamp amid concerns


In union push at USF, adjunct professors strive for more respect and a living wage


Professors are losing their freedom of expression


Scott pitches $87.4 billion election-year budget

Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday called for a record-high state budget of $87.4 billion for next year, an election year that offers him one last chance to recast spending priorities before leaving office. It is by far the largest budget Scott has proposed since the Republican governor took office seven years ago, and it’s a far cry from his initial budget that tried to slash classroom spending by 10 percent. His proposal is certain to undergo major change when the annual legislative session begins Jan. 9. Entering his last year in office and coveting a seat in the U.S. Senate, Scott has whipped up a spending plan that has a little something for everyone: $220 million money for environmental programs, $53 million to combat the opioid epidemic, $4,000 pay raises for starting state troopers, cuts in driver’s license fees, and $50 million more for improvements to state parks, which he called a record. If Scott has his way, state workers won’t get raises, but their health insurance premiums would stay the same and state college and university tuition would stay frozen at their current levels. For the first time since Scott took office, the state work force would expand, with a net gain of 565 full-time positions, nearly all of them in the prison system, another shift in focus for a governor who has long prided himself on reducing the size of the bureaucracy. Scott’s $180 million package of tax cuts is the smallest of his tenure. He will leave office without keeping a pledge from his first campaign in 2010, to eliminate the corporate income tax.'s-final-budget-includes-boost-for-schools


Senate's new budget chair weighs in on Scott's budget proposal


What Florida’s living wage amendment will look like

With just 38 words, Florida Democratic donor and medical marijuana godfather John Morgan wants voters to jack up the state’s minimum wage eventually to $15 hourly under a draft of the constitutional amendment he’s proposing. “We’re going to get this on the ballot and it’s going to pass because people know that the minimum wage is not a living wage,” said Morgan, a wealthy trial lawyer from the Orlando area. Florida’s current minimum wage of $8.25 is higher than the nation’s thanks to a 2004 state constitutional amendment that boosted earnings after it was approved by 71.3 percent of voters — the exact number that coincidentally approved last year’s medical marijuana initiative that Morgan bankrolled. It takes 60 percent of voters to approve a constitutional amendment. Here’s how the new proposal is worded: “Effective September 30, 2021, the existing state Minimum Wage shall increase to $10.00 per hour, and then increase each September 30 after that by $1.00 per hour until the minimum wage reaches $15.00 per hour on September 30, 2026.” Business groups oppose the increase and say it will ultimately be a job killer because employers will have to lay off workers to make way for the higher wages they’ll have to pay. They also note that private companies such as national retailer Target have already boosted their starting pay of their own accord. Mark Wilson, president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, said some workers relying on government benefits — such as food stamps — will lose the assistance if their pay gets too high. Morgan, a Democrat who’s considering whether to run for governor next year, said the business community is engaging in scare tactics. He said there wouldn’t be a need for a minimum wage increase if businesses paid better wages. Getting the measure on the ballot won’t be cheap: It takes 766,200 verified voter signatures from at least 14 of Florida’s 27 congressional districts to get a measure on the ballot. That means spending millions on companies that specialize in collecting signatures across the state. To that end, Morgan has pledged to chip in $1 million. He said he spent about $10 million of his own money to get the medical marijuana amendment passed.


Pinellas voters set pace as voting rights petitions keep piling up


Amid sexual harassment allegations, Latvala’s union mailer concerns AFSCME


Inside Latvala’s shady political business empire


Report: State opioid-related deaths up sharply in 2016


Florida delegation divided as House votes to extend flood insurance program


Nursing homes to have generators, more oversight under proposed law


Hundreds of nursing homes dodge Scott's emergency generator order


Donated school supplies help Puerto Rico evacuees -- but food still needed


Polk readies for wave of Puerto Ricans seeking relief from recent hurricanes


Water district exempts panel from Sunshine Law


Planned Parenthood official talks about bills targeting women’s reproductive rights


House wades into property insurance controversy


House pressing on with workers’ comp reform


Building a qualified workforce a top concern for Florida Chamber


State moves closer to replacing Confederate general statue in U.S. Capitol


Sessions denies lying to Congress on contacts with Russia


Sessions doesn’t recall


Deutch grills Sessions over Russia investigation


Hicks may hold the keys to Mueller's Russia puzzle


Trump Jr.’s incredible history of dumb decisions


Six Democrats demand Trump impeachment hearings


What Hillary Clinton knew about Putin's propaganda machine


Sessions won't take sides on GOP demands for Clinton probe


There are no grounds for a special counsel to investigate Clinton


This is how grown-ups deal with Putin


U.S. hires company with KGB link to guard Moscow embassy


Senate plans to end Obamacare mandate in revised tax proposal


Senators clash over last minute changes to tax bill


Tax bill teed up for House vote


Republicans stall budget talks for tax reform


Republicans may target entitlement programs to reduce deficit


House GOP tax writers take aim at college tuition benefits


Trump's tax breaks for the rich won't trickle down to help workers


Tax cuts and the trade deficit


This tax bill is now a health care bill


GOP plan to kill Obamacare provision could backfire on some in the middle class


Why we’re still fighting over the health care mandate


Republicans turn their irresponsible tax bill into monumentally unwise social policy


How Cotton brought Obamacare repeal back from the dead


GOP tax plan gets even worse


A top Trump adviser’s startling response to CEOs not doing what he’d expect


GOP tax plan is deeply unpopular -- and unimportant to many Americans


Every tax cut and tax increase in the House GOP bill and what it would cost


The stealth tax hikes in the Senate bill


Stop pretending the estate tax has anything to do with family farmers


Hidden in the Senate tax bill: Surprise gifts for breweries and start-ups


Rubio sees “progress” on child tax credit


Buchanan likely to benefit from estate tax repeal


Defying gloomy predictions, Obamacare enrollment surges


In reversal, immigration agency will consider delayed DACA requests


Members of Congress engaged in sexual harassment, lawmakers say


Hate in America: Where it comes from and why it's back


Hate crimes in Florida jumped 33 percent in 2016, hitting four-year high


Torches and hate on the march in Poland


The FBI’s dangerous crackdown on “black identity extremists”



Just 3 percent of American adults own 133 million firearms


Under Trump, banking watchdog trades its bite for a tamer stance


Chief of Consumer Protection Bureau will step down


Net neutrality fight is about to flare again


Director of American counterterrorism center to step down


Taxpayers pay legal bill to protect Trump business profits


The Trump Organization sees fortunes fall


The IRS is building a safe to hold Trump’s tax returns


Trump returns and attacks a favorite foe: CNN


How prosecutors turn a protest into a “riot”




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